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Eastern State Penitentiary
Location: 2027 Fairmount Ave, Fairmount, Philadelphia, PA
Area: 11 acres (45,000 m2)
Description of the Eastern State Penitentiary
State Penitentiary is located in the outskirts of Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania in United States.
State Penitentiary covers an area of 11
acres (45,000 m2) and was
constructed in 1829 under supervision of the architect John
Haviland who designed this prison in a Gothic architectural
style. The outside wall and its towers look like a medieval
European castle. The prison structure inside had a central round
tower with seven blocks that radiate in all directions. It is
one of the oldest prison in United States. Its design and construction was inspired by a branch of
Christianity, known as Quakers. They believed that the best and
only way to cure a criminals and outlaws is by providing them
with environment that will help them to found God. Quakers
believed that compassion must replace the torture and violence
of the punishments of the past. They hoped to help people repent
for their sins rather than pay for them. In order to achieve
that they created a whole vision of a humane penitentiary
In the early 19th century these ideas materialized in a prison
with seven blocks that contained rows of solitary cells.
cell had a door that closed rooms shut. On the inside it was
made of iron, on the other side it was made of wood. Prisoners
could not talk and communicate with each other. They were not
even suppose to see each other. The idea that that one rotten
apple could damage others were quiet strong. Inmates were
supposed to look inside themselves and find peace with the Lord.
Other people could harm this process. Even when the inmate would
leave his room he had to put a special mask on his face so that
no one could see each other. Unfortunately designers of the
prison didn't take in consideration that many people went crazy
when they were left by themselves in a concrete bag. Their only
source of light was a skylight in the roof that became known as
"The Eye of God". Some might have turned to Lord, but many more
had less positive outcome. Interestingly the prison was also a
famous tourist destination in the 19th century. People who ran
it considered this structure as a breakthrough in treatment of
criminals. They invited many famous people to take a look at a
future of all penitentiary system or so they though. Famous
visitors included Alexis de Tocqueville and Charles Dickens who
described prisoners as "buried alive".
Eastern State Penitentiary served as an example for over 300
other prisons that were constructed across the country. However
by the early 20th century it became clear that the theory was a
flawed one and simply didn't work in reality. In 1913 the prison
abandoned its solitary system and instead it was turned into a
regular prison where people could see each other and freely
communicate. It was eventually closed in 1971.
Famous Inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary
Chicago gangster Al Capone spent eight months here for being
caught with a concealed weapon. He was placed at the solitary
confinement, but unlike other inmates his room was more
comfortable than others. He was allowed to bring items,
furniture and books that others could not take. Prisoners guards
had a fairly good relationship with a famous head of mobsters.
However during nights Al Capone was haunted by his victims.
Tortured by his past he used to scream. Several witnesses
claimed that the most famous ghost that haunted him was that of
James "Jimmy" Clark also known as Albert Kachellek. He was one
of the victims of the famous
Day Massacre that occurred on February 14th, 1929.
Clark aka Albert Kachellek
Willie "The Actor" Sutton (1901- 80)
Willie "The Actor" Sutton or simply "Slick Willie" was a famous
bank robber. He became famous for his failed attempt to escape
from the Eastern State Penitentiary. He dug a tunnel with his
accomplices and made it to the sidewalk outside of prison.
Unfortunately for him his plan was foiled and he was returned to
Punishment in Eastern State Penitentiary
State Penitentiary was famous for its cruel treatment of inmates
who broke the rules of the prison. Most commonly people were
punished for attempting to contact other prisoners. Desperate
for any human contact they knocked on walls, pipes, tried to
pass notes to each other. One of the worse tortures was striping
the man to the so called Mad Chair. A prisoner would be strapped
into the chair with leather strips. It was so tight that blood
circulation significantly decreased. Unfortunate victim couldn't
move for hours. In order to make the condition even worse for
the person prison guards would not feed the person or provide
any water. Many people would go mad by the time their punishment
would end. Hence the chair got its name of a Mad Chair.
Another way to
stop any communication between the patients was an Iron Gag. An
iron collar was clamed onto a man's tongue. This collar was
connected to the wrists of an inmate that in turn were strapped
behind his back. Any movement would cause incredible pain and
leave deep lacerations in the tongue. Many prisoners died from
loss of blood before their punishment came to an end.
The Water Bath
The Water bath
was one of the worst punishment in the prison. It consisted of
dunking a person in an ice cold water. The inmate then was
chained to the wall and left in this condition overnight. Their
skin would be covered by ice by the next morning. Many died of
complications after such cruel treatment.
Haunting in Eastern State Penitentiary
Many people who visited Eastern State Penitentiary claimed to witness paranormal
activity. Some people heard sounds, giggling and shouting. Others were pushed,
shoved and even kicked by unseen spirits. One of the more famous cases occurred
in the Cell Block #4, when a locksmith tried to remove a 140 year old lock. As
soon as he opened a door he felt a force that pushed him. He started seeing
faces and bodies of people that once lived here.