Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary


Location: 2027 Fairmount Ave, Fairmount, Philadelphia, PA   Map

Area: 11 acres (45,000 m2)

Constructed: 1829

Closed: 1971


Most Haunted Places in the World


Description of the Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary is located in the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in United States.  Eastern 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 system.

In the early 19th century these ideas materialized in a prison with seven blocks that contained rows of solitary cells. Each 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

Al Capone

Eastern State Penitentiary Famous 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 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre that occurred on February 14th, 1929.



James 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 Eastern State.


Punishment in Eastern State Penitentiary

Mad Chair

Eastern 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.

Iron Gag

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.