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Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world and became a prototype in design to 300 prisons. Today it stands in ruin and is known as a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Popular for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. It once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone. 

The cells were vaulted and though the inmates lived a life in mundane solitude and would only get a glimpse of sunlight, known as “The Eye of God” which came through a slit in the prison ceiling, many of them were in desparate need of of human interaction. The prisoners would tap on pipes or whisper through vents to each other but if caught, the penalty was brutal. Punishment was harsh and inmates who broke the rules would pay the price through abuse and harsh discipline, like having an iron clamp on their tongue in order to avoid communication or meet an ice bath and hang upside down. Many inmates who suffered this torture died. Sometimes inmates would be put into a hole, dug under Block #14 which was nothing but a dark pit with no light, little air.

When the prisoners did leave their cells, a black hood would be placed over their head so they could not see any other prisoners as they were guided through the halls of the prison. Interaction and any form of communication between inmates was forbidden.

Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. And the ghost sightings have only increased since Eastern State was abandoned in 1971.

Paranormal activity was reported when a locksmith doing restoration work in Cell Block #4 experienced a massive force overcoming him as he tried to remove a 140-year-old lock from the cell door. He was unable to move. Some believe when he removed the key it opened a gateway to the horrific past and offered the spirits caught behind its bars a pathway out. The man spoke of experiencing an out-of-body state as he was drawn toward the negative energy which burst through the cell. Anguished faces appeared on the cell wall, hundreds of distorted forms swirled around the cellblock and one dominating form seemed to beckon the locksmith to him. 

The TAPS crew of Ghost Hunters visited the historical site and captured this remarkable footage of something approaching the camera and abruptly turning and going back the other way.

Today the penitentiary is opened to the public. There are about two dozen paranormal investigations that take place in the cell blocks, and according to Assistant Program Director Brett Bertolino, they almost always find evidence of activity. Tourists and employees have reported hearing weeping, giggling and whispering coming from inside the prison walls.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is located at 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Fairmount, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For more information, visit their official site.

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