Eastern State Penitentiary, A Grim Past

Prisons rate on the top of the list for places haunted and this one is no different, a castle-like complex located in Philadelphia, PA.

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and most expensive prison ever built in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cell blocks and empty guard towers. Known 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. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber ”Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone. Tours today include the cell blocks, solitary punishment cells, Al Capone’s Cell, and Death Row.

This prison once housed thousands of hard-core criminals, Eastern State Penitentiary certainly looks haunted. Its 142-year history is full of suicide, madness, disease, murder and torture, making it easy to imagine the spirits of troubled souls left behind to roam its abandoned halls.

The harsh punishments used on prisoners are enough to make you shiver even without seeing a ghost. There was the water bath, in which inmates were dunked then hung out on a wall in winter until ice formed on the skin. The mad chair, which bound an inmate so tightly that circulation was cut off, later necessitating amputations. The iron gag, in which an inmate’s hands were tied behind the back and strapped to an iron collar in the mouth, so that any movement caused the tongue to tear and bleed profusely. And “The Hole,” a dark underground cell where unfortunate souls had no light, no human contact, no exercise, no toilet and little food and air.

This prison took solitary confinement to new levels when it was built in 1829. Prisoners lived alone, exercised alone, and ate alone; when an inmate left his cell, a guard would cover his head with a hood so he couldn’t see or be seen. The prison had to abandon its solitary system due to overcrowding from 1913 until it closed in 1970, although the forms of punishment did not get any less severe.

Dozens of paranormal researchers visit every year and report that it’s a hub of otherworldly activity. Perhaps most convincingly, there are the stories of eerie experiences by visitors, staff, guards and inmates that have corroborated each other since the 1940s.

One of the most legendary tale’s comes from Gary Johnson, who helps maintain the prison. He had just opened an old lock in Cellblock 4 when he says a force gripped him so tightly that he was unable to move. He described a negative, horrible energy that exploded out of the cell. He said tormented faces appeared on the cell walls and that one form in particular beckoned to him.

Halloween Nights

The site—one of the most haunted places in America offers a Halloween Festival with 15 attractions, including thrilling haunted houses, immersive walk through experiences, historic tours, themed bars and lounges, live performances all within the walls of a real, abandoned 10-acre prison.

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