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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, which opened in 1829 was once one of the most famous and expensive prisons known for it’s unusually cruel treatments of it’s prisoners.  According to the official website, it was considered “the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.”

999752_10151628239823456_1955586262_nThis maximum security prison was made up of 7 different cell blocks with which all met in the center for an easier command center with the need for less guards.  Cells were designed for complete solitary confinement.  Each had a locked gate with iron bars with heavy wooden doors that would close off the prisoners from other inmates to be ensure there was no talking across the halls.  It was thought that isolation would help prisoners find God, but instead, it drove many of them insane.

The penitentiary was in use for 142 years before it shut down in the 1970’s for about 30 years.  They are now open for tours and it’s used as an outstanding Halloween attraction.

It sits on 10 acres of land and if you were to walk around it, you would complete a half mile.  It had 450 cells and at it’s peak there were about 1800 prisoners there at one time with approximately 75,000 prisoners admitted over the course of its operation.

mad chairInhumane Treatment of Prisoners

In 1913, Pennsylvania abolished solitary confinement and the inhumane treatment began.  If the prisoners acted out during the winter, ice cold water was thrown on them and they would spend the night outside.  In the morning they could be found with a thin layer of ice formed over their body.

Iron gags were used on prisoners who wouldn’t obey the no talking ordinance.  The gag was used like a bear trap on their tongues and was tied to their hands behind their back.  Every time they moved the contraption would cut their tongues.

If they misbehaved, one of the punishments was being strapped in a chair so tight that it would cut off circulation to their extremities.


Most of the prisoners were sentenced to life and died within these walls, hundreds perished during the TB outbreak and many others committed suicide due to the inhumane treatment.

If all of that isn’t enough to make you think it could be haunted, several guards were killed by inmates who would reach through the bars after the doors were opened and shoved them only a few inches until they fell over the rails to their deaths.

In addition, during the 1930’s, an officer was clubbed to death by an inmate with a disassembled piece of a sewing machine.

Famous Inmates

Al Capone spent time here in a very well furnished cell.  It was said he could be heard screaming on several occasions because he thought he was being haunted by one of the victims of the infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Willie Sutton, a notorious bank robber actually managed to escape in 1945 through a tunnel that took a team of men a year to dig.  Once outside the walls, Willie was quickly captured.

The Hauntings

A locksmith doing restorations in cell block 4 was trying to remove a 150 year old lock from a cell door when a massive force overcame him. He believes that when he opened the gate it opened a pathway to the spirits who were trapped behind its bars.

In review of the Ghost Adventure’s investigation there were a great number of findings.  It was quite an intense episode.  During Zak’s interviews of an eyewitness at the prison, he discovered there were many reports of phantom footsteps, noises, voices, moaning, screaming, several accounts of physical touching and pushing, apparitions, banging and many other accounts of unexplained happenings.

The episode is 45 minutes long.  If you have an interest and would care to see what they discovered while on site, start viewing at 13 minutes.  This is where the first encounter is recorded.  Zak is taking to a tour guide and they step inside Al Capone’s cell.  Listen for what happens when another guide gives the history about reports that Al thought he was haunted.

(If you are short for time, after the previous part, skip ahead to around the 22:30 mark.)  When Zac starts to torment the ghosts, a clanking noise is captured.  At 25 minutes they receive a spike on the EMF detector and moments after they recorded an EVP.  I could go on and on with what they found and what happened to them during their stay.  I’ll let you decide if you’d like to review more.  If you decide you are interested, here is the link to the video:

1_0If you are among the bravest of the brave, you can pay a small fee to be scared out of your wits by people in full makeup and zombie attire who are stationed in cells throughout the jail.  Walk through and tread lightly so as to not disturb the ghosts.  watch your step however, the place is deteriorating and it adds to the image of a haunted location.  “Terror Behind The Walls” has 6 different attractions on site that start on the weekends in September and run every day through the month of October, except Mondays.  The last weekend is November 9.  You may have to wait in line, but they make sure you are entertained while you hang out with your friends.  For info, check out: Terror Behind the Walls.

If that seems too much for you, they are open daily for prison tours.

For a virtual tour, see the source documents below: