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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Ghosts of Eastern State Penitentary

 I've now officially added the Eastern State Penitentiary to my list of America's most haunted places I'd like to visit. It is a former federal prison in Philadelphia, PA and was operational from 1829 until 1971. The Eastern State Penitentiary was the largest building in America when it opened in 1829. Its grounds still cover a dozen acres; its 30-foot-high walls extend for nearly a mile. The penitentiary refined the revolutionary system of separate incarceration which emphasized principles of reform rather than punishment. Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its unique wagon wheel design. When the building was erected it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.
    At the same time,  Proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent. In reality, the guards and councilors of the facility designed a variety of physical and psychological torture regimens for various infractions, including dousing prisoners in freezing water outside during winter months, chaining their tongues to their wrists in a fashion such that struggling against the chains could cause the tongue to tear, strapping prisoners into chairs with tight leather restraints for days on end, and putting the worst behaved prisoners into a pit called "The Hole", an underground cell block dug under cell block 14 where they would have no light, no human contact, and little food for as long as two weeks.

    In 1966 the Eastern State Penitentiary was designated a National Historic landmark. Then the prison was closed and abandoned in 1971. During the abandoned era (from closing until the late 80s) a "forest" grew in the cell blocks and outside within the walls. Then in 1988, the Eastern State Penitentiary Task force successfully petitioned Mayor Wilson Goode to stop redevelopment. In 1994, Eastern State opened to the public for historic tours. 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. With the growing interest in paranormal investigation, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Dozens of teams visit to explore the site each year.The prison was abandoned in 1971, and rumors of strange happenings have plagued the stone penitentiary ever since. Visitors to the prison (there are many, for Eastern State is now a museum and Halloween haunted house) report footsteps in the yards, the sound of someone pacing in the cells, eerie noises, and lonely wails that drift through the cold, dark corridors. Cell Block 12 is famous for its disembodied laughter, and one guard tower appears, on some nights, to be occupied by a shadowy figure keeping watch over the empty prison.
 How many souls are still imprisoned within the walls of the Eastern State Penitentiary? If I were a ghost, and had been imprisoned and tortured in the penitentiary, and saw that today they have turned it into a haunted house, I'd be angry. They've literally turned it into a haunted house. You can tour the penitentiary itself and there's also " a haunted house" section. It seems comical to me. And probably offensive if you were a ghost stuck there. Do any of the guards who tortured the inmates have guilty souls walking around? Despite them going a bit overboard and creating an actual haunted house within the penitentiary, I think it'd be an awesome place to visit.

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