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.
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.