Come visit criminals’ local haunt.
Dubbed one of the most “haunted” places in America, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia has a documented, eerie history of pain and madness.
For 142 years, the prison was a place of desolate isolation, excruciating torture, disease and, of course, murder. After housing the likes of Al Capone, along with its treacherous past, it’s received a reputation for being haunted.
“I spent about three hours inside Eastern State exploring cell to cell and photographing everything from the crumbling walls to broken stools and beds and peeling paint,” said an unnamed explorer. “I even sat inside a cell for a good while imagining what prisoners would have felt.”
The brave adventurer said parts of the prison were “uncomfortable” — and it’s clear just how torturous it once was judging by the images.
“The history is all over the walls and floors, even the steel beds tell a story none of us can really imagine, each cell is different in ‘character’ and each cell feels different,” they continued.
Anyone who enters can walk in the footsteps of mob boss Al Capone and William “Slick Willie” Sutton, an infamous American bank robber, who were both inmates there.
During its heyday, criminals’ punishments would include an icy cold water bath — during which prisoners were dunked in water and then hung on a wall until ice crystals formed on them — and the “mad chair,” in which they were bound so tightly the chair cut off their circulation.
“Inmates back then would sit in their cell for 23 hours a day,” the unnamed person said. “After sitting inside a few cells taking photographs, it feels each decaying wall is closing in on you.”
The emphasis on isolation came from the hypothesis that solitude could foster positive reflection, according to the Smithsonian. Delegates traveled to see the innovative prison for themselves after it opened in 1829, praising the concept and design as potentially reformative for prisoners.
But eventually, the jail became jam-packed, forcing co-habitation of prisoners and isolation was no longer commonplace. Instead, it became a punishment.
“The solitary confinement system was nearly impossible to maintain given the technology of the early 19th century, and collapsed under the weight of its own lofty morals,” Francis Dolan, the site manager of the Eastern State Penitentiary Historical Site, told the Smithsonian Magazine. “[It] was doomed by the rapid growth of Philadelphia.”
At the time of its creation, the prison was one of the most expensive buildings constructed in America, and since its closure in 1971, it’s been home to both day- and nighttime tours and crowned a National Historic Landmark.
“From the entrance to cells to even the exit, the decay and ruined structure of Eastern State makes it possible to experience urban exploration safely while taking in history at its finest,” the courageous adventurer continued. “It’s a shame not many places decay naturally and are open to the public such as this.”
Such decay was the cause of its closure after housing some 75,000 inmates during its time until it opened to the public as a historic site in 1994.
“While I have explored abandoned buildings for many years nothing will come close to photographing Eastern State Penitentiary,” the unnamed madhouse explorer added. “It really is a photographer’s dream inside here.”
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