The Eastern State Penitentiary, located in Philadelphia, USA, was opened on 25 October 1829.
It is most famous as being the first prison to introduce a brand of solitary confinement as a form of rehabilitation. This solitary confinement was legally conditional in that the warden was required to visit every inmate each day, and that the overseers were required to see each inmate at least three times a day.
The doors on the prison were tiny, and it is believed that they were constructed like this in order to force prisoners to bow when entering their cells, similar to giving penance at a religious service. Each cell had a single glass skylight, said to represent the ‘eye of God’, which gave the impression that they were being watched by God at all times.
Outside the cells was an exercise yard, and time in the sun was synchronised so no prisoners would be out in the exercise yard at the same time – severely limiting human contact. When a prisoner was escorted to the yard from his cell, he would have a hood placed over his head so the other prisoners did not recognise him.
One of the most bizarre prisoners to be locked up in Eastern State Penitentiary was Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog”. Pep was an actual dog who was given a life sentence by Governor Gifford Pinchot for allegedly murdering the governor’s wife’s favourite cat. Apparently Pep was assigned with an inmate number, and he even had a mug shot. It is thought though that the Governor placed “Pep” in prison simply to boost the morale of other inmates.
The prison was the scene of a major breakout when, on 3 April 1945, twelve inmates managed to dig an undiscovered, 97-foot (30 metre) tunnel under the prison. It took a year to dig this tunnel, the mastermind behind the escape being inmate Clarence Klinedinst, a plasterer, stone mason, burglar and forger. After a years’ worth of effort, half of the escapees were captured by the end of the day, with the other half caught within a couple of months.
Because of its dark history, many believe the Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. Both officers and inmates alike have reported mysterious visions and strange experiences in the gaol. It is the place of legend in the paranormal community, with people travelling from all over the world to investigate it.
Some of the most common reported phenomenon include:
-Shadowy figures that seem to quickly turn away when approached
-a dark figure that is occasionally seen in the guard tower
-an evil cackling is heard coming from cellblock 12
-shadowy figures have been seen sliding down walls in cellblock 6
-ghostly faces have been witnessed in cellblock 4
-and strange sounds such as disembodied footsteps, distant talking, and banging of cell doors have also been heard.
The Eastern State Penitentiary is definitely on my Paranormal Bucket-list!
Peet is a paranormal investigator, ghost tour guide, events manager and documentary producer – she is also Cancerian, has blue eyes and likes walks on the beach…