One of the most haunted places in the world is the Eastern State Penitentiary which is a former prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that was active between 1829 and 1971. This prison is said to be haunted by its visitors and has been featured in many TV shows like Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Most Haunted Live, MTV’s Fear and Syfy’s Ghost Hunters. Many paranormal investigators have stated that Eastern State Penitentiary is a hub for otherworldly tormented spirits of those who were imprisoned in the ghastly prison.
Eastern State Penitentiary And Some Notable Prisoners:
The prison is built in the design of a wagon wheel, with a central tower overlooking eight cell blocks that radiated away in different directions. At the time of its completion, the Eastern State Penitentiary was the most expensive public structure ever built, and the design was later copied to create another 300 prisons worldwide.
There were hundreds of prisoners in Eastern State Penitentiary, with it being filled at any point in time during its operation. Many well-known and feared criminals were sentenced here including Willie Sutton-the bank robber, Al Capone, as well as James Bruno, aka Big Joe and many of his male relatives.
Why Was Eastern State Penitentiary Considered To Be Hell On Earth?
The original intention of the prison system was to isolate prisoners so that they can look into themselves and find God. But there was a lack of human contact which was enough to drive even a sane man into insanity. The prisoners were kept in isolated cells with only one hour a day out of their cells, and that too with a thick mask on their heads. Earlier, these masks didn’t even have eyeholes. The eyeholes were later added in the early 1900s.
Eastern State Penitentiary was truly a horrible place to be incarcerated and was rightly known as Hell On Earth, so much so that many guests, tourists, and investigators have felt the presence and dark vibes that the Eastern State Penitentiary gives off. There are also full-bodied apparitions with sacks over their heads aimlessly roaming been seen by multiple eyewitnesses.
Inside A Cell In Eastern State Penitentiary:
Inside of each cell, the prisoners got a bunk, table, toilet and a Bible. They were cut off from humanity as there was no interaction between inmates or with the guards. The prisoners got one hour to stretch their legs but had a black hood placed over their heads before leaving their cells. There was only a slit on the ceiling which brought in little sunlight and was known as “The Eye Of God”. For those who were desperate for any human interactions, taping on the pipes and whispering through the vents was an option but being caught led to some brutal consequences.
The Punishments For Breaking Rules At Eastern State Penitentiary:
Unlike today, the guards at Eastern State Penitentiary weren’t responsible for the continued wellbeing of their prisoners, which is why some truly blood-chilling punishments were conducted for those who broke the rules.
Iron Gag: This was the most deadly punishment used in Eastern State Penitentiary where there was an iron collar clamped onto the tongue of the inmate. This collar was attached to the wrists which were set high behind the back. Any movement of the hands caused the tearing and severe bleeding of the tongue. This punishment was reserved for those who were caught communicating and caused many prisoners to die due to massive blood loss.
The Water Bath: This penalty had the prisoner dunked in an ice-cold water bath than hung from the wall for the rest of the night until the morning where a layer of ice would be formed on the skin.
The Mad Chair: This punishment had the prisoner strapped into the chair with tightly bound leather straps. The straps were so tight that it was not possible for even the smallest of movements, causing insufficient blood flow to parts of the body, often leading to having it amputated. The prisoners would be forced to sit for days without any food, causing many to lose their minds and go mad, resulting in the name.
The Hole: This was a pit in the ground under Cell Block 14 and where irredeemable prisoners were locked for weeks with little air and no light. The prisoners were thrown a slice of bread and water from above to survive in the harsh environment which had rodents and cockroaches as well.
A notable figure that visited the prison in the 1840s was Charles Dickens who found the conditions to be appalling with the prisoners being “buried alive”. He publicly mentioned about various ways the inmates faced psychological torture by the guards.
In 1913, the prison was found to have unacceptable conditions, and the Pennsylvania System was eliminated with the prison finally closing its blood-stained doors in 1971.
Stories Of The Haunted Eastern State Penitentiary:
After the prison was closed in 1971, there were several stories about the prison being haunted by the ghosts and spirits of the long dead prisoners who went insane due to the excessive mental and physical torture they suffered. Several paranormal investigators and researchers visit the location to find evidence of the haunting with most stating that there is a lot of paranormal activity on the prison grounds. There are many stories about eerie sounds that have been heard by staff, guards, and prisoners as well as visitors which date back to the 1940s, making this one of the most haunted locations in the world.
One of the biggest paranormal incidences that occurred in the Eastern State Penitentiary was to a locksmith called Gary Johnson. He was working to restore Cell Block 4 by removing a 140-year-old lock from a locked cell door. As he tried to open the cell door, he describes there being a powerful force that paralyzed him. He also stated that he felt an out-of-body moment when he was drawn towards the cell which was bursting with negative energy with hundreds of anguished faces and distorted forms appearing on the cell walls.
There are those who believe that Johnson opened up a gateway for the ghosts and spirits who were locked in the cell. When interviewed years later, the man would still shudder in fear at the thought of the cell room in Cell Block 4.
The Eastern State Penitentiary Today:
Today, visitors can tour the prison throughout the year where some have reported to hear giggles, weeps, and whispers from the prison walls. According to Assistant Program Director Brett Bertolino, there are about two dozen investigations into the paranormal in the Eastern State Penitentiary each year with most almost always find some evidence of paranormal activity.