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Haunted Places: Eastern State Penitentiary

Updated on January 6, 2013
The hoods that were used on the prisoners.
The hoods that were used on the prisoners. | Source
Cell block 15 - "Death Row."
Cell block 15 - "Death Row."
Inside Eastern State Penitentiary.
Inside Eastern State Penitentiary. | Source
The Mad Chair.
The Mad Chair. | Source
Al Capone's cell.
Al Capone's cell. | Source

Philadelphia, PA

Eastern State Penitentiary. Over 180 years later, it’s abandoned but still standing. This abandoned prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of the most haunted places in the world.

Eastern State Penitentiary was built in 1829 and served as a maximum security prison. It had every kind of criminal you could think of from Robbers, murderers, rapists etc. It is believed that there was over 75,000 prisoners that served time here in it’s years of service.

The cells of the prison were unlike any other. There were metal doors on the inside and wooden doors on the outside of the cells. The metal doors were meant to keep prisoners in their cells and the wooden doors were to keep the prisoners from communicating with each other. On top of that, the prisoners were hooded. The idea of this type of solitary confinement, was to get prisoners to find God. This method was thought up at Benjamin Franklin’s house by a family named the Quakers. Unfortunately, most prisoners did not find God. It made them insane. Whenever they were moved from their cells, they would wear full masks to again keep prisoners from communicating with each other. All of Eastern State Penitentiary was solitary confinement.

Two prison guards were killed by prisoners while working at the prison. One of the inmates was convinced that one of the guards was trying to poison him. The man’s name was Joseph Taylor. He took apart a sewing machine and used part of it as weapon to club the guard to death in the exercise yard. When the guard opened his cell door, Taylor rushed out and killed him, then went back into his cell and took a nap. That must have been stress reliving for him.

In 1913, the state of Pennsylvania decided to abandon the solitary confinement system. The cells were restructured so prisoners would not go insane from solitude. The prison had a new way to control the prisoners. However, it was no better. If a prisoner broke the rules of Eastern State Penitentiary, the punishment was torture. In the winter months when prisoners broke the rules, they would be chained up to a wall outside and would be watered down in cold water. Of course this was not the only form of torture.

There was also the iron gag and the mad chair. Even though solitary confinement was no longer in effect, there was still a no communication policy in the prison. The iron gag was an iron collar that was put in an inmates mouth and tied around his wrists. If they moved at all, their tongue would get torn out. The mad chair was no better. On the mad chair, an inmate would get strapped down tightly to the point where they couldn’t move at all. This would almost stop blood circulation in their body. On top of all of that, a prisoner that was on this chair would be left their for days without food.

One of America’s most famous criminals, Al Capone, served time at Eastern State Penitentiary. Capone had a spacious cell, so he lived comfortably. He felt though that he was being haunted while he was serving time. He believed that someone that was killed during the St. Valentine day massacre was coming after him. That man is believed to be Jimmy Clark. Guards that were working at the prison at the time reported hearing Capone yelling in his cell. They claimed that he was telling something to go away.

Many of the men that served time at Eastern State Penitentiary were serving life sentences. You know what that means. Many men died in the prison. There is a death ledger at the prison that has hundreds of deaths inside of it. The deaths go as far back as 1830 and the prison ended around 1970. That gave the prison 140 years to tally up a high body count. Many men also committed suicide because they were serving life sentences. A human being can only be in solitary confinement for so long until they go insane.

Eastern State Penitentiary continues to be one of the most haunted locations in the world. Hopefully today, there are better ways to correct men then the way this prison treated it’s inmates back when it was functioning.


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    • Reginald Boswell profile image

      Reginald Boswell 

      6 years ago from Alabama

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire hub. I was impressed to write about Yellow Mama the electric chair at Holman state Prison in Alabama on Word Press. An update to the 21st century correctional system, it was used over 10 times in the 21st century.

      Happy 1 year anniversary on Hub Pages and congrats to being viewed over 10,000 times

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      your welcome! here is the link to my story about Shannon.

    • manofmystery24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the extra info Lady Tenaz! Very interesting stuff!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Another famous inmate there was the notorious Willard Shannon who led the cops on a nationwide hunt for him after the terrible murder of Harold Lage in Northern California (Sierra Nevada). I wrote about that story on my blog "Murder at the Defender Mine." Shannon spent time in Eastern State Pen as a young man only to be moved to Folsom. Later he was released, killed Lage and later was imprisoned again at Folsom where he later was executed there.... Sadly once someone became part of the 'system' it was often too hard to rehabilitate and easier to become institutionalized in their way of remains the case today as well. Good hub!

    • manofmystery24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Indeed Lipnancy. I'm sure karma was not kind to our ancestors.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      6 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Another great hub. A shame that our ancestors had to treat fellow human beings so badly.

    • manofmystery24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Maybe I'll see you there Jennzie! Thanks for reading!

    • jennzie profile image


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Very interesting. I don't live very far from Eastern State Penitentiary, so I would really like to visit this coming Halloween hopefully for the Terror Behind the Walls event. Should be fun!

    • manofmystery24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks commenting and reading internpete and lucybell21!

    • lucybell21 profile image

      Bonny OBrien 

      6 years ago from Troy, N.Y.

      Very interesting hub! I enjoyed reading it. I never even knew about this prison before reading your hub.

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 

      6 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Very entertaining read. I visited the Eastern State Penitentiary a few years ago around Halloween and got to take a tour of it. It was a very spooky place but a lot of fun. The cells were rather small and barbaric, but that's what things were like back in the day.


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