The Very Scary Eastern State Penitentiary

Posted on 08/24/2010
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There are certain places well-suited for haunting. Prisons and insane asylums house tormented individuals who often die within the buildings that house them, causing them to become tormented souls within their former cells. Probably the most haunted prison in the United States, if not the world, is Eastern State Penitentiary, located in Pennsylvania. Built in 1829, it was the most expensive building ever built in the United States at the time, and it became the template for prisons around the United States. It was believed that those housed within the prison would look within themselves and find God during their imprisonment, but what actually happened is that those who were locked away in solitude eventually became insane. Within the prison, each cell had a table, a bed, a bible and a toilet. For 23 hours a day, prisoners were left in their cells and if they were leaving their cells, a black hood was put over their head so they could not see anyone else. Communication between prisoners was completely forbidden in an effort to cleanse the soul through solitude. Naturally, many inmates broke the rules and when they did, they met with horrible punishments. Some of the punishments used were:

• The Mad Chair was where inmates were strapped to a chair so they could not make any movement, and they would be left there for days with no food and only got out when the circulation in their body nearly stopped. It was called the Mad Chair because those who were put in it nearly went insane, and some did.

• The Hole was a hole in the ground where inmates who broke the rules would spend weeks with no light, very little air and only bread and water which would often be eaten by rats and roaches if they did not get to it fast enough.

• The Water Bath was used if an inmate disobeyed the rules and it involved being dunk in a bath of cold water and then hung from a wall all night long. During the winter, there would be a layer of ice on the inmate’s skin by morning.

• The Iron Gag was the worst and most deadly punishment against inmates at the prison. If you talked, an iron collar was clamped on the tongue and chained to the wrists, which themselves where strapped high behind the back. Any movement caused bleeding and the tearing of the tongue and many inmates died from a loss of blood with this torture.


Charles Dickens once visited the prison and said it was appalling how the inmates were treated and it was not until 1913 when reforms were put in place. By that point, 1,700 inmates were in a building constructed to house 250 inmates. In 1971, the prison was closed.

However, the inmates of this prison have decided they do not want to leave. The haunting of the prison have become so well-known that the prison is turned into a massive haunted house each October for the delight of people to come in and be scared in a place where many people were scared for real while being housed in the prison. It should be no surprise though that there are very few good spirits here, and many of the ghosts are angry, tormented and unhappy.


One story tells of a locksmith who was removing a 140-year-old lock from a cell door when a force suddenly grabbed him so tightly he could not move. It happened in Cell Block 4, which is where many of the worst tortures occurred and some believe that when the locksmith removed the lock, he unleashed the horrific past from its containment, allowing prisoner ghosts trapped there to get out. The locksmith said that he felt horrible negative energy coming out of the cell. Within the cells of this cell block, faces will appear on the walls, and distorted forms will move around the cell block. One of the worst sprits is the one that beckons those in the cell block to follow him, as it did with the locksmith. To this day, the locksmith is still affected by that huge presence beckoning him to follow, to a place most likely no one would want to go.

Even celebrities have been victims of ghosts in the prison. Al Capone stayed there in 1929 for a charge of illegal weapons possession, and it was there he was apparently tormented by the ghost of James Clark, one of the men he killed during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.


In Cell Block 6, a shadowy figure can be seen moving down the wall, filling the people who see it with dread and fear and an urge to get away as quickly as possible. Likewise, in Cell Block 12, a horrible and evil cackling can be heard in Cell Block 12.

The prison is now open to the public and in a year three is often a couple dozen paranormal investigations done within the prison. You can go on tours of this amazing building with a horrible history and even employees have reported that in the prison, in various cells, they will hear weeping, laughing and whispering. Needless to say there are only a few employees who stay very long; many leave as soon as they meet one of the former prisoners.

It should be noted that this prison has many secrets and many evil spirits within it. As a result, there are some areas of the prison that are closed to the public and everyone else. This begs the question of what must be behind those walls, and if they are opened, will they unleash the same thing experienced by the locksmith?


For anyone who wants to stay in the most haunted prison in the United States, the Eastern State Penitentiary is the place to go. However, if you are going to stay overnight after the prison closes, you better have nerves of steel as that is when the former prisoners come out to experience a bit of the freedom they were denied when they were inmates. Don’t be surprised if a former inmate tries to beckon you to follow him, or if you see some things that will haunt you for years. This prison is not for the faint of heart, and should not be underestimated just how bad things can be in there once the lights go off.

Author: Craig Baird Copyrighted ©