Archive for the ‘ ESP ’ Category

Welcome to Cellblock 3: The Ghosts Here Are Probably Coughing

Hospital sig

Frequent visitors to Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) in Philadelphia are familiar with the red cross on the gate— it’s the cellblock that visitors have been trying to sneak into for 20 years!   Cellblock 3, known as the hospital wing, has long held the public’s curiosity.  Abandoned for many years after the prison closed in 1971, it’s now open to the public for guided tours.   Visitors have long wished to explore this space, but its severe deterioration has made touring the hospital block almost impossible – until now.

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Opportunities to step past that head gate with the iconic cross have been few and far between. In the past, ESP has offered rare glimpses of the space with sporadic hard-hat tours, but the area was never stable enough to allow the normal foot-traffic of daily visitors.  To allow the public to view Cellblock 3, staff and volunteers had to stabilize the crumbling cellblock, remove debris, and create an informational experience for tourists.  The effort cost nearly $200,000 to complete.  The bulk of the money was raised through private funds and their Halloween fundraiser, Terror Behind the Walls.

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Now visitors can enter the former surgical suite that served thousands of prisoners, including Al Capone who had his tonsils removed there.  During his imprisonment at ESP, Capone had two surgeries. The second was most likely a circumcision–a procedure that was utilized at the time for treating syphilis.

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The rest of the hospital wing’s rooms are visible only from their doorways.  Described as a “monument to misery”, the rooms reflect the myriad of maladies suffered by the prison population and the treatments available to them. The hospital wing treated typhoid, influenza and common colds, among many other ailments. It also treated injuries from accidents and violence that occurred within the prison. Visitors can view the laboratory, X-ray lab, hydrotherapy room and the psychiatric department, along with specially designed cells that were meant to aid in the treatment of certain conditions.

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Known as one of the most haunted places in Pennsylvania, ESP was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world. Today it stands in ruin–a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Some 47 years after it was shuttered and abandoned for its intended use, noise–now from tourists and not from shouting inmates–reverberates. If there truly are ghosts there – a concept promoted each fall in the historic site’s Halloween fundraiser — chances are they are coughing.

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While in operation, tuberculosis was its most prevalent health issue inside the thick prison walls.  Before antibiotics, there was no cure for tuberculosis. The prison was dark, damp, and crowded with coughs and sneezes filling the air. Inmates eventually diagnosed with the contagious disease were moved and quarantined in special cells called “solarium cells” that provided more access to light, ventilation, and fresh air. TB patients also had their own hydrotherapy room, gymnasium, and recreation yard.

Most of the deaths that occurred at Eastern State Penitentiary happened in Cellblock 3.

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Cheri Sundra © 2018
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The Ghost of Gangster’s Paradise

 

Al Capone’s cell at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia.

ESP:  Gangsta Paradise

Everyone knows that legendary gangster Al Capone’s reign ended when he was found guilty of tax evasion, but did you know that doing time for a minor charge helped the notorious prohibition-era crime boss lay low after he ordered the most spectacular gangland slaying in mob history?

In 1929, on February 14th, seven members of Chicago’s North Side Irish gang were lined up in a warehouse/garage by two men from Capone’s South Side Italian gang dressed as police officers.  Thinking that it was a routine police raid, everyone peacefully did as they were told as the rival gunmen removed their weapons and then proceeded to pump their bodies full of lead using two Tommy guns, a sawed-off shotgun, and a .45.  Each of the seven victims received at least 15 bullets, mostly in the head.  The event became known as The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Shortly after The Massacre, during what is said to be a planned arrest, Capone is picked up in Philadelphia for carrying a concealed weapon, and sentenced to a year in Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) where he could reside in safety behind bars in the “Park Avenue Block” of the prison. The warden and guards at ESP gave special consideration to Mr. Capone during his stay.   He was permitted to hang artwork in his private cell, was allowed to have tables, lamps, a velvet duvet, comfortable chair and even an expensive radio so he could listen to waltzes after dinner.  Capone was allowed to continue to conduct business.  The organized crime boss was able to use the warden’s office to make long-distance phone calls and to meet with his lawyer.  Capone was released from ESP two months early for good behavior!

While Capone’s time at ESP many have been relatively pleasant, he may not have left unaffected by his stay.  During the early years of the Twentieth Century, rumors about ghosts began to circulate at the prison.  While he was incarcerated at ESP, Capone began to be “haunted” by the “ghost” of James Clark, one of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre victims and the brother-in-law of his rival Bugs Moran.  Other inmates reported that they could hear Capone yelling in his cell begging “Jimmy” to leave him alone.  The crime boss even contacted a psychic to get rid of the angry specter.  Years later, Capone would say that Clark’s vengeful spirit followed him from Eastern State Penitentiary and would follow him to the grave.  Fact, fiction, imagination or was Capone starting to show signs of the full-blown psychosis that would eventually start to haunt him when he was later incarcerated in Alcatraz for tax evasion?

Can’t get enough ESP?

Don’t miss the rest of the ESP Halloween Tales:

1. Haunted ESP (ghost on film)

2. The Eye of God and The Mad Chair

And

3. The Ghost Cats

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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ESP: The Eye of God and The Mad Chair

Eastern State Penitentiary is the first prison in the world designed to inspire penitence (true regret) in the hearts criminals.  Inmates were to spend their time reflecting upon their crimes and seeking redemption.  At Eastern State Penitentiary, each cell was lit by a single light source from either a skylight or a window that was considered the “Eye of God”.

ESP: The Eye of GodThe Eye of God

It’s not at all farfetched to think that negative energy could be left behind in a place where prisoners were subjected daily to a variety of physical and psychological torture regimens.  Even the most minor infractions could lead to guards dousing prisoners with freezing water outside during the winter, chaining their tongues to their wrists so that struggling against the chains would cause the tongue to tear, strapping prisoners into chairs with leather restraints only to leave them there for days on end and putting them into a pit where they would have no light, no human contact and very little food for up to two weeks.  No wonder, this prison turned museum is considered “one of the most haunted places on earth!”

ESP Death Row

This is Cellblock 15, or “Death Row”, where men waited out the last months of their lives at Eastern State Penitentiary, before being transferred to Pennsylvania’s only death chamber at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview. This cellblock has been inhabited by some of Pennsylvania’s most violent, aggressive criminals, who lived here in physical isolation from each other and the prison staff.

ESP: The Red Barber Chair (or is it the "mad chair" as shown on Ghost Hunters) {EXPLORE}

This is THE MAD CHAIR.  It was given this name because it was not uncommon for an inmate to go mad before his punishment ended. As seen on Ghost Adventurers….

Watch Ghost Adventurers at  THE MAD CHAIR

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Haunted ESP (ghost on film)

The Pen

Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) was designed to be a scary place.  Located in Philadelphia, this abandoned prison turned uber-cool museum has been kept in a state of “preserved ruin”, meaning no significant attempts have been made at renovation or restoration. The empty and ever looming guard towers, rusting doors, crumbling cell blocks and vaulted, water-stained ceilings make this veritable fortress an intimidating place for visitors.  It would be easy to assume that the spooky atmosphere could easily be playing ghostly tricks on the imagination, but those who have experienced strange events at ESP say that it is one of the most haunted places on the planet.

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Cellblock 15: Death Row

Rumors about ghosts started to echo through the prison long before the penitentiary was closed down.  Almost anyone who spent time at ESP was certain that something supernatural was occurring behind those foreboding walls.  Guards often spoke of the sounds of unexplained footsteps in the corridors, pacing feet in cells, eerie wails emanating from the dark corners of the complex and dark shadows that resembled people flitting past darkened doorways.

Because of its long history, gloomy atmosphere and ominous appearance, ESP has been often used as a location for TV shows and films about the paranormal. Paramount Pictures used parts of the old prison for the filming of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.   In the Brad Pitt/ Bruce Willis film TWELVE MONKEYS, it was the setting for a mental hospital.  ESP is a favorite spot for photographers, music videos and has inspired several video games.

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GHOST HUNTER’S catch a “ghost” on film at Eastern State Penitentiary  on a walkway just like the one pictured above….WORTH WATCHNG!  Less than one minute long.

GHOST HUNTER’S “GHOST” VIDEO

Eastern State Penitentiary is located on Fairmount Avenue in Philadelphia, just a few blocks away from The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Franklin Institute.

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The Ghost Cats

Eastern State Penitentiary2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia

Once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, Eastern State Penitentiary exists today in a conflicting condition known as  “preservation ruin”.  The result is a haunting world of empty guard towers and crumbling cell-blocks serving as a functional museum thanks to preservation efforts started by the Eastern State Task Force in 1988, the same year the building first opened for limited group tours.

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Representing a testimony to survival, The Ghost Cats was an artist installation at ESP created by Linda Brenner.  A colony of cats decided to take up residence at the abandoned jail after it closed in 1971.  For 28 years, “Dan the Cat Man” (Dan McCloud) devoted his time to visiting the abandoned prison to care for the cats.

ESP: Ghost Cat

Can You Find The GHOST CAT?

In 1993, The Spayed Club neutered the ESP cats and their population finally started to dwindle.  The last of the cats died off between 2002 and 2003.

Ghost Cat

Observant visitors could locate all 36 cat sculptures throughout the prison museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The installation was placed beyond the areas where on-lookers are allowed access, in the hopes that the sculptures will be viewed as a part of the larger past existence of the life and history of the building.  The exhibit was dedicated to “Dan the Cat Man” who passed away in April of 2002.

Guard Tower ghost catGuard Tower GHOST CAT

Ghost Cat AlleyGHOST CAT Alley

 

ESP Death RowDeath Row

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