Archive for the ‘ Halloween ’ Category

Welcome to Cellblock 3: The Ghosts Here Are Probably Coughing

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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 Haunted Monkey Candle Shoppe


Cellars are creepy, especially in old houses.  That’s why the employees rarely ventured into the cellar of the 100-year-old The Candle Shoppe Of The Pocono’s— spooky things were happening down there!


About four years after the business opened in the large house on Route 611 in the Poconos, those working the closing shift say they could hear strange sounds in the cellar after dark, when the store started staying open late on Fridays and Saturdays.  They even refused to walk around the premises alone at night.


Because the business continued growing, the owner got ready to expand, and everyone could no longer avoid utilizing the basement.  That’s when the employees told the owner that the store was haunted.  She told them they were crazy and brushed off their experiences by saying it must be the furnace making noise or floorboards just squeaking.

As business needs required the use of the basement more and more, old medical equipment and cages were found down there.  The weirdness only intensified.  There were unexplained pounding sounds and candles would fly off the shelves by themselves.  According to some newspaper reports, employees said they heard stampeding sounds and smelled animals, even though the candle shop has an aroma of perfume and wax.  Then the owner started to hear the noises herself and was convinced that something unnatural was happening in her store.


Finally, a neighbor filled them in about the house’s grisly history—it was used by a scientist to conduct experiments on spider monkeys that were locked in the basement.


The house was built in 1897.  A doctor employed by Pocono Biological Laboratories, which is known today as Sanofi Pasteur, took up residence in 1901. He was working on a smallpox vaccine and a cure for yellow fever.  Were the people at the candle shop experiencing the restless spirits of medical experiment monkeys?  You can decide for yourself.

Today, The Candle Shoppe of the Pocono’s offers an attraction on the premises based on the history of the house. It’s located in the basement of the shop and has an amusement park-like vibe.  There are fake monkeys and skulls and strobe lights and gore. But another focus is the authentic documentation gathered about the doctor, William Redwood Fisher, who lived in the house with his family. No photography or video is allowed inside the actual attraction (but when you reach the bottom, you’ll see a video currently available on YouTube).


The Candle Shoppe of the Poconos has been featured on Animal Planet’s The Haunted and investigated by the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association (not just once, but twice). You can visit the Biological Research Testing Facility turned Candle Shoppe at 1900 Route 611 in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania, which is open year-round.

Have a Happy & Safe Halloween!


Photo Courtesy of Photography by Jennifer O’Malia 


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Video from The Candle Shoppe of the Pocono’s


Cheri Sundra © 2016 All Rights Reserved



Ghost Estates: The Sanctuary

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If you try really hard, you can almost feel the positiveness of the developers when they named this sacred future hamlet, located in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania.  The land was purchased for development from Bishop James C. Timlin and named The Sanctuary. But the hulking abandoned shell of what was going to become a townhouse, which is the predominant view in your line of sight when entering this wanna-be housing development, tells a completely different story.  This place is like a blank page at the end of the last chapter of a book.  The street signs and hydrants may have been erected, but this mostly abandoned development is nothing but an attempted mirage of suburbia.  It’s the American Dream gone wrong.

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While cruising the desolate and primarily house-free streets, admiring the asphalt roads and empty lots, you realize that this Ghost Development is not entirely dead.  One house in the back is obviously occupied, and from another in the front, a dog could be heard yipping away from inside one of the cookie-cutter townhouses.

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Yet there are also partially landscaped yards in the process if reverting into scrappy, weed infested spaces, in front of dwellings left half-finished, abandoned and deteriorating.

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According to past newspaper reports, The Sanctuary has transformed into one couple’s suburban hell.  In an interview from 2009 with the only homeowners living in The Sanctuary at that time, they disclosed that water tainted by a dangerous industry solvent flows beneath their dream house with the cozy fireplace, expensive hardwood floors and spacious kitchen.   The homeowners voiced concern about being left with a $400,000 mortgage on a home that was worth considerably less in a stalled housing development.  To contribute to their problem, the housing development is linked to figures in one of the biggest scandals ever to rock Luzerne County.

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Sanctuary was conceived and developed by W-Cat Inc.   Federal prosecutors are very familiar with some of the names associated with that development company.  Three of them, former Luzerne County judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and attorney Robert J. Powell, were key figures in what has become known as Kids for Cash, a judicial corruption scandal.

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Cheri Sundra © 2014
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The Dead Diva of Hollenback Cemetery: The Notorious Florence Foster Jenkins

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If someone was going to play you in a movie about your life,

who would you want it to be?


Meryl Streep (along with Hugh Grant) recently signed up to appear as one of Wilkes-Barre’s former residents, now eternally residing in the Hollenback Cemetery, Florence Foster Jenkins, who became infamous for her artistic incompetence since she was an Opera Diva who could not sing.  The concept isn’t that hard to grasp today, in the age of talentless nobodies who become amazingly famous–Florence Foster Jenkins is the undisputed Patron Saint of that genre!


Known, and sometimes ridiculed, for her lack of rhythm, pitch and tone; in addition to her generally poor singing ability, legions of people came to see Florence perform, thanks to her highly eccentric behavior.  It is rumored that she would often order massive bouquets of flowers to be delivered to her concerts, and then genuinely forget that she‘d done so, thinking they were from her throngs of admirers.  She wore ridiculous costumes, in Lady Gaga-esque fashion, that she made herself, often featuring wings and tinsel.  Ms. Jenkins once pulled an “Axl Rose” by hurling a basket at the audience. And after an accident, she rewarded a taxi driver for injuring her because she was convinced that she could “sing” a higher F than ever before (after the incident).  When faced with ridicule and criticism, Ms. Jenkins had the amazing ability to rebrand herself as a victim of “professional jealousy”.

The only way to obtain a ticket to one of Ms. Jenkins’ performances was to purchase one directly from the Diva herself!  She certainly understood the “leave them wanting more” theory since she refused to appear in New York more than once a year, often restricting attendance to her annual recital to a select few loyal admirers.

According to Carnegie Hall, it is Ms. Jenkins who has the honor of being the performer of their most requested archival concert program.

Seeing Ms. Jenkins, who was independently wealthy, perform at small venues like fashionable hotel ballrooms became “the thing to do”.  Everyone wanted to listen to her screw up every song she tried to sing.  Her concert-goers always had such a great time that they convinced her that she needed to make her Carnegie Hall debut, which she did on October 25, 1944.  The performance sold out in just two hours!  And the audience would not let her go home.  And like the Diva she was, she died one month and one day after that performance.  Forever leaving her fans wanting more. IMG_1879 (2) sig

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Cheri Sundra © 2014
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The Ghost of Gangster’s Paradise


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

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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


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”.

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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!”

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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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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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Haunted ESP (ghost on film)

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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.


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.


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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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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Post-Apocalyptic Chic Ghost Town: Concrete City, Nanticoke PA


By Cheri Sundra


Abandoned: 1924

Pictures from June 1 and June 7, 2010

Nanticoke has its own post-apocalyptic-esque ghost town—the only thing missing is the roving band of marauders.  Referred to by some as one of the failed technological experiments in Pennsylvania railroad and coal mining history,  and by others as the first example of modern-day cookie-cutter or tract housing, the Concrete City ruins still stand as a monument to the “company housing” living arrangements experienced by some area workers during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s.  Described as “virtual villas” by the upper class of coal mining families, these houses were regarded as a futuristic marvel when first constructed.

“Company Housing” in Pennsylvania usually referred to villages comprised of frame-built wooden houses, commonly called “shanties” by county assessors, that were hastily built by industrialist owners for their low-paid employees.  By controlling their housing arrangements, employers maintained more control over the lives of their employees and had more opportunity to exploit workers and their families.  A great example of this “traditional” company town can be seen at Eckley Miner’s Village, located just 9 miles east of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Concrete City is “company housing” with an architectural twist.  The “city” is a very early example of International Style Architecture which is characterized by buildings with rectilinear forms, unadorned of ornamentation or decoration and constructed with steel, glass and reinforced concrete.  This architecture style is a minimalist concept that stresses functionalism.

Pennsylvania railroads were using concrete, a novel building material at the start of the 20th Century, on a wide variety of projects.  Concrete City was built by the Coal Division of D L and W Railroad for employees of the Truesdale Colliery. The homes, which were built in 1911 and opened in 1913, were rented out to a hand-full of their current employees for $8.00 per month. Called the “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” by its designers, the requirements to be met by employees for residency consideration in this cutting-edge, model worker housing community included English as a first language and employment with the company in a position of “high value” such as mine supervisor, foreman or technician.

Concrete City consists of 20 buildings.  Each one was a duplex that housed two families.  Each half of every single standing structure contained a kitchen, living room and dining room downstairs and four bedrooms on the second floor.  Concrete outhouses were constructed behind each house.

All of the houses were arranged around a central plaza that was about the size of a football field which contained a pavilion, baseball field and a tennis court.

There was a wading pool for children and a waist deep, circular swimming pool with constantly flowing water for adults which are said to be the first in-ground pools built in the Wyoming Valley.  The pool was emptied in 1914 after a boy drowned.  Concrete sidewalks illuminated by electric lights and landscaped yards completed the futuristic community.  Concrete City residents were said to be plagued by dampness because moisture constantly seeped thru the porous concrete which led to condensation on the walls.

This is a picture of an item from the archives of the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Eleven years after it’s construction, Concrete City was abandoned because the owners did not want to install an expensive sewer system as required by

Concret City Now

the township in 1924. Ironically, demolition of the modern “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” was halted when it was discovered that the implosion of 100 sticks of dynamite in one of the houses had very little impact.  The concept of demolishing the city made of concrete was deemed too expensive, despite the fact that coal was discovered under the site after it was abandoned.

Currently, many of the structures exhibit fire damage because the Luzerne County Volunteer Fireman’s Association has used Concrete City as a training center.

Despite the fact that it has been designated as an historical site in 1998 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, locals frequently use Concrete City for paint ball games or parties as evidenced by the numerous paint balls and beer cans scattered about the grounds. Graffiti covers all of the buildings throughout the entire abandoned community.

Concrete City ruins photographed on June 1 & June7, 2010


***To see how Concrete City seems to be experiencing new life as a frequently changing urban art gallery, go to Spontaneous Acts of Art–Concrete City Ruins

***Want more in-depth history of Concrete City, with a twist?  Check out   Of Concrete City, Mermaids and the Ghost Town Stairs to Nowhere (Part 1) and  Of Concrete City, Mermaids and Ghosts (both Past & Present) Part 2

***And visit Vimeo to watch my Concrete City mini-Movie!

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Cheri Sundra © 2010              
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Ghost Town Graffiti


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Cheri Sundra © 2010
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