Philadelphia, PA

Everything You Need to Know About the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA

The Virtuous Vee

Located at 2027 Fairmount Avenue between Corinthian Avenue and North 22nd Street in the Fairmount section of the city, The Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), is a menacing Gothic-style prison in Philadelphia. This place is also known as one of the most haunted places in the United States.

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Prison Hallway.Ashim D’Silva/Unsplash

Short History

The ESP opened in 1829 and became the first in the U.S. to implement solitary confinement. Prisoners resided in stone cells with no human contact. Some famous prisoners here were the America's most notorious lawbreakers, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al "Scarface" Capone.

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Al Capone's cell. He furnished his cell with luxurious antiques, rugs, and paintings.Ashim D’Silva/Unsplash

Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true “penitentiary”, a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners On the other hand, critics believed that it incited emotional anguish comparable to physical torture.

The solitary confinement system eventually collapsed due to overcrowding problems. By 1913, ESP abandoned the solitary system and operated as a congregate prison until it closed in 1970. Most inmates were sent to the State Correctional Institution at Graterford. While the Penitentiary's electrical and mechancial systems were in terrible shape, its walls and paint are in perfect condition even today.

Terror Behind the Walls

Terror Behind the Walls is an interesting event to review. It consists of six haunted attractions that create a seamless experience. ESP structured these haunts in a way to present a flowing story – from inmates still behind bars in Lockdown, to escaping their cells, riots, and ultimately our own daring Breakout from the nation’s most terrifying prison. And once it’s all over, you even have the option of refueling your courage with a drink in a private (actual) cell adjacent to the very one the legendary Al Capone himself was once locked inside. For more information check their website.

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A Cell.S Trobee/Unsplash

Prison Tours

There are two ways to visit Eastern State Penitentiary.

Daytime prison tours: available Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. You will get the chance to explore Eastern State's historic cellblocks and learn about the history of the penitentiary and its relevance today. Tickets must be purchased online in advance.

Night Tours: available Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from May 7th through September 4th. You can experience Eastern State's historic cellblocks as the sun goes down. Tickets: $19 for Thursday evenings, $26 for Friday evenings, and $32 for Saturday evenings. Get your tickets here.

The tours last around 35 minutes.

If you have been on a tour, share your experience with us! Thank you.

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