top of page

Eastern State Penitentiary: Know the Hidden Story of the Terror Behind the Prison Walls!

Eastern State Penitentiary: Know the Hidden Story of the Terror Behind the Prison Walls!

Dotted with gloomy high walls made with reinforced steel, the Eastern State Penitentiary is emblematic of horror and obscurity. The concrete, trembling corridors and cells enforce stark terror into anyone who looks at them. Often termed as 'Terror Behind the Walls', the old prison has been several times, considered to be one of the most haunted places in Philadelphia.

A brief history of the prison

The Eastern State Penitentiary is a former American prison located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was operational between 1829 and 1971 and is infamously known for housing one of the most notorious drug dealers in the world, Al Capone.

In the late nineteenth century, the conditions of the American and European prisons were worsening. On hearing the concerns raised by 'The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of the Public Prisons', Dr Benjamin Rush proposed the idea of building a penitentiary. One that could create genuine regret and penitence in a criminal's heart.

After constant democratic struggles for 30 years, a revolutionary building now stood upright. Mounted on the farmland outside Philadelphia. The penitentiary broke sharply with other prisons of its day, abandoning corporal punishment. The building became one of the most expensive ones in America, and soon the most famous prison in the world.

While its operations, the prison housed over 70000 different inmates. All of them were under stringent rules. The inmates were not allowed to talk among themselves. Their cells only had a toilet and a little sleeve on the wall almost 30 meters high through which sunlight came. They used to call it the God's Eye.

Prisoners were subjected to extreme punishments in violation of these rules. Many gave up their lives suffering through them. Authorities forbade distraction and interaction with guards. Whenever the prisoners were outside their cells, they covered their faces with hoods.

Virtually all prisons designed in the twentieth century around the world were based on one of the two systems- New York's State Auburn System or the Pennsylvania Penitentiary. During the following century, more than 300 prisons cropped up in South America, Europe, China, Japan, and across the British Empire, based on its plan and architecture.

The Pennsylvania system, however, got abandoned in 1913. Because critics were against the cruel practices of the prison. They reprimanded the authorities for holding these men and women without any visitors. The prisoners could not have books or letters from home. They were without contact from the outside world.

Still, more cell blocks came up, smaller than the old ones, and lit by ordinary windows. Subterranean and windowless cells brought back solitary refinement in prison. They were without light and the required plumbing.

Some of America's most notorious criminals found themselves in the Eastern cells. These include the gangster Al Capone, who was sentenced to one year in prison. Although he lived most of his sentence in comfort. He furnished his cell with antiques, rugs and oil paintings.

By the 1960s, the prison was in need of heavy repairs. The Commonwealth closed the facility in 1971, 142 years later after it admitted Charles Williams, the Prisoner Number One. The City council of Philadelphia purchased the site in 1980, intending to reuse it. But the site threatened with an inappropriate reuse proposal. The Eastern State Penitentiary Task Force successfully halted the redevelopment.

The Penitentiary was first opened for guided tours in 1994 and signed a 20-year agreement with the City to operate the site in 1997. The prison currently runs as a public museum and is a National Historic Landmark for the country. The facility stands in its "preserved ruin" state. This means there was no significant renovation or restoration work. Preservation efforts were carried out to make sure that the building is strong enough to remain upright.

The prison featured in Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures.

Terror Behind the Prison Walls

Since its closure, many visitors, employees, and researchers have reported paranormal activities and have heard unexplained eerie sounds in prison. Tourists and workers have reported, hearing giggling, laughing and whispering sounds coming from the prison's wall.

One major paranormal incident occurred with a restoration worker, a locksmith. When he tried to open a 140-year-old lock in cell C#4, an enormous force or supernatural power grabbed him and rendered him unable to move even an inch. Many researchers and psychological experts believe that, at the time of opening of the lock, the locksmith set the spirits stuck behind in the prison walls free.

The CellBlock 12 is infamous for echoing voices, crackling sounds. Another one hosts shadowy figures, imprinted on the prison walls. Many have also reported seeing a ghostly silhouette of a cell-guard in one of the tower stations. Footsteps, Wails, crying men, whispering sounds are often reported from the prison.

There are other incidents too. Visitors reportedly freaked upon seeing ghostly faces. They suddenly appeared and then vanished on the cell's rugged walls. Several have confirmed hearing scary voices and screeching sounds when witnessing the blocks. This has led to several investigations of the whole-prison. Even the researchers say that they find evidence of supernatural presence.

Investigation Reports

In a typical year, the cells in the Eastern Penitentiary hosts over a dozen different paranormal investigations. All have different methods and objectives to be there. However, none of them declined the fact that the prison is unnatural.

But the tour guides there do not claim that the place is spooky. They believe in not exploiting the prison's dark image. One of the guides says, "The inmates were actual living people. Seventy-thousand people spent time here. We are not going to glorify it!".

The staff and workers are firm and have deployed the fact that they are running a haunted attraction, but the place is certainly not haunted.


Perhaps, considering something haunted or paranormal is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This couldn't be altered or interfered with. If you are dying to have a haunting experience, your mind may very well give you one.

There are thousands of visitors, who say that they have experienced no voices, no footsteps sound, no force grabbing them, no chilling silhouettes, no eerie scenes. And yet, there are plenty who say that they have.

Now, whether the place is actually haunted remains a topic for an endless discussion. Although different stories related to the prison keep popping up and entertain the readers. It can be true or completely scripted.

Plan a Horror Next Time & Share the Stores among Friends.


Be the First to Expand Your
Intellectual Horizon!

bottom of page