Prison of Horrors

Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the creepiest places in the world. Some say it's evil.

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In the middle of gritty downtown Philadelphia stands a fortress. Eastern State Penitentiary - to some - is one of the creepiest places in the world. Some say it's evil.

Eastern State Penitentiary was a great social experiment that turned inmates into raving lunatics; inspired fear in the most hardened criminals; and left ghosts that have been known to stalk the living.

Now a decaying museum, E.S.P., for 142 years, was one of the most feared correctional institutions in the world where more than 75,000 men and women passed through its gates. Torture was expected. The prisoners and prison guards anticipated it. Prisoners were tied in chairs for many hours and when they were freed from their restraints some were permanently crippled.

Eastern State Penitentiary was born during the new era of prison reform in 1787. The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons conceived of a prison designed entirely for solitary confinement. Funded by Quakers, the reformers finally unveiled their masterpiece in 1829.

Even though cells were designed with luxuries to ensure isolation; the architecture was demoralizing and prison procedures were downright dehumanizing. After entering the fortress, prisoners were examined and given a number. At that point they lost their humanity. A hood was placed over a prisoner's head as guards led them to their cell. They were locked in their cells for the entire day; fed through a slot in the door; and only given a half hour to exercise.

Once prisoners were locked away, the outside world, their loved ones, their prior lives - all ceased to exist. The most devastating blow was the sound of silence. Prisoners were not allowed to speak, sing or hum. This was a place of absolute silence. Some prisoners were gagged with a metal tongue clamp if they did not abide by the code of silence.

This state-of-the-art facility was in reality a tomb, as if the prisoners had been buried alive. The extreme isolation was intended to inspire redemption, but it spawned madness.

Famed writer and revolutionary Charles Dickens visited the prison and left convinced it was the worst prison on earth. Not a visitor, but a famous gangster, Al "Scarface" Capone was a resident in cellblock 8. Capone ushered in the era of the bloody 1930s for Chicago. The crime kingpin was allowed visitors and had antique furniture, oil paintings, and oriental rugs to make his 8-month stay as comfortable as possible.

Capone didn't have peace of mind. He told a guard that the ghost of one of the men (James Clark) murdered at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre was haunting him. Even though he didn't pull the trigger, it is well known and established that Capone did order the slaughter. In 1930, Capone walked out of Eastern State, but in some ways he was never free again.

Stories of evil haunts go back to prison locksmith Gary Johnson's brush with ghosts. Johnson was changing the locks when the prison was being converted into a tourist attraction. While working with one of the old locks, he saw several ghosts and felt a cold hand reaching into his body. Johnson said he was almost certain that the ghosts were going to kill him.

Visitors have also seen the ghost of Joseph Taylor. Taylor bludgeoned an overseer named Michael Duran to death in 1884. After the horrific crime, Taylor calmly reentered his cell and went to sleep. Some people believe Taylor's ghost still roams the prison's dilapidated hallowed halls. Take a trip to Eastern State Penitentiary and uncover the haunts that still exist inside this mysterious fortress.

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