on September 11, 2007
If Alcatraz is synonymous with San Francisco then the same can be said about Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Eastern State opened in 1829 and is considered to be the world’s first penitentiary. Their system of incarceration included solitary confinement which many believed to have contributed to the prisoner’s mental illness. The prison was closed in 1971 and the city of Philadelphia eventually purchased the property. In 1988, redevelopment was halted and in 1994, the prison opened its doors to the public for tours. Tours are offered April through November from 10am to 5pm. Ticket prices are $9 for adults and $4 for children seven to twelve. Children under seven cannot be admitted to the site. After paying the admission, you must sign a liability waiver as you will see why on the self-guided tour. The prison has been kept in “preserved ruin”, which means that no attempt for renovations has been made. Therefore, minor safety concerns exist. The self-guided tour allows you to go anywhere in the prison. The prison creates a gloomy and bleak atmosphere as you walk into one of the many jail cells. You will notice the peeling paint on the walls, crumbling bricks, and even the remnants of the toilet which may or may not be attached to the wall. The gloomy atmosphere is even intensified by the dim lighting throughout the prison. Step into the officers shoes and walk the plank on death row where prisoners waited for their final date with destiny. There is a prison museum and gift shop at the prison. Inside the museum is a recreation of the jail cell that housed one of its most famous prisoners, Al Capone. He was transferred to Eastern State in 1929 and his cell was as nice as any prisoner could ask for. Known as his “Park Avenue” cell, it was decorated with oriental rugs, a desk lamp on a polished lamp, paintings on the walls, and even a radio. The cell is a popular stop on the tour. The Eastern State Penitentiary has been the setting for different TV shows such as Sci-Fi’s Ghost Hunters and MTV’s Fear. It has also been featured in movies such as Twelve Monkeys and recently on the Travel Channel on Most Haunted Live which conducted the first paranormal investigation in the US in hopes of trying to come into contact with supernatural beings. If you feel that you are brave enough, attend Terror Behind the Walls, which is hailed as a haunted house inside a real prison. Held every year near Halloween, it is a major tourist attraction for the ones looking for the ultimate haunted thrill. It is definitely on my to do list.
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