Haunted Places to Visit

Eastern State Penitentiary

Philadelphia, PA

There are many closed prisons that are believed to be haunted. One of the largest tourist attractions perhaps in the nation is Alcatraz in San Francisco. Even recently, the department of tourism began offering night tours of this famous prison.

However, a lesser known haunted prison is Philadelphia's East State Penitentiary. Originally designed in the 1820's as a 'new and humane way to house prisoners' the prison was shut down in the1970's because of its severely deteriorating condition, and because it became outdated. Once considered the 'impossible escape', more creative inmates lead to more creative prisons.

Today, the prison sits as a deteriorating landmark. Tours are offered during the day, much like its relative, Alcatraz. However, in 1997, the prison began offering night ghost tours up through Halloween. Fortunately, I was in Philadelphia shortly before Halloween and was able to take this special tour. Actually, we went on the "opening night".

My first question was whether they would allow photography, as I wanted to get some of those ghosts on film. However, the person in charge of the tour told me that it would "disturb the ghosts". Is this America or what?

We walked through the prison with a guide who told ghost stories of Philadelphia. Only one story related to the prison so generally, the tour is pretty mediocre. However, it's well known by local Philadelphians that the prison has an old reputation for being haunted.

The one true story that was told relevant to the prison itself, was this:

A locksmith was called one day just short of the night tour opening to do some locksmith work. The locksmith was given several locks to work on. While walking through (what I remember to be the) the "B" block, he had a strong feeling that he was being watched. About half way through the block (we were told this story in the middle of "B" block) he saw a cloud develope down the hall. The swirling cloud began to move towards him and suddenly, only feet away from him, shot up to the ceiling. The man looked up and saw numerous yellowish orange cat type eyes looking straight down at the man. Then, in a deep voice, the eyes said "we're watching you!!!"

The locksmith took off running and never returned to the job to finish his work. He apparently even abandomned some of his tools, telling State employees that he was too scared to reclaim them.

My personal experience was actually a bit different. I didn't feel anything particularely spooky about the "B" cell block, but was rather spooked by the main lock up. The paint is peeling quite badly and it was dark, but imagine 3 floors of cells directly in view above your head. The place was REAL cold too, far cooler than the outside air temperature. All I can say is that I wouldn't want to be a guard who has to patrol the grounds and cell blocks.

If you wish to visit the prison for a day tour, its located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue in downtown Philadelphia. And be cautious! For the ghosts won't hurt you, but the neighborhood thugs are a different story.


This is the only photo I was able to take prior to the tour. This photo was looking from the main entrance into the court yard. I haven't decided if this means anything yet but in the dead-center of the photo, notice the light reflecting. There was no light on. inside that block that I could see. I thought about the light being my flash hitting something but there is nothing there but a set of bars and open air. Let me know if you see something I don't!

Cellblock 4, catwalk and food cart.

Photo by Randall Wise