Explore one of America’s most “haunted” places that housed the likes of Al Capone

·2 min read
“It really is a photographer’s dream inside here” (SWNS)
“It really is a photographer’s dream inside here” (SWNS)

With its 142-year history of torture, isolation, disease, murder and madness, the crumbling Philadelphia penitentiary is often viewed as haunted.

An urban explorer, who requested not to be named, captured the prison’s decaying walls, abandoned and broken furniture and cramped cells.

“I spent about three hours inside Eastern State exploring cell to cell and photographing everything from the crumbling walls to broken stools and beds and peeling paint,” they said.

“I even sat inside a cell for a good while imagining what prisoners would have felt.

“Parts of Eastern State are incredibly uncomfortable, yet the history is all over the walls and floors, even the steel beds tell a story none of us can really imagine; each cell is different in ‘character’ and each cell feels different.”

The prison housed notable figures such as Chicago crime boss Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton, one of the most famous bank robbers in American history.

The walls are decaying throughout (SWNS)
The walls are decaying throughout (SWNS)
The prison has been closed since 1971 (SWNS)
The prison has been closed since 1971 (SWNS)
A lot of the cells are very cramped (SWNS)
A lot of the cells are very cramped (SWNS)

Prisoners would face horrific punishments such as a water bath – where they were dunked and then hung on a wall until ice formed on their skin – and the mad chair, where they were bound so tightly their circulation was cut off.

When it opened in 1829 it was one of the most expensive constructions in the country and was built in a wagon wheel design to emphasise separate confinement.

“Inmates back then would sit in their cell for 23 hours a day,” the photographer said.

“After sitting inside a few cells taking photographs, it feels each decaying wall is closing in on you.”

The crumbling walls add to the ‘haunted’ feel of the penitentiary (SWNS)
The crumbling walls add to the ‘haunted’ feel of the penitentiary (SWNS)
American gangster Al Capone was housed in the prison (SWNS)
American gangster Al Capone was housed in the prison (SWNS)
Abandoned and broken furniture can be found throughout (SWNS)
Abandoned and broken furniture can be found throughout (SWNS)

Since its 1971 closure, the penitentiary has since been turned into a National Historic Landmark, offering both day and nighttime tours.

“It’s a shame not many places decay naturally and are open to the public such as this.

“While I have explored abandoned buildings for many years nothing will come close to photographing Eastern State Penitentiary.”

The penitentiary opened in 1829 (SWNS)
The penitentiary opened in 1829 (SWNS)
Prisoners would face horrific punishments (SWNS)
Prisoners would face horrific punishments (SWNS)
Inmates would sit in their cell for 23 hours a day (SWNS)
Inmates would sit in their cell for 23 hours a day (SWNS)

SWNS