Good evening and allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lisa and I have the privilege of working with some amazing ghost guides here in Saint Augustine. When asked to be a part of the A Ghostly Encounter blog, I immediately thought “how cool would it be to bridge two haunted cities together!” I decided that I would introduce you to my hometown of Bucks County, Pennsylvania and its surrounding counties.
St. Augustine, being known for its paranormal activities and haunted locations always reminded me of back home. You see, we also have a “haunted” jail that folks flock to in hopes of capturing photos and paranormal sightings. The jail that I speak of, in Pennsylvania, is known as the Eastern State Penitentiary. Its 142-year history is full of suicide, madness, disease, murder and torture, making it easy to imagine the spirits of troubled souls left behind to roam its abandoned halls.
The Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world. It operated from 1829 until 1971. The penitentiary refined the revolutionary system of separate incarceration. At its completion, the building was the largest and most expensive public structure ever erected in the United States and quickly became a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.
Notorious criminals such as Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton were held inside this horrific institution. The harsh punishments used on prisoners are enough to make you shiver even without seeing a ghost. There was the water bath, in which inmates were dunked then hung out on a wall in winter until ice formed on the skin. The mad chair, which bound an inmate so tightly that circulation was cut off, later necessitating amputations. The iron gag, where an inmate’s hands were tied behind the back and strapped to an iron collar in the mouth, so that any movement caused the tongue to tear and bleed profusely. “The Hole,” an underground cell where unfortunate souls had no light, no human contact, no exercise, no toilet and little food and air.
Cellblock 12 is known for echoing voices and cackling; Cellblock 6 for shadowy figures darting along the wall and Cellblock 4 for visions of ghostly faces. Many people have reported seeing a silhouette of a guard in one of the towers. The sound of footsteps, wails and whispers are heard over and over again!!
Due to its ominous appearance, gloomy atmosphere, and long history, Eastern State has been used as a location for television programs and films about hauntings. Television shows like Ghost Hunters explored the paranormal at Eastern State. Eastern State was also used in an episode of Cold Case titled “The House” which dealt with a murder after an inmate escape. For the show, the prison was renamed Northern State Penitentiary.
In the PlayStation 2 game, The Suffering, players can find a video documentary of Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the inspirations for the game.
Perhaps hauntings are a self-fulfilling prophecy — if you want to have a haunted experience, your imagination just might make sure you do. Certainly, there are thousands of visitors who say they’ve experienced no odd feelings, no sudden chills, no strange sounds, no apparitions. And yet there are plenty who say they have.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?