Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennsylvania

This week we take you to one of the most haunted, and terrifying locations in the United States: Eastern State Penitentiary. Voted as one of the scariest locations to experience ghosts and other haunting things, Ghost Hunts USA is excited to take you along for a terrifying ride through the history of Eastern State Penitentiary.


Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lies Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), one of the most well-known prisons in the country, and for good reason. This state penitentiary was open from 1829 up until 1971, but in the years that followed, there were plenty of strange occurances that spooked people and intrigued others that continue to visit this location.

1829 - Opening Day

Known for being the country’s first penitentiary, ESP opened its doors in the year of 1829. This was the first place that was going to offer some form of placement for criminals. That being said, most of the stylings and techniques used in current jails and correctional facilities were crafted from what occurred behind these walls. Prior to this, criminals were held in pens similar to animals, and as the first penitentiary, there was much to be admired in the organized structure of ESP. The primary goal in opening this establishment was to create a place where criminals would be given the opportunity to change their mentality and behavior through the confinement and various work tasks.

The layout of this facility is what really makes it such a terribly frightening place. As we mentioned before, prisoners were accustomed to being held in pens, all together. In this new penitentiary, each prisoner was given a cell, but there was no sign of the outside world for them to experience. There were no windows in any of the cells, the only light being a single skylight that shone a small amount of light through the hall. This small amount of light shone through the hallways, giving the inmates just the smallest gleam of light. This skylight was known as the “Eye of God”, which left the impression that God was always watching them.

Outside of the cells, there was space for the prisoners to exercise and garden. At any point in time that a prisoner was out of their cell, they weren’t able to interact with any other inmates. In order to keep them from seeing any other inmates or the overall layout of the penitentiary, prisoners were required to have a hood wrapped around his head. This hood was extremely creepy when you look at the construction of it and the way that the prisoners look lead through the prison with them wrapped around their head. In the 1900’s, holes were eventually added to the hood, and it’s said that there are still ghosts that can be seen, wandering around with the hoods still on.

1940’s - The Hauntings Begin

Since as early as the 1940’s, guards and inmates have claimed to have experienced ghosts. From sightings to strange encounters and paranormal experiences, both of which people were unable to explain. After the penitentiary was abandoned in the year of 1971, the stories of hauntings increased at a rapid rate. People were intrigued by the stories they’d heard, some making an attempt to see if any of the rumors rang true by taking a chance to find out on their own.

In a part of the penitentiary, there is a catwalk that is known for the amount of paranormal activity that has happened. From ghost sightings and eerie shadows crawling along the walls, a good majority of the people that speak of paranormal activity find it in this particular part of the building. Aside from ghost sightings, those that visit have noticed extreme fluctuations in the temperature, EVP recordings speaking of loneliness and more.

Another incredibly haunted area of the penitentiary is known as Cellblock 12. This part of the building was off limits. Along with Cellblock 12, cell blocks 4 and 6 have also had paranormal activity and hauntings tied to them. Visitors say that laughs, screams and painful pleas for help have been heard when touring the facility.


More often than not, it’s the prisoners that fill the prison that create a recognizable name, and that goes for ESP. Well known and deplorable criminals were held behind the walls of ESP, and we know there are a few names that you’ll recognize. Some of these prisoners have even mentioned paranormal activity and hauntings while they were spending time in Eastern State Penitentiary.

Charles Williams

The first prisoner that was brought into ESP was a young man by the name of Charles Williams. A poor, black farmer with capabilities of reading, he was put in the penitentiary for stealing a watch and a few other items, such as a gold key. After Williams was brought into the penitentiary, plenty of other prisoners were brought in and the penitentiary began to grow.

Alphonse “Scarface” Capone

One of the most well-known American gangsters served time at Eastern State Penitentiary. This five point gang member began his time at ESP around 1929 and spent around 9 months in this torturous place. As one of the prisoners that are better known, it’s not uncommon for people to want to experience the cell in which he stayed, because it opens the opportunity to experience a little bit of what Capone may have experienced while here, not all of it good.

In his time at the penitentiary, Capone would tell guards of a man that was torturing him while he was there. He said that a man by the name of James Clark, a man murdered in an event known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”, would torture Capone to the point of him screaming out the name Jimmy late into the night. These screams were followed with pleads to be left alone. Every night this happened, and every day the guards would come to check the surrounding area, but nothing was ever found.

William Sutton 

Robbing banks are by no means easy, but William Sutton, known as Slick Willie, made it look as though it was. Throughout his forty-year career of robbing banks, Sutton was believed to have stolen an estimated $2 million. What makes this prisoner so special? He spent more than half of his life in a state prison but managed to escape from the prison three times. The ability to escape from prison and manage to sneak away from bank robberies so easily is what earned him the name Slick Willie.

The souls that haunt the Eastern State Penitentiary linger there because of the painful and slow process of losing their mind. It was not uncommon for insanity to occur in a place like this, and it’s these exact souls that you could encounter as you walk through the halls of the prison. The abandoned building is far from empty. In fact, this might be the first thing that you notice. Most individuals that make their way through the penitentiary feel as though there is a pair of eyes that are following them. If you are curious enough to take a chance on touring the Eastern State Penitentiary, visit the schedule that we currently have for Eastern State Penitentiary tours and schedule your stay.