The prison that has a history of torment and death.
On this episode of Buzzfeed Unsolved Supernatural, Ryan and Shane investigated Eastern State Penitentiary to try and find out if ghosts are real.
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Eastern State Penitentiary was opened in 1829 under the hopes of serving as a humane prison where labor, solitude, and discipline would make inmates “penitent.”
This place pioneered solitary confinement, thinking isolation in a cell would be beneficial. Turned out, it wasn't.
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The rules and conditions the prisoners lived in were pretty harsh.
The inmates were only allowed outside for one hour each day, but when leaving cells, hoods were put over their heads to prevent communication and knowledge of the prison's layout. They were given zero contact with the outside world; no visitors, no letters — not even newspapers.
While in solitary, silence was also enforced by prison guards, who allegedly abused the prisoners.
Here are some of the forms of abuse that are said to have occurred:
- Dunking inmates in a bath during winter, then hanging them on a wall so that ice formed on their skin.
- The mad chair, which consisted of prisoners being bound so tightly that their circulation was cut off, sometimes resulting in permanent injuries.
- An iron gag — a mechanism that was fastened to an inmate's mouth, ripping at it while their hands were tied behind their back.
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Around 1866 solitary confinement was phased out, but then the prison became too crowded, leading to new problems.
Because there were so many inmates, they had to share cells — sometimes two or three people in a cell designed for one. This overcrowding led to rioting, and inmates lighting cells on fire. Now, there's activity reported in Cellblock 12, where people claim to have heard voices and a cackling laugh.
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Then, there’s Cell 49 in Cellblock 8, where an inmate named Joseph Havel stabbed his cellmate, George Kopp, with a pair of scissors.
Ryan and Shane went directly into the cell and tried to communicate via a spirit box, and there was some potential interaction heard.
There’s also Cellblock 15, where whispers and a shadowy figure running have been reported.
Interestingly, the penitentiary’s most notable inmate was Al Capone.
While Capone's cell (pictured above) was in better condition than others, there was an instance in which he was reported to have been heard screaming, and telling someone named Jimmy to “get out.” Jimmy Clark is the name of a gangster who was killed by Capone.
During their investigation, Ryan and Shane tried to communicate with Al Capone and other presences using the spirit box, and believe they may’ve gotten some responses.
A spirit box is a radio tuner that scans frequencies and creates white noise that spirits are said to be able to manipulate to communicate.
Additionally, Ryan and Shane explored the entryway for a tunnel that was dug by prisoners in a failed escape attempt.
They also checked out the small, dark, solitary cells those inmates were sent to as punishment after they were recaptured.
With a history of misery and death, many will continue to believe there are spirits roaming in its walls, but whether or not Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted remains unsolved.
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