On this month's Morbidly Fascinating Page:

One of the most haunted places in America is said to be the Eastern State Penitentiary (photo gallery at the bottom of this page)


Opened in 1829 as part of a controversial movement to change the behavior of people convicted of crimes through "confinement in solitude with labor," Eastern State Penitentiary quickly became one of the most expensive and most copied buildings in the young United States.

With its looming, gloomy high stone walls, crumbling corridors, and stark cells that once housed thousands of hard-core criminals, Eastern State Penitentiary certainly looks haunted. 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 prison, which closed in 1971, is considered by several sources to be one of the most haunted places in America. It has been featured on the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures and Most Haunted Live, Syfy's Ghost Hunters and MTV's Fear. Dozens of paranormal researchers visit every year and report that it's a hub of otherworldly activity. Perhaps most convincingly, there are the stories of eerie experiences by visitors, staff, guards and inmates that have corroborated each other since the 1940s.

See more HERE

Why is the Eastern State Penitentiary thought to be haunted?

Eastern State Penitentiary is certainly not lacking in context. The architect, John Haviland, constructed its eerily beautiful gothic revival structure with vaulted ceilings in the cell blocks and the individual cells. Oddly enough, it might be these church-like features that give us a deep feeling of discomfort.

Walking through the prison’s crumbling halls, it’s easy to understand why people believe the penitentiary is haunted. While the prison was operating, there were over 50 suicides and a dozen murders within its walls.

Many people throughout history claim that there are numerous signs of paranormal activity at the prison. Hundreds have told of haunting tales and experiences. The stories of the haunted prison date back to the 1940s when both guards and individuals confined in the facility claim that they have experienced unexplained visions and a wide array of unusual experiences. When Eastern State Penitentiary was officially abandoned in 1971, the rumors of the unexplained haunted prison seemed to increase dramatically.


"Ghost Adventures" on the Travel Channel at the Eastern State Penitentiary

ghost hunters

"Ghost Hunters" on Syfy

About their investigation

The team from "Ghost Hunters" arrives to Eastern State, an historic landmark where ghostly apparitions have been reported. They are greeted by Bob Olson, a guide at the location who gives them the tour. Featured stops include cellblock 4 and famed gangster Al Capone's lavish cell, reportedly allowed for stopping a fight and/or donating money to the prison. The program manager states having heard ghostly footsteps when alone, and being told of instances where people have seen a shadow come out of cellblock #12 on the second floor and simply stand there. More stops include the circular center of the building and death row, where the locksmith sensed something behind him and saw a shadow next to the fortress wall.

Steve and Sherri begin feeling cold sensations, though Steve blames it on an open door. Carl later places a cassette player in cellblock 4 in the hopes of catching EVPs. Immediately afterwards, while in cellblock 4, cameraman Dave Hobbes gets spooked by a "shoulder-to-head black shadow" that darted in front of him.

So is it or isn't it haunted?

One of the most popular locations associated with ghosts includes the catwalk section of the facility. On the popular “Ghost Hunters” TV show, a shadow-figure was caught on video in this region. Many visitors to the prison have reported different signs of paranormal activity in this location. Not only have visitors felt extreme temperature fluctuations, but they have also witnessed shadowy figures and captured amazing EVPs on the catwalk. One guest reports capturing an EVP where a male voice stated: “I’m lonely.”

Tour guide Ben Bookman says, "It's a lot harder to find a believer than it is to find a skeptic among the workers here. We at Eastern State do not claim that the prison is haunted."

Bookman says the staff does not like to exploit the prison's darker image. "Most people making TV shows come in looking for ghosts. That's not the story we tell. Inmates were real people. These were people's lives. Seventy-thousand people spent time here. We're not going to glorify it, and we're not going to make fun of it."

Eastern State Penitentiary is a place steeped in history, but it is also a place that once housed inmates in deplorable conditions. According to ​The Paranormal Library, residual haunting activity can happen when something traumatic/stressful occurs.

"Negative energy is literally blasted into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to imprint or record the events. Like a recording tape, it will play the events over and over again. The entities involved in this residual haunting activity are unaware of their surroundings. This is not an intelligent haunting, there is no interaction between you and the entity."

Find out for yourself by joining a tour


Eastern State Penitentiary is currently open for daytime tours every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. They are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. 

Tickets are available online or at the door, subject to availability.

They also provide night tours during the Halloween season.


A photo gallery of Eastern State Penitentiary


The catwalk, considered to be the most haunted area (Above)


Entrance to the catwalk


Cellblock 15, Death Row


An example of a prison cell


Bars on a cell


A dentist's chair in the medical wing


A contemporary photo of when the penitentiary was operating, circa late 1800s