Eastern State Penitentiary

Background and History

Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cell blocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.

Updates and Notes of Interest

The facility has been kept in “preserved ruin”, meaning no significant attempts have been made at renovations or restoration. The Eastern State Penitentiary operates as a museum and historic site, open year-round. Guided tours are offered during the winter, and during the warmer months, self-guided tours are also available. Visitors frequently get lost for hours on the self-guided tours at times only barely getting out before closing.

In addition, it holds many special events throughout the year.

“Terror Behind the Walls” is an annual Haunted House Halloween event run by the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. At one point it was home to the only 3-D haunted house in Southeastern Pennsylvania and one of the first in the United States. In 2003, four semi-permanent haunted attractions were constructed inside the penitentiary complex. Each July, there is a Bastille Day celebration, complete with a comedic reinterpretation of the storming of the Bastille and the tossing of thousands of Tastykakes from the towers, accompanied by a cry of “let them eat Tastykake!” from an actress portraying Marie Antoinette.


Stained black by years of wear and tear….and other things.


A Literal Tourist Trap.



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Eastern State Penitentiary

Its Always Sinister in Philadelphia frank1988