You know, for a photo theme I claim to avoid, I realize I have more to offer in the eerie department. I’ve used shots of the Eastern State Penitentiary in a few other posts, but I still have some that I haven’t used. And ESP is truly, truly eerie.
This Philadelphia prison was opened in 1839 (oddly enough, at just about the time people started to be buried in the cemetery I wandered through yesterday), and was a cutting-edge, new concept in prison design. This prison was focused not on punishing its inmates, but housing them in single, silent cells. There, they could be left alone with their thoughts, perform simple labors, and become penitent for their sins. (Penitentiary – get it?)
Each inmate had their own cell with a single skylight from above, simple furnishings, a Bible and a private, walled exercise yard. When prisoners were removed from their cells, they were hooded, so as not to learn the layout of the prison, and to keep them from interacting with other prisoners.
This plan was seen as a more enlightened way to treat prisoners back in the 1830’s, but critics claimed that damning men to such complete aloneness, with little to no human contact, was just as cruel a fate as beating them. This style of prison eventually fell out of favor. *
When I toured the facility, it was as if the very walls had been made of silence. The wreck and ruin of it all seemed inhabited not by the cries of its past prisoners, but by an oppressive blanket of misery. ESP has such a weird vibe about it that scenes from the movie 12 Monkeys were filmed here.
I doubt that the ghosts that haunt Eastern State Pen will ever be at rest, but I look forward to visiting them again to keep trying to capture their spirit.
* Info from http://www.easternstate.org