EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY PHILADELPHIA, PA   HISTORY      In the years following the American Revolution, America sought to establish itself as a country of great advancement and enlightenment. Every institution be it social, medical, educational or political would reflect a new age of thinking.      The existing penal system would not be spared reform either. To that point anyone judged guilty of a crime, no matter how heinous or petty, no matter their age or gender, was subjected to the same environment, the same conditions and most times the same pitiable treatment at the hands of fellow inmate and sentinel alike.      So it was that a group of concerned and influential citizens gathered at the home of Benjamin Franklin to address the issue of prison reform. The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons had made their feelings all too clear that in American as well as Europe, the current system was failing miserably. The conditions and treatment of inmates bordered more often than not on the barbaric and the general sentiment was that more needed to be done to prescribe not only more humane conditions but extend an opportunity for prisoners to channel their inner good and adapt back into society.      The goal of the project was put forth by society spokesman Dr. Benjamin Rush: To see the city of Philadelphia become the standard-bearer in both prison design and reform implementation. To accomplish the latter, a system needed to be put in place that would focus on two things: remorse and penitence. This would be accomplished by moving the prisoner toward spiritual reflection by use of the "separate system" in which inmates would be sequestered from each other and kept in a state of isolation so as to better focus on their penance. This was inspired by a Quaker-style methodology where the incompliant were isolated from others and delegated laborious tasks until seeing the error of their ways, at which point they might assimilate back into the group. For more than thirty years the idea was bandied back and forth until finally it was agreed to construct such a complex on a few acres of a cherry orchard outside Philadelphia.      Though not entirely completed until 1836, Eastern State Penitentiary opened its doors and cellblocks by 1829 and a new age of prison reform began. At the time it was the most expensive structure of its type ever constructed and became the most famous of its type in all the world. Many other prisons would be copy both its design and practices. It was designed by British-born architect John Haviland and had a very distinct and functional schema. Seven cell blocks branched out from a central surveillance rotunda.      Prisoners were housed in a one-person cell with one flush toilet, running water and central heating. By contrast, the White House had no running water and President Andrew Jackson had to be content with warming himself by a coal- burning stove. A small hole in the ceiling masqueraded as a skylight and came to be known as "The Eye of God" (l.), the suggestion being that one was under His constant scrutiny. Each cell had its own small, private exercise yard adjacent to it that was enclosed within a ten foot wall. A garden and sometimes even a pet were allowed within these confines.      Those assigned to Eastern State were transported about the complex only for short distances and always with a hood over their head (r.) so they would have limited eye contact with the guards and none with fellow inmates. It also denied them the ability to see the prison layout. The rounded cathedral-like ceilings lent a church-like aura to the environment and the cell doors were so small that prisoners literally had to genuflect in order to enter. Those metal cell doors were covered by heavy wooden doors to filter out extraneous noise. They were never referred to by name until the day they were released. Clothing was limited to a pair of woolen trousers, a jacket, a handkerchief, two pairs of socks and a pair of shoes. All went by the serial number assigned to them the first day they were transported there. For all intents and purposes it was like being sentenced to live in a monastery. No books or reading materials were allowed and anyone caught speaking (even to themselves) were sent to punishment cells and denied food. Habitual offenders were placed in punishment cells for longer durations of time and rations were severely limited.      Oddly, while those inside were doing "God's work" the exterior facade suggested more of a medieval and harsher element to the establishment.      It was strongly believed by advocates of the system that prisoners would, in their silence and servitude, reflect upon their crimes and heinous acts and genuinely feel remorse for their actions. They would again become solid God-fearing and productive citizens by virtue of the process. There were others however who felt differently about subjugating humans to imposed silence and isolation and the potentially harmful and even disastrous effects it might impose on the human psyche. Their concerns would eventually prove valid if not prophetic.      There was a subtle yet distinct difference in the Pennsylvania reform system and the other in use at the time - The Auburn (or, New York) System - named for the prison established about the same time in that town. While prisoners also were not allowed to speak to anyone, they worked during the day in groups on a wide variety of community-oriented tasks (shoe-making, boiler-making and clothing manufacture to name but some) and were isolated at night. They marched in unison with their arms locked to the convict ahead of them and were assigned striped uniforms to signal their lot in life and make them instantly recognizable.      The prisoners in Auburn, N.Y. were also brutalized by guards at the behest of the warden there at the time, Elam Lynds. While a prisoner's repentance in the eyes of God was the ultimate reward at Eastern State, reform was accomplished through less genteel means at Auburn. It was done through physical abuse, intimidation and torture.      Guards would turn high pressure water hoses on inmates, lock them in sweat boxes where the temperatures would reach deadly thresholds, and employ the use of a "stretcher" that would chain a prisoner's ankles to the floor while his wrist were suspended over his head by a rope anchored to the ceiling. As the rope was pulled tighter, the body would be stretched to unbearably painful limits. In essence this was thought to be reform in the fashion of corporal punishment and while brutally effective in most cases, also resulted in growing hostilities between inmates and guards and triggered many prison riots and killings.            While visitors flocked to view the Philadelphia leviathan and countries around the world began to incorporate its design into their own prisons, doubts began to grow as to the effectiveness of its own practices. Torture and mistreatment takes on many forms and some wondered if the negative psychological impact actually mirrored - and perhaps exceeded -  that of the physical abuse. To have no visual contact with another living soul nor to receive guests or even letters from home and do so all under a veil of imposed silence seemed cruel to the extreme.      In a travel journal titled "American Notes for General Circulation" Charles Dickens commits an entire chapter to this very subject:      "In its intention I am well convinced that it is kind, humane, and meant for reformation; but I am persuaded that those who designed this system of Prison Discipline, and those benevolent gentleman who carry it into execution, do not know what it is that they are doing....I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye,... and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment in which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay."      It is inaccurate to suggest that Eastern State did not have a darker side in terms of physical abuse however. In fact, it did. The more incorrigible prisoners would be taken outside in the freezing cold months and have ice water poured over them. Some would be placed in straitjackets that would be pulled so tight as to restrict blood flow and result in the prisoner falling unconscious. Prisoners would be strapped so tightly to chairs they could not move a muscle after having been left there for hours or even days. The "Iron Gag" was a particularly cruel form of punishment and the one most dreaded by the convicts. A harness-like device was placed over the prisoner's tongue while the hands were crossed and bound behind his neck. The rope was then attached to the gag so that any movement would result in the tongue being pulled and torn. Inflicting such atrocities on the inmates was the sole idea of the guards and administration to deal with the more "unrepentant" of their boarders and deviated wildly from the more encouraged methods of reform. Guards often carried out these tasks while under the influence of alcohol which added fuel to the gruesome proceedings.      Illness from airborne diseases was also prevalent at the prison. The overall design, with heating pipes running alongside sewer pipes led to the foul odor of human waste constantly permeating the prison. Prisoners were only allowed to bathe approximately once a month. With inmates and guards alike falling ill at staggering rates, the problems with heating and venting were eventually resolved.      The more insidious problem was the overall mental health of the prisoners because as Dickens predicted, the isolation drove many completely insane. A complete lack of understanding of the fragilities of the human mind or an unwillingness to admit their own culpability resulted in prison doctors coming up with all types of scatter-brained reasons for behavioral abnormalities. Excessive masturbation was the most common reason documented for loss of faculties.               Conditions there of course led to a number of escape attempts. The most "successful" was in 1832 by a man named William Hamilton who worked in the prison bakery. While serving dinner in the warden's quarters one evening, he tied a number of sheets together and lower himself out a window after the warden had left the room. he enjoyed his freedom for five years until he was apprehended and returned to the same cell he occupied on his first incarceration.      The most daring escape attempt came in 1926 when eight inmates took shifts digging a tunnel under cells 24 and 25. They dug down approximately eight feet and then started in a direct path toward the prison wall. The tunnel continued for another 35 feet until their plan was eventually foiled.      On April 3, 1945, the outer wall was actually breached by twelve prisoners in much the same way their predecessors had accomplished it. They dug into the wall of their cell in Cellblock Seven, fifteen feet down, ninety-seven feet out to Fairmount Avenue and fifteen feet up to freedom. They equipped the tunnel with lights and shored it with wood bracing. Unfortunately, the guards realized they were missing and caught the last two as they came out of the tunnel. The others were caught a few blocks away. That group included notorious bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton (pictured right, just after capture). One, James Grace, actually knocked on the front door and asked to be let back in as he was hungry.      The only prisoner to avoid capture after escaping was Leo Callahan, who, along with five other inmates, scaled the east wall of the penitentiary and made their break for freedom. All but Callahan were returned. He was never heard from again.      By the late 1800's the idea of total isolation as a means of reform was put to rest. It was simply too expensive and the results had not much to justify continuation of this approach. Solitary was continued only as a punishment and the general population were now allowed to mingle in dinner halls and athletic fields. Cells were reconfigured and added to accommodate the growing prison population. Various trade shops and educational programs were established and this actually proved to be a more viable and effective means of reform as not only did more ambitious inmates learn a craft and nurture their intellect, but the prison itself grew to be more self-sufficient in terms of goods, services and expenses.       No article on Eastern State would ever be complete with telling the story of ESP's most bizarre inmate, "Pep"(r.). Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot allegedly sentenced a dog by that name to life in August of 1924. Pep had been accused of killing the Governor's wife's cat. He was given a prisoner number and even posed for the standard mug shot. The more plausible reason for Pep's incarceration was that he brought in as a prison mascot and the whole story concocted to give him a sense of commonality with the rest of the inmates.         THE GHOSTS OF EASTERN STATE                               One of the more compelling ghost stories originating from the prison involved a locksmith named Gary Johnson who was working in Cellblock 4 trying to remove a lock from a cell during the restoration process. In the process of doing so, he felt a presence there with him watching him intensely and looked down the cellblock to find no one there. Continuing on with his work, the feeling once again came over him, but as he looked around once more this time he saw a shadowy figure leap across the cellblock.      A commonly reported occurrence is the sighting of a figure standing in one of the guard towers. Perhaps it is one of the former guards who finds himself destined to stand watch over the walls of the prison for all eternity.      Many visitors and staff at the prison have reported hearing the sounds of footsteps down the long corridors and anguished wails coming from inside some of the cells. In Cellblock 6, shadows have been spotted moving against the walls by many of the staff during their rounds and in Cellblock 4 where Johnson had his encounter, faces have been seen inside the cells. Cellblock 12 has been the site of disembodied laughter when a quick check reveals no one present.      One particular spirit has been seen in the older part of the prison by many. He is said to be a shadowy form that stands perfectly still, sometimes completely unnoticed, until approached at which point he dashes away.      These sightings are not limited to the present day however. As far back as the 1940s, guards were reporting having strange encounters with the supernatural and those stories continued up until the prison's closing in the early 1970s.      One of the more notorious and controversial videos taken at Eastern State is one that appeared on the SyFy series "Ghost Hunters" when members of the Atlantic Paranormal Society filmed what appears to be a shadowy figure on the catwalk of Cellblock 4. There is much speculation as to whether this is an incredible video of a shadow person or a complete hoax.         One of the more interesting ghostly stories of Eastern State happened to perhaps its most famous inmate - Al Capone. Other prisoners were said to hear Capone constantly screaming and begging with an unseen entity to be left alone. Capone himself reportedly said that the spirit "Jimmy" was none other than James Clark - one of the men murdered in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre that Capone was believed to be behind. It is even said that the spirit of "Jimmy" continued to haunt Capone well after his time in Eastern State Penitentiary, up until his death in 1947. Al Capone's Cell