The Eastern State Penitentiary feels haunted. It once held notorious criminals like "Scarface" Al Capon and "Slick Willie" Willie Sutton. Not only was it the largest prison in the United States when it was first built - but it was also the largest and most expensive public structure ever built in America. And yet today it is the curiosity of visitors and Halloween tours.

It is America's most historic prison and yet today stands in ruin. Its crumbling cellblock and empty guard towers send many a shiver down visitor's spines. In Halloween season, there are special Halloween tours of the prison, but one wonders why these are even necessary given how spooky the prison is in the best of times.

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The History of This Spine-Tingling Prison

It was this penitentiary that refined the then revolutions system of separate incarceration that emphasized the principles of reform rather than punishment.

  • Operational: 1829 to 1971
  • Status: Listed As A US National Historic Landmark

Today it stands as one of the most famous prisons in the world (for an even more historic prison visit the Tower of London where Queen Anne was beheaded). The architecture of this prison is imposing and it's a soaring castle-like Gothic architecture that would intimate anyone. Its design was influenced by the Quaker-inspired belief that solitary confinement could work to help reform criminals.

Go on a tour today and hear about the stories of inmate escapes, see crumpling infrastructure, and even Al Capone's restored 19th-century cell.

After the prison closed in 1971, many of its prisoners and guards were transferred to Graterford Prison. But then no one knew what to do with the old abandoned penitentiary. The City of Philadelphia purchased it intending to redevelop it. But that never happened. Among the proposals was making it into a mall and a luxury apartment complex surrounded by the old prison walls. Imagine shopping in this haunted prison - or worse - living among its ghosts and tailed stories.

As no one know what to do and time wore on, a "forest" grew in the cell blocks and within its walls. Instead of being the site of many condemned prisoners, it became the home of many stray cats.

Related: 10 Haunted Places In America You Can Spend The Night In

Visiting The Prison

The penitentiary is currently open for daytime tours. During the summer months, it hosts spooky Night Tours: Summer Twilight - but those ended on September 4th. See its website for when the tours will start again and any events being held.

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Two visit the prison it is best to purchase the tickets online (one saves $2 per person booking online). There are two types of tickets available for Daytime Prison Tours (guided and unguided). These tours are the same price, but while the General admission tickets do not specify a time or date of entry, the Guide-Led Tour tickets do (it's a 10 am start time).

Daytime Prison Tours

  • Adult: $17.00
  • Senior: $15.00 (Aged 62 and Over)
  • Student: $13.00 (ID Required)
  • Child: $13.00 (Aged 7 to 12)
  • Hours: Open 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
  • Days Open: Currently Wednesday to Sunday (Off Peak Season)
  • Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

Halloween Tours

As if the prison isn't freaky enough, during the Halloween season one can enjoy their Halloween Nights tour. This includes visiting two haunted houses, exploring the prison's cellblocks, scary history, seeing live interactive performances, and more. The prices start at $34 but vary by night.

  • Season: Runs September 24th to November 13th

They also offer a variety of food and drinks for sale during Halloween Nights. So spice up the night with some wine, beer, cider, and cocktails! Relax in one of Philadelphia's most haunted and eerie locations. What better way to spend a Halloween night out?

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Related: Haunted Arctic: These Stories Are Why It's Considered The Most Haunted Place On The Planet

2022 Event Rentals

For those looking for a spooky event, the Eastern State Penitentiary can be rented for private events from April to August. It is only available when the museum is closed to the public. Examples of events include:

  • Movie Screenings: Gather One's Group In Cellblock 7 Courtyard and Watch A Movie Projected On The Interior the Prison's Creepy Walls
  • Wedding Ceremonies: Want A Creepy Wedding? While They Do Not Host Wedding Receptions They Do Host The Wedding Party Of Up To 100 Guests In The Central Rotunda
  • Corporate Meeting Or Conferences: Thinking Outside The Box, Why Not Some Good Old Team Building In The Haunted Prison?

Want to dine, tour, and sleep in a giant real-life haunted ship? The Queen Mary is regarded as one of the most haunted ships in the world and is an unusual hotel (unfortunately at the time of writing it is closed for extensive maintenance).

Next: Winchester Mystery House: Why You Should Visit California's Most Haunted Home