Visiting an Abandoned State Penitentiary in Philadelphia

Whilst in Philadelphia, we made it a priority to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary – one of the oldest standing penitentiaries in the United States. We are both interested in historical buildings and love anything that looks somewhat abandoned hence are general love for visiting prisons – yeah it’s a weird thing to do whilst on holiday but oh well.

Outside the walls
Eastern State PenitentiaryThe outside wall

Anyway, from our hotel on Broad St, we jumped in a taxi and headed to the Penitentiary. It was fairly quiet on this sunny day with very few other visitors around. Like the Alcatraz Tour, we were given an audio guide (narrated by Steve Buscemi.While scouting a location for a film, Buscemi visited the Philadelphia Eastern State Penitentiary and found the building so interesting that he later provided the majority of the narration for the audio tour that led us around the building. Admission was $14 for adult entrance and students and children (aged 7-12) costs $10.

Much of the penitentiary is in disrepair
Eastern State Penitentiary USA Bucketlist
Two story cell block

You can tell by the state of the penitentiary that they haven’t tried to renovate or maintain some of the wings. As you walk up rickety staircases and stare down the long wings of the penitentiary, the rusting walls and creaking jail bars make it an eerie place. You can’t help but get the shivers.

These people were killed by people incarcerated at Eastern State Penitentiary
Pictures hang of people murdered by people incarcerated at Eastern State Penitentiary
Open doors allow you to see inside the cells
Most of the doors to the cells are open to allow you to see inside.

As we wandered around the penitentiary, we learnt about the different escape attempts and notable characters that spent time in the penitentiary. We learnt about how Leo Callahan was the only person to escape using a makeshift wooden ladder and was never recaptured.

Al Capone’s Luxury Cell
Al Capone's Cell

I was particularly impressed with Al Capone’s cell (more luxurious than my Uni dorm), the cell of which he spent eight months in during his first prison sentence. He had a cabinet radio, comfy furniture and high-quality rugs to make him feel at home.

Things to do in Philadelphia
Cell Block
Things to do in Philadelphia
The Barber Shop

This place is kind of breathtaking which sounds like a really odd way to describe a penitentiary but it really is a stunning place to visit.

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Eastern State Penitentiary
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Eastern State Penitentiary
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  1. Incredible pictures! So creepy! I don’t know if I’m brave enough to do this (I’m a whimp!) So thanks for sharing ha #FTB

  2. This place looks like a seriously spooky, but very interesting place to visit. Love the reconstruction of Al Capone’s cell. The hanging photos are so sad though. Great photography throughout.

  3. My goodness! What a great post. Reading the title I thought oh no, I could never go there, but this is interesting with a lot of history. The way you took the pictures add to the creepiness and mystery!

  4. I have only spent a few hours in Philly (day trip from NY) and honestly didn’t get a great feel from the city. We didn’t make it to the penitentiary though which looks like such a confronting place for a visit. I love an audio tour and we did the one in Alcatraz as well.

  5. I haven’t been to Philly yet, but this would definitely be an interesting place to visit! I would love to learn about the escape attempts. Why did the prison close?

  6. Never been here. But these kind of old ruins, particularly the one that do have a lot of history as well , always attract me. I would love to visit this

  7. Whoa! This is so interesting! I loved Al Capone’s cell…what a beauty! And that barber shop…gave me the chills.

  8. These are so stunning photos! Really give me the chills. I see how that is hard to put into words, put your pictures do a really good job… Plus, this is such an uncommon thing to do! Nice one, really!

    • Thanks for such a lovely comment Christina! Calum takes the photographs and I love them too 🙂

  9. Wow I am not sure I would be daring enough to visit this place – it looks so spooky. Although it would be so interesting to learn the history and to actually see this place. Al Capone’s cell looks interesting, I can’t believe he was allowed to have such luxuries!

  10. There seems to be so much history behind this place…I am not sure if I have it in me to visit it…a little scared! Wow…Al Capone’s cell sure looks like a hotel room..he seemed to have had a comfortable time when none of the others did!

  11. I’ve been to Philly but haven’t visited this site yet! Your perfectly captured the eeriness of the place — i especially like the one with the electric chair. I’m sure it will be interesting to take a trip there next time!

    • Thanks Sarah! Calum takes all the photographs and I agree (although slightly biased) they are perfect 🙂

  12. Wow, I never knew this existed. The photos are a bit creepy, but I think my teenagers would love a visit!

  13. What an incredible place, very moving. Seems like it is still inhabited by ghosts! Your photos are beautiful and gives a great sense of the atmosphere. thanks for sharing this discovery!

    • Thanks so much Christine!

  14. So interesting. My dad actually performed there as a child when the prison was still functioning. I plan on taking him back to visit this summer.

    • Oh really?! How interesting, hope he enjoys his visit 🙂

  15. I live near Philly, and I love taking friends and family there when they’re visiting. It’s so interesting! And I loved hearing about the escape attempts. 🙂 What were some of the highlights of your trip here?

    • Hey Naomi,
      Yeah I loved Philly and this prison was fascinating! I loved the Rocky steps too! 🙂

  16. So creepy but at the same time so interesting! I really would like to visit it. So much history in your photos. Thanks for sharing a really interesting post.

  17. Your pictures are amazing, I love it when places are left to their own spooky history and not renovated

  18. This place looks seriously spooky, I love it!! Haha if I ever make it to ant area near by I am definitely going to plan to make a visit here!

  19. Actually love visiting old jails. There’s usually so much history that goes with it, especially why they aren’t used any longer.

  20. Awesome photos!!!! I loved reading about this. It’s definitely the most interesting looking of all the prisons/gaols I’ve ever visited.

  21. it looks impressive and you took amazing shot inside the jail! I love this idea to visit Old and abandoned jails around 😀 I read from google more about Leo Callahan, more details about why he wasn’t recaptured! Incredible story… thanks for sharing it

  22. Philadelphia, the home of Boyz II men nd some creep old prison. Excellent photos though and really enjoyed your post.

  23. I agree with some of your other comments, interesting and creepy at the same time. Still, part of history. Al Capone’s cell I’m sure looked a little different than the other prisoners at that time. You took great photos!

  24. I would be wayyy too scared to ever do this. But I have to say, your photography is STUNNING. I mean just fantastic. It totally captivated me and makes me want to go – despite being super afraid! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much, Calum is the photographer and is so happy to read comments like this 🙂 It really is an incredible place to visit 🙂

  25. I grew up right outside of Philadelphia, and I’ve visited the Penitentiary more times than I can count (or remember). But I’ve never seen it quite as breathtakingly spooky and creepy as your photos! These are some seriously gorgeous photos! This building has some really cool history; it always makes me happy to see people visiting Philly and loving it!

  26. sooo eerie but fascinating! I would be terrified to do this but at the same time would love to do it!

  27. This looks so scary! I would love to visit this abandoned place and experience it first-hand.

  28. […] To say this place is creepy and scary is to say nothing. The long empty corridors and bare walls with pictures of prisoners give you chills. And Steve Buscemi’s voice on the audio guide doesn’t help either. To feel the atmosphere of the penitentiary check out the amazing pictures here. […]

  29. This place looks really interesting! I love abandoned places, although you would think they’d tidy the place up. Especially as thy’re charging $14 for entry!

    • It is a really interesting place to visit! I think leaving it in its abandoned state is part of the magic 🙂 Plus, it makes for great photos!

  30. Not a weird thing to enjoy at all! I love old, abandoned relics and buildings with history…so much to imagine what went on in them.

    I want to vist Chernobyl sometime!

  31. Woah this is really cool but also really eerie! I’ve never been anywhere abandoned before but this makes me want to eek!

    • Thanks Claire, it is a great place to visit, I would definitely recommend it!

  32. Places like this are so creepy, but incredibly fascinating! I visited an old prison in Ohio, where they did the filming for Shawshank Redemption, and it was so cool. I didn’t let myself read any ghost stories until after my visit though 😛

    • oh that sounds awesome, will have to put that prison on my bucket list!

  33. I know absolutely nothing about this place, didn’t know that Al Capone was imprisoned here. Your photography is really impressive, well done.

  34. I visited an old penitentiary in Ohio last year and it was so cool. There’s just something so interesting and eerie about these places that make me want to visit.

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