Archive for the ‘Abandoned Prison’ Category

Rise and Shine

The Abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

I’m going to start this piece off with a bang. Full disclosure right out of the gate: this place is NOT technically abandoned. This is a tourist attraction. It’s more or less a museum. You have to pay admission to get in. There are guided tours. There’s a bloody gift shop. BUT…I still think this place is pretty cool. Bear with me, even just for a second. It fits right in with the rising trend of “Arrested Decay,” or a “Preserved Ruin.” Abandoned places such as Eastern State Penitentiary find new life and provide sustenance to their communities through this new endeavor. Former abandoned places are provided with just enough support to keep from falling into complete disrepair. Think about what it would cost to demolish a place like this. But instead, with minimal investment, it becomes a place that entertains and educates anyone wishing to come see it. If this doesn’t interest you, I can completely respect any readers wishing to discontinue here. This obviously isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But for those of you still with me, let’s get on with the tour.

As aforementioned, this is Philadelphia’s colossal Eastern State Penitentiary. Once one of the largest and most ambitious correctional facilities in American history, this place has truly become a legend. First built in 1829, the prison housed some of America’s most feared criminals: including legendary Chicago Kingpin Al Capone. The prison caught attention for it’s massive size and unique architectural design, which featured seven cell blocks intersecting at a central hub. Men, women, and even a few children were held here. With large cells designed for “self reflection” during incarceration, the facility was eventually plagued by overcrowding during the early 20th century. Being forced to house more than expected, along with it’s archaic design, eventually forced the prison to close it’s doors for good in 1971. And there it sat for many years, even after being registered as a National Historic Landmark. Empty. Abandoned. Rotting. But during the 1980’s, a movement began to restore the prison to it’s former glory. Not as prison. But much like Alcatraz before it: as a tourist attraction.

During the waning days of Spring 2019, we found ourselves down in Philadelphia for the weekend. This year alone, we’ve covered places in New York, Boston, and now the City of Brotherly Love. Cool for us, I guess. Anyway, I had heard of Eastern State Penitentiary many times before on the Discovery Channel series Mysteries of the Abandoned (which I highly recommend to anyone on here.) Given the fact that the facility is right smack in the middle of the city, we decided to plan a visit. Luckily, we had absolutely beautiful weather for our trip. After a short Uber ride, we arrived at the gates of the prison. It really does stand out A LOT from the rest of the city. It’s like you’re rolling down a typical city street, and then bam. There it is. A giant stone fortress nestled amongst the casual restaurants and bodegas. The windows of the guard towers have been smashed. The old grey ramparts give this place an almost medieval feel. And the prison itself casts a giant shadow over her host city. Passing through the great stone gates is like walking into another world.

The prison is open to both guided and self-guided tours, with little headsets. We, of course, chose the self-guided tour. I, of course, did not grab a headset. It just feels too touristy to me. There were only a few people here during our visit. Straight off the bat, you can tell which areas of the prison are “staged” and which areas aren’t. For example, many of the cells contain a few props and set pieces to give off the creepy vibe to visitors. It’s all in good fun, but some are really blatant about it. Some, however, are actually very creepy. But these are the areas that are more cut off from the rest of the prison. If you follow the right paths, you can see the much darker and quieter corners of the monstrous facility. You honestly have to work a little harder to get away from the crowds in order to really enjoy this place. If you’re like us, that is. Places like Death Row, the Hospital Wing, and the basement had no visitors to them. And these were the areas that clearly haven’t gotten any support or upkeep. But that’s what makes them the best parts. They feel like an actual abandoned place, as opposed to part of a “preserved ruin.”

All in all, I almost kind of feel like a cheat writing about this place for our site. But at the same time, I kind of don’t. It’s our first real exploration outside of the New England/New York area. Plus, if the Discovery Channel can cover it for their show, I don’t see why we can’t as well. It may come off at times as a real tourist attraction, but is that such a bad thing? As opposed to being left to rot, this place now educates and entertains all who pass through her doors. Plus parts of Eastern State Penitentiary are absolutely chilling. Old cell blocks. Broken down barber chairs. That classic abandoned place smell (you know what I’m talking about). This place had it all. You just had to look a little harder for it. When you peel back some of the artsy and touristy stuff plastered all over this old facility, you realize just how terrifying it once was to the men and women who were housed here years ago. The lights may be back on in this place. But the shadows and the ghosts of days long since passed still haunt this hollowed ground.

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If you are at all interested in visiting Eastern State Peniteniary, please check out their official website herehttp://www.easternstate.org

The Top Ten Fictional Abandoned Places

Written by: Wilk

So two years ago, I wrote a piece for this site covering the Top 10 Movies to be set in abandoned places. It got a shit ton of views. So last year, I wrote a sequel: the Top 10 Movies filmed in abandoned places. Now, comes part three. I love movies. I love watching them, talking about them, and being in them. But ones that involve abandoned places always interest me. Its always fun to compare fictitious abandoned places to real ones. What sets this list apart from the last one is that those were movies where the main action took place in an abandoned setting. These films only explore them. So without further ado, I bring to you – The Top Ten Fictional Abandoned Places.

#10 – The Ripper’s Ambulance – My Soul to Take (2010)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0872230/

We start this list with a movie that I was in, as is tradition. I know its petty and egotistical. But it’s my list. So give me a break. In fact, this was the first professional movie that I ever acted in. Directed by horror movie master Wes Craven after a near decade long hiatus from the genre, this film could’ve honestly been a lot better. If you watch the deleted scenes/alternate ending, you can see why. Eighteen years after his alleged death, disturbed local serial killer “The Riverton Ripper” seemingly returns to his hometown to hunt the seven children mysteriously born the night died. Every year, these seven children commemorate the date by throwing a party at the now abandoned ambulance where the Ripper was last seen. Though it is only a brief set piece, I’ve always found it to be one of the more memorable parts of the film. Plus, some really cool visuals come into play here.

soul-to-take

#9 – Camp Crystal Lake – Friday the 13th (2009)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758746/

Truly, I am going to try my best to keep the horror movies to a limit here. We could honestly do a whole list of just horror movies. Anyway, I know this was the remake, which not too many people were thrilled with. But I liked the remake. Maybe it was because I actually got to see it in theaters when I was a teenager…unlike the other films in this franchise. It just has a totally different experience. We all know the story. Only this time, the summer camp where Jason Vorhees tragically drowned is now abandoned. Or is it? Having closed after all the nightmarish events of the previous films, the resurrected hockey mask killer now calls this derelict wasteland home. And he will slay anyone who sets foot into what is now his domain. This includes the usual gaggle of hapless teenagers and burned out TV actors. But personally, I think the abandoned setting makes for a wonderfully creepy backdrop to a passable horror remake.

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#8 – Doctor Octopus’ Lair – Spider-Man 2 (2004)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0316654/

Unfortunately, this list is going to be mostly horror movies, as mentioned above, and comic book movies. I don’t know what the connection is there, but both genres seem to have a lot of abandoned settings. Before the MCU, this film was often considered to be the end-all/be-all of superhero films. As the second outing in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, the webslinger this time finds himself up against a new adversary: Doctor Octopus. Portrayed in the film masterfully by Alfred Molina, the former Otto Octavius becomes an almost dark reflection of Peter Parker after a science experiment gone wrong drives him mad. On the run from the law, this newly born and conflicted super-villain hides out in an abandoned pier on the East River. The old building is slowly sinking into the water, just as its new occupant slowly descends deeper into madness. This very cool set piece serves not only as Doc Ock’s hideout, but is also the battleground for he and Peter’s final confrontation.

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#7 – Parrish Shoe Factory – Jumanji (1995)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113497/ 

This was one of my absolute favorite movies growing up. It’s just a very well-paced and enjoyable flick that anyone of any age can enjoy. We even used to play the actual board game on particularly hot summer days. One of the late/great Robin Williams’ finest roles, Jumanji tells the story of a magical board game that brings the world of the mystical jungle into our own. And when Allan Parrish (Williams’ character) emerges from said board game, after spending 26 years lost in this alternate dimension, he finds the world he once knew long gone. His parents are dead. His home belongs to someone else. His town lies in ruin. But the most memorable stop on his journey to rediscovery is his father’s now abandoned shoe factory. After his disappearance, all of his family’s money went to trying to find him. Learning just how far his world has fallen, and just how hard his father tried to find him after his disappearance, is damn near heartbreaking. Regardless of how you feel about the reboot/remake/sequel, watch this film.

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#6 – Planet Morag – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2015381/ 

I really don’t care for the Marvel Cinematic Universe sometimes. I used to really enjoy it when it was first starting out. I just feel like it has grown too large, and most of the movies feel repetitive to me. That said, I absolutely love this film. I sometimes wish that Marvel would just keep the Guardians separate from the rest of the MCU. Anyways, an unlikely group of intergalactic misfits/jackasses are forced to team up to save the universe from certain destruction. Director James Gunn (as always) brings a fabulous soundtrack, memorable characters (except for his annoying brother), and a great story to life. One stop, in fact the first stop, on this grand adventure is the abandoned planet Morag. We never find out why an entire planet is abandoned, but it’s still really cool. It may be just a pit-stop in the overall film, but its still a very unique location. Plus, we get a nice call back to it later in the series during Avengers: Endgame.

Morag

#5 – Mexican Smelting Plant – Logan (2017)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3315342/

The last hurrah for everyone’s favorite X-Man, and a film that many consider to be one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. While I think they had a little too much fun with the film’s R-rating, Logan is an absolute classic and a more than fitting end to such an iconic character. Following Wolverine/Logan/Jimmy/Weapon X/Whatever on what will be his final adventure, the film opens with the titular character living in hiding with Professor X in an abandoned smelting plant down in Mexico. He drives a limo for money, and keeps a low profile after the near extinction of all mutant kind. But it isn’t long before the bad guys show up and all kinds of action ensues. But this abandoned backdrop sets the stage for what is honestly one of the most humanistic films ever made to come out of the superhero mythos. It’s a damn shame we never got a Liev Schrieber cameo, though…

Logan

#4 – Jurassic World – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4881806/

After the massive success of its predecessor and the three films that came before that, it really isn’t surprising that we got an even bigger sequel. And this one looked even better. After the bloody disastrous events of the first film, the Jurassic World theme park is now abandoned. Imagine that. Tourist shops decay after years of neglect. Trams and trolleys have been destroyed. And the dinosaurs now roam freely once again. But when a volcano threatens to destroy the island once and for all, our heroes must rally together for a rescue mission. Seeing the once captivating resort park of the first film in such a state of decay gives this film a really cool vibe. Unfortunately, this was only a precursor to a very plodding and straight up awful film. Seriously. I hated it. I thought it was worse than Jurassic Park III. But…the abandoned Jurassic World setting is really really cool.

Jurassic

#3 – Dol Guldur – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/

Maybe I am being a little too negative with this piece. But when you try to turn a three-hundred page book into three three-hour long movies, things don’t usually come out so good. And that’s coming from a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan. I know it’s not Peter Jackson’s fault. But still. This trilogy was a mess. Now that that’s out of the way, the first chapter in this story tells of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins before the events of the original trilogy. Offered a spot in a mysterious company of dwarves, the young Hobbit ends up whisked off on an adventure to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor. Along the way, the wizard Gandalf makes a trek to the abandoned fortress of Dol Guldur. Evil spirits now haunt the empty corridors (including a rather infamous Dark Lord), and this place become a backdrop of villainy for the entire trilogy.

Dol_Guldur

#2 – Sector 13 – The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454841/

One of my personal favorite horror films. It is just so damn intense. A remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 cult classic, The Hills Have Eyes more or less proved to the world that remakes of horror films can actually be good when put in the right hands. Director Alexander Aja takes Craven’s original premise and puts a very unique twist on it all. The story follows the Carter Family, traveling across the western desert to California on vacation. After a wrong turn, they are eventually set upon by a dangerous group of people living in the radioactive hills of New Mexico. All sorts of bloody carnage and barbaric madness follows suit. Towards the end of the film, our hero winds up in an abandoned nuclear test site from the Cold War. And it is really spooky. Ghostly mannequins, derelict buildings, and old cars make this ghost town a terrifying setting.

HHE

#1 – The Shrieking Shack – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0304141/

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” One of my personal favorite films in the Harry Potter series, this story follows his third year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A dark figure from Harry’s past and convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison Azkaban, and is coming after him. With the help of his friends and new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Harry Potter goes on quite an adventure. One of the key sites of that adventure is the notorious Shrieking Shack. Believed to be the most haunted building in the country, this abandoned house plays a major role in the film’s climax. With an outstanding soundtrack, a darker tone from the previous films, and some wonderful new additions to the cast, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a must-see.

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And that’s our list! Did we miss any out? Let us hear about it in the comments below!