Posts Tagged ‘Abandoned Prison’

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.

ESP2

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

Off the Beaten Path

The Abandoned Rutland Prison Camp

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Greetings, everyone. We’re back at it. Did you miss us? Of course you did. Why wouldn’t you? After a very long and very shitty winter (it’s even snowing right now as I write this piece…in April), we finally got to do some exploring last weekend for the first time since mid November of last year. It was a bit of a hike, but it was quite an adventure. Western Massachusetts has kind of become the great untapped resource for us. I keep finding more and more places up here for us to explore, yet we never really found the time to check them out. When a clear weekend finally opened up, we couldn’t resist the chance to do some exploring. The choice was between this place or Hearthstone Castle for us. Though Hearthstone seems really cool, I feel like everyone covers it. This place does not quite get the attention it deserves. Plus, it is allegedly haunted. So we decided to pay it a visit. Buried deep in the woods, at the edge (hopefully) of winter, this is the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp.

I’m going to be honest. Finding any history on this place was difficult. All people could really give me on the history of this place was that it was a prison camp in the early twentieth century and that’s it’s been abandoned for a long time. Not even the official website helped. I tried all of my usual sources on this one: YouTube, Google, Reddit, etc. Nobody seemed to have much history on this strange place. Luckily, I was able to find one site with some info. So thank you, atlasobscura.com. They really helped out. Apparently the prison camp was built to house minor offenders during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. The guests of the prison were usually there for non-violent crimes such as public intoxication or taxation troubles. Inmates would do farm-work by day, and return to their minimum security lodgings by night. As the years went on, the camp slowly grew larger and larger. But it was abruptly abandoned in 1934 due to complications with the local water supply.

The abandoned prison camp is located in the heart of what is now Rutland State Park in Rutland, Massachusetts. It’s a nice little park, with some very picturesque views. During the off-season, the road to the prison camp is closed to traffic. But that didn’t matter to us, because we would’ve walked in anyway. If you follow anything we post here, you should know by now how much we love to hike. Also during the off-season, you don’t have to pay to park. Which was nice. I really hate having to pay to park. It was a nice day out, and there were only a couple other cars at the park when we pulled up. It was roughly two miles through the wondrous New England woods until we came upon the ruins of the abandoned camp. The farther we hiked, the more anxious I got that we weren’t going to find the ruins. But fear not. Follow the trail, and you’ll find them. Red squirrels scampered through the trees. Wild ducks quacked through the air. And we strangely didn’t encounter many other hikers.

The main trail of the park leads you right up the ruins of Rutland Prison Camp. There are three main structures still standing, all in relatively close proximity to each other. There is easy access to all three of them. Two are smaller/more compact buildings. While the main hall is much larger, and very dark inside. Much like many older cement building from the past, they show little signs of wear and tear. Besides the colorful plethora of graffiti of course. Each structure has its own unique feel to it. Darkness lurks inside, and the colorful murals of spray paint give this place a strange sense of urban beauty. There are underground tunnels that are easily accessible, but we regrettably were unable to enter them. With the snow storm the week prior, the tunnels were flooded with several feet of water. None the less, this place was very cool to explore. Clearly, though, the prison camp is a hot spot for partying and general shenanigans. There was a lot of litter inside the main hall. But this is nothing out of the ordinary for a place like this.

The abandoned Rutland Prison Camp is completely legal to visit. So if hiking and urban exploring is your thing, I would highly recommend it. We had heard plenty of rumors of this place being haunted. Speaking for myself, I felt no such ominous presence here. It is a bit isolated from the rest of the world, but I wouldn’t call it creepy or anything like that. Of course there was plenty of liter and vandalism around, but that just comes with the territory.┬áIt is kind of a hidden gem, and the hike in is very much worth it. Being able to explore this place after a two mile walk is a nice treat. Especially after a very long winter of being stuck inside all the time. It just goes to show you that you never know what lies off the beaten path. The woods keep many secrets from us. And it’s good to see that old places like the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp still survive. People may have suffered there a hundred years ago, but we are all able to enjoy it today. Happy Hunting.