The Captive Spirits Of Eastern State Penitentiary

(spooky dramatic music) – [Shane] Here we are,
it’s like a slumber party. – [Ryan] No. (tapping)
(squeaking) Is somebody down here? (wolf howling)
(lightning striking) – This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved, we investigate Eastern State Penitentiary as part of our ongoing investigation into the question, are ghosts real? Back in the day, this prison used to be quite the horrible place. – Think we’re gonna die here tonight? – Well I mean, look at it visually it’s a, it’s a bit much. – It’s striking, very spacious. – Horrifying, chilling
uh, just over all not good is how I would describe it, but you know. – I hear bats.
– Cool. Should we just get this over with? – I think so. – Oh, can we leave– – Oh, we could go this way.
– We could go that way too. I’ll just go in one of these little holes. No I won’t. On October 25th, 1829,
Eastern State Penitentiary opened it doors as part of the reformatory Pennsylvania system, a vision to create a humane prison where labor, complete solitude,
and discipline together would make inmates penitent,
hence the term penitentiary. I do like that this is the basis, or this is the origin story
for the word penitentiary. – [Shane] Yeah, I didn’t know that. – [Ryan] Only the penitent man will pass. – [Shane] Seems like at a
certain point in history they figured out that
maybe locking someone in a dark room was bad for the brain. – [Ryan] This was this part of history. Unfortunately, the prison went overboard in it’s definition of solitude. Initially designed to hold 250 prisoners with gothic architecture,
intentionally built to be intimidating to outsiders. The prison would use extreme
measures to guarantee absolute solitary confinement. All prisoners stayed in their own cells, and were not to interact
with any other inmates. They also had extremely limited contact with prison guards and other personnel. Private outdoor areas were
designed so inmates could exercise without interacting. – [Shane] Were they all
wearing little striped like– – [Ryan] No, they all didn’t
look like the Hamburglar, this place was much more sinsiter. – [Shane] You think that
guy ever got solitary? – [Ryan] Yeah, but I
always saw him as like, a kind of funny little man. – [Shane] He’s fucking criminal, Ryan. – [Ryan] Jesus Christ (laughs) He’s stealin’ burgers, I dunno. – [Shane] Yeah, they’re not his. – [Ryan] Yeah I do know
when I try and steal your food you get really upset, so. – [Shane] Well wouldn’t you? – [Ryan] No, sharing is caring. – [Shane] Meh, go fuck yourself. – Inmates were allowed
outside for one hour each day, and when they did leave their cells hoods were put over their
heads to prevent communication and knowledge of the layout of the prison. Their cells became their world. They worked in there, they ate in there, and they were not allowed to have any contact with the outside world. Either, in the form of letters, visits from family, or newspapers. All right so, this is cell block one. This is one of the
original seven cell blocks when this prison was first constructed. Ironically these like,
high vaulted ceilings were supposed to kind of like,
mimic church architecture. – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] To invoke a
feeling of God or penance. – [Shane] Did it work?
– [Ryan] Uh no, actually it just drove them mad. You’ll see that soon here. They would be locked in these cells, which you could see right here. There is an interior, and
then they would close this. (door creaking) And, this was for the
purpose of enforcing silence, so that they couldn’t even see each other. – Hmm all right, are
you gonna go in there? (door creaking) Experience it? – (mumbles) I guess.
– We’ll give you, what two minutes in solitary? – Wait what, me just myself?
– Yeah, it’s solitary. You gotta experience it,
you gotta be solitary. It’s right there in the name. – That works, right? – All right, good luck. – Two minutes?
(door creaking and shutting) Oh God, um, oh my God, I fucking hate this. I could see why this drove you mad. I don’t think this is very nice or humane. What the fuck are you doing? Stop banging on the door, you dick. – You gotta be quiet. – [Ryan] This silence was
enforced by prison guards, who for years faced allegations
of abusing the prisoners, despite the system being created for the prisoners and the
guards to rarely interact. Some of the more grueling
punishments included dunking the inmates in
a bath during winter, after which they were hung up on a wall so that ice formed on their skin. – [Shane] Nobody came around and– – [Ryan] You know who actually came around uh, Charles Dickens. – [Shane] So Charles Dickens
specifically was like, oh I’m going to America, see that prison. – [Ryan] That’s Austalian. – [Shane] Why is that Australian? It always comes out Australian! – [Ryan] You could try it again. – Hello, I’m Charles Dickens. – [Ryan] Holy shit. (laughs) – I’m here to see your prisoners. – That sounded a little bit better. – Was that better? I was trying to go, but I
was leaning more toward Kane. If I use Kane as my
touchstone, I can kind of– – Kane?
– Michael – Kane. Oh, Michael Kane.
– Michael Kane. – Oh that is, that’s much easier. – Why’s that prisoner
got ice all over him? You’ve got yourself a prisoner pop. – [Ryan] In the mad chair
prisoners would be bound so tightly that their
circulation was cut off, which sometimes left
them permanently injured, and some say, lead to
amputation in some cases. An iron gag was also
used, which was secured to an inmate’s mouth, ripping the tongue and mouth, while hands
were tied behind the back. And, there’s even one recorded instance, in which an inmate died as
a result of this iron gag. If I was given a pad
of paper and was like, what terrible things could I do to people? – Yeah
– I would not think of a device where my own leverage of my hands makes the fucking
thing on my mouth tighten. – Yeah.
– That’s fucked up. – I’m just imagining an insane man, you know like, someone just
going to the head of the prison and registering a very normal complaint. Saying like, well this
prisoner’s being very loud. Okay.
– (laughs) – Let us put a metal device in his mouth. We’ll tear his tongue out. – Or it was, in fact, Jigsaw. This is his origin story,
all the prison guards are sitting in a room,
they’re brainstorming like, what can we do to make these prisoners fucking obey us, and all of
the sudden they hear (eeking) – He’s in a little chair, right? – And then all of the
sudden the door opens, and a little tricycle runs in, right– – Oh he’s on a tricycle
– The little tricycle he rides – Gentlemen, does he have a deep voi– – Gentlemen
– Oh, is that him? – I wanna play a game, I’ve got plenty of ideas for your little prison. – Here I am now, in prison. – Welp, idios.
(door creaking) – Bye.
(door shutting) Ooh, it’s so silent. (footsteps) (footsteps) – Is somebody down here? (tapping)
(tapping) (whistling) (tapping)
(footsteps) Oh my God.
(piano playing note) – What are you doing? – Shh, I don’t know, there’s
something creaking down here. It sounds like somebody
trying to get out of the cell. Don’t get scared by my long legged friend. I heard you, where are you? (footsteps) – [Shane] It’s probably a raccoon. – There was wood creaking down here. Down here is actually where the more period accurate cells were, you can actually see the feeding holes. Where are you? We just wanna see you,
I’m not gonna freak out. (banging) – [Shane] Oh shit.
– [Ryan] Was that? Stop. Was that you? You heard that right?
– [Shane] I heard it. – [Ryan] Dude, this place is–
(tapping) (tapping) (tapping) Ah Jesus, I, chills. I know you’re here.
(banging) – There it is again. – This thing is fucking with us. (banging) Do you see something? Jesus, okay let’s get the fuck outta here. By 1866, solitary
confinement at the prison would start to be phased out,
and the Pennsylvania system was officially abandoned in 1913, but ironically, a prison
that was once too solitary would become too crowded, opening the door to a whole new set of horrors. By 1926, there were over 1700
inmates at Eastern State, this resulted in two or even
three inmates sharing cells. Some of which, were originally intended to only hold one person. In 1933, inmates rioted
against overcrowding by setting fire to cells. It’s possible this could
offer an explanation for activity in cell block 12. Voices and a cackling high-pitched
laugh have been heard. Tour guides have reported
that the cell doors on the third floor of cell block 12, seemingly open by themselves
when nobody’s looking. In an episode of Ghost Hunters, the crew believed they
spotted a figure running on the catwalk in cell block 12. To test this, the hallway goes down so far you could see the wall down there. – [Shane] Yeah.
– Let’s put four motion lights along here, and we’ll call
the ghost to run towards us. ‘Cause I imagine with
the historical context, maybe people are running ’cause there was a lot of prison riots
and attempted escapes, maybe that’s what we’re seeing. All right, one light goin’ down. – So Ryan, is now going
to bravely demonstrate – [Ryan] Oh oh, oh fuck. – That’s literally the thing you just put down and walked over there to do. – [Ryan] Shut up.
– [Shane] Okay. – [Ryan] I’m gonna wait
’til these turn off, then I’ll just be over here in darkness. – Okay, so
– [Ryan] Oh, God. – Starter pistol, ka-chow. Yes that certainly would be something if we saw them all turn on like that. – So, I think you could see us over here. I have a light, I have
a little recorder too. If you can see us over there
at the end of the hall, please run or walk towards us. (banging)
– Oh! – What the fuck is wrong with you? What, what did you see?
– Shut up. There are over 1,000 entries recorded in the prison’s death ledger, a book that documents which people died, and by what cause in the
year that Eastern State was operating. A good portion of these deaths were from sickness, such as tuberculosis Other deaths were due to
suicide, or even murder. One of those murders
occurred in cell block eight, in cell 49 where the
inmate named Joseph Havel, stabbed his cellmate George Kopp, to death with a pair of scissors. As you already know,
there was a death ledger of over 1,000 deaths
in here, in this prison not this cell in particular. This is cell 49 in block eight, so this is the cell where Joseph Havel stabbed George Kopp to death
with a pair of scissors. Now we’re gonna, for the first time, use gadget that’s been
requested for quite a bit, and one I’ve always been interested in, it’s called a spirit box. So, basically it’s a radio tuner that scans radio frequencies
and what it does, is it scans the frequencies at a rate of fifteen-hundredths of a second. So, every fifteen-hundredth of a second it skips to a new channel,
then a new channel, then a new channel, and what that does, is it creates white noise
that spirits are said to be able to manipulate
to communicate with us. – And, who says this? – Uh, paranormalists
– Uh huh. – It could be just radio
interference that’s coming through, but since it’s scanning
at such a fast rate, if there’s words that are
longer than fifteen-hundredths of a second– – Then we know–
– Then we know that that’s a spirit talking to us. – Yeah, cool.
– It’s gonna be very loud, watch your ears.
– What? How loud? (white noise)
Okay! – All right so, I’m scanning at 150, so fifteen-hundredths of second. Is there a Joseph Havel
in here, or George Kopp? Either one of you. Joseph Havel, you stabbed George Kopp, why did you do that? – If you forgot maybe, your human name, just look at your ghostly torso. (inaudible static) Whoa, what was that? – [Static Box] Oh boy, get out. – Did you hear get out? Oh God, it’s already happening. This is our first interaction
with a spirit box. What do you think? – Uh
– Have a taste. – I gotta be honest,
the spirit box doesn’t really compel me very much. It’s uh,– – Do you not buy into the science of it? – (stumbles) You know, no. – Well, what do you think about the fact that it’s scanning radio frequencies at such a fast rate, that if
we hear more than one word you know like, two words or a sentence. – Or two vowels, that put ’em together and suddenly you hear a word, because you hear get out there, but really go back to it. I’d like to hear it again. What was that? – [Spirit Box] Oh boy, get out. – I’m saying thats–
– (grunting) – That’s at least one
second, at least one second, that means five channels
have to work together– – It sounds like two channels.
– What I’m saying is it has to be five channels working
together to form that sound. We could up the speed and
go to one-tenth of a second. – Crank it
(white noise) – Somebody got stabbed in here, what was your name? – [Spirit Box] George
– Say it. Oh fuck, did you?
– What did it say? – I thought I heard George. All right–
– [Spirit Box] Are we through? – That was definitely
longer than one word. I don’t know what it said, but– – It said, are we done? – It pretty clearly to
me says, are we through? Which is, three words.
– That was a joke that I made. – No, no, no
– And, then it informed your opinion of it
– No it says it. Another active area is block 15, the maximum security block. Where there’s reports of whispers, and also a shadowy figure running. I wonder if these were to open the cells. – Oh yeah, flip that switch. Do you think that’s the murder switch? If there’s anybody here with us right now, anybody from death row
that wants to talk to us. (faint noise in the background) At this moment, our audio recorder picks up what sounds
like a distant scream. (scream) I heard a scream
– Yeah – On That side Wanna step in here?
– Sure. Here we are. (whimpering) What was that, did you hear that? – At this moment our audio recorder picks up a bizarre sound. (whimpering) – What was that, did you hear that? – [Ryan] An EVP has been heard
on set and it isn’t by me. – Yeah
– Uh oh – I mean, when we’re on
set I try to actively give you whatever we can. – This is embarrassing for you, I think. – You’re right, it is embarrassing. – Shane Madej, leader of
the Shaniacs admitting to an EVP on set this is uh,– – You got us.
– The S.S. Madej just took a crushing blow to the bow and she’s taking–
– It’s over, we’re done. – She’s taking water, I don’t
think she’s gonna make it. The most notable of Eastern
State Penitentiary’s inmates was notorious Chicago
mob-boss, Al, Scarface, Capone. Capone spent about eight months in this penitentiary
between 1929 and 1930, for carrying a concealed, deadly weapon. Unlike most inmates, Capone’s cell was actually rather nice
containing paintings, a polished desk, a radio
playing waltz music, and a softly glowing desk lamp. However, things weren’t as
comfy as they seemed for Capone. One of the crimes Capone
was believed to mastermind was the Valentine’s Day Massacre, which resulted in the death of seven men, one of whom was a man
known as Jimmy Clark. Capone’s contemporaries
inside Eastern State reported hearing Capone
screaming and begging for someone named Jimmy, to
get out and leave him alone. Capone’s cell has been
restored to the state it was when he lived in it, and
can still be visited today. – [Shane] I’m a little
disappointed that he’s uh, haunted.
– [Ryan] Why? – [Shane] That he was haunted by things. I dunno, tough guy,
murdered a lot of people. – [Ryan] Doesn’t matter,
no one’s ghost-proof. – [Shane] I’m ghost-proof. – [Ryan] You’re not ghost-proof. You’re just an idiot that
refuses to see proof. – [Shane] I’m ghost-proof, baby. – No, you’re not. So, apparently when Al
Capone was staying here, cellmates had heard him crying out for a man named Jimmy
Clark, one of the seven men that were killed in the
Valentine’s Day Massacre, which he is known to mastermind. – Al, it’s me. I’m also from the Prairie State um, Land of Lincoln, if you’re here please let us communicate with you. we want to know–
– [Disembodied Voice] No – If you, I guess we’re asking a ghost if you were haunted by a
ghost when you were here. We’re asking if there’s
a double ghost situation. Are you still haunted
by the ghost of Jimmy, even though you yourself
are now a ghost? Ryan– – I’m sure that if a ghost died, and then became a ghost,
he would see Jimmy and they probably like,
hashed it out over– – Oh he’s like, why’d you do that? And then, Jimmy’s like, to be fair– – A ghost can’t haunt a ghost– – You did murder me.
– A bit true, yeah. – Yeah
– All right Al, I know this is gonna be weird, but you could use this box to talk to us. (white noise) All right Al, – [Spirit Box] Go away. This is gonna make my mind melt. Hello Al, my name is Ryan. Could you say, Ryan? Could you say my name, Al? – [Spirit Box] Shut up – Did you say shut up? – I think it said Shane. – It sounded like you said shut up. What is going through your
mine right now, Shane? – Not a lot. – Do you not like me saying Scarface? – [Spirit Box] No. – Oh fuck (laughs)
– [Shane] Did he say no? – It sounded like, oh no. My mind’s already
starting to melt, oh God. Okay, that was just radio,
that was just the radio that’s my head making me– – [Spirit Box] No, Ryan – That just sounded like, no Ryan. Fuck, God damn it, okay my
mind’s startin’ to melt. What color are the jackets we’re wearing? – [Spirit Box] Brown and white – That sounded like more than one word. This is scanning through
channels at a rate of fifteen-hundredths of a second, so in theory that should be a
voice, a ghost, not a radio. Brown and white – [Shane] (moans) – [Ryan] No, it’s brown and
white, he answered my question. – [Spirit Box] Brown and white. – Right now, the masses of
the Shaniacs are scurrying into the darkness right now, because they have no
idea what’s happening, they’re seeing truth. – [Spirit Box] Look at these two. – Dude, that sounded like
look at these two, but– – That sounded like Will Smith. – (laughs)
– Is Will Smith dead? Has anyone checked the news? – [Ryan] This prison also had it’s fair share of escape attempts. One unsuccessful attempt involved 12 men, who took turns using
spoons and flattened cans to dig a 31 inch hole
in a wall of cell 68, eventually burrowing 12 feet underground. This is the entryway for the great escape that ultimately failed, but inside here they took turns using little spoons and tools to (whistling) At this moment, our
audio recorder picks up what sounds like a human whistle. (whistling) – [Shane] There were people working at that prison when we were there. – [Ryan] There was a maintenance man, and there was the lady who
was helping guide us around, to show us the place so we don’t get lost. Uh, the lady was silent,
the maintenance man if I recall was told to stop
working and stay far away. I think this is obviously a ghost. – I just thought you were raising your standards this season. – This is the highest of standards here. It’s pretty amazing, they took like, I heard 30 minute shifts
to just dig this tunnel. How the fuck did they do this in silence? – One of them was probably like, singin’ or playin’ jacks or somethin’. – You think it was, ♫ Not diggin a tunnel in here ♫ Don’t mind me just a lot of noise. – ♫ No more diggin’ just a lot of singin’ ♫ Don’t come in here and look around – ♫ Nothing weird going on in here As these inmates were recaptured, they were moved to cell block 13. The punishment block, often
referred to as the hole. The hole now consists
of four solitary cells measuring just four-by-eight feet. Inmates would be locked in these dark, dank, and poorly ventilated
cells for up to a month. This is the hole. – Why does this happen so often, it ends with a hole or a pit? – Well I mean, this is the big bad cells of the entire prison. This is where they put people who were being punished.
– Okay – It’s punitive isolation down here. – All right – Oh, you’re just hopping right into it. – Well it’s a hole, what else can you do? Oh shit. Oh boy. I think I heard rats down here. – I also read that they
used to crank the heat up here so people would just sweat. Oh my God, this is awful. – This looks like a place where a serial killer would keep his victims. – [Ryan] Are these the cells?
– [Shane] Yeah I’d say so. – This is where they punished, probably the most brutal
and violent criminals. – The problem is if there’s something that attacks us down here,
I’m going to hit my head on the ceiling and my skull will smash. – Well that sucks, so should we go in there and do a little session? – Yeah – Or, oh, God.
– Yeah, I don’t think there’s an
or in the situation, Ryan – Oh there is, and I don’t like it, but I’m gonna suggest it anyway. – What’s that? – In the spirit of maybe
getting more evidence, and something being not as scared, what if we went in there alone? – Yeah, that’s fine. – I hate that you are so game for that. – This is uh, this is ill advised. (banging) All right, if there
are any unquiet spirits down here with some unfinished business, now would be the time to communicate. – My heart’s beating so
fast right now. (laughs) Oh, man. – [Shane] All right, buddy. Keep your wits about you
– Shut up – [Shane] You’re gonna hear a
lot of little drip-droppies, but those are just you know, stalactites workin’ overtime. – [Ryan] Just get outta here,
so I can get this over with. – Huh? Okay. It was fun to imagine people who have been in there in the past. – Who is that? Oh my God, my eyes are
starting to play tricks on me. There’s no one there,
there’s no one there. It’s just your eyes, it’s the dark. Oh my God, I think I see
something in front of me. No, no, no, it’s just my
eyes, it’s just my eyes, it’s just tricks. (footsteps)
Let’s get the fuck outta here. Boo, boo, boo, boop, boop, boop, boop (spooky piano music) Well, Eastern State
Penitentiary, it’s been fun. With Eastern State
Penitentiary’s history of death, punishment, and misery, many believe the restless spirits of inmates still remain trapped within it’s walls. Having spent a night roaming it’s halls I can’t deny that we weren’t alone, or whether or not Eastern
State Penitentiary is definitively haunted,
will remain unsolved. (creepy tones) – Hey Ryan, I like your shirt. – Thanks, I like yours too.
– Thanks – Buy it here.

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