Wednesday, October 8, 2014

WIDOMSV - Part 6: Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...

It's been a while, but I was able to get in some shooting at a site along what I like to call the "Ghost Adventures Photography Tour".

"Ghost Adventures" is a show on the Travel Channel, and I'm a fan. So, when I get the opportunity to shoot a location that has been investigated on that show, I try to take it. In the past, I've shot at the Whaley House and Cosmopolitan Hotel in San Diego, Fort Niagara in New York, West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia and the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. All were very cool, and all lent themselves well to photography (although the Whaley House was a bit cramped).

I was, therefore, pretty damn jazzed when my cousin Lisa told me that one of our photo trips while I was visiting in August would be to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Back in 2009, the prison was investigated for the second season of "Ghost Adventures", and it was definitely one of the creepier episodes of the show.

We'll get back to the whole "ghost thing" later.

The prison lies smack dab in the middle of a working class neighborhood in Philly. It almost sneaks up on you (much in the same way West Virginia State Penitentiary does). Once within the confining walls of the prison, though, the city goes away. You can't see it, you can't hear it and you can't smell it.

Walk inside the prison, and Philadelphia is gone. All you have is the prison.

And it's bleak.

The prison was built in 1829, and it operated for142 years before closing in 1970. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Criminals such as Willie Sutton and Al Capone were incarcerated here. Sutton actually took part in an escape of a dozen inmates on April 3, 1945. He was recaptured later that same day.

Walk through the entrance, out into the yard, and turn around. This is what you see...

Entrances to cells were small, and this was, apparently, with good reason. Many people believe that the smaller doors were in place to make it more difficult for inmates to quickly exit the cell to attack a guard...

Cell doors also had wooden overlays to help insulate from any noise...

A cell block at Eastern State...

A typical cell at Eastern State. Each cell was lit only by one port in the ceiling, known as "The Eye Of God", which was to suggest to inmates that "God was always watching"...

An old, decrepit supply cabinet in the medical wing...

Another typical cell...

A cell door...

Cell blocks were very, very ominous places...

Each of these cells held only one man...

Wherever you're going, it's a very, very long walk...

Inside "The Hub", which sits in the center of the prison's radial pattern...

A table with a checkerboard top...

The cells now sit in a state of "preserved ruin"...

Al Capone's cell. It was a bit more nicely appointed than the other cells...

Capone's cell in black and white...


A gate located in the church section of the prison...

The Guard Tower...


This is all that's left of the prison barber shop...

One of the two-tiered cell blocks...

From inside the prison yard, you can see the skyline of downtown Philadelphia...

A doorway falls victim to time. This was a doorway used only by prison staff...


Another view of a two-tiered cell block...


This was a room near the dining hall...

This was another portion of the dining hall. It's seen better days...

One of the more dilapidated cell blocks. It remains closed to the public...

A broken window not far from the dining hall...


To be sure, Eastern State is an ominous place. The walls are yards thick, and impossibly high. While these dimensions were certainly in place to thwart escape, some 100 or so prisoners did, in fact, escape the prison. Only one of those, though, avoided being recaptured.  In 1923, Leo Callahan and five other inmates built a ladder that they used to scale the east wall of the Penitentiary. His five accomplices were all eventually recaptured, but Callahan is still at large.

In the unlikely event that he was still alive, he would now be 110 years old.

The construction of the prison was such that solitary confinement was the norm. This finally ended in 1913, primarily due to space restrictions and overcrowding. At the time of its construction, it was the largest public structure in the United States.

So, back to the whole "ghost thing" for a minute: It's no secret that I believe in ghosts, hauntings, etc. Not long after arriving at the prison, I felt like I was getting sick. I mean, really sick. Up until we visited, I'd felt great. But that night, I was down for the count, and spent the better part of the next 20 hours in bed. Now, I'm nowhere near prepared to say that I was the victim of some malicious, ghostly attack, but it was pretty damn weird how, all of a sudden, I was pretty much completely unable to function. I would later learn that there have been other visitors who've reported the same thing.

The prison now operates as a tourist attraction, and it's open every day of the year. I highly recommend packing up your camera, your fears and your suspicions and going for it. It's definitely worth the visit...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What I Did On My Summer Vacation - Part 5: Weatherly Trainworks

After spending a couple of days at Camp Poyntelle, I decided to head over to the thriving metropolis of Albrightsville to visit my cousin Lisa. I hadn't seen her since my visit last year, and I've noticed her photography getting a lot better lately. She'd been after me to come visit so we could go shooting so, naturally, I accepted the invite.

Lisa had forwarded me no less than two dozen locales where she wanted to take me, but the sad reality was that there really are only so many hours in a day, so we would have to select from the ever expanding list she'd sent me. For our first stop, we decided on the Weatherly Trainworks in Weatherly, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find much information online about the train works, and there's nothing available on site. What I do know about it is that I was surprised to learn that it's absolutely open and, considering that, I was equally surprised that there weren't more people (only Lisa and I were there). Considering the state of the site, I would've expected it to be closed to the public, as this place doesn't suffer a shortage of hazards.

To say it was abandoned would be a profound understatement. More than abandoned, the place stands in a state of complete ruin. There are temples in Greece that are in better condition than this place. 

Which, if you think about it, is perfect for the kinds of things I like to shoot:
 

















It would've been nice if there were more trains on site but, considering that the place is abandoned, I guess it's no surprise that they were taken away, for the most part, long ago. What was left, though, allowed for some cool photos of something that progress has pushed to the side...





Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...