We just returned from a fabulous trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary. It was amazing. Find a $2.00 off coupon and save some money on your visit. As others have said, as part of your admission price you get an audio guide, which you can play at will, and can learn much more detail about the facility than by simply walking around.
Although the facility does not look all that large from the outside, don't be deceived. We spent all day here, and still really did not get to see everything. One of the best things about visiting the Penitentiary is that at various times during the day, and as part of your admission price, there are all sorts of special tours to parts of the prison that are normally not open to the public. All you have to do is show up on time and off you go. We got to see one of the original operating rooms, where Al Capone had his tonsils removed, in fact. We also went on a "behind the scenes" tour where we got to see the kitchen and dining halls. And that is where the fun started. While the rest of the tour group and guide were standing on the other side of the court yard, in the second dining hall, I wandered off alone to the dining hall on the other side. Very interesting. There was definitely "activity" there in the left corner at the back of the dining hall. I called over my friend, who was still standing in the center courtyard. She is also sensitive. I said nothing, just called her in. She took one look around and said she felt unwell, there was a strong, unfriendly presence. I then called my husband over, who, in his own words, is completely oblivious to anything from "beyond". He said he felt a very cold wind blow past his left arm. Not his right arm. Not his head, simply his left arm. BTW, it was close to 90 degrees the day we were there, only wishing for a breeze of any kind.
The restored Synagogue was a surprise, and very poignant. There was even a dog who was a prisoner, poor Pep. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore, and corridor 12 I believe is supposed to be the one with the most activity, if you are into that sort of thing, but I think you find it where you find it. The only other thing I personally experienced was when I got to walk down a cell block alone, and right beside me I heard a very loud thump that sounded like a rock being thrown. Loud enough that I jumped. Of course, the building is decaying in a controlled way, so who knows. Several of us smelled food at various times (no food is sold on premises, but Fairmount Avenue does have several nearby restaurants). More base smells were present and then gone on a few occasions.
Of course, you get to see Al Capone's cell, and the beginnings of the escape tunnel dug by Slick Willy Sutton. Bring a camera, there is much beauty amongst the decay.
We will return again. There is much more to see and experience here. Be aware that this facility is not handicapped friendly in any way. If you have trouble walking you won't do well here either. It is up stairs, down stairs, down long corridors, and walking on uneven terrain. Also be aware that there are only port-o-potties outside, no indoor plumbing for visitors.
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