The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic site kicks off its touring season this Friday, March 15, with new tours and new access designed to help curious visitors dig even deeper into its dark and renowned past.
People well beyond the boundaries of Philly are likely aware of Eastern State's history as the most famous and expensive prison of its time and followers of the myriad haunted history shows that populate the networks have certainly come across its varied stories and ghosts more than a few times. But the mighty prison is also known for its grand architecture, including vaulted, sky-lit cells, and strict discipline, factors that together were intended to inspire true penitence.
Among the new features are the Pop-Up Museum (open March 23 - April 1) that puts rarely-seen prison artifacts, such as inmate-written magazines and homemade weapons, on display for the first time; the Hands-On History tours, interactive experiences that let visitors in on daily life at the prison, teaching them how to open the massive front gate, open a cell, play bocce and so on; and the artist installation Visions of the Free World by David Adler. Adler's exhibit will examine the psyche of the inmate by exploring the backdrop he chooses -- beach, waterfall, city skyline, etc. -- for his prison photo.
Also available this season is The Voices of Eastern State audio tour. The program mixes dozens of voices, including three former wardens and 25 former guards and inmates, to create an intimate walking tour of Eastern State's cellblocks and yards. Narrated by Steve Buscemi, the more than two hours of content will walk you through a series of individual stops, including Death Row, the solitary exercise yards, the restored synagogue, and the cell of its most infamous prisoner, Al Capone.
· Eastern State Penitentiary [Official]