Eastern State Penitentiary



Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the creepiest places in Philadelphia- but also a photographer’s dream. I’m not one for horror movies or anything scary like that, but a visit Eastern State Penitentiary was too intriguing to pass up (and if you don’t like horror stuff, don’t worry, it really isn’t that scary!). I enjoyed it so much that I included it on my post on recommendations of things to do when visiting Philadelphia

If you haven’t heard of Eastern State Penitentiary, it’s a prison that was opened in 1829 and used all the way up to 1971, and at the time of its creation, it was a Quaker-inspired revolutionary new prison that focused on reform and penitence with solitude instead of corporal punishment. It’s famous for being where Al Capone was imprisoned, and they even have a cell devoted just to him (you can read more about the interesting history here).

Eastern State opened to the public for tours in the 1990s, and the audio tour is voiced by Steve Buscemi! If Steve Buscemi is involved, you know it’s pretty awesome, and the tour does not disappoint. Eastern State is open for tours every day, and it costs $14 for adults. They also have special Halloween tours for those interested in experiencing scarier thrills (it’s called Terror Behind the Walls for a reason), and you can read about a local blogger’s experience on Her Philly. Even if you don’t go around Halloween, there are some places along the tour where you can see jail cells that are said to be haunted and some other pretty creepy stuff. Eastern State isn’t air conditioned, but it was actually pretty cool inside when I went on a hot day, so it’s a good place to visit in the summer. And for such a big fortress, it’s actually right in the heart of Philadelphia, so it’s easy to get to!

Being a photographer, my favorite part of visiting Eastern State Penitentiary was taking tons and tons of photos (I took so many that this will be split into two posts!). There’s such an incredible variety in textures and colors, and I had never been in a place like it before! There was also a surprising amount of natural light inside from the many skylights and windows. So if you want a place to practice your photography, you should visit Eastern State! 

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Isn’t Eastern State Penitentiary such a fascinating place? Stay tuned for more photos next week! 🙂 

And if you’re interested in improving your photography, I’ve extended the 50% off sale on my online course through today so this is the last chance! Check it out here!

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Blog, Historical Philadelphia, North America, Philadelphia, Photography

  1. Brianne says:

    I love creepy attractions like this, so I’ve been wanting to take a tour for a long time, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Fortunately I have friends and Philly, and visit regularly. Your photos have inspired me to make it a priority! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Julia says:

    I love discovering more about Philadelphia through your posts, this is definitely a place I didn’t know at all before but you keep coming up with new amazing places to see 😀
    The photography in this post is beautiful, you managed to capture the atmosphere quite well. Penitentiaries must be strange places to visit, knowing all that must have happened between those walls, but it’s also such a fascinating world to enter and learn more about. Thank you for sharing!

    Julia x

  3. Rimsha says:

    Wow, your photos are absolutely GORGEOUS. Each one tells a story. I had never heard of Eastern State Penitentiary but I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post. I’m really fascinated by these places and it has such rich history. So interesting that Al Capone was also imprisoned here! 😮

  4. Lacey says:

    AMAZING photography! For such a creepy place you make it very beautiful! Loved reading this and looking through the photos! I would love to visit in person!

  5. Kristy says:

    What an interesting place to visit. Your photos are stunning, love all the little details.

  6. Evie says:

    Amazing! I would love to see this. I love your photos and that Steve Buscemi voices the audio! Going to check out your course too.

  7. Kathi says:

    Oh wow, I’ve never visited a prison as a sight, and never even thought about it! it looks super creepy, but with Steve Buscemi in your ear, I’m sure the stories become bearable 🙂 It looks like such an amazing place – your photos capture it very well! x

  8. Anna says:

    Nice photos! Lools so lost.. and scary. And that small bedroom…

  9. Flo @ Yoga, Wine & Travel says:

    I love the texture and depth of all these photos – you were right, it IS a photographer’s dream! At first glance I thought it was an abandoned castle, and then I realized it was a prison. I’d love to learn more about the history of this structure and Al Capone’s detention here – thanks for sharing!

  10. This looks amazing! I would loooove to go see this. Me and my boyfriend want to do an east coast road trip sometime and this will definitely be part of it now! I love the photos!

  11. Kelly Duhigg says:

    Omg this is so cool but soo creepy. I really feel like they should film American Horror Story here. Talk about creepy but a place that I need to vsiit for the creep factor. Thanks!!

  12. Lynn says:

    I got chills just reading about this place being haunted, lol!! I’m both weirdly drawn to and intensely terrified of anything spooky, but this place looks awesome and your photographs are so lovely!

  13. Josie says:

    Great photos! I have visited a few different old prisons, they have such an eerie feel to them!

  14. Chrystina says:

    Would you believe I still haven’t been? I’m scared of things like that though – the pictures definitely help. I have a friend that had her wedding photos done here and they came out super cool. Maybe one day I’ll work up the nerve to visit, it definitely will not be for Terror Behind the Walls though…

  15. Tonya says:

    Wow, Eastern State doesn’t look scary during the day at all. Love the detail wall shots.

  16. Very cool! Love the photos.

  17. Alyse says:

    Yep, definitely one of the most photogenic places in Philadelphia. I think the visit is worth so much more than the entrance fee. It was freezing cold when we went. Sort of gave the prison a more gloomy, haunted feeling.

  18. Alana says:

    My husband, my then teenage son and I toured Eastern State on a hot August day in 2001 and had such a good time. Back then (don’t know if that’s true anymore) you had to wear a hardhat – it just added to the atmosphere. It is such a neat place. The history of how it came about and what was done to the prisoners there for the first years it was open was something I never knew. I highly recommend visiting, although my visit is so outdated.

    • Julia says:

      We didn’t have to wear hardhats, but that’s really interesting! I’m guessing they must have made things a little safer now 🙂 It was a really fun visit though!

  19. Rachel says:

    Very cool. I love old buildings and places with rich history. If I’m ever in Philly I’ll definitely go to Eastern State!

  20. Bren Pace says:

    What fabulous images! I remember watching one of those ghost hunter shows about this place. Was super creepy at night! Even looks a bit creepy during the day. I need to add this to my list of Must Visit places! Thank you for sharing your awesome photography as well!


  21. Stephanie says:

    This place definitely looks creepy, but also very neat and interesting.

  22. Very cool shots you got. I went here a few times on Halloween. Very scary at night.

  23. Her Philly says:

    The photos look great! I much, much prefer the Penitentiary during the day and outside of Halloween. It’s amazing it’s still here in our city! Thanks for linking to my post. 🙂

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