Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners.
Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held approximately 80,000 people during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone. Admission includes "The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.
This soundscape mixes dozens of voices – including three former wardens and 25 former guards and prisoners – creating an intimate walking tour of Eastern State’s cellblocks and yards. The main route includes 10 audio stops and lasts about 35 minutes. Additional stops provide visitors with more than two hours of content, including Death Row, the solitary exercise yards, the restored synagogue, and Al Capone’s Cell. Narrated by actor Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, Armageddon).
Al Capone got his first taste of prison life at Eastern State Penitentiary. Visitors today can see his recreated cell, restored to its likely appearance when Capone was incarcerated at the penitentiary in 1929.
These short demonstrations take place throughout the penitentiary complex, each lasting about five minutes. An expert Eastern State tour guide leads each activity, although visitors do the bulk of the physical activities themselves. Stops include How to Open a Cell, Opening the Massive Front Gate, Exploring the Underground Punishment Cells, and more.
The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, by far, with 2.2 million citizens in prison or jail. This phenomenon has generally been driven by changes in laws, policing, and sentencing, not by changes in behavior. This interactive exhibit sheds light on these issues. It elicits personal connections, encourages reflection, supports dialogue, and suggests steps that visitors can take to help shape the evolution of the American criminal justice system moving forward.
This massive, three-dimensional bar graph sculpture illustrates the unprecedented growth in the world’s, and the United States’, incarceration rates since 1970. The graph also shows the racial breakdown of the American prison population in 1970 and today. Built to the scale of Eastern State’s walls, The Big Graph summarizes four decades of historic change in one striking object.
Eastern State features a series of critically acclaimed, site-specific artist installations. Artists are chosen for their ability to address Eastern State’s primary themes – including issues of crime and justice, architectural history, and the site’s fascinating past – with a memorable, thought-provoking approach.
Select nights, September through November. Tickets starting at $24. Terror Behind the Walls, America’s largest haunted house, is called “perfect for Halloween” by The New York Times, named #1 in the nation by Forbes, and featured on NBC’s TODAY Show. Terror Behind the Walls takes place inside the massive, castle-like walls of Eastern State Penitentiary and is consistently ranked among the top haunted attractions in America. (Note: regrettably, TBTW will not be offered in 2020.)
Eastern State hosts special events throughout the year including The Searchlight Series, a monthly event addressing issues in contemporary corrections.
|Students and kids (7-12)||
Not recommended for children under the age of seven.
General Admission: General admission tickets include “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history and criminal justice exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.
Guide-led Tour and Discussion: Guide-led tour and discussion tickets guarantee a spot on the guided tour, which takes place every day at 2 pm. These tickets are date specific and are only valid on the date selected. These tickets also include all of the programs included with the general admission ticket.
Discounted tickets are available for groups of 15 or more.
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