Casserole of Disaster Visits: Eastern State Penitentiary

better eastern1¬†Welcome back to the Halloween Hell Show as we continue our journey through the spookiest season of the year. Speaking of journey, this week we will be traveling around the country and world to some of the weirdest and creepiest places I have visited. It’s a segment I will call “Casserole of Disaster Visits”. (I know it’s lame)

Tonight we start out with what is believed to be the most haunted establishment in not just America but the world. A penitentiary which housed some of the most famous criminals to include Al Capone and Willie Sutton and broke just about anyone who entered its massive doors. This place is this infamous Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Opened in 1829, Eastern State was the first of its kind to bring reform through physical, psychological and spiritual strain, using isolation as the main tool of choice. An imposing structure which was constructed like a wagon wheel where each of the long blocks met in the center, housing hundreds of small single person cells. From the outside it looks like a fortress with its massive high stone walls making it feel nothing less than medieval. This place was without hope by design.


Many prisons of the late 1800’s through the mid-1900’s required hard labor in general population to serve out a sentence but not Eastern State. The method of reform and penance was to live with one’s self in total isolation away from everything in a cell so small, the bed would take up most of the floor space. Prisoners had no windows other than a small skylight to ensure that even a glance beyond the walls to civilization was impossible. If they misbehaved, torture methods like freezing exposure or loss of circulation tied to a chair was the preferred punishment. This was an institution of psychological pain which was then referred to as “reform”.

The prison was finally closed down in 1971 and was left vacant (other than cats) until 1996 when parts of the cell blocks were refurbished enough to allow people back in as a National Historic Landmark. Tours are daily with the help of an audio headset voiced by the actor Steve Buscemi which is narrated quite well. My friend and I stayed on track for as long as we could but with time constraints we hustled to get as much in as possible minus Steve.

Watch the video of me talking about the Eastern State Penitentiary and my theory of how freezing water-torture came about. I’m not saying it is historically accurate but I am pretty sure it was just as stupid.

The Hell Show continues! Don’t forget tonight I will be doing something live and announcing tomorrow’s #CODAMN! I hope you can be apart of the craziness.

“Art! Your Wife Is Home…

…and your house is on fire!”

That was a line from The ‘Burbs. But this post isn’t about my favorite movie or Rick Ducommun. No, it’s about my quick visit to Philadelphia and above all else the Philadelphia Art Museum.

dscn0041I don’t know whether it’s because I live on a snow covered mountain secluded from anything that walks upright or the fact that I find my most important social interaction is in a bowling league, but I really enjoyed my day alone in the city of Philadelphia. So much to do and so little time. I will take you with me. So pretend we did this together.

img_0435Well, we have to take the trolly to the subway. Personally I love public transportation. Nobody talks to each other but if you are really lucky like we were, you’ll have a lady sitting behind you coughing her head off on your neck. I can hold my breath for a while but after that trip I was halucinating Carebears and Luck Dragons in business suits reading the newspaper.

dscn0039After the tuberculosis scare we will walk quickly up the subway exit stairs to find ourselves in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city center. It may just be me but I always hum the Willy Wonka song that Gene Wilder sings when he opens up the doors to his candy room. You know, the one with the chocolate river? The city is a place of pure inebriation. So many smells like car exhaust, steam pipes, pretzel carts and many mystery smells leading to a game I like to call “soup or poop”.

dscn00421The one thing about Philadelphia is the amount of bronze statues. I would venture to say that this city has more than Vienna, Austria. But I guess it should since right where we were standing was where our country was formed. It almost makes your head spin when you think about it. But enough about that, I am on a mission. And that mission is to find where the Rocky statue is. We will do what ever you want after that is checked off the list. To the art museum!

dscn0046I know this was a long hike but I know we are on the right track to the museum because this is the famous running scene from the movies Rocky and Rocky II. Aren’t you glad that I didn’t make us run it?

That is so awesome. I get goose-bumps every time I watch it.

dscn0050But you know we have to run these. Actually everyone was doing it so it’s not as silly as one would think. Except when I run them and trip.

“Hey, look at me! I am just like Rocky and I am so awes-oh fuck!”

It’s a good thing you have bandages. Actually, it’s a rule that who ever is with me, needs to have a first aid kit.

dscn0052dscn0053The thing about the Art Museum of Philadelphia is that it is a full day activity. We have so much to see and only a day so we have to move with a purpose. But when you are looking at art from ?B.C. to present it is at least a three hour journey.

dscn0056I was shocked that it only cost $10 to go through this. That’s cheaper than movie! And if you see a movie with Ben Affleck for more than $10 you really feel like a schmuck when for less, you have this. Did that even make sense?

img_0437I know you are not suppose to take pictures of paintings but you covered me. I mean look at this. The original “Moulin Rouge” from the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec! Can you believe we were within inches of it?

img_0438Not all Picasso paintings look like a butt with eyeballs. This is “Portrait of a Woman”. It is creepy but it’s a Picasso. So….you have to respect that.

img_0440This is my favorite one of them all. Actually it has been my favorite art piece for years and when we found it I made a sound like a girl who made the cheer-leading squad. But you don’t judge me, do you? I wish I was able to take a better picture of it. This is “Carnival Evening” by Henri Rousseau.¬† It’s so dark and mysterious. I stared at it for at least 15 minutes.

Thanks for looking out for me while I snuck a few camera phone pictures. But really we were in no danger. The guard was sleeping.

img_0441Well, I dragged you from the year 300 to present and up and down three stories of art so I suppose you are a little hungry. And this is the town to eat! Let’s go!

Ok I lied. We have to stop at the Rodin museum. Just a quick run though. He did sculpt “The Thinker” so the least we could do is stop by to say hi.

dscn0060This is such a pretty front to the museum. That’s not the original “Thinker” but it’s probably more famous and viewed by more tourists than the original. I made that up.

dscn0061Do you know what I didn’t know? This was just apart of a larger art piece called “The Gates Of Hell” inspired by Dantes Inferno. Huh… But you already knew that.

dscn0064Ok, ok! I know you are starving by now. I really want to go to Pat’s or Gino’s Cheese Steak stand but time is a factor. So, I asked for a recommendation and it’s a quirky place to eat called the Devil’s Alley. You need food and I need a beer. Hey, it’s vacation.

dscn0066dscn0067dscn0065The food at the Devil’s Den is nothing to write home about but the decor is a home-run. I know we just were in the presence of art that inspired religon and started wars but this also cranks my tractor. Speak up if I embarrass you.

dscn0069You know we would end up here. The infamous Eastern State Penitentiary. This is one of the most spooky and intimidating prisons in the U.S. by far. I didn’t know about it until the show Ghost Hunters did an investigation here a few years ago. But besides that, it has some serious history.

dscn0072Back in the day, the prison system was a little medieval in their quest to rehabilitate inmates. The thought process was to isolate and repent. I can spend about two days alone before I start making up imaginary friends so the thought of spending years in isolation without a view is…actually I can’t even imagine. Charles Dickens took a tour through here and went back to the UK stating that he has seen the worst of humanity here. Now that’s history! Oh, and Al Capone was here too. But he was a dick.

dscn0073It’s spooky to hear these doors slam in the background when no one is in the prison. The tour guides joke about the ghosts and seem to not even notice it. You can hold my hand. For dudes you can too because it’s not sissy if we thumb wrestle at the same time.

I didn’t capture any anomalies and that sucks. But after the tour I did see other peoples digital pictures with some weird shit on it. You know like lights and blurry things? I don’t know, I’m a sucker. You roll your eyes.

dscn0070dscn0077Well, if that wasn’t disturbing enough we are now going to the Mutter Museum. This is the museum of pathophysiology and abnormal human defects. This place makes you want to shower but it is so awesome.

dscn0080Here we are! The place where they keep human skulls with a description of how they died, a cast of Siamese twins, a preserved gangrened hand in a jar, jars of deformed babies and a book made of human skin. Yeah, we are disturbed for sure. It’s a good thing we already ate.

i188808786_96611_7Me: Oh my God! What the fuck is that!!!

You: Shhhh. Inside voice!

mutter_museumMe: That dude is eating for two!

You: Would you please? We are in a museum.

featureMe: Oh my….

You: Take your head out of my coat!

Courtesy ofMe: Can we go now?

You: You are such a sorry Nancy.

Well, it is getting dark out now. You know what that means? It means that we have to get a beer and become friends with at least one of the locals. That’s a rule of mine. You haven’t been to a place unless you know a person from there.

So I picked a little pub that didn’t look too pretentious and safe and moseyed up to the bar. Wouldn’t you know it, only ten minutes went by before people approached me? I give off that “I’m lost and not from here” vibe.

dscn0084Talk about the city of brotherly love! This is Dawn and Ashely, two local Penn State students who were nice enough to join us for brews, high-fives and picture sharing. We traded email addresses and were even given an invite for New Years Eve. Too bad that’s a travel day, huh? But what can you do? We made friends and that is what we set out to do.

Look at this. We are cultured, fed, tipsy and disturbed all in one day! I say that’s a great day! Thank you so much for putting up with me and enjoying the day. Let’s go recap back at home with some more brews and watch Rock II. What do you say?


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