I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Saturday, October 31, 2009

the spookiest place in Philadelphia

Eastern State Penitentiary is a great example of good intentions gone to hell. The Quakers believed that if law breakers were given enough time in solitary they could commune with their inward light and it would heal them. Charles Dickens visited the penitentiary when he came to Philadelphia and thought the Quakers were out of their minds. He was right, of course--many of their inmates went mad. This is a rare example of the Quakers being wrong about anything. When they went wrong, wow.

I was a production assistant for an independent film that shot at cool crumbling historic sites all over Philly. The film was never released and for that we can all be grateful-- unless you admire the much-maligned nazi sluts from outer space genre.

One of the sites we shot was Eastern State. This was the first time I was inside the (intentionally) frightful fortress walls of the place.

This was before Eastern State was stabilized and opened for the public. The ghosts had the run of the place. I do not consider myself particularly sensitive to the spirit world but I have not been in any location that gave me such a terrible feeling of hopelessness and despair. It is possible that this feeling was nothing more than my febrile imagination dwelling on what I know of the history in the presence of this architecture of confinement.

Even so, I know a terrific ghost anecdote from an actor friend that took place during the performance of a play at the penitentiary. One of the cast was down a corridor listening for his cue. He felt a hand slap down on his shoulder and brushed it off, thinking someone was telling him it was time for his entrance. He realized he was alone. After the play the other actors asked him why he had come on so early and thrown off the scene.

The prison is now one of the best-interpreted historic sites in the area. There's a terrific audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi with input from some of the inmates and guards.

Here's Al Capone's cell:

And I'll leave you with one of the terrific art installations you can see when you visit. The day tour is great, and the haunted house--Terror Behind the Walls--has been rated top in the nation. Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

Anita said...

I was thinking about visiting Eastern State this Halloween season, but I'm glad I didn't! I'd probably be spooked out after the first couple of minutes and leave. I didn't know you were into filmmaking, too. That's awesome.

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