Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

Abandoned Ford

Found this old Ford on the side of the road in rural PA.

All the pics

abandoned Ford 3//

Williams Grove Amusement Park

Williams Grove Amusement Park is located in Mechanicsburg, PA, right down the road from the Williams Grove Speedway and the Williams Grove Steam Engine Association. The Williams family began hosting picnics here in 1850, eventually becoming the Mechanicsburg Fairgrounds. The first rides were built in 1928 and the Speedway opened in 1938.

The biggest change came in 1972 when the park was purchased for 1.2M and many rides were imported from the defunct Palisades Amusement Park which closed that year (the year after I was born!) The park continued entertaining locals thru the 80s when a steel roller coaster was built, and received various face lifts and changes in rides as many parks do. By 2005 attendance was dropping and the owners decided to invest in the speedway instead. The park closed in 2005 and there have been various attempts to sell the property since then with no luck. All the rides except the Cyclone roller coaster were sold off. The Cyclone was built in 1933 and was considered ground breaking for its day with a 60 foot drop and top speeds of 45 MPH. Now the coaster is overgrown with vegetations, and is in a state of decay. The grounds are still maintained and in good condition though most of the buildings are not in very good shape are 10 years of non-use.

See all my pictures here

Here is Roadside Americas page about Williams Grove

a not so bandoned farm in PA

Yet another farm near the Delaware river in PA. I’m pretty sure somebody owns it, they jsut ain’t doing anything with it right now. Didn’t go inside any of the buildings, they were sealed fairly tight. There was 3-4 buildings including one which was leaning so far to the side I wouldn’t go in if you paid me. It was right on the road, so doing anything more than just wandering would’ve been… unwise.






























IMG_8904 not

Abandoned PA farm






















































This farm lies not far from the Delaware on the PA side. it sits on state forest land and is on a hiking trail. Every building has a do not enter sign and for once I followed the rules. There’s 6-7 buildings and there was plenty of beauty to take pictures of outside. Judging by the price of the gas on the pump I’d say this farm was abandoned (or bought out) around the early 70’s, making it as older then me. The only thing of true note was the old fashioned drying press I found in one building. You ran the clothes thru two rollers and it squeezed the water from the clothing. There’s a fair amount to see here and I enjoyed the trip.

Terror Behind the Walls

One innovative use of the prison is a Halloween event called Terror Behind the Walls”, a scare fest filled with ghouls, gore and gallons of blood. It is easily the best haunted scare place my wife I have ever been to. Understand that we do not give such praise lightly. For my wife and I, Halloween is the bomb, it’s the shit, it is the best holiday of the whole year. I love decorating the house, I loved going to haunted scary places, I love Halloween parties. if we had to do it over again, we wouldn’t have gotten married 10/22 we would’ve waited till 10/31 and had a Halloween wedding. We even discuss redoing our vows and doing it on Halloween. But what’s the point? Spending that money for something we already did? Screw that, I’d rather put the cash towards a house. But I digress….

We both worked at a haunted greenhouse for several years and we had a ball. My wife was a guide and I played a variety of roles through the years, the best of which as eye-gore, the brother Igor, and I had my one eye covered with blood and gore and makeup, I was truly disgusting. One of my best shticks ever was when I tucked this small rubber rat, maybe 2 inches long but with a 4 inch tail, inside my cheek along with a small amount of fake blood. I would come out at the guests and babble away and eventually one of them would notice the tail sticking out of my mouth, and I would say “Where are my manners? You look hungry… I’ve already eaten but perhaps there’s something I could bring up for you,…” then I start making these horrible disgusting retching sounds. I’d slowly regurgitate the rat and offer it to the guests, often the blood would just flow from my mouth, sometimes drip down my chin, it was very disgusting I must say. I got THE BEST reactions from people, sometimes I’d chase them around offering them some dinner.

The place we used to work at is under new management and sadly it sucketh. I think a lot of haunted scare type places suck for a variety of reasons. Too much talking is usually the biggest reason. If you have q group you can scare and then intimidate and work off of, then the talking works, but if the crowd isn’t buying it, it’s like watching them die a slow death as they go thru their tired routines. I think most guests nowadays aren’t buying the doctor’s lab, the mad scientists kitchen or dining room, and even reanimating Frankenstein is old. And chasing them out the final room with Jason/Freddy/Leatherface is sooooo predictable. It’s been done to death. Talking rooms are just so predictable it’s boring.

The only way to really get people is with shocks and unexpected surprises. Innovative use of darkness, fog, noises, hidden panels, smoke, mirrors, robe lights and so forth. TBTW at ESP does this with more intensity then any place I’ve ever been. For a jaded scarefan like us to give this place enthusiastic thumbs up is saying something. (yeah I sound egotistical when I say that, but it really takes a lot to scare us or impress us and they did both). TBTW at ESP also has professional makeup jobs and incredibly good prosthetics and costumes. You can tell this isn’t done by teenagers in a trailer fighting over makeup supplies (ahhh the memories of scrounging to find a virgin piece of stipple…) The attention to detail shows, and really elevates it to the next level.

When you go to TBTW at ESP you should make reservations because otherwise the lines get long, however having a reservation at 7PM does not mean you go into the event at that time. There is a line outside, you then enter the walls of the prison, you give up your ticket, and then you have a choice. You can wait in the (potentially) long, or pay $5 more (per person mind you) and go to the front of the line. Unless the line is obscenely log, don’t take the fast pass. We had to wait 45 minutes or so but they run TV on an endless loop which features information about the prison, as well as clips from the MTV show fear which did an episode here. This, along with the prison spotlights and the actors running around scaring the crap out of the waiting customers.

I must say that one reason why I enjoyed myself so much has nothing to do with TBTW, it has to do with the company I kept. My wife’s girlfriends boyfriend Mimmo (rhymes with Nemo the fish)  is such a scardey cat that we were pissing in our pants, alternately from being scared to laughing our asses off at him. There were times he was cowering behind the women, and other times we had to shove him down the corridor because he would not move forward. My wife had bruised wrists like Michael Jackson’s after he got arrested in Santa Barbara… At one point a ghoul started bothering him, then came to bother me, and I kept pointing back to Mimmo, and of course that made him nearly shit his pants. It’s always fun when you go with someone who is genuinely terrified.
What awaits you inside the walls? I won’t bother to describe what you’ll find inside as a) it should be obvious, b) I couldn’t possibly describe it that well it happens so fast, and  c) why would I want to ruin it for you? I will say that they make extremely good use of fog, 3-D, hiding places, and sound… If you don’t believe me and my egotistic attitude, then ask who just rated it the best haunted attraction in the PA/NJ/DE area.

It turns out that the same guy who helped design Universal Studios Haunted attractions and Madison Scare Garden (both of which we’ve attended and thought highly of) was involved in the design of this place. From what I read, TPTW has been around for 6 years but initially wasn’t much more then a guide telling ghost stories. Not very chilling. With the recent redesign, they’ve established themselves as the place to go to get scared at Halloween.

MTV Filmed a segment of Fear here. Numerous documentaries about the prison have been filmed here as well as ones on ghosts. Here are’s final words on the subject: With proceeds going to such a worthy cause (the preservation of an amazing piece of architectural history), it is a bonus that we just can’t resist. Neither can we. Do yourself a favor. Make reservations, and get here during daylight to tour the prison, then  go eat dinner and come back to get scared. It’s a day well spent.

Read about the history of the prison here

Read about the tour of Eastern State Prison here

A tour of Eastern State Prison

I had heard about this prison and its tour through the Terror Behind the Walls Halloween website. I had suggested to my friends that we visit TBTW after visiting Skillman since we’d be down that way, and when we got kicked out early, my wife’s girlfriend said we should take the prison tour. I initially resisted, hoping to visit Ancora and a few weird virtuals, but the others won out, and in retrospect I’m glad they did.

The tours are self guided, using the same kind of audio set & headphones you get if you visit Ellis island. You walk around and certain spots are marked by a number, which corresponds to a certain track on the audio. They claim the tour takes 45 minutes but to be honest I could’ve spent twice that long if we hadn’t arrived with only an hour till the prison closed. The tour is narrated by Steve Buscemi who found ESP while checking locations for a movie he was looking to make. At the time he visited the prison was not in any shape to be toured, and he took interest in the prison and the effort to restore and preserve it.

You enter the massive gates of the prison, and then walk thru some narrow tunnels to a cashier who gives you the audio tour headsets. You then enter the prison yard and begin a slow tour of many of the wings and facilities. Among highlights you see the cell where Al Capone stayed, death row, and cell of bank robber Willie Sutton.  You see the cells themselves, along the way  hearing interviews with guards, prisoners and administrators, describing the way life was in the prison.

When you finally exit the rear of the main building you exit into a exercise yard where inmates played baseball and football. Among the more interesting facts is that when player hit home runs out of the prison often the residents outside would throw the balls back in. Little did the guards know that often these baseballs were plants stuffed with drugs or weapons!

As you walk through the hallways, peer into the cells, and listen to the stories it is impossible to come out of there without being affected by the stories that are told. Even though I took the tour with friends, the tour made me feel as if Steve was talking to me personally and singularly. As I walked the halls my wife and friends seemed to be irrelevant, as I was engrossed by the tales of solitary confinement, the mental illness, the disease, and the fears of both the prisoners and the guards. I felt quite alone myself.
Unfortunately the tour ended early since we arrived so late. We were unable to spend much time in death row, or to linger over an art project about the cruelty of the death penalty being used on children. There are more art projects planned, and the prison often hosts special events. This is without a doubt one of the most visually interesting places you can visit, and one of the oldest buildings you will likely ever get a chance to tour. it is well worth the trip, just make sure to give yourself at least 2 hours to fully appreciate the facilities. Afterwards there is a small museum area with items from the prison including the lock and key for the original front gate which still works 180 years later!

The prison is located at Fairmount Ave & 22nd Ave in Philadelphia and is open from April 1 until just after Thanksgiving. Private tours can be scheduled at any time, even during the winter. For information call 215 236-5111 x12. One of the more fascinating things I read was that the prison was a popular tourist attraction, even when it was open. Supposedly was as popular as Niagara Falls or the Capitol Building. Between 1862 and 1872 over 100,000 people visited the prison.

Read about the history of the prison here

Read my take on Terror Behind the Walls here (a Halloween attraction held in the confines of ESP)

All the photos here

The history of Eastern State Prison

When you think of a jail (the building not just a single cell) what do you think of? Take away the barbed wire and fences and bars, and most jails look remarkably like any other type of building. Local or city jails often exist within other buildings such as police stations or courts. County and federal prisons? Again, take away the security and they could almost pass for something else. But there is one prison in the area that is very different. if you walk past this building you know instinctively what this building is for. You know who lives here and why. The building inspires fear, awe, reverence, and a desire to never ever go there. That’s exactly what the architect had in mind….


Eastern State Prison in Philadelphia, PA was the first every attempt by the state to use incarceration and specifically solitary confinement as a form of punishment. In the 1800’s punishment generally consisted of fines, public humiliation (such as the stocks), whipping, banishment to a penal colony, and of course execution. American justice was often simply a variation of the justice systems of Europe.

In Europe often the church would be responsible for punishment for “crimes” in part because in many areas, the church WAS the state, or they were very closely tired together, almost to be inseparable. The church historically has opposed capital punishment, and so they developed a system of punishment in line with the Catholic or Christian doctrines. Whenever possible, prisoners were kept in isolation from each other, keeping in the tradition of silence and penitence typical in monastic orders.

By the 1600’s some courts in the Netherlands began experimenting with imprisonment coupled with hard labor. By the end of the 18th century large groups of men woman & children were housed in communal jail cells, some chained to the wall, sleeping on bare floors with little heat or food. If they could afford to pay the jailer, they would live and sleep in better conditions. John Howard, a sheriff in Bedfordshire England began studying the European prisons and concluded that long term prisoners should be held in isolation for “long hours of thoughtfulness and reflection”. With innovative construction, supervision could be done with less expense, and less overhead, would reduce the spread of disease, and ultimately reform the convict.

After Howard reported his findings and opinions, nothing happened initially. Gaol fever was rampant, killing prisoners and citizens alike by the hundreds, even thousands. The US colonies were now no longer part of the British empire, so England couldn’t just ship its prisoners there. They established penal colonies in Australia and New Zealand, but eventually pressure mounted to build full scale penitentiaries. It was hoped that isolation and improved sanitary conditions would reduce the spread of the disease in the prisons.
By 1816 most of the isolation based prisons were converted to traditional prison models. Cost was a large factor in the decision. In the county of Gloucestershire, 60% of the county budget went to the maintaining of the prisons. As England was moving away from solitary confinement, the US was moving towards it…

A group of reformers, called the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons (later shorted to just the Pennsylvania Prison Society) was founded by members of the clergy, the law, and the medical establishment. The group was aware f the failures in Europe but felt that they could overcome the obstacles that caused the European models to fail. In 1790 they attempted to modify an existing prison, the Walnut St prison, but the experiment failed, largely due to overcrowding. The Society believed that a larger reason for failure was that they were modifying an existing prison, which proved difficult and required modification of their ideas. If they built a new prison from scratch, they could design it exactly as they had envisioned. At about the same time as the Walnut Street jail was being modified, NY was also trying its hand at solitary confinement, also by modifying an existing jail. By 1823 the NY experiment was deemed a failure, much like the Walnut St jail, and largely for the same reasons…

The members of the Prison Society agreed on the concept of solitary confinement but disagreed over whether or not there should be forced labor. Construction began on Western State Prison in Pittsburgh in 1818, and Eastern State Prison in 1821. WSP opened in 1826. Inadequate heating, bad ventilation, and a lack of truly sanitary facilities led to the closure of the prison within 7 years, and it was soon torn down.  This did not bode well, but by the time WSP closed its doors, the doors at ESP had already opened. And the world was watching….


The design of each cell was important as the design of the prison as a whole. Each cell needed plumbing facilities and heat, as well as room enough to exercise and perform labor. Ventilation was also essential, but more importantly, they had to prevent escapes. Two architects submitted designs, and the circular design of William Strickland was chosen. During the design phase, few initially supported the design offered by John Haviland, but slowly he gained more supporters. After agreeing to Strickland’s design, those in charge eventually changed their minds and added Havilands outer wall design. Shortly after construction began, the prison decided to go with all of Havilland’s plan, and Strickland was sacked as the head architect and builder. The reason was simple: on paper, Haviland’s plan was cheaper to build, cheaper to maintain. As originally planned, 250 inmates would be housed here, with construction budgeted at 100,000 (1.2 million in 2002 money).

One of the first things built was the outer wall, which made use of the gothic style including castellated guard towers, a portcullis and blank windows. It was meant to be a physical reminder to the citizens of their fate should they choose to break the law. This would be the focus of a lot of criticism as it was expensive, and deemed by many to be an unnecessary waste of money. As the construction went along, the design changed often. Haviland was a relative inexperienced architect and builder and as he went along he learned a lot, which caused him to make design changes for the better. Furthermore, before construction was even half way finished it was clear that the prison was going to be too small for the number of prisoners slated to occupy it.

The original design had 7 spokes coming from a central hub where the guards would be located. From here they could see each cell block. After the first 4 blocks were built, the design changed to add a second level of cells. The final design provided for 450 individual cells, and by 1936 311 of them had been constructed.  Heating and ventilation proved most difficult. Stoves generated heat which was fed through pipes, but the accompanying carbon dioxide sickened many inmates, so a change was made to hot water generated stream which was then fed into each cell. Unfortunately the discharge pipes for the privies were located close to the hot water pipes, resulting in a rather disgusting smell that would cling to you if you just walked thru the halls….

Before construction was finished, a war was going on over the concept of isolation. As would be expected, expense and the affect of isolation on the inmates sanity were the primary complaints. One of the biggest detractors was Charles Dickens who considered isolation to be inhumane. most criticisms were ignored by the state, which pressed on with construction. Tourists, foreign dignitaries and government leaders all took tours. Indeed the world was watching.

From the start isolation proved nearly impossible. Inmates were used in housekeeping and the kitchen, or to make repairs. Despite efforts to prevent it, prisoners could communicate by tapping on the water pipes, or by throwing weighted notes thru the skylights into the cells next to them. The skylights were nailed shut. But this did not stop the prisoners from communicating or from seeing each other. Forced labor was done in each cell without the benefit of machinery, a distinct disadvantage compared to the forced labor done in other prisons, or in factories on the outside. After many years of success, the prisoners were left to make good for use in the prison only, and not for sale to the outside world.

Criticism of the solitary method continued well after ESP was built. Any look at ESP though must be weight against conditions at other prisons at the time, not against current prisons facilities. Most prisons barely had heat (if at all), poor ventilation and little if any natural light. Most cells were much smaller then the ones at ESP. Cells at Sing-Sing in NY measured 3 feet 3 inches by seven feet, barely big enough for a bed and a toilet. Labor was forced and silence was mandatory when outside the cell. Those who favored the solitary method as well those who argued against both often ignored the failures and inadequacies of their own systems. The prison ultimately failed to produce reforms, and was more expensive then traditional designs which was a major impediment to it being implemented widespread in the US. That’s not to say that numerous states didn’t copy the Haviland model. Many did, however the design was quite popular around the world, including England, where the concept had been tried and deemed a failure. It was Havilands innovative architecture design that gave others reason to reexamine the idea, and to try it again.

In 1937 the prison removed the old portcullis and installed a new front gate not in line with rest of the facade. The promise of reform was no more. This was now a penitentiary like any other. Eventually a new ESP was built and throughout the 20th century a debate was waged over the utility of maintaining the prison, whose very design was now obsolete. In 1971, the 1175 inmates were transferred to other institutions and the prison was closed. As would be expected, vandals broke in and destroyed things, a jungle of plants and bushes overgrew the entire property, even inside the buildings. In 1974 Mayor Frank Rizzo suggested demolishing Eastern State to construct a criminal justice center. Nothing happened for nearly 10 years, and in 1988 Eastern State Task Force, a group of architects, preservationists and historians, is formed. Mayor Wilson Goode urges the Redevelopment Authority to reject all proposals for commercial use of the property.

By 1994 the buildings were stabilized and 10,000 people took a tour of the historic site. The following year the mental ward scenes of 12 Monkeys were filmed here. Other movies were filmed here including Return to Paradise. Steve Buscemi scouted the site for a movie he was working on and he ultimately rejected the site because of rules against making changes to the site. He took an interest in the preservation efforts, and eventually narrated the audio tour which premieres in 2003. By now over 1 million dollars has been spent renovating the rotunda and important cells such as the occupied by Al Capone.

The prison is located at Fairmount Ave & 22nd Ave in Philadelphia and is open from April 1 until just after Thanksgiving. Private tours can be scheduled at any time, even during the winter. For information call 215 236-5111 x12. One of the more fascinating things I read was that the prison was a popular tourist attraction, as popular as Niagara Falls or the Capitol Building. Between 1862 and 1872 over 100,000 people visited the prison.

For more information visit the official website

Read about the tour of Eastern State Prison here

Read my take on Terror Behind the Walls here (a Halloween attraction held in the confines of ESP)

Flooding on Delaware river prompts group to demand resevoir levels be lowered

They believe lower levels will help avoid floods like those that have done millions of dollars in damages and killed several people.

Environmental groups and residents fearful of flooding along the Delaware River are asking for more water to be released from three upstate New York reservoirs. Seven groups sent a letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, asking that the water level be reduced “to the maximum extent feasible” for about a month. The mayor and governors jointly control the operation of the three reservoirs, the Pepacton, Cannonsville and Neversink. Three major floods between 2004 and 2006 caused several deaths and tens of millions of dollars in property damage along the Delaware, mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The reservoirs were at or near capacity just before all three floods. Unable to store water from torrential rains, they sent billions of gallons down the river and into homes and businesses. Since then, groups have been closely monitoring the reservoir levels and have repeatedly sought to have them lowered. The reservoirs, which can store a combined 271 billion gallons of water, provide drinking water to 9 million people in the Delaware River basin. New York City has sought to keep them as full as possible as a hedge against drought. On Friday, the Pepacton and Neversink were full and Cannonsville was 98 percent full.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection was reviewing the groups’ letter, which was dated Dec. 22.
“We’re always looking for ways to be helpful as long as the critical mission of providing drinking water for 9 million people is not put at risk,” said department spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla. “We’ve taken significant steps to provide for flood attenuation and habitat protection.” Barry Ciccocioppo, spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, said the governor saw no need for emergency action.
The authors of the letter were the North Delaware River Watershed Conservancy, Friends of the Upper Delaware River, Aquatic Conservation Unlimited, Delaware Riverside Conservancy, Drowning on the Delaware, Residents Against Flood Trends and Trout Unlimited.

The spiderman House on the Delaware River