(Byberry Insane Asylum)
Both Sides of Roosevelt Blvd Between Poquessing Creek and Southampton Road
Status: Former Psychiatric Facility; Completely Demolished; Residential Properties and a State Park
Reader Discretion is Advised: There Are Depictions of Terrible Conditions and Brutal Mistreatment in a Facility Designed for the Care of the Mentally Ill in this Article.
This institution began as a small farm at this location that was used for the treatment of the mentally ill. In 1906 construction was began on a set of cottages on the property. In 1907 construction of the large buildings began and the facility was named the Byberry Mental Hospital.
When Byberry was first set up they had nothing but the best intentions and followed the teachings of Dr Benjamin Rush – one of America’s Founding Fathers (his signature is on the Declaration of Independence) and the Father of American Psychiatry – who believed mental illness could be treated and cured but the insane needed to kept separate from “normal” people until they were cured.
In 1936 the hospital was turned over to the State and became the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry. As with many other similar institutions Byberry was built to relieve over population in other hospitals but it became overpopulated and under staffed itself. Unfortunately, Byberry – like nearby Pennhurst – became the epitome of the worst case of negligence and mistreatment.
During the Second World War people who were unable to fight due to personal, religious or spiritual reasons were employed in the psychiatric hospitals. One of these new employees blew the roof off of the truth of this facility when he took a series of photos of conditions inside. These photos would eventually make it to Life Magazine who would publish them in 1946 setting off a Nation-wide scandal.
Conditions were compared to the Nazi Death Camps with naked patients piled on top of each other in their own filth with a smell so strong it was described as taking on a life of it’s own. One particularly brutal treatment involved wrapping a wet towel around a patient’s neck and tightening it until they passed out resulting in a borderline psychotic but effective way of controlling the patient. It had the added bonus of leaving no marks so nothing could be found by the inspectors.
Things never change fast and when they do its not always for the right changes. Despite being at it’s highest level of population – over 7000 – Byberry began a series of downsizes in the 1960’s – resulting in worse patient care – with the ultimate goal of shutting it down.
In 1985 the site failed a State Inspection and was accused of misleading of the State Inspectors. Reports like keeping extremely violent patients in the Forensics Ward and removing a patient’s teeth without anesthetic made things even worse.
Cases of murder – including 2 orderlies who confessed to strangling a patient to death who were not only not punished but given pay raises - and sexual and other forms of assault reported were beyond count. One female patient was raped and murdered and another resident was found carrying her teeth.
In 1987 the hospital failed another State Inspection in which conditions were described as “atrocious” and after 2 patients who were released were both found drowned in the Delaware River the announcement that the facility was closing was finally made on December 7 of that year. In June of 1990 the hospital was finally closed with all patients and staff transferred to Norristown State Hospital.
The entire campus was left standing; citing asbestos issues. Within a few weeks people were breaking into the abandoned buildings stealing everything of any value. By 2003 – despite police patrols and security - the site was a disaster with every window smashed and covered in graffiti.
People living in the area complained to the City repeatedly finally resulting in the complete demolishment of the site by June of 2006. The former site is now covered by open land, a residential development called The Arbours at Eagle Pointe, Benjamin Rush State Park and soft industrial park.
Parts of the grounds of the State Park are said to be where the hospital cemetery was. We found no historical documentation that the remains were ever moved; although that isn’t proof that they weren’t.
Either way there are reports of apparitions running through the trees in the park, light anomalies and feelings of being followed by invisible presences.
While the old buildings were still standing the following was reported on site: apparitions of former patients and staff in the buildings and wandering the grounds; shadow figures including some that have become aggressive toward the living; hundreds of hours of video and audio evidence of paranormal activity; aggressive attacks toward the living including scratches and pushes; touches by unseen presences; objects moving their own; disembodied voices; phantom screams, yells, crying and laughter; electrical disturbances; phantom footsteps; light anomalies; empathic feelings of anger, fear, depression and overwhelming evil leading to physical symptoms of illness including nausea, vomiting and migraines and feelings of being followed, not being alone, being watched and not being wanted.
No in-depth investigations have been done of the new structures – residential or commercial – that we could find. There are a few reports of paranormal activity in the State Park – as written above – as well many reports of an uneasy feeling on what was the hospital grounds.
All Photos Courtesy of StrangerMindz
Here is another location I have had the privilege to visit that needs no introduction due to its crazy, violent, extraordinary and not to mention very haunted history.
Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) was considered to be the world's first true penitentiary, and it was once the largest and most expensive public structure in the country.
Today, it operates as a museum where you can enjoy tours and learn its history from within. The tour includes an audio guide that contains a playlist called "The Voices of Eastern State". An mp3 player with headphones is given to you upon admission, that will guide you through the penitentiary while explaining it.
ESP operated as a prison from 1829 until 1971 and it housed nearly 85,000 inmates over its history. ESP even housed very notable criminal fuigures like Al Capone AKA "Scarface" and Willie Sutton AKA "Slick".
ESP was one of the first structures in the United States to have central heating and running water within its buildings. An amazing concept at the time primarily due to that not even the White House had either of them.
The massive outside walls of ESP resemble a barricaded castle almost like a defense for anyone who tries to invade. The walls are 30 feet high and 10 feet thick and spreads across exactly half a mile with towers at every corner. The concept of this structure designed by John Haviland, who was an English-born American architect was inspired by prisons and asylums built in his homeland, England and Ireland. The design was primarily used to put fear into those who thought about committing any future crime with it's neo-Gothic monstrous look.
ESP was originally named Cherry Hill State Prison due to its location which was ten acres of farmland known as Cherry Hill near Philadelphia.
Throughout my research on ESP, I have come across so much information that I decided to construct a somewhat of a timeline to help put in as much information as possible. We are talking about squeezing in 142 years of history. With that said, let's take a journey into Eastern State Penitentiary.
In 1787, Dr. Benjamin Rush created the first prison reform group to which is still around today called Pennsylvania Prison Society. It was to promote reform and social justice.
Benjamin Franklin was part of this group as well.
1821, The Pennsylvania Legislature approves funding to build Eastern State Penitentiary. The idea for this penitentiary was to redefine how prisoners were kept and treated. The revolutionary system for this prison was to have separate incarceration cells for its inmates, which first put into place in the Walnut Street Jail to try and reform their inmates rather than to punish them.
Four architects submitted their designs for this revolutionary prison but only one came out winning with his design. John Haviland won the commision with his Goth like nature design. Haviland was a major figure in the American Neo-Classical architecture. He was one of the most notable architects working from Philadelphia during the 19th century.
At first, it was meant to hold 250 people, but later on we see that ESP continued expansions due to high demand incarcerating inmates which included building up to 15 cell blocks, about 1,000 cells and housing more than 1,800 inmates by 1930.
In 1829, the legislation to seperate and utilize solitary confinement for inmates was passed. Leaders who was part of passing the legislation believed that crime is the result of how people acted in society within their environment and that solitude will make the person regretful and penitent, which was how the word penitentiary came to life.
To make matters worse for these convicted criminals, they had to wear masks once they entered the prison to keep them from communicating with others. Cells were made with feeding doors and yard time was for single inmate use to prevent any contact between other prisoners, and even guards. In this same year, their first inmate was admitted.
On October 25th, 1829 - Charles Williams, entered the prison as prisoner #1. He was convicted of burglary and he was a light black skin man, 5'7" tall. They even measured his feet which was 11 inches. Scar on nose, scar on thigh, broad mouth, black eyes. They even detailed his living, farmer by trade and noted that he can read. Theft included, one twenty-dollar watch, one three-dollar gold seal and a gold key. His sentenced was two years in confinement with labor. He was received by Samuel R. Wood, the first Warden of Eastern State Penitentiary.
1831, Cell block 3 was the last of its single story original structure. Cell block 4,5,6 and 7 was two story cell blocks due to the increasing amount of people being incarcerated. It is also the year that the first female prisoner entered.
1832, ESP encountered its first escape attempt by William Hamilton (inmate #94), he served as the warden's waiter. He saw an opportunity from the roof of the front building to which he was able to lower himself from. Once he was apprehended shortly after, he tried his luck a second time in 1837 using the same method.
Let's fast forward to 1924 because there is so much detailed information but I have to mention what happened that year due to the craziness of ESP history.
On 1924 August 12 - Was the day that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot "sentenced" Pep "The Cat-Murdering Dog" to life at Eastern State. Pep allegedly murdered the governor’s wife’s cat. Records show that Pep was assigned a prisoner number, C-2559, which is also seen in his mug shot.
1929, Al Capone was incarcerated and spent 8 months in ESP. But the controversy surrounding his prison cell had many people wondering if the system was corrupted. An article was even written by the Philadelphia Public Ledger on August 20, 1929, and described the lavishness of his cell. "The whole room was suffused in the glow of a desk lamp which stood on a polished desk.... On the once-grim walls of the penal chamber hung tasteful paintings, and the strains of a waltz were being emitted by a powerful cabinet radio receiver of handsome design and fine finish..."
The information goes on and on.
As the years gone by, there were many attempts of escape especially during the time when the Pennsylvania System of confinement with solitude was officially abandoned in 1913. They started giving their inmates more humane prison time. But this led to more than one hundred people escaping during its 142 years of operation. Most notably, in 1923, there was an inmate by the name of Leo Callahan, who actually escaped and still to this day remains at large. Obviously he has passed, but that was quite an achievement.
But what I am about to share with all my readers through all the research I have done is probably why so many inmates attempted fate and tried to escape. Convicted inmates spent 23 hours a day in their cells and only had two, half-hour exercise breaks. Every two weeks they were bathed but were forced to wear masks during that transportation.
Any inmates that were caught speaking to one another were punished. The punishment consisted of being left in their cells for an unknown amount of time, left in a dark cell and fed only bread and water. Some were confined to a straitjacket and gagged.
From 1933 and on, the inmates started riots by various means, lighting fires and short circuiting electrical boxes. All due to low wages, overcrowding and mistreatment.
In 1945, 12 men escaped through a tunnel they dug for some time. "Slick" Willie Suttun a famous bank robber was one of them and took credit for planning the whole thing.
But due to all the riots, overcrowding, the prison was slowly deteriorating over time due to how massive it was, maintenance was difficult to uphold and even bad press, especially when Charles Dickens visited ESP and wrote "The System is rigid, strict, and hopeless solitary confinement, and I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong....". Led to the Pennsylvania Legislature recommending to abandon Eastern State Penitentiary, which had since been renamed the State Correctional Institution at Philadelphia.
Abandoning ESP wasn't so easy and it didn't officially happen due to how are were they going to let all this hard work, money, and the idea of why ESP was built in the first place just die?
That is why ESP remained open up until 1971. Eastern State Penitentiary finally closed its doors and left abandoned. For 20 years, that location became highly vandalized and even nature took over.
Walking through this monstrous prison, anyone who toured within the walls can easily see and feel why this place is deemed haunted. Reports of suspicious paranormal activity dates back to 1940's, long before ESP was abandoned. Both prisoners and guards began to have several unusual experiences and unexplained paranormal occurrences.
Many of these incidents have been reported and it states that there are witnesses to shadow figures and unnatural noises. But even before that, there were incidents that were reported involving Al Capone when he was imprisoned for 8 months in 1929.
Guards and other inmates reported hearing Al Capone, who was dubbed Scarface, a famed Chicago gangster, screaming in his cell. They heard him screaming at "Jimmy" to go away and to leave him alone. Now here is the back story to that, but we are going to take a detour out of ESP and into what is known as the St. Valentines Day Massacre.
Long story short, the massacre happened in 1929 where several rivals of Al Capone were murdered in Chicago on Feburary 14th. One of the victims was named Albert Kachellek aka James Clark also knows as Jimmy. The massacre was an attempt to eliminate Bugs Moran, head of the North Side Gang.
Al Capone, was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the massacre but never charged. Al Capone was actually convicted and then transferred to ESP for a much pettier crime, he got caught carrying a concealed weapon on May 16, 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His luck had to run out sooner or later.
Now back to the paranormal activity in ESP.
After hearing about the guards and inmate reports, the story with Al Capone, all the deaths that have occurred throughout the years in ESP that including two guards and several inmates being murdered, reports of suicides and hundreds of others dying from disease and old age. Not to mention, the ones that aren't documented due to suspicious circumstances. How can it not be haunted?
Due to the dark history of ESP and paranormal activity, many paranormal investigators have investigated this location and it has even been featured on television. Everyone who has stepped into this prison, including staff, visitors and investigators have reported many paranormal activities including sightings of ghostly entities.
Cell block 12 being an area which is highly active where you can hear voices, laughs and apparitions of inmates. Cell block 6, it is known to have shadow figures, screaming and laughter. Cell block 4, reports of ghostly faces and hearing loud whispers. There are even reports on the watch towers, apparently a silhouette of a guard can be seen doing his rounds.
Visitors have heard doors slamming, keys jingling, footsteps. It's no wonder this is the paranormal investigators Disney Land.
Unfortunately, today, ESP doesn't let anybody investigate anymore. You cannot even have a device to conduct any investigations. If you are a psychic, medium or empath, keep it to yourself because you will be asked to leave.
The bright side is, you can visit ESP any day between 10am -5pm and they also do amazing Halloween festivals that start from September through November.
Hope you guys enjoyed reading this article and if you are interested in knowing more about Eastern State Penitentiary, go to their website and explore all the information they have to offer.
Also, fun fact, in google maps, you can tour inside this structure.
Researched Paranormal Activity
Numerous reports of ghostly faces appearing out of nowhere. At least one report of one of these faces beckoning the witness toward it. A report of being held so tightly that movement was impossible. The same report includes a feeling of a terrible dark force rushing by them.
Shadow figures have been reported – some of them are said to slide along the walls.
Echoing disembodied voices and phantom laughter.
Apparitions of former guards have been seen in the old guard towers still watching over their prisoners.
Apparitions of former inmates and staff, unexplained mists, disembodied voices, feelings of dark energy, phantom sobs, cries and screaming, light anomalies, electrical disturbances, empathic sensations of negative emotions including anger, madness and fear, feelings of being watched, feelings of not being wanted, feelings of not being alone.
By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Surfsupusa&action=edit&redlink=1" class="new" title="User:Surfsupusa (page does not exist)">Surfsupusa</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Philadelphia was founded by Quakers who – for religious reasons – objected to war and military defense. Therefore, no defensive structures were constructed initially nor was any militia raised until Benjamin Franklin did so during King George’s War. The militia was disbanded immediately after the war.
In the 1750’s – due to escalating tensions in the colonial world – plans were drawn up for a fort on Mud Island to protect the city from attacks from the Delaware River but construction was not began.
In the early 1770’s Philadelphia was the largest and busiest British port in North America and it was thought a fort was needed to help direct ship traffic in and out of the port. Construction was begun in 1771; but at a snail’s pace.
With the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution following the fort was finally completed in 1776. Again, it took Benjamin Franklin to light the match under everyone’s asses for lack of a better phrase. Mifflin, with Fort Mercer, were designed to control the actions of the British Navy on the Delaware River.
The British took Philadelphia by land, though, in 1777 and laid siege to Mifflin. Part of the British attack was the largest bombardment in of the entire war. This bombardment killed 250 of the 400+ American soldiers holding the fort against over 2,000 British soldiers. In November of 1777 American forces were forced to evacuate the fort.
Although Fort Mifflin was rebuilt and refurbished many times over the 2+ centuries since it never saw military action again.
It was used as a prison in the Civil War for Confederate POWs, political prisoners and Union soldiers convicted of crimes such as desertion.
The fort was decommissioned in 1962 and ceded to Philadelphia; it is now used as an educational historic landmark. The US Army Corp of Engineers still maintain a base here making it the oldest operational US military fort in the Country.
The most famous (infamous) ghost of the fort is that of the faceless man. He is seen all over the fort.
Most agree this ghost is William H Howe; who is often portrayed as a psychotic murderer and evil spirit. In actual fact, Mr Howe was a Union marksman whose reputation was that of bravery. He contracted dysentery but did not leave the battlefield until the rest of his regiment left after their tent was burned down.
Howe was then confined to bed by a doctor. One night his enrolling officer – with 2 other men; all drunk – showed up at Howe’s house. Mr Howe fired 2 shots into the crowd to disperse them. Unfortunately, both shots struck the enrolling officer killing him. Howe was imprisoned in the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary while he awaited trial. Despite his pleads for leniency he was sentenced to death and executed at the fort.
A bag was put over his head before he was hung which is why his apparition is perceived as faceless.
A piercing woman’s scream rips through the fort morning, noon and night suddenly and unexpectedly.
Apparitions of soldier eternally cleaning their guns are often seen.
Other apparitions of the fort’s former residents are also seen in all areas of the fort grounds.
Disembodied voices are often heard including entire conversations. Light anomalies are frequently seen, photographed and video taped.
Other Activity: phantom smells; touches, pokes and prods by unseen presences; electrical disturbances; cold spots; unexplained noises and feelings of not being alone and being watched.
Philadelphia Shipyards (1943)
By U.S. Navy - U.S. Navy photo <a rel="nofollow" class="external autonumber" href="http://www.navsource.org/archives/06/images/173/0617305.jpg"></a> from <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="http://www.navsource.org/archives/06/173.htm">Navsource.org</a>, Public Domain, Link
The Philadelphia Experiment is alleged events that took place both in the summer and fall of 1943 by the US Navy and – by relation – the Federal Government of the United States of America. These experiments are widely considered false by mainstream media - the US Navy firmly denies they ever occurred – and have been relegated to the annals of urban legends and conspiracy theory.
This, of course, does not mean they never happened. After all had the Atomic Bomb never worked it too would have become another urban legend.
Essentially, the idea of the experiments was a direct application of Einstein’s unified field theory – allowing fundamental forces and elementary particles to exist as a single field – in combining electro-magnetism and gravity. The original thought was this could be used to make metal ships non-magnetic and; therefore immune to mines. 1943 being a time of war between the USA and Nazi Germany/Imperial Japan this would have been a huge victory for the US Navy.
The second experiment – based on what happened in the first one (more later) – was to render a ship cloaked – invisible to radar and possibly to human eye sight. Again, in a time of war this would be of great value to the US Navy and there is a theory that surrounding an object with large amounts of electro magnetism would render it invisible to the naked eye.
There are no truly reliable accounts of this experiment although one sailor Carlos Miguel Allende claimed to be on another US Naval Vessel and witnessed the teleportation of the vessel experimented on – the USS Eldridge (a destroyer escort). Allende wrote a letter to Morris K Jessup – who had recently published a book on UFO’s – with these claims.
However, the events did not gain major public attention until 1979 when Charles Berlitz – author of a famous book about the Bermuda Triangle – published a book about the incident. Berlitz’s book contained transcripts of interviews with – purportedly – the scientist supervising the experiment.
In 1984 a movie was also made about the events – in 2012 it was remade in a direct to video movie as well.
Experiment One – Summer 1943
The USS Eldridge was wrapped in electro-magnetic cable and it was turned on. The ship disappeared from view and was replaced by a greenish cloud. When the ship reappeared some of the sailors were said to have been fused with the deck plating including one man whose hand was completely buried in the steel deck. Other sailors had completely crazy and others complained of being nauseous.
Experiment Two – October 28, 1943
The Navy preformed another experiment – this one with the specific purpose of rendering a ship completely invisible to radar. Of military value absolutely but neither the Nazis nor the Japanese possessed radar technology at this point so one does wonder.
It does need to be said the Nazis were experimenting with anti-gravity at that time.
This time not only did the ship disappear from view but it teleported from one physical location to another and moved 10 minutes into the past. The other physical location has been reported both as the New York City and the Norfolk shipyards. It is in one of these locations – the sailor who reported seeing the Eldridge appearing and disappearing said it was New York – that the ship was seen by the entire crew of another US Naval vessel.
During this experiment sailors on board are reported to have, again, been fused with the deck, turned inside out and some had completely disappeared. The ones who disappeared may have moved forward in time – this was a large premise of the movies made about the event.
The biggest reason given for this all being a hoax is if the US Navy had found a way to move a ship through both time and space it would be of an astronomical military value. So why didn’t they continue the experiments? The loss of life and injury to American citizens would be the logical answer and preforming experiments using ships with no sailors would also be the logical answer.
Of course, had the Navy – or any branch of the US military/government - continued with these experiments there is no reason it would be revealed to the public. They may never have a found a safe way to do it or they may still be conducting the experiments.
As with all conspiracy theories the truth may never be known and that will keep them alive forever.