03 June 2009

Penitentiary Life, Week 10

Being that it is week number 10, it seemed only appropriate to list what *I* think are the Top Ten Questions People Ask When Visiting Eastern State Penitentiary:

10. Are there any bathrooms other than the Porta-Potty?
(Answer: No. [Why would we direct them there otherwise??])

9. Why don't they fix this place up?
(Answer: The cost would be astronomical. They plan to maintain it as a stablized ruin.)

8. Why are there cat statues everywhere?
(Answer: They are one of the art installations on site, "Ghost Cats.")

7. Was a dog really in prison here?
(Answer: Yes, Pep the Dog. [N.B.: Personally, I believe that Pep was framed!])

6. Were there any famous people who were prisoners here?
(Answer: Yes, the two that most people would know are Willie Sutton and Al Capone.)

5. Did Al Capone die here?
(Answer: No, he died after he was released from Alcatraz, at his home in Miami, from syphilis.)

4. Has a visitor ever mistakenly been left here overnight after you close?
(Answer: No, the tour guides all have different "sweep" routes that have to be completed before we close.)

3. How many people were executed here?
(Answer: None. Cellblock 15 is Death Row, where prisoners awaiting execution would be kept. There is only one prison in the state where there were executions, Rockview.)

2. Has anyone ever tried to escape from here?
(Answer: Yes, there have been numerous escape attempts, but only one person, Leo Callahan, was never caught.)

1. Is it really haunted here/have you ever seen a ghost?
(Answer: I can't truthfully say, I'm not an authority on ghosts exist/no.)

There are, of course, plenty of other questions we get asked by visitors. Some are funny (for example, there is a story that a tour guide was once asked the location of Al Pacino's cell!), and some are kind of strange (like the woman who asked me if they ever invited people to stand in the cellblocks and read poetry for the prisoners during the solitary confinement era). A lot of times people tell me about visiting Alcatraz, and whether they think Eastern State is better or worse (seems to be split about evenly).

Trust me though, nearly every visitor seems to have something to tell or a question to ask. So every day has the potential to be memorable ...


SissySees said...

Preserving history is a tough line to walk. I kinda' like that some things aren't "restored" to a particular era and are instead maintained in whatever state they were in when someone decided to step in and preserve...

Marie said...

Interesting information, as usual. You do get some weird questions, don't you?

Carrie K said...

Al Pacino? Under the umbrella that all Italians are alike? Or he should serve time for the Godfather & Scarface? Works for me. (Probably misspoke but still funny.)