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Episode 42: In the Bag


Most of our fears can be blamed on a deeper, more instinctive anxiety: we hate losing control. And no place on earth represents that sensation more viscerally than prison. Contrary to popular belief, though, not all prisons have been created equal.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Everyone has an opinion whether its politics, religion, popular culture or brand of coffee. Everyone has a preference for most people. Their opinion is set in stone. It's an emotional choice, mists rooted in habit. It safe and comforting, but some opinions are darker, for example, ask anyone you know what their greatest fear is and you'll get a five minute answer. Their pulse will race heck? They might even shudder right there in front of you know
one wants to die and no one likes to feel unsafe, and that means everyone has one big fear. Maybe it's the fond of being buried alive, trapped inside confining space while hundreds of pounds of dirt or shovelled on top of the only exit? Maybe it's the thought of drowning or being kidnapped, but here's the secret most big fears are really just all about the same thing Nearly all of them are about losing control. There are few places in modern culture that represent the loss of choice. The loss of freedom in the loss of safety, more than prison
it's a setting that fills us with dread and inspires hopelessness and somehow also remains oddly attractive films like Shawshank redemption and the green mile in small screen hits like eyes or sixty days in each stand as a testament to that obsession, and rightly so, prisons to many or a dark collection of pain, despair, guilt and hatred, and while it might not be the same as physically being buried alive and never fails to strike fear into even the strongest of hearts, but our modern prison system did it start out that way. Instead, it was built on hope, an opportunity and change Like all good intentions, though, these goals have been worn down over time by the worst of human nature. Whatever hope in light they might have tried to bring into the world, has been washed away. My horrible darkness, no prison
Represents that evolution more accurately in eastern state penitentiary, I marin- Maybe- and this is lore. The idea of prison has been around since the dawn of written language. Early legal codes dating back as far as four thousand years listed punishment for illegal behaviour back then it was all about retaliation for wrongdoing, but imprisonment was just on the horizon. The ancient Greeks dabbled with
notion of captivity in Athens, the prison there was known as the dismal Terry on, which meant the place of chains. Thank you get the idea. It was the Romans, though we took the concept of prison and turn it into an art form and trust me. They pulled no punches. The Romans built prisons in the worst places imaginable if it was unpleasant or nasty, it was perfect for holding criminals, they use, who's, basements abandoned stone, quarries and even metal cages. The infamous member prison in ancient Rome was literally built into the city's sewer system. Prisoners eight and slept among piles of went rancid human waste. With the advent of the castle in Europe, captivity moved inside the fortresses becoming an extension of the crown. It was a display of power in a sense in order to encourage people to obey and
speck, the ruler of the land. They were taught to fear the power of those rulers, and even then prison was only sort of a purgatory. A waiting room for the final verdict is rarely the end itself prison for centuries was where criminals would await their trial, and in that way it was often times the most pleasant bit of the process. After their sentence was handed down, though, the punishment was intensely harsh, painful whipping physical mutilation, branding with hot irons, and even public execution were all waiting for them just outside the walls of their cell. But all of that changed in the eighteenth century. The age of enlightenment brought with it a new focus on rational fought, which led to a public
cry against violent punishment. Instead, people called for a new type of prison, one that would inspire moral reform and help criminals become better people and sounded good on paper, and so many countries got behind the idea. The british parliament passed the penitentiary act in one thousand, seven hundred and seventy nine introducing the concept of state prisons. Prison regulations in England had multiplied following their loss of the north american colonies, filling up quickly with traders and rebels its ironic, when you think about it, our own declaration of independence led to an increase of captivity and imprisonment back home across the Atlantic. One of the strongest voices for prison reform in the newly formed United States of America was Benjamin Franklin and seventy. Eighty seven while the constitution was still being crafted in Philadelphia Franklin was gathering others, in his home nearby to discuss the poor conditions of the local prison known as Walmart Street jail.
rather than individual cells prisoners. There were gathered into groups inside large pens. There was no segregation, so men and women long with the young children were all living in the same space. Inmates ran the spectrum from simple thieves, too cold blooded killers, it wasn't safe and it was common for rape and violence to take place unchecked in their those being held for trial, were forced to buy their own food and water jailers would even sell heat in the winter. That's how bad it had become so Franklin and his fellow reformers demanded change their immediate effects that chain much of the system there, but the biggest impact wouldn't be seen for another. Forty years after decades of campaigning funding was finally approved for a new prison. This building would have a different sort of name.
Today, when we hear the word penitentiary, we think of it as a generic term for prison, but an early eighteen hundreds at carried a specific meaning. The root of the word is penitent, which means to be repentant to seek change. That's the attitude that this new prison was meant body, a building full of inmates who were no longer awaiting a violent end to their lives, but instead were improving themselves. The out, Eastern state was designed to look like a gothic castle, intimidating imposing an impenetrable. Why Look at the exterior and most people would throw away their life of crime. At least that was the theory inside though it was a different story when need made number one entered the building on October, twenty fifth of eighteen, twenty nine he was ushered into a state of the art facility
criminals were housed in private cells with shower bath in toilets, central heating pipes ran through building and into each cell keeping the inmates warm in the winter. The original cell blocks even included skylights, and this was a huge change. President Andrew Jackson, sitting in his office in Whitehouse, didn't even have these luxuries but that lack of modern amenities was offset by the freedom he enjoyed, which was more than we can say for the inmates of eastern state,
and it was only downhill from their central heating and individual toilets sounded like a fantastic idea, but there were problems with them from the start. The plumbing that carry the hot water to each of the cells ran through tunnels that also how's the sewer pipes, as you can imagine, applying heat on a twenty four seven basis to pipes that carry human waste,
never a good idea because of this. The first few cell blocks that were constructed suffered from some offensive odors early, doorways and building were tiny, requiring inmates to stoop blow to pass through, and those doors didn't even open up into the hall inside the building. Instead cell doors open outward into tiny outdoor courtyards, where each prisoner was encouraged to be active to garden or to meditate quietly separating each courtyard was a ten foot wall meant to discourage communication between the prisoners. All of this complexity was designed to create an atmosphere of isolation. The toilet system was built the way it was because the prison staff needed to be able to remotely flush the toilets.
Ice a week rather than give the inmates control over that blushing, you see, could be used as a method of communication and for those rare moments when a prisoner was being moved through a cell block and could possibly be seen by other inmates. He always did so with a cloth bag over their head walking in on their first day being moved from one block to another, even going out into their private yard. Each prisoner wore a cloth bag, sometimes with eye holes, cut into it to engender a deep feeling of isolation and for a while Worked true to the stereo times that we ve come to expect from prison movies over the years. The eastern States penitentiary was no stranger to attempt to break out. This became possible.
In part because of changes to the lay out in flow of the present itself. Doors were enlarged, access to internal hallways were opened up in overcrowding put more than one in made in each cell. The first escape attempt was by inmate number ninety four Wm Hamilton he climbed out of a window in the wardens office, but was caught a short time later in eighteen, twenty seven, William Bitchy an inmate of fifteen years escaped with a friend: they managed to push a guard off one of the towers and in scale down the side before making a run for freedom. This she was pretty bold
state on the run for seven years and eventually get a job and Syracuse New York. What was the job you might ask? You worked as a crossing guard for the police department. Like I said, the man had got the most famous prison break, though, was Willie sudden. He was probably the second most famous inmate in eastern states, entire history and I'll get to number one in bit, but Willie he was sort of a criminal. Celebrity he'd been a bank robber before his time in eastern state. They call him the Babe Ruth of Bank robbing Slick Willie. The gentleman
but of course he got caught each act into eastern state in nineteen thirty, four, during his eleven years stay he tried escaping five times, but it was his last attempt that was in a fair to remember. Sutton, along with eleven other men dug a tunnel twelve feet down from cell number, sixty eight and then another one hundred feet straight out to breach the wall they removed the dirt from their excavations. Just like Shawshank redemption showed us hiding it in their pockets and dropping it in the yard. Tunnels had ventilation and support beams. It was a production like no other. It took the months, but on April third of nineteen, forty five, all twelve men slipped into the tunnel crawled to freedom. Some of the men actually evaded the authority
for a couple of months. Slick Willie, though, lasted about three minutes. There's a joke. In their summer, I think over the century and a half and eastern state penitentiary was in operation more than one hundred prisoners managed to break out all, but one were recaptured. I think we get it. Though people want to escape prison, it happens all over the world. Certainly, there are prisons with higher escape numbers, even here in the U S, but why the rush to leave the eastern state it turns out, was originally designed to house a maximum of three hundred criminals that was eating thirties and society is changing. In the beginning, most of the inmates were horse thieves. The nineteen twenties, though inmates were being sent in with darker crimes, rape, violence
murder. As a result, numbers swelled to an astounding two thousand. This nearly seven times. The original capacity with a shift in prisoner population came adjustments to the philosophy behind the penitentiary itself gone were the notions of hard work solitude and meditation in the minds of those who ran the overcrowded prison. Only one correct method would actually work torture. aside from the Strait jacket, which was often used as a way of containing unruly prisoners. One of the more frightening methods of punishment was a sea called affectionately, the mad cow,
ere. It resembled an old dentist, chair and prisoners would be strapped into it as tightly ass possible left four days without food. There are rumours that extended time spent in the chair resulted in amputations. Some inmates found themselves placed in the hall a small confining sell that had been dug out of the foundation of the building with only a tiny slot for food and air prisoners in the whole, which share their space with rats and insects for weeks. At a time, there was no bathroom there, no contact with other humans, no light too
by. Then there was the room where inmates were taken during the winter. They would be stripped naked, plunged into a bath of cold water and then strapped to the wall, to freeze throughout the night oftentimes. The guards would return to find a layer of ice on the skin of the man being punished, but none of those methods could hold a candle to what was known as the iron gag tarred to describe with words. But stick with me and I ll do my best to reinforce the no talking policy. punishment, brought the consequences directly to the offenders mouth. An inmates wrists would be chain behind their back with crude manacles and then a short chain would be connected to the wrists
on the other end of that chain would be a small iron clamp in that clamp was fastened to the tongue. Talking movement were struggling, would all result in the tongue being torn, never said that extreme blood loss even lead to death in many cases, but as hard as it is to believe some prisoners managed to rise. Above all of that sum, in fact,. managed to enjoy a fairly luxurious life inside eastern state inside one of the seven cell blocks that radiated off the central hub was a string of cells known as park avenue the inmates their enjoyed a bit more freedom, and none took advantage of that more than Al Capone. Today, Capone is remembered as a mob boss of near mythic proportions, and eastern state was his first experience with prison life
Just months after his been brutally murdered. Members of a rival gang in an event now referred to. As the Saint Valentine's day massacre, the phone was picked up in Philadelphia and convicted for carrying a concealed weapon with the eight months that spanned the summer of nineteen, twenty nine to the spring of nineteen thirty Capone called Park Avenue his home Here's what an article in a Philadelphia newspaper from August of nineteen, twenty nine had to say the whole room was used in the glow of a desk lamp which stood on a polish desk on the once grim walls of the penal chamber, hung tasteful paintings and the strains of a waltz were heard being emitted by a powerful cabinet, radio, receiver of handsome design and fine finnish. Even with his better than average accommodations opponents still complained, but it wasn't it
the food or the room temperature. No Capone, bold and brazen. My boss, that he was appears to have been haunted by the ghost of his past literally.
One night shortly after arriving at eastern state upon was heard screaming from his cell. It wasn't anger or disobedience that drove him to it, though, given was apparently scared when asked, he told the guards that he just wanted Jimmy to leave him alone and go away. Jimmy was attacking him, it seems and he wanted it to stop at first, the guards and other inmates were confused. There was no one else in Capone Cell and no Jimmy on the cell block, but then the dots were connected Jimmy. They guessed was really James Clark, one of the men killed by Capone's orders in the same Ellen, pines, day massacre, and if that were true, that Capone was screaming because he felt that Jimmy had followed him into the prison just to torment him eastern stay, close down and nineteen seventy, but was reopened and ninety ninety one as
You see him even without the inmates. So me dark seems to have remained behind in many who have step inside for a tour of come away with an experienced that's hard to forget the most common citing occurs in one of the guard towers that watches over the building and its perimeter, where a ghostly figure has been seen by many people. Others have reported the sounds of footsteps in the prison hallways in laughter that echoes down through the cell blocks. Soft mournful Wales have been heard there as well, In cell block twelve, a shadowy figure has been seen darting from cell to sell always noticed in the corner of the eye. Some of scenic brush away from a dark corner as a group of tourist pass by what others have seen it move up or down a wall with an enormous shadow, a spider. A few years ago, the Locksmith was called in to remove the lock on one of the original doors and cell block for after one hundred,
Forty years is understandably stubborn and this man was brought in to help out while there, though he experience something and HANS him to this day,. The Locksmith said that moments after he unlocked the sell, an unseen force, rushed out and pressed him against the wall of the hallway. For what felt like an eternity, this pin their income. move staring into the now open, sell. His heart froze walls inside he said recovered in faces dozens and dozens of faces, their expressions, riving with agony and were once free blacksmith left. Referring to the prison, the giant haunted house, he never set foot in the prison again
There is a lot to be debated in the world of prison reform. How inmates deserve to be treated well, rule imprison, Mitchell. Play in the overall realm of consequences and due process, we can even. explore our motives and methods transform overtime under pressure and through human broken. This it's a can of worms, and I don't have all the answers But there's an overwhelming feeling of guilt in all of this. The prison reform that eastern State represented at least originally, was born out of a guilt for earlier and more barbaric, methods and each inmate in their own way, was caught in a prison of their own personal guilt,
it's easy to see how anyone trapped inside might feel remorse and want desperately to get out. Maybe eastern state penitentiary really is haunted. Maybe there are real ghost that drift through the dark halls and shadows that move at the corner of our vision, considering all the horrific things that have taken place there over the years, it seems only natural for there to be some sort of echo still present, or maybe it's nothing more than madness. Some think it's crazy to believe that there are spirits, roaming, the halls of a prison or any building for that matter. It devised logic, its improvable Jimmy, never really hunted Al Capone. They say the man was haunted by guilt and nothing more. It's interesting to note that, even after his release from Eastern State, Al Capone still complained of Jimmy's presence.
back in Chicago and living at the Lexington hotel. He still scream for Jimmy to leave him alone. Screams would always bring his body guards running. They can always find the man alone, even though everyone else thought he was losing his mind that his guilt was the only real ghost haunting him day and night. Capone looked for help elsewhere. He hired a psychic name, Alice Brit to conduct this science for him and she begged Jimmy on Capone's behalf to leave the mob boss alone and that they hoped was the end of it. One day, a few weeks after the Seance Capone's personal attendant, a man named Jaime Cornish, stepped into Capone's quarters to retrieve something when he entered the room he immediately noticed a stranger standing near the window, phasing out to look down on the street. He glanced around the room for other visitors. No one was
how to be a Mr Capone's room. After all, the intruder would need dealt with. Turning back to the man, Cornish called out for his attention and then start the man, whoever he was had disappeared. This episode of Lore was researched, written and produced by me. Aaron Mahnke Lore is much more than upon cast there's a book series in bookstores around the country and on and the second season of the Amazon Prime Television show was recently released, check them both out, if you want more lore in your life by also make two other upon, casts aromatic ease, cabinet of curiosities and unobserved, and I thank you
enjoy both each one explores other areas of our dark history, ranging from bite sized episodes to season long dives into a single topic. You can learn about both of those shows and everything else going on all over in one central place: Thou world of lore dot com slash, and you can also follow the show on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, just search for lore podcast, all one word and then click that follow button. When you do say hi, I like it when people say hi and as always, thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-13.