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Eastern State Penitentiary: Creepiest Tour Ever

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Eastern State Penitentiary

    You probably weren't raised to think hanging around a prison is good use of your time.

    However! Mom and Dad may not have heard of Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, Penn.), a prison that's no longer in use, but completely tour-able.

    Creepy but fun, Eastern State was "home" to Al Capone for eight months in 1929-30. You can tour his cell, set up just as it was when he was there. His cell on the Park Avenue Block had -- no joke -- fine furniture, oriental rugs and a cabinet radio.

    Other notable inmates included "Slick" Willie Sutton (who escaped, only briefly, via an inmate-dug 100-foot-deep tunnel), Morris "The Rabbi" Bolber, William "Blackie" Zupkoski, and probably many other terrible criminals with cool nicknames.

    Opened in 1829 as part of a controversial movement to change the behavior of inmates through "confinement in solitude with labor," says the website, the place set the standard in prison design. More than 300 other prisons actoss the world have been based on Eastern State's "wagon-wheel," or radial, floor plan. (John Haviland won a hefty $100 prize for his design.)

    Now through March, you can take a Winter Adventure Tour. An expert tour guide will show you (depending on weather) the winter cellblocks, surveillance hub, Al Capone's cell, and Death Row. Uplifting!

    On a more wholesome note, the tour includes a free cup of hot chocolate.

    The visitors center is free to the public. Guided tours are $12 for adults (print coupon for $1 off here) and $8 for students/kids. (Not recommended for kids younger than seven.)

    Tours begin at 10 a.m., noon, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. on weekdays, and every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Self-guided audio tours are also available, and for some reason they're narrated by Steve Buscemi.

    Many areas are cold or unheated, so dress warmly.

    When you're done, head across the street to a cozy coffeehouse called Mugshots (2100 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, Penn.). Hey, there are far worse things this place could've been named.