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Hunting Ghosts (the Academy, Pt. 2) - Philadelphia, PA




If you just happened to jump into this post from anywhere that's not "Hunting Ghosts (the Academy - North Carolina), Pt. 1", the very brief summary is that I first worked on a Ghost Hunters live broadcast for two years, then joined the spinoff show, "Ghost Hunters Academy". This post details the second and third stops along our months-long journey: a quick trip to Rhode Island and an investigation in Philadelphia.




We are in Rhode Island to film a short meeting at the TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) headquarters. This is the place where the Ghost Hunters team runs the operation. While here, I don't get an opportunity to see inside the office - our stop here is that short.

photo of the TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) headquarters - photo by KilmerMedia

With not much else to do here, my interest shifts to the Sleep Number bed in my hotel room. It's new-to-me and intriguing... After these long drives, if I could sleep on a cloud, I would, but it turns out this fancy bed doesn't quite offer that. Playing around with the settings on the wired remote, it feels like a balloon is inflating and deflating underneath me, which is probably the gist of how it works. The accommodations here are nice, but the bed is a surprising letdown.

a nice hotel room in Warwick, Rhode Island - photo by KilmerMedia

In the morning, we head to "the city of brotherly love" and our nation's first capital: Philadelphia.




downtown Philadelphia during the day - photo by KilmerMedia

Having some time off in Philly, I use it to explore. On my free day, I visit the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, check out the Old City district, and dine at City Tavern. The tavern, sanctioned by the National Park Service, is a historic replica building, on the exact same spot where the likes of George Washington and John Adams drank and ate over 200 years ago. Today, you can order a turkey pot pie based on Martha Washington's recipe and order a beer brewed following Thomas Jefferson's recipe (I ordered both of those). The waiters and waitresses wearing traditional 1700s/1800s outfits make the experience a little hokey, yet those folks are very knowledgeable about the place and provide excellent service. Yes, I do think I'll have another beer.

[2023 update: the pandemic hit the restaurant hard, and it closed in 2020.]

As for the today's topic, in this fine city, the subject of our work is Eastern State Penitentiary. Even during the day, what an ominous, quiet place it is, with the thick, tall walls blocking out most of the city sounds.

Eastern State Penitentiary courtyard in Philadelphia during the day - photo by KilmerMedia

At night, the uneasy feeling is heightened. After all, you're working within the confines of prison walls, with no easy way out. Being alone in this space makes you feel claustrophobic and trapped, and worst-case scenarios (earthquake, fire, basically any disaster) fill your head.

At times, like on the battleship, I have pretty much free rein of the place, which is great. Eastern State first opened in 1829 and closed in 1971. Its neo-Gothic look was intentional, designed to appear intimidating and, hopefully, serve as a deterrent for anyone thinking of committing a crime. Al Capone was housed here, and his cell is a featured spot.

Al Capone's preserved prison cell - photo by KilmerMedia

Outside, an automated spotlight installed at the top of a guard tower shines back and forth, lighting up the open space between the inner cell blocks and outer prison walls. As the beam of light scans back and forth, a rhythm starts to emerge, almost like watching double Dutch jumpropes in elementary school. I couldn't help but to think about the best moment to start scurrying through the darkness for a jailbreak.

Back inside the main cell block, there is a lot of waiting around. My counterpart, Erich, and I change out camera and walkie-talkie batteries for the team, when needed. We keep the coolers stocked and the snack table full. Basically, anything random that comes up, we take care of. More exploring for now....

One of the funnier moments during the investigation is when our seasoned ghost hunters, Steve and Dave, plant some dry ice, to test how the Academy cadets will react. Soon, we hear some commotion and yelling from one of the prison corridors, and as the mysterious cloud from the dry ice hovers near a random prison cell, the cadets are left to analyze the situation. When our time in Philly comes to a close, we caravan to Buffalo, New York, where the team will investigate a former, historic railroad station, Buffalo Central Terminal.


Coming Up: Buffalo, New York St. Augustine, Florida Cedar Grove, New Jersey


"Hunting Ghosts (the Academy, Pt. 2) - Philadelphia, PA" (2009) Written by: Justin Kilmer Edited by: Janine Kilmer

Unless otherwise noted, all media and text on this page are copyrighted © by Justin Kilmer.

For more Eastern State Penitentiary history and tour info, check out:


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