Haunting Holmesburg Prison


If Holmesburg Prison isn’t haunted, it ought to be. The stone fortress was built in 1896, and quickly earned a reputation for violence. It was the site of the “Bake Oven” deaths in 1938, medical testing on prisoners in the 1960s, and the murder of the warden and deputy warden in 1973. The prison closed in 1995, when the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (named after the murdered wardens) opened across State Road.

This summer, the Philadelphia Prison System allowed a group of photographers to document the decaying structures. We wish to thank Shawn Hawes, Public Information Officer with the Philadelphia Prison System, for her help in making this possible.

Here is a sampling of the work from seven of the participants.

King Krush
See more of Mr. Krush’s work HERE

Chandra Lampreich
See more of Chandra’s work HERE

Vince Herbe
See more of Vince’s work HERE

Joseph E.B. Elliottt
See more of Joe’s work HERE

Kurt Tavares 
See more of Kurt’s work HERE

Brendan Higgins
See more of Brendan’s work HERE

Peter Woodall
See more of Pete’s work HERE

Peter Woodall is the co-editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for PhiladelphiaWeekly.com.


  1. Kendall Whitehouse

    For some additional photos from Holmesburg Prison, here’s my album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/15543694@N06/sets/72157645181098719/

  2. I worked there for six years….Was one of the scariest, depressing job site, I every worked at….

    • I was born and raised in Philadelphia (Mayfair) then moved to Bensalem right at the end of Roosavelt Blvd. Then we lived near Byberry hospital. We moved the same year the movie hollaween came out and I was yout. I used to hear my parents talk about the news and how patients excaped. Growing up, I’m attracted to all things old and scary!!! I can’t imagine how hard it must of been to work there? I would like to take a night tour in Holmesburg prison??? I would like to ask you some questions if you don’t mind???? Please respond???

  3. Awesome pictures! My old man worked there for years, it was cool to see where henworked!! Right after it closed he took me my brother and few people on a tour was neat but I was to young to appricate it! I even found some AAA keys for the cells after he passed, keep up the great work

  4. I’d love to get access. When will access ever again be granted???

  5. I was CO for 17 years, 8 years were spent in Holmesberg. I was in the October 1989 Riot, bigger then the 1970 Riot. I witnessed 3 murders, one is when the warden of Greaterford Prisons son was stabbed to death in front of I Bloc on Dec. 26th 1990. Warden Vauhn’s son died in my arms and the inmate was put on death row. The worst month of my career was Dec. of 1990, in which I received 3 valor awards for bravery. At the time, I was most highly decorated CO in the prison. It got as bad to where inmates tried to burn another inmate alive. On the 19th of Dec., 4 inmates tried to escape, all had several or more murder charges against them. They were captured by myself and several other COs on a roof in Holmesberg The other two were both in 1990. One in June on J Block and the other by B Block during the summer. I worked 12 to 15 hours for 6 days a week. I took my son in there on a hot summer day and there were places so cold in there, you would shiver. I know several COs who have seen full spirits in there.

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