Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I would like to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The penitentiary was in operation for 142 years, and closed in the 1970s. While it was in operation, thousands of inmates inhabited its cell blocks for crimes as minor as petty larceny and as major as multiple murders. After it closed in the 1970s, it lay abandoned for years. While actively in operation, it was designated as an official historical site and, because of that, it retained a protected status. In the 1980s, the penitentiary was reopened for tours. Over the past few decades, restoration of the site has been underway. Many people claim that it is haunted by the souls of those who were imprisoned there. Because I was curious about the energies that I would pick up on there, as well as the spirits of those who had the misfortune of being incarcerated at this historic institution, I agreed to take a day trip and open myself up to a unique way of learning about people of the past.
Why Explore the Darker Side?
Given that I would be connecting in spirit with some of the country’s most nefarious criminals, some people may question why I would voluntarily expose myself to the inevitable scenes of violence, negative feelings, troubled personalities, and more that the men and women of the past would send me. My answer to this is simple: I believe in learning from every experience in life. Both positive and negative experiences have a lot to teach us. As a spirit medium, I am exposed to many cathartic experiences that I do not necessarily want to see, feel, or hear; however, it is only through research and experiences with beings from all walks of life that I can learn about, and strive to understand, the depth of human nature.
Exploring the Past through Mediumship
Walking into the castle-like fortress, I opened up to spirit in order to reach back into the past to see what it was like for prisoners who were incarcerated there. I mentally sent the intention to my spirit guides to focus on the earliest days of the penitentiary. Immediately, I picked up on the energies of the people who were initially housed in the cells. Extreme loneliness, depression, and even madness pervaded the souls while in residence. Each one was confined to an individual cell with no contact with human beings, other than limited communication with the guards and the chaplain. Due to the lack of human contact, they often spoke out loud to themselves and suffered from hallucinations. Solitary confinement did not reform them; it depleted them of their humanness and their ability to relate to others. Reality became a blur. They no longer knew what was real or what was a figment of their imagination. Paranoia and desperation clawed at their souls. It did not matter whether they committed petty crimes or the more serious crime of murder…each one of them was kept in solitary confinement for years at a time. Some of them adjusted, but most of them suffered from delusions and depression.
Reform through Solitary Penitence – A Revolutionary Idea
When the facility opened in the 1800s, the founders thought that the best way to reform convicted felons was penitence in solitude. The idea was that this would give the person time to think about their crimes and search for forgiveness from God. This revolutionary idea was conceived as an answer to the problems that had emerged from keeping prisoners in one holding cell together. In the past, prisoners who congregated together usually emerged from prison with quite an education in crime. However, before the construction of the final cellblocks from the original design was completed, the architecture was altered to include a second story. The number of people incarcerated had greatly increased, and it was not long before solitary confinement was no longer possible.
Eastern State Penitentiary is a very unique structure. It has a round rotunda in the center of the building from which the main cellblocks spread outwards, making it look like a large asterisk from an aerial view. When standing in the center, you can see down the corridors of each of the main cellblocks. When I glanced toward cellblock five, I picked up on some very strong negative energies. I believe there were two reasons for this. The first piece of information I picked up on was the unfair treatment of the men of color who were confined there. It was a segregated cellblock, and prior to the civil rights movement, the men incarcerated at the penitentiary were treated as though their lives were not as important as others. The lives of these men were devalued, and violence toward them from guards and other prisoners was often overlooked. The second piece of information I picked up on had to do with riots. I kept getting the impression that a riot originated on that cellblock, possibly the last riot that took place in 1961. I performed some research on this and have not yet uncovered whether a major riot started there.
Not Ghosts or Lost Souls
There was so much energy and information I was picking up from the spirits who were sharing information with me about their stay at the penitentiary. All of the souls I communicated with that day had crossed over into heaven. They were not ghosts or souls that were lost or stuck in purgatory, nor were they in “hell.” Hell is a concept designed to instill fear as a way of preventing negative behavior on earth. To me, hell is not a place but a state of mind that can be reached through our own actions on this plane. These souls were communicating with me from the Other Side. Their demeanors were calm as they conveyed the stories of their lives. Energetically, they felt lighter than those who have not crossed over into heaven. Souls who are temporarily stuck between heaven and earth feel energetically heavy due to their unresolved sadness and frustration. They do eventually cross over to receive healing, and it is often the angels who help guide them back to heaven’s gateway.
Death Row Stories from the Other Side
The most interesting experience I had was on Death Row. As soon as I walked in, I felt several souls rush forward wanting to communicate with me. I sensed that some of them were maniacal or deranged during their lifetimes on earth. Several had suffered from acute mental illness that led to an extreme lack of empathy in their lifetimes for their victims. I asked one man to step forward to tell me his story. He sent me lightning-quick flashes of images of him committing his crimes accompanied by three words: murder, rape, molestation. I could smell the smoke of his cigarettes in the air and sense that he was about 5’10” or 5’11”. He was decidedly thin with pock-marked skin, and he walked in a laidback manner in which he slightly leaned back making his legs and hips move forward before the rest of him. He was remorseful. In fact, all of them were. I did not realize it at first, but as soon as I had set foot on death row and reached out to those in spirit, my head bent down to the point where I was looking at the floor. A feeling of shame was transmitted through the link. My friend who was with me commented on how my head remained in that position the entire time I was in the cellblock. It is interesting to note that the man in spirit told me that all of the men who were on death row at the penitentiary belonged there, not just for the crimes they were convicted of, but also for the ones they got away with.
Healing in Heaven
Despite what people think, all souls have the option to go to heaven and receive healing. God is the ultimate forgiver, and when people commit heinous crimes on earth, they are given the opportunity to heal and do better the next time. Souls that behave in such a negative fashion are usually very young souls that are living from a place of fear rather than love. That fear drives them to perform acts that harm themselves and others. Perhaps the environment in which they are raised, as well as their mental stability, impact their behaviors. That is not to say that the parents are to blame. There could be many extenuating factors present in society that drives someone to choose a life of crime. We are all in control of our choices, though, and when people are mentally unstable or are continually exposed to negative circumstances, sometimes people choose to take the low road or the road that gets them to where they want to be regardless of the consequences. Judgments such as that often have severe consequences not only for the people who are their victims, but also for the perpetrator because crimes committed against others are crimes committed against themselves.
Spiritual Explorations Lead to Enlightenment
When I originally agreed to the exploratory field trip to Eastern State Penitentiary, I was not sure what I would experience or be shown by those in spirit. I was not concerned about demons, negative entities, or possession, because these are human concepts born out of fear. I knew that I would see, feel, and hear things through my spiritual connection that would be unpleasant and, at times, horrific. I also knew I could turn off the connection at any time. If I felt I needed extra assistance, I could always call on God or Archangel Michael to help extricate me from a negative spiritual situation. I rest comfortably in the knowledge that I am safe and loved by God and the angels. I know that fear has the power to create illusions that seem very real. One of our tasks on earth is to learn how to manage the emotions that are based in fear in order to navigate past them to the truth. Through my spiritual connections and mediumship abilities, I have learned that all of us are connected to one another through the most powerful energy in the universe—love. All of the work I do originates from love, as does my connection to every being. We are all spiritual beings on journeys of the soul. Moreover, we are learning lessons that enable us to grow and evolve in the light and love from which we were created.
With Light and Love,
Karen T. Hluchan
Spirit Medium, Motivational Speaker, Reiki Master, & Author of How Have You Loved?