Friday, January 13, 2012

Eastern State Pen's ghostly approach

BY AARON SAGERS

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly doesn't brag about its purported ghostly activity. Through my work at newspapers and magazines, and at Paranormal Pop Culture, I've have had the honor of working with the prison on multiple occasions, and never have they oversold or pushed the stories of hauntings inside the walls.

They don't need to, really; the site is so darn cool and loaded with rich history that it doesn't need the attention of paranormal TV shows to draw visitors. Sure, the locale is known to be famously haunted, but the people who work at Eastern State are relatively laid back about the spectral stories. Any time I've asked an employee about paranormal activity there, they'll talk openly but also seem content to let tourists and investigators have their own experiences - and decide for themselves whether there are ghosts there or not.

That's why this recent blog post by operations and programming specialist Amy Hollaman is so interesting.

In the Jan. 11 entry of the "Tour Guide Chronicles"- which provides behind-the-scenes thoughts and musings from various ESP employees - Hollaman discusses an experience from several years back when she and a coworker heard a series of noises that froze her with fear. Apparently the experience made such an impact that the pair left the prison in fear and only regained composure when they were two blocks away at the London Grill (seeking solace in a different sort of spirit).

It's an intriguing tale because it doesn't seem overly dramatic, and it isn't used as marketing material in the run-up to the Halloween season. They aren't trying to convince the reader about ghosts, but are just passing along an employee story. They handle it perfectly by posting it on a blog on any weekday.

Other historic sites with reported hauntings should learn from this tactic: Don't push your ghosts, don't sell the visitor or try to create a spooky vibe, and don't be unnecessarily theatrical. Just let the stories flow naturally and stand on their own when your employees and volunteers choose to open up.



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