Truth, Nature, Knowledge:

Three candles that illuminate the darkness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eastern State Pets....

Everyone in the paranormal community knows about Eastern State Penitentiary and its infamous otherworldly residents. Many of us have been there and experienced the landmark firsthand. While the structure and its ghosts get all the fame and media attention, the critters who were past residents and the ones who currently reside there rarely get even a small mention.

The current resident "pets" are the bats that reside in the area and within the buildings. They love to "buzz" investigators as they make their way through the cell blocks. It is almost as if they enjoy getting as close as they can while homing in on the many flying insects that they seek. It can be very entertaining, especially if you get folks who are screamers and are afraid of them.

Billed as a notable inmate, "Pep" the dog was allegedly sentenced and imprisoned for life at ESP in 1924 by then Pennsylvania Governor, Gifford Pinchot. Pep was alleged to be a most heinous criminal and was deemed "The Cat-Murdering Dog." It was reported that he had killed the beloved cat of Mrs. Pinchot, Governor Pinchot's wife. Whether or not this is true, no one really knows for sure. Pep did have his mugshot taken with his very own inmate number. He even had his own "cell" at the prison which is part of the walking tour there. According to the plaque that tells Pep's story, there were never any official prison records to validate the story. Could he have been a pet of one of the guards? A stray that prison officers "adopted?" Or could this have been a light-hearted prank played out by the prison workers? It is hard to say. One thing is for sure; Pep has been immortalized along with the other famous inmates.

With the closing of the prison in 1971, the human inhabitants moved on. With its grounds and buildings now quiet, ESP became home to some new four-legged residents- the cat colony. Neighborhood strays moved in and the grounds became the perfect habitat for them. It provided them with plenty of rodents and other feline favorites to catch and consume at their leisure. Over the years the colony grew and the cats began to show a uniformity in their conformations. Dan McCloud, known as "Dan the Cat Man" cared for the cats for 28 years. In later years, the cats were trapped by the local Spayed Club in 1993 and all were either spayed or neutered. By 2003, the population ceased to exist with the deaths of the last remaining animals.
Artist Linda Brenner pays tribute to the cats and to Dan McCloud with her art installation at the prison entitled The Ghost Cats. 36 white-casted spectres "roam" and "lounge" throughout the prison and along its ominous walls and grounds. The "cats" can be quite startling if you are not aware of them as they look quite real at first glance. It is a challenge to find all 36 as they are placed in some very precarious places on occasion. When I spoke to one of the staff members there during our recent investigation, she told me that they move them periodically so they may not ever be in the same place twice. The casts were made to look exactly like the original colony cats, modeled with their same body types. The exhibit is a testament to the compassion of Dan the Cat Man and to the survival instincts of his beloved cats.

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