We frequently hear stories about couples who met at ESP, had their first dates at ESP, their anniversaries, marriage proposals, wedding photos, and other momentous occasions.
Last month, we asked those of you with modern-day ESP love stories to share them with us for a chance to win a candlelit dinner amid the vaulted, sky-lit cells of the penitentiary. Several entered, but only one couple will win. The top five entries are listed below.
To vote for your favorite story, leave a comment below with the appropriate letter choice. The couple with the most votes on Valentine's Day wins!
Thanks to all who entered, and best of luck to the finalists!
A. Greg Snyder
My wife & I had one of our first dates at ESP. Layed out on the lawn & watched the Shawshank Redemption (not the most romantic movie at times, but it was a good time). Before the movie we had someone take a picture of us. It was our 1st picture together and to this day it still sits in a frame on our bedside table and it will sit there for a very long time. Thanks ESP!
B. Dawn Haggerty
When I first met my now-husband, I was new to this area, having moved from Detroit. He would take me to the places in Philly he knew... South Street, Rittenhouse Square, etc. I wanted to see the more unique areas and I was surprised to learn that he, working for a prison himself, had never even heard of Eastern State Penn so I took HIM on a date there, and the firehouse restaurant across the street. It was on that date he asked me to take the next step and move in together. 10 years later, this past summer, we went back together for the first time since that day to take our family photos.
C. Diane Wallace
"Let's go look at the freaks!" During the 3 years that I lived in an apartment near Fairmount, this was often a request made to my boyfriend, Scott, for an evening activity during the months of September and October. By "freaks" I was referring (in the most loving sense possible, of course) to the terrifying cast of characters unleashed onto Fairmount Ave during Terror Behind the Walls. Performing his signature combo of shoulder-shaking laugh and "there's something not quite right with you but I'm gonna go with it because I love you" eye roll that gets me every time, Scott would throw out an elbow and together we'd walk down to check it out.
We've been together for 6 years now, and although there haven't been any momentous occasions where we got engaged (not yet at least) or made a baby (which, um, hopefully no one has actually done?) at ESP, there were smaller moments: those walks in the fall, eating ice cream and people watching while sitting on the wall (which we inevitably got kicked off of)...screaming, laughing, and cozying up to each other when a seemingly innocuous bush turned into a person and scared the heck out of us during Terror Behind the Walls...grinning with nerdish delight when we heard Steve Buschemi's voice narrating our first tour...yes, we even bonded over the cheesy yet always funny "pretend like you're going to the bathroom" photo while hovering over a toilet in one of the open cells. It makes my heart happy to think of all the fun times we've shared there, and I'd love to add a candlelit dinner with my ball and chain (sorry, had to do it) to the list
D. Jen Lynch
Basically put, I'm weird. I've been broken up with before because I told a boy I like graveyards. I can't help it - from a young age, I just seemed to find history, beauty and mystery in what others found run down and creepy, and let's be serious - Eastern State has that in spades. Then when I hit college and studied sociology, projects on ESP only made my love for this historical site grow but let's be real again - sociology lessons don't make for a sexy date. That's why I was fairly shocked when Andy agreed to walk countless blocks with me all the way to Eastern State from the PATCO stop so that we could check it out on a date. The whole walk there, which took forever and ended up with us sweaty messes (again, not sexy), was filled with even less sexy ramblings about everything I had learned over the years about ESP's history and its social ramifications. For some reason, he liked me enough to endure my mini-documentary and once we finally arrived there, we had the most wonderful time, wandering through the cell blocks and even being lucky enough to check out Klondike. Being there with him that first time and thinking about the lonely prisoners of the past got us talking - what if we were stuck there without each other? What if some crazy time warp happened and we got sucked into the past of ESP - how would we escape? The answers to those questions, both serious and goofy, brought us so much closer together. This only grew every time we visited afterwards, from when we would hold each other's hands in a vice grip trying to be brave and not use our flashlights during Terror Behind the Walls, to our impromptu and amazing viewing of old prison movies in ESP through Secret Cinema. I'm so lucky to have found someone like Andy who shares my great appreciation and love for ESP. Every time we visit Eastern State, or even just talk about it, our memories there and its inherent beautiful sadness just reinforce my feelings for this special guy who accepts me, understands me, and most importantly is just plain weird.
E. Emily Rupert
Our individual renditions of how we met at Eastern State Penitentiary:
Patrick: It’s basically the story of “Brown Eyed Girl”
Emily: Uhm, okay. I guess I’ll elaborate a little bit. It’s crazy sometimes where circumstances will take you. I was in need of money, as purchasing college textbooks and moving into a new apartment meant my bank account was close enough to zero to make me nervous. Patrick was in need of money as his hours at work were not cutting for his monthly expenses, like providing for a child from the Philippines named Lady. And, in both of our cases, friends had told us about Terror Behind the Walls, encouraging us to try out for a position there. I guess we know a lot of people who think we are monsters. But taking the advice, I reluctantly went to the audition. I almost didn’t get hired—Amy sent me an e-mailed me saying if I can make it to orientation later that day I had the job. I was a Titan—so I was going to float around different zones depending on necessity. The first night—practice run I was put into Gauntlet, the zone where Patrick was permanently working. And actually, thanks to Chris Hess, the zone manager who decided he wanted me to stay in Gauntlet, I was to continue working there as the crazy, rubber knife wielding barber, Patrick somewhere else as an insane doctor of sorts.
Eventually we began warming up to each other after our initial meeting where he told me a story about going to New Jersey and encountering a man with a hooked arm (it didn’t take me long to catch onto his outlandish story telling and not take anything he said too seriously), with the occasional conversation about how he had spent the night alone in his room watching Hulu reruns or how I had to ride my bike to and from work everyday, even when it was raining. Patrick—in retrospect it was pretty sly of him—offered to give me rides home, provided that it was raining and he wasn’t riding a woman’s mountain bike. And so the first night it rained, I jumped on the opportunity to get home dry and see what Patrick was like when he wasn’t a monster. It ended up being quite enjoyable—I tried to convince him I lived in New Jersey so we could go to the beach (In reality, oddly enough, we only live about ten minutes from each other). One day I got a text message from an unknown number which turned out to be Patrick who somehow managed to get my number from somebody asking if I wanted a ride to work that day. I remember my heart skipping a beat (or more then just one).
When he went to drop me off after about a week he asked me if it was okay that he had a crush on me. I think my heart skipped a few more beats. (I told him it was totally fine). Subsequent weeks were spent staying up late together—me writing papers editing videos after scaring people at Terror. We started going on dates, meeting each other’s friends and family, and going on trips to Maine. Things have been great! We were both fortunate enough to avoid the ghosts of prisoners, but neither of us could escape Cupid’s quiver. Working at Eastern State Penitentiary led Patrick into my life and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Patrick: What time is it?! Valen-time!!