Notable Inmates

Victor Babe Andreoli

Victor "Babe" Andreoli

Convicted of killing a Pennsylvania State Trooper in 1937 Andreoli arrived at Eastern State Penitentiary to serve a life sentence for 1st degree murder. He escaped in 1943, apparently by hiding in a delivery truck that was leaving the prison. Several weeks later the police caught up to Andreoli in a Chester, PA diner where he was shot dead.

Morris The Rabbi Bolber

Morris "The Rabbi" Bolber

When Morris "The Rabbi" Bolber entered Eastern State in 1942, he was serving a life sentence as a member of an arsenic murder ring located in Philadelphia. Called "a veteran witch doctor and compounder of charms," Bolber was one of the leaders of the group. They appealed to women who were willing to murder husbands (arsenic was not the only method used) in order to collect on their husbands' insurance policies. Between 1932 and 1937, the group was responsible for the deaths of at least 30 people. Sixteen men and women were convicted for participating in the syndicate, including Bolber and Horace Perlman, who also served time at Eastern State for the murders.

After his incarceration, Bolber joined the Jewish congregation in the new Eastern State Penitentiary synagogue. One of the Penitentiary's most dedicated volunteers, Joseph Paull, also took an interest in him. Mr. Paull's concern deeply moved Bolber: less than two weeks before his death at Eastern State in 1954, Bolber wrote of the volunteer, "...As for me, I remember his numerous, never to be forgotten, acts of kindness shown me. [...] Therefore will I pray for him, a prayer he surely deserves for all the good he has done for me."

Joe Buzzard

Joe Buzzard

Perhaps no family had a closer connection to Eastern State than the Buzzards of Pennsylvania’s Welsh Mountains. From the late 1800s to the mid 1900s five brothers (Abe, Ike, Jacob, Martin, and Joe) were all imprisoned at Eastern. Joe Buzzard, the youngest of the clan, considered himself one of the premier horse thieves in the country. A remnant of a past era, Joe was the only horse thief in the prison when he entered Eastern for the final time in 1939. There was a time when horse theft was the number one crime at the prison.

Leo Callahan

Leo Callahan

Of the approximately 100 inmates to escape from Eastern State, Leo Callahan is the only one that got away with it. Assault and Battery with Intent to Kill brought Callahan to ESP and a makeshift wooden ladder brought him out. In 1923 Callahan and five other inmates built a ladder that they used to scale the East wall of the Penitentiary. His five accomplices were all eventually recaptured, but Callahan is still at large (although he would now be over 110 years old).

Al Capone

Alphonse "Scarface" Capone

Chicago’s most famous mob boss spent eight months at Eastern State in 1929-1930. Arrested for carrying a concealed, deadly weapon, this was Capone’s first prison sentence. His time in Eastern State was spent in relative luxury. His cell on the Park Avenue Block had fine furniture, oriental rugs, and a cabinet radio.

For more information about Capone's stay at Eastern State, download this document written by historic site staff.

Freda Frost

Freda Frost

Female inmates were part of the landscape at Eastern State for almost 100 years, and Freda Frost was the last of them. Transferred to the Muncy Industrial Home for Women in 1923 Frost’s departure marked the end of an era. Frost had been serving a 20 year sentence for murder; she had poisoned her husband.

Clarence Rae

Clarence Alexander Rae

Rae was brought to Eastern State in 1916 after he was convicted of kidnapping a young boy. Over the course of his stay at the prison Rae penned a book of poetry, entitled Tales of a Walled Town, about his time at the institution. Eventually released, Rae found his way back into prison after he was caught stealing books.

Willie Sutton

William Francis Sutton

Audio Tour Stop 15

One of the most famous bank robbers in American History, "Slick" Willie spent 11 years at Eastern State Penitentiary. In 1945 Sutton, along with 11 other prisoners, escaped from Eastern State in an inmate dug tunnel that went almost 100 feet underground. Sutton was recaptured just minutes later. Over the course of his criminal career Sutton is credited with over 50 bank robberies, 3 successful escapes from prison, and over 30 years served behind bars. He died in 1980.

Frederick Tenuto

Frederick Tenuto

Frederick Tenuto was a hired gun with long standing ties to the Philadelphia world of organized crime. In 1945 he escaped from Eastern State in the doomed tunnel escape with 11 other inmates. He was the last to be recaptured. Tenuto was caught in Brooklyn, NY two months later when he was apprehended planning a bank robbery. A transfer to Philadelphia’s Holmesburg Prison in 1946 did not help matters much. He escaped from there too. He was never recaptured.

Charles Yerkes

Charles Yerkes

The Philadelphia born Yerkes was one of Eastern State’s most prominent inmates of the 19th century. Yerkes was sentenced to 33 months for larceny in the early 1870s, though he wound up serving only 7 months. After his release he went on to help design and finance public transportation, most notably in Chicago and London. There is a crater on the moon named after him. Yerkes is the inspiration for the Theodore Dreiser book The Financier.

William Zupkoski

William "Blackie" Zupkoski

The self proclaimed "Toughest Man in Philadelphia", Zupkoski was sentenced to 70-140 years at Eastern State for over 40 counts of armed robbery. He was apprehended in 1927 following a shoot out with police in a local hospital. While at Eastern State "Blackie" continued his trouble making ways and frequently found himself in "The Hole" and at odds with his fellow inmates.