Eastern State Penitentiary once held some of America's most notorious criminals.
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.
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
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."
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).
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.
William Francis "Slick Willie" Sutton
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.