History Buffs, Ghost Hunters Drive Increase in Prison Tourism


Old prisons are growing as tourist attractions, reports USA Today, as increasing numbers of history buffs and ghost hunters pay visits to famous lockups such as Alcatraz and less-known state facilities. “We’ve been shocked by the interest,” said Steve Picker, director of the Jefferson City, Mo., Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has seen visitors through the shuttered Missouri State Penitentiary increase from 3,290 visitors in its first tour year in 2009 to 17,200 last year.

“We’ve been growing by double-digit percentages every year for the past 10 years,” said Sean Kelley, director of public programming at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, which draws more than 250,000 visitors a year. Picker said his prison saw a big increase in visitors last year after it was featured on the cable TV show “Ghost Hunter.” Day tours of historic prisons take a couple hours and typically cost about $12. Nighttime tours, which attract the ghost hunters, cost $35 at Alcatraz and Jefferson City. An overnight “paranormal investigation” in Missouri costs $95.

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