1945 Prison Escape Tunnel Found

‘Tunnel Cam’ With Live Images of Tunnel Interior Will Be on View to the Public

PHILADELPHIA, March 2 /PRNewswire/ — A secret tunnel that led twelve prisoners to freedom sixty-one years ago has been located and filmed by archaeologists at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

When twelve inmates escaped through the tunnel in 1945, the story made national headlines. Flamboyant bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton took public credit for masterminding the escape. It remains one of the most famous prison breaks in American history.

Archaeologists from John Milner Associates excavated the tunnel’s sealed entry and exit points in the spring of 2005. Then, using ground-penetrating radar in the fall of 2005, they discovered the tunnel’s exact location beneath the penitentiary’s southwest courtyard. The team used an auger (a tool similar to a post hole digger) to dig down 10 feet to the cavity below. A miniature camera, lowered into the auger hole, documented the tunnel’s tiny dimensions, and the wooden bracing and structural materials that have held it intact for six decades. The team quit for the winter in November of 2005.

Work on the tunnel will resume in March 2006. The team will dig additional holes and use more sophisticated lighting and camera technology to see the interior in greater detail and, specifically, to search for the wiring, bulbs and sockets that once lit the tunnel’s interior. The camera (which the team has nicknamed “The Tunnel Cam”) will be on view to the public for the first time at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 30. The archaeological team and ESP staff will also be on hand to answer questions.

The Tunnel Cam will remain on view to the public during the opening weekend of the 2006 season, April 1 and 2. The Tunnel Cam is part of a weeklong celebration of the tunnel’s sixty-first anniversary (April 3, 1945), which also includes a dramatic reenactment of the escape and living history tours.

Eastern State Penitentiary is located at 22nd & Fairmount Ave., just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More information, the public call (215) 236-3300, or visit: http://www.easternstate.org/.

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