Photo Essay

Falsely Accused

Cannot Bring Myself To Leave

The journal of Daniel Monroe

May 21, 1998 - Trial has ended. The jury of my so-called "peers" sentenced me to life in solitary confinement for the attempted murder of my wife who's in a coma at Temple University Hospital. My case is...special, and I am not permitted to leave the city. Only two problems with that: 1) I'm innocent. 2) Someone wants to keep that fact under wraps. The City has placed me under guard in an unused wing at the notorious Eastern State Penitentiary which is now a museum. The facility is in ruins, and deteriorating rapidly.

May 24th, 1998 - First night at ESP. I'm marched into the rotunda under the light of the moon with only the clothes on my back and some military rations. Paint peels off the walls, the plaster and mortar collects in piles across the floor. The heat doesn't work and the ceiling cannot hold back the water.

July 2nd, 1998 - I sleep during the day when I'm not allowed to roam. I'm held captive under the noses of the general public who tour daily, ignorant to my presence. By day, I'm restricted to the areas closed to the public. But sometimes I get out. Ghost stories have been circulating, but I suspect that they are mostly about me.

July 15, 1998 - There may be some truth to the ghost stories. At night, I'm allowed to wander. I've seen some interesting things. I think there's a dog here too, I better hide my rations. The guards stay out of sight, but I catch them in the corner of my eye sometimes.

September 4, 1998 - I found a cell with a stained glass window. Carved into the wall is the word "Hope". It's not an exhibit...I found a fingernail.

September 5, 1998 - I got trapped in a cell. I called for the guards to help, but no one responded. I'm beginning to think they don't come in here...they have their cameras, I guess.

[page ripped out, next entry isn't dated] Still trapped. Saw a guard wander by, whistling. Paid no attention to me...tried to grab him, but I couldn't reach. What the hell is going on here? Why...

...oh God....give me hope...please.

September 8?, 1998 - The cell door randomly opened last night, and I was able to get out. I won't sleep in any of the cells with doors now. I returned to the 'Hope' cell. A new word was added: "Patience". Somehow, I don't think I'm alone anymore.

November 17, 1998 - Getting cold outside. I don't see many visitors during the day anymore, and the museum staff has cut back drastically. I haven't seen a guard in weeks. After night falls, I'm going to try to scale the eastern wall.

Me again - tried to scale the wall but bailed on the idea. Whistling guard could be heard in one of the corner towers. I did, however, find a loose rock in the wall and moved it aside to find a passage. Passage didn't go far, but I found some bones and an old inmates uniform. Inmate's name was Callahan. I'll have to look that up.

December 23, 1998 - Guards left the cell block gate open for me today. I took to wandering the facility during daylight. One of the tour guides wanted to show off a cell where "Slick" Willie Sutton escaped through a tunnel dug under the wall. It was the cell where I got trapped. He also told me of another successful escapee: Leo Callahan, who scaled the eastern wall back in 1923. Curious, I wonder if it's the same as the pile of bones I found.

January 5th, 1999 - Happy New Years, a few days late. I've been ill, and this place isn't really where one celebrates. I'm celebrating the fact that I have not been shut in since that day I learned about Callahan. I wander about constantly, but no one pays me much attention anymore.

I set up a makeshift office in one of the cells. The cell smells like urine and it's always damp, but its quiet and cool and it has a table where I can write and draw.

March 24, 1999 - I've been here a year now. I just realized that I haven't had anything to eat in days. I don't remember the last morsel I've tasted. Not hungry. Whistling guard woke me last night while on his rounds. He nodded to me - first time he's acknowledged my presence in a year.

June 3, 1999 - I feel strange. I feel like I fall asleep for weeks or even months on end. I don't remember what I did during that time, and I don't remember eating, ever. For that matter, I'm never hungry. Only way to keep track of time is the calendar in the Rotunda.

September 4, 1999 - Woke in the "Hope" cell today. Once again, I was woken by the Whistling Guard. He must have traded shifts with someone, it couldn't have been much past noon when I awoke. New words carved all over the walls: "Cannot Leave", written in several places.

September 7, 1999 - Cornered Whistling Guard and finally spoke with the man. I think the man is a bit touched. He says he's been working here since they finished Cellblock 12 (which, I learned, was finished in 1911).

November 12, 1999 - I was awakened by that strange dog this morning. He was in the doorway of my "Hope" cell making quite a racket with his meal, a large meaty bone. It smelled sour, no idea what it was.

November 16th, 1999 - Stumbled upon the dog again...still chewing at that massive bone, now completely devoid of any meat. I tried to pet the dog, but he cowered away. I followed him to the cell where I got trapped, but I didn't approach the cell. The dog poked his head out of the cell to growl and bare its teeth at me. Reason enough to halt me in my tracks. But I have no interest in going back in there, not since that night.

January 1, 2000 - "Yesterday Upon the Stair, I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. Oh I wish he'd go away...." ("Antigonish" by William Hughes Mearns)

January 2, 2000 - I'm not really here. This isn't really happening. It'll all go away, just as soon as I can wake up. I had a conversation with Leo Callahan today. Or should I say I dreamed that I had that conversation. He told me that I cannot leave.

[page torn out]

January 5, 2000 - An old copy of the Daily News reports that my wife has awakened from her coma. It also reports that after she is healthy, she'll resume her trial. I don't have the whole article. I'll have to sneak a copy from the clerk's desk tomorrow morning.

March 17, 2000 - Finally, news about my wife. Not much detail, but her trial resumes tomorrow. Whistling Guard startled me while reading over my shoulder. He wasn't whistling. I asked him about the dog. Dog's name is Pep, and he's actually an inmate. I told him about my encounter. Whistling Guard didn't seem to take interest.

July 5, 2000 - Roof of the Kitchen building caught fire last night thanks to some errant fireworks. Fire department was able to put it out, but the place took a lot of water damage. Pep tried to save someone caught in the fire, but the person was apparently dead already. Body got dragged back to the cell where I got trapped. No one noticed.

July 6, 2000 - I had a dream that Leo Callahan told me to visit Sutton's Tunnel Cell. I went back to the "Hope" cell instead. The words "Hope" and "Patience" were scratched out with the remains of that damn dog's bone. I went to rewrite "Hope", but got a shooting pain up my leg when I grabbed the bone, and I collapsed.

When I recovered, I snuck a peak at the clerk's newspaper. Wife's trial is still ongoing, but things aren't looking good. Seems the state is questioning her sanity. She claims to be able to communicate with ghosts. I guess that's something she and I have in common.

August 10, 2000 - Ran into that friendly tour guide again. He informed me that my wife had been acquitted. "No body was ever found," he said, "Jury got hung up on that." Body? What body?

September 16, 2000 - Woke very early, still dark. Dreamed of Callahan again, bugging me to visit Sutton's cell. Just to shut him up (my dream), I went to the cell, but not until mid-day. No sign of Pep. Staff had removed the door entirely now, so I went inside. I sat there for a long time. Nothing happened.

September 17, 2000 - Returned to Sutton's cell. Curious if the tunnel was still there, I removed the section of the wall and crawled in. Tight fit, but the tunnel was still there. Got about 6 meters in before there were signs of collapse. Couldn't get any further. Not going to investigate any further today.

September 18, 2000 - Sutton's cell. I spent the last two days digging, and came across a body yesterday morning. Buried too well to see much more than a leg. Other leg had been chewed off (Pep?). Body was badly deteriorated, but it still within the past couple of years. Panic-stricken, I sought out Whistling Guard or Friendly Tour Guide. Found the latter, who yielded horrible news: "Monroe," he said, "that's you..."

I blacked out, and here I am. A ghost. Whistling Guard told me everything. He told me of my wife and how she murdered me. It was never me on trial, it was always her. Her coma was my fault, though. Most living can't handle communicating with the dead. He told me how the other guards - the ones on the take - buried me here, but not so well that Pep couldn't get a hold of my bones.. He explained that Callahan and Pep, even himself, were long since dead and were ghosts. The tour guide was a seer, a Watcher, they say and one of the best. But he's taken a vow never to get involved. They couldn't tell me, not until I had learned for myself. And now I join the ranks of the Falsely Accused, banished to a life after death between these walls.

No matter what I do, I cannot bring myself to leave.

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