Sing Sing Prison Museum (Ossining, New York)
Sing Sing Your Life!
July 19, 2003
Since I had recently read the book Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House I decided that when I visited New York, I had to stop by Sing Sing and see the infamous prison for myself. I knew that there was a derelict section which comprised the original 1825 prison block, and that was what I most wanted to see. I also knew that it was inside the prison complex so I probably wouldn’t see much anyway. But still… I had to pay a visit.
The town of Sing Sing isn’t called Sing Sing anymore – it’s called Ossining. The boring people who live there changed the name to try and separate themselves from that infamous prison. Of course, I don’t get that at all. You’d think they’d want to celebrate their morbid claim to fame? But then again, I’m “different” from most people.
Anyway, I drove around the prison, which is situated in a lovely location along the bank of the Hudson River, and took a few photographs. I didn’t realize at the time that taking photographs of active prisons is a no-no! I found that out when I got yelled at by a mean man up in a tower. I kinda figured that, you know, all the historic marker signs in the area meant that it was a historic place that we could document, but I guess that was my naivety showing. In any event, I got a few shots in before he doused my fun with ice cold water just like they used to do to prisoners in the shower baths!
After I finished my abbreviated prison documentation, I drove up to the Ossining Visitor Center (aka the Caputo Community Center), where they have a little exhibit dedicated to the prison. I have to admit, the exhibit disappointed me. There was a recreation of a modern prison cell, a replica of the infamous electric chair Old Sparky (dammit, I want my electric chair replete with the sizzled blood of the condemned on it!), and some exhibits showing old illustrations and photographs of the torture techniques perfected inside. Two authentic displays were an iron door from one of the original 1820’s prison cells, and a display of shanks that had been confiscated from prisoners. Truly a study in human ingenuity!
There’s talk these days of turning the power house at Sing Sing into an expanded prison museum, and my fingers are crossed that this comes to fruition because Sing Sing deserves better than this little display.