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Old Joliet Prison: History and Hollywood

Rated 5.0 out of 5 from 11 reviews.Joliet, United States

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Experience hosted by Kelli

2 hours
Up to 10 people
Hosted in English

What you'll do

Trace the footsteps of inmates, guards, and movie stars on this exclusive tour of a 160-year-old suburban Chicago prison. First, you’ll meet me outside the barbed-wire fence of Old Joliet Prison. Then, a docent from the Joliet Area Historical Museum will take you inside the former correctional center for a 90-minute walking tour that highlights the prison’s sally ports, cellblocks, chapel, yard, and solitary confinement cells. Finally, you’ll make your way to the gymnasium, where we will explore how Hollywood has incorporated Old Joliet Prison in films like The Blues Brothers and Derailed and the TV series Prison Break and Empire.
Trace the footsteps of inmates, guards, and movie stars on this exclusive tour of a 160-year-old suburban Chicago prison. First, you’ll meet me outside the barbed-wire fence of Old Joliet Prison. Then, a docent from the Joliet Area Historical Museum will take you inside the former correctional center for a 90-minute walking tour that highlights the prison’s sally ports, cellblocks, chapel, yard, and solitary confinement cells. Finally, you’ll mak…
From $35
/ person
No dates available

Meet your host, Kelli

Host on Airbnb since 2019
  • 11 Reviews
  • Identity verified
Hi. I’m Kelli, a member of the Atlas Obscura community.

After a 12-year career as a film professor, I began creating unique and informative movie-themed events in and around Chicago. I hold a Ph.D. in Humanities, an M.A. in English, and a B.A. in English. For fun, I run and walk local races, renovate my 90-year-old Chicago bungalow, and curate a Gene Kelly fan website.
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In partnership with Atlas Obscura

Selected by Atlas Obscura
This experience is offered directly by a member of the Atlas Obscura community and has been selected by Atlas Obscura.


Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura is a global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods. Community members also host their own experiences, providing special access to the world’s hidden wonders, local marvels, and gastronomical wonders.

Where you'll be

Built in the Gothic architectural style, it’s easy to see why Old Joliet Prison impressed people when it opened in 1858. But within 20 years, the correctional center was filled well past capacity, leading to unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Although people continually called for its closure, the prison housed offenders until the 21st century—including fictional inmates from several movies and television shows.

Rated 5.0 out of 5 from 11 reviews.

Jane
November 2019
What a special visit! Great presentation! Hosts were excellent—knowledgeable and informative! Would’ve loved to be able to enter a cell or walk down the prison corridor, but understand that wasn’t possible due to unsafe structural conditions. I hope they are able to rehab the vandalized buildings for historical purposes and future tours.
What a special visit! Great presentation! Hosts were excellent—knowledgeable and informative! Would’ve loved to be able to enter a cell or walk down the prison corridor, but unders…
Kaylee
November 2019
A really great blend of Atlas Obscura and the local history museum! Kelli did her research (LOVED the bit in her presentation about the movies that were actually NOT filmed there...), and the guide for the walking tour portion was super knowledgeable about the grounds and history.
A really great blend of Atlas Obscura and the local history museum! Kelli did her research (LOVED the bit in her presentation about the movies that were actually NOT filmed there.…
Jennifer
October 2019
This was a really interesting tour. I took my kids, ages 10 and 13, and they loved it as well. The stories, fun facts, and novelty of the location kept their attention for the full two hours.
Elizabeth
October 2019
This was a fascinating look at a part of Chicago/Joliet history that I knew next to nothing about. I enjoyed learning about both the prison history and the film history.
Clint
October 2019
Thoroughly enjoyed the tour and particularly the film history of Old Joliet Prison. I'd recommend it and thinking of going back for other events.
Laurie
November 2019
Great experience. The tour was excellent. Very informative, and unique.

Things to know

Cancellation policy

Any experience can be canceled and fully refunded within 24 hours of purchase, or at least 7 days before the experience starts.

Guest requirements

Up to 10 guests ages 10 and up can attend.

More tips

• This walking tour, which covers approx. 1.25 miles, runs rain or shine; wear weather-appropriate clothing.
• Wear closed-toe shoes.
• Parking is available.
• Photography is encouraged!
• Participants must sign a waiver when they arrive at the prison.