Eastern State Penitentiary’s Strangest Prisoner

On August 12, 1924, Eastern State Penitentiary got its most interesting inmate. The prisoner, named Pep, went down for murder and was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. It all sounds like a normal prison story but for one detail: Pep was a dog.

At the time of his incarceration, newspaper headlines claimed that Pep, a black Labrador retriever, received his sentence from Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot himself. According to reports, his murder victim was none other than Mrs. Pinchot’s cat, who he had killed in cold blood, without provocation. He apparently showed no remorse, either.

stories.barkpost.com

The governor was soon inundated with letters protesting the harsh treatment of the dog, who had only acted like a normal dog in their opinion. Eventually, Mrs. Pinchot herself decided to give an interview to the New York Times, explaining the entire story behind Pep’s imprisonment.

Apparently, the story that he was put in jail for killing a cat was completely made up by journalist who wanted to print an interesting story. Pep was really a beloved family pet who had been a gift from Mrs. Pinchot’s nephew, a breeder of Labradors.

About a year after he came to live in the Pinchot household, though, he developed some bad habits. He kept chewing up furniture in the house, and nothing the Pinchots did would get him to stop. They made the difficult decision to give the dog up, but Governor Pinchot had discovered a way to put the friendly dog to use for the benefit of society.

On a trip to Maine, the governor had visited a state penitentiary. While there, he saw that the prison was using dogs as a form of therapy for inmates. The program had proven successful in helping to rehabilitate prisoners, and Governor Pinchot decided to try this in Pennsylvania’s most notorious prison.

Because of Pep’s friendly personality, the governor felt that he would be an excellent therapy dog for Eastern State’s prisoners. When the family decided they couldn’t keep him, he was sent to the prison, where he quickly became well-loved by the prisoners and the guards. He was so popular that he traveled between Eastern State and a newer prison that was opened five years after his own “prison term” began.

Pep remained a prison therapy dog until his death from natural causes. He was buried on the grounds of Graterford Prison.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Weird Food of the Middle Ages

    People often like to romanticize the Middle Ages, imagining it as a time of knights and princesses, all dressed in elaborate medieval garb. Some even dream about going back in time to experience life during that time, and renaissance fairs and a popular dinner show have capitalized quite well on this obsession. But many people...

    Read More
  • Witches and Alewives: The Historical Connection

    From The Wizard of Oz to Halloween costumes, the archetypal image of a scary witch typically includes a tall, pointy hat, a cauldron, and a broom, among other accessories. But where did this popular conception arise? Many would be surprised to learn that our idea of what a witch looks like is based on the...

    Read More
  • America’s Secret Female President

    Edith Bolling Galt Wilson seemed an unlikely prospect for running one of the most powerful countries in the world. The second wife of President Woodrow Wilson was born in 1872 to a very poor family from the mountains of Virginia. Though she was given a chance to go to college, she dropped out because her...

    Read More
  • The Reality Behind the Legend of the Golden Fleece

    If you are familiar at all with Greek mythology, you have probably heard about the legend of the Golden Fleece. In this story, Jason (a Greek mythological hero) gathered a group of fellow-heroes together. This group became known as the Argonauts because their ship was named Argo, and Jason was their leader. The purpose of...

    Read More
  • Aaron Burr: Would-Be King

    Aaron Burr, one of the United States’ founding fathers and its one-time Vice President, has generally gone down in history as a bad guy because of the duel in which he killed Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Secretary of the Treasury. But for some reason, most people don’t know anything about another chapter in his life...

    Read More
  • Ancient Crocodile Species Identified

    A research team made up of paleontologists from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Texas has identified a previously unknown species of prehistoric crocodile. The ancient reptile fossils were found in Arlington, Texas, a busy city located right in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area. The massive crocodile, which could reach lengths of up to 20...

    Read More
  • The Murder and Lynching that Changed America

    April 26, 1913 was supposed to have been a good day for 13-year-old Mary Phagan. It was Confederate Memorial Day in Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived. She was off for the day from her job at the National Pencil Company. Her plans included stopping by work to pick up her pay and then joining family...

    Read More
  • Female Viking Warrior Grave Identified

    In the 1880s, a Viking grave was excavated in the town of Birka in Sweden. It was obviously the grave of a warrior because it was filled with grave goods signifying as much. Along with weapons, like an axe, arrows, shields, a battle knife, a spear, and a sword, two war horses were also found...

    Read More