"I hear the train a comin' -- It's rolling round the bend -- And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when," begin the lyrics to Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," performed for inmates at the California penitentiary 46 years ago today.
Cash took to the stage, backed by June Carter, Carl Perkins and The Tennessee Three, for two live performances. The recordings were released months later on the album "At Folsom Prison," which not only revitalized the artist's career but inspired a second recording at a correctional facility: "At San Quentin."
The legendary singer-songwriter wasn't alone in his explorations behind bars. Thousands flock to facilities every year to see the former cells of famous criminals, learn history and even look for ghosts. Here are five of the most interesting prison tours across the country.
Folsom Prison - Folsom, Calif.
Since opening in 1880, the prison is one of the oldest (and still operating) correctional facilities in the state. In addition to being the site of Cash's performances, the prison has also been used as a film set for "Jericho Mile," "True Believers" and "The Outlaws." Famous residents include Charles Manson and Ralph "Sonny" Barger. About 5,000 inmates are still incarcerated there today. But tourists can learn about the facility by visiting the nearby Folsom Prison Museum, which offers tours for $2.
Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia, Pa.
Peer inside the sky-lit, and sometimes luxuriously furnished, cells that once housed Al Capone and "Slick Willie" Sutton at this mammoth former facility. After 142 years of consecutive use, the penitentiary was abandoned in 1971, but its architecture remains a model for others around the world. It has also attracted the eye of Hollywood productions, such as "12 Monkeys" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." In addition to tours, the prison also serves as a modern-day site for art installations and weddings.
West Virginia Penitentiary - Moundsville, W.Va.
This huge Gothic structure opened in 1876 and operated as a prison for more than 100 years, not only housing prisoners but serving as the execution site for many via hangings and electrocution. Since closing in 1995, the site has served as the setting for various films ("Fools Parade" and "Out of the Furnace") and now offers daily tours lasting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and nightly tours from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Old St. John's County Jail - St. Augustine, Fla.
Housing just 72 prisoners, this historical county jail is positively tiny compared to more modern institutions. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in intimacy. Costumed guards "process" visitors before letting them in to view the weaponry on display and Death Row gallows. The jail is considered by some to be haunted, with one local company even offering night tours for conducting paranormal investigations.
Alcatraz - San Francisco
From notorious residents such as Al "Scarface" Capone to its history as a harbor defense port to its occupation by U.S. Indian tribes, there are many reasons why "The Rock" continues to be the most trafficked prison site in the country. Learn what life was like from "the inside" by listening to the Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour, told from the perspective of real correctional officers and inmates who lived on the island during its operation.