Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a historic site, and the home of a former REAL prison. Although a great deal of it is in ruins, it has been stabilized, and many tours and events are offered there throughout the year.
The annual Halloween event, Terror Behind the Walls, is the kind of attraction that gives chills to even the most stalwart of souls. This is not for the faint of heart. These folks are out to scare the living daylights out of you!
Each year changes are made to keep it interesting. . . and scary.
After admission, your first stop is the prison’s recreational yard, where you’ll get a video introduction to the prison. This is not your high school history lesson, though. There are plenty of insane prisoners, sadistic guards, and other things that go bump in the night that will keep you on your toes. After the video, you’ll be free to go through the five haunted houses (all included with the admission tickets). Allow a couple of hours to see everything, but you are welcome to stay as long as your ticket allows.
The prison is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (map it). Parking is available nearby.
If you can’t make it to Philadelphia, this video will give you a little idea of what you’re missing out on. It’s not as scary as being there, though!
Spend Halloween in Prison
Does the thought of going to prison terrify you? I know it does me, and I’ve actually spent time teaching adult education classes in a prison. The clanking of the doors, the sense of being cut off from the rest of the world, and the loss of personal freedom are all frightening and humbling experiences.
So how do you feel about the thought of being in a prison. . . at night. . . with a couple of friends. . . and only a flashlight to guide you? I don’t know about you, but I’m quaking in my boots!
That setting is precisely what you’ll find at Eastern State Penitentiary’s haunted house, “Terror Behind the Walls,” and its “Night Watch” attraction. “Night Watch” participants are given a flashlight (you cannot bring your own), then broken into groups of two or four, and sent out to explore the space on their own. I’m intrigued, curious, and apprehensive when even the prison employees claim that it’s terrifying to walk through the empty prison alone with only a flashlight.
There are actually four other attractions that are part of “Terror Behind the Walls.” I just couldn’t get beyond this one!
The penitentiary has a long history of haunted happenings:
Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. And the ghost sightings have only increased since Eastern State was abandoned in 1971.
With the growing interest in paranormal investigation, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Dozens of teams visit to explore the site each year.
This Halloween event runs on select evenings until October 31st. Reservations are recommended for weekends.
Admission is based on how long you are staying in the prison, which sounds like a special buy your way out of prison program. $20 for 7-10 pm; $25 for 7-11 pm; $30 7 for pm-midnight.
The prison is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
There is parking available ($10/car) in a secure lot at Broad & Spring Garden Streets (about 12 blocks from the prison). A trolley takes guests to and from the prison, starting at 6:30 pm; the last trolley leaves the prison a half-hour after the last tour. A storyteller is onboard the trolley telling tales that shed a little more information on the prison’s haunted background, and to get guests in the proper mood for the tour.
Of all the Halloween events that have come across my desk, this one is, by far, the most intriguing to me personally. It makes me wish that I was closer to Philadelphia!