Set inside the massive castle-like walls of the 182 year old Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, the setting for Terror Behind the Walls is creepy in itself. Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a lost world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 as the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. This gothic structure, perfect as a haunted Halloween attraction, with soaring 30-foot high fortress walls, is intimidating enough during the day. At night, the cellblocks fall into darkness, and the building becomes truly terrifying, especially at Halloween.
Night Watch (one of five separate attractions at Eastern State Penitentiary's Terror Behind the Walls) is the world's first Halloween haunted attraction that visitors explore with flashlights -the ultimate Halloween experience!
Terror Behind the Walls has grown from a single-night event in 1991 to a 29-night event with shows selling out far in advance during Halloween. Nearly half of the visitors who attended the event in 2010 traveled to Philadelphia for the event, coming from as far as California, China and the United Kingdom, making this event a national and international destination for thrill-seekers and Halloween lovers.
Photographer: Jeff Fusco
An extraordinary theatrical production, Terror Behind the Walls features Hollywood-quality sets, custom-designed props, animatronics, and digital sound effects, all taking place within the walls of the prison. It takes an elite team of 14 makeup artists almost three hours to prepare the cast of more than 200 Halloween performers each evening.
After an extremely popular first year, Eastern State Penitentiary’s “After Dark VIP Tour” returns for 2011. This ultimate Halloween experience begins with an hour-long, guided flashlight walking tour of this National Historic Landmark. Highlights include the cellblocks, Death Row, Al Capone’s cell, and the underground punishment cells below Cellblock 14. Following the tour, guests will be escorted to the front of the Terror Behind the Walls’ lines. Visitors can remember their evening with a souvenir photo, taken inside the penitentiary, and a special Terror Behind the Walls LED flashlight (included in admission).
Engraving of Eastern State Penitentiary. Built up on a hill on the site of a cherry orchard about a mile and a half outside 19th Century Philadelphia, Eastern State Penitentiary was known as Cherry Hill.
[Image: George Lehman (died 1870), Eastern State Penitentiary of Pennsylvania Near Philadelphia, 1833. Lithograph by Childs and Inman]
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. With the growing interest in paranormal investigations, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Nearly 60 paranormal teams visit to explore the site in a typical year. The historic site’s website features extensive television, video, and website links that document real paranormal investigations inside the 182-year old prison.
Six-foot tall, 300 pound gargoyles named “Frank and Carson” sit atop the 30-foot façade tower of Eastern State Penitentiary during Terror Behind the Walls, Eastern State’s massive Halloween haunted house. The gargoyle couple was designed and constructed specifically for Eastern State Penitentiary by Creative Visions in St. Louis, and the design has never been duplicated.
The penitentiary has been featured on The Travel Channel’s Most Haunted Live, Fox Television’s World’s Scariest Places, TLC’s America’s Ghost Hunters, The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge, and MTV’s FEAR. Footage captured on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters may be the most controversial ghost sighting of the past 10 years. During the filming of Paranormal Challenge this year, Zak Bagans called Eastern State Penitentiary “one of the most haunted places in the world.”
The Six Attractions:
Terror Behind the Walls, the ultimate Halloween experience, consists of six haunted attractions that create a seamless experience for visitors. All six sections are included in one admission price:
The Gauntlet –
The experience begins with a disorienting maze, as visitors are ushered through numerous distractions and startles. This massive outdoor puzzle is full of surprises at every turn. As visitors try to find their own way out, they’ll find unexpected obstacles, objects and very unfriendly creatures blocking their way to freedom.
Lock Down – Visitors enter the looming façade of Cellblock 12, which is said to be one of the most haunted locations inside the prison. The inmates take over as the chaotic scene is filled with fog, sound, lighting effects, and arcing electrical currents from three oversized Tesla Coils. Guests are led to the second floor for a spectacular and eerie view down the long-abandoned cellblock corridor, and finally through groups of zombie inmates, all standing very, very still. . . . Some visitors choose to leave the show after Lock Down. It’s that intimidating.
Infirmary takes the fear of hospitals to a whole new level as this abandoned prison hospital is explored. Visitors will discover the world of medical treatments including psychotherapy, hydrotherapy, and medical experiments gone wrong. The attraction features a giant custom sterilization chamber that is sure to create a vertigo-inducing surprise for even the strongest stomachs and minds.
The Experiment –
Visitors put on a pair of state-of-the-art chromadepth 3-D glasses and enter The Experiment. The illusions are stunning, as flat walls appear to have depth, and actors blend seamlessly into the background. The Experiment is consistently voted the favorite attraction among visitors toTerror Behind the Walls.
Night Watch –
Guests are left alone to find their own way out of the back hallways of the penitentiary, with only their flashlights (provided) cutting a slim beam of light through the fog. Visitors can sense people and other creatures prowling in the dark, but can’t always see them in time.
Break Out! –
Just when visitors think they have found freedom, they find themselves in the middle of a prison break! Inmates surround them using every way imaginable to escape, including barrels, ropes, tunnels, ladders and crates. Visitors must keep an eye out at every corner as an inmate may even be using them to aid in their attempt to gain freedom.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Terror Behind the Walls, there will be a special encore performance on Saturday, November 12, 2011. On this night only, visitors will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with hundreds of haunted house owners and operators from around the country who will be converging on Eastern State Penitentiary for a first ever postseason performance of Terror Behind the Walls. Also on hand will be paranormal celebrities talking about some of the firsthand experiences they’ve had with real ghosts inside the penitentiary complex.
In 2011, Terror Behind the Walls runs as a Halloween attraction on select evenings from September 23 through November 12. For more information, the public can visit the penitentiary’s website at www.TerrorBehindtheWalls.com