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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  Terror Behind the Walls: Eastern State Penitentiary

Terror Behind the Walls: Eastern State Penitentiary

Inside the Eastern State PenitentiaryEastern State Penitentiary Hallway

Lurking in the shadows of Philadelphia’s massive skyscrapers sits one of the country’s oldest and spookiest haunted “houses.” This haunted house, however, is far different than any Halloween attractions you may have visited before, as it was once home to criminals of all stripes. As the holiday approaches and you begin planning your eerie evenings of trickery, add an extra element of spook to this season’s adventures with a trip to a haunted historical landmark: Eastern State Penitentiary.

A Haunting History

Situated in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, Eastern State Penitentiary is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary. The prison was in operation from 1829 until 1971 and was known for its cruel practices of torture and isolation enacted upon America’s most dangerous criminals, including bank robbers Willie Sutton and Al Capone.

The prison is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is open to the public for tours seven days a week. Every October, the Penitentiary turns its grounds into a terrifying collection of haunted house adventures. Terror Behind the Walls is an hour-long voyage through the prison’s eerie cells and halls. If you think you’re getting away without a scare, think again, because the team at Eastern State will ensure that you return with a better appreciation for both the horrific and historic.

ChairEastern State Penitentiary by Lulu Hoeller

Choose Your Own Adventure

This Halloween attraction is suited for all ages, but children and adults beware: the ghostly characteristics of the jailhouse just may speak to you. Visitors are encouraged to make it through the whole jungle-gym of terrifying effects and real-life zombies, but the odds are against you.

Eastern State Penitentiary offers two different experiences with its Terror Behind the Walls Halloween spooktacular. If you decide to brave an encounter with the souls that still call the prison home, you will land yourself an illuminated necklace, identifying you as an interactive guest in the prison of terror. Choosing the interactive route will enable the ghosts and zombies to creepily touch you whenever they please, amplifying the unnerving ambiance that floats in the penitentiary air.

Electing to walk glow stick free, however, does not exempt you from the terror that promises to ensue. Traveling in packs may be the best option to battle the daunting effects and sleepwalkers that lurk around the corner. Walking the long, gothic halls of the prison will turn your experience into a true nightmare as shrieks and screams come from every which way. You may wonder how to escape this madness, but the lights will illuminate your path to freedom aka the real world.

And to think that prisoners were once executed behind these walls may give your evening even more of a nightmarish quality. Halloween is the season to bundle up and face the strange. So good luck, and be sure to prepare yourself for one unsettling adventure.

Eastern State Penitentiary WallEastern State Penitentiary 009 by rush2049

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