Does a haunted house sound scary? How about a haunted house with live actors who jump out at you from all directions and chase you from behind? Sometimes carrying axes, knives, guns, and working chainsaws? And what about floors that move, ceilings that fall, walls that shift, and lights that suddenly go out while you’re walking alone through a dark passage? And what if all of this is set in an abandoned prison that is reported to be one of the most haunted locations in America? This sums up my Saturday night.
This weekend began normally enough, with a trip to Atlantic City on Friday night with a friend. We met up at Caesar’s Hotel and Casino for dinner. Casinos are fun, but if you’re not careful, it’s a great way to lose a lot of money quickly. This Acura Integra commercial from the late 1990’s encapsulates the reality of thinking you can “win big” by gambling (and it is also one of my favorite car commercials of all time).
After dinner, I headed down to my family’s shore house in Cape May, a 45 minutes from Atlantic City. I originally had plans to explore a very cool building from WWII on Saturday morning, but constant driving rain and winds that gusted up to 40 mph meant that I stayed inside until the weather cleared in the afternoon.
Saturday evening, I drove DH over to Philadelphia and met up with some friends to tour “Terror Behind the Walls,” a haunted house attraction at Eastern State Penitentiary. Operating from 1829 – 1971, Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) is one of the oldest surviving prisons in the nation, located at 22nd and Fairmount Avenue in Philadelphia. Now a museum and a National Historic Landmark, ESP was built to hold prisoners in solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences, giving them time alone to reflect upon their crimes. Included in the list of prisoners were Al Capone and Willie Sutton. The prison has been featured in many TV shows and movies, including “12 Monkeys” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (via Wikipedia).
Eastern State also has a reputation for being haunted: the museum’s website even devotes a page to discussing the sightings of ghosts on the premises. Cashing in on this reputation, since 1995 ESP has hosted “Terror Behind the Walls,” a haunted house that runs during the month of October, until Halloween. Terror Behind the Walls is an annual event for the Philadelphia area. You are sure to be startled, scared, and spooked. I have no problem admitting that when one of the ghostly prison guards jumped out of the shadows at me while starting a chainsaw, I leapt backwards at least three feet (I will not comment on any rumors that I screamed… loudly).
This promotional video captures some of the experiences of the tour. And yes, the screaming is more or less continuous. Including mine:
The haunted house is all in good fun, however. The prison sat abandoned from 1971 until the early 1990’s, so it significantly decayed during that time. The organization that oversees the museum uses Terror Behind the Walls as one of its largest fundraisers, in order to keep the prison open, and to try to prevent further decay. Tickets range in price depending on when you attend. At the beginning of October, you can enter for as little as $19 per person. The weekends immediately preceding Halloween, and Halloween weekend itself, go up to $45 per person. The money does go to a good cause, however: the preservation of an important piece of American history.
Sometime in the future, I will head back to Eastern State Penitentiary during daylight hours and will provide a more through tour of this fascinating location. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this weekend’s brief post, and a further… spooky… adventure of DH.
‘Til next time.