Mon. Jul 4th, 2022

The eerie glow cast on the stone walls from the outside of Eastern State Penitentiary enhances the feeling that inside the walls, more than what is expected awaits. As people stand in line outside of the main gates, dressed up “guards” frighten more than a few by breathing in their face or jumping up behind them. And that is just the start of the prison’s October event of Terror Behind the Walls.
 Passing through the entrance, one feels like they are taken back in time to when prisoners roamed the halls and occupied the cells. Light towers in every corner flash lights on the awaiting crowd as they hand over their tickets and get marked on their face with a red X. One also gets the option to take a glow in the dark necklace that enables the actors to touch them and pull them into the experience on a different level.
People are broken up into groups and sent into the Gauntlet where you walk amongst officials with guns pointed at you and prisoners playing basketball. Next, you are sent into the prison where strobe lights make it difficult to discern if there are actors hidden in the shadows. “Prisoners” throw themselves against their bars and reach hands out towards you as you pass by.
The infirmary is the next destination where experiments are being conducted on the prisoners by doctors and nurses with painted faces that call for second glances to determine the realness of it. In 3D Experiment you are taken into wacked out rooms that cause your mind to spin as screams erupt around you as actors jump out of hidden panels in the walls.
The overall experience of Terror Behind the Walls is something that all should invest in at least once during the Halloween season. Add props and actors with realistic makeup and outfits and you get the real deal.
The history of the prison and just being inside its walls is mind-blowing within itself. And tours are offerd year-round. The eerie feeling of the abandoned prison can fully be explored throughout the upcoming winter months.
The Eastern State Penitentiary is commited to sharing the history of the prison to Americans. Their mission reads: “While the interpretive program advocates no specific position on the state of the American justice system, the program is built on the belief that the problems facing Eastern State Penitentiary’s architects have not yet been solved, and that the issues these early prison reformers addressed remain of central importance to our nation.”
The tours run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and include “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, Hands-On History, artist installations, and history exhibits for customers to enjoy. Tour guides are throughout the building, and provide brief tours for small groups.
The prison is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day, but still celebrates the winter holidays with a Winter Adventure Tour that runs from December until March.
Unlike the regular season of day tours, Winter Adventure tours feature an hour-long tour with an expert Eastern State Penitentiary guide who takes small groups into normally blocked-off areas such as Al Capone’s cell, Death Row, and the center surveillance hub.
Eastern State Penitentiary has successfully combined history with terror, and both the seasonal and year-long attractions hold your attention and give you the chills. It is a piece of American history that is worth the visit.
Taylor Montgomery is a third year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at TM789375@wcupa.edu. 

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