Photos by Breanne Cura.
With so many Halloween activities available to consumers this fall, many college students are left wondering where the best place to invest their money is. We were recently able to head over to the Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) to really dive into their haunted experience. Not only does ESP offer amazing student discounts every Sunday, but they also have some of the cheapest ticket prices in the market. Wait time to enter the attractions was made faster as cast members walked the line and interacted with anxious patrons.
Before entering, ticket holders can choose to wear a glow stick necklace to let cast members know that they are okay with being touched and even willing to be kidnapped. I was the only member of my party who chose to not be touched, and it was incredible to watch them work so easily with those restrictions. As I watched my friends get grabbed and taken into other rooms, not once did they touch me, even as I stood in the middle of the line. Clearly well trained, the staff was one of the highlights of the experience. With incredible senses of humor, uncanny dedication to their characters and a willingness to provide a hauntingly good experience to each guest, ESP really made a good impression in terms of staff.
We chatted with two employees in Al Capone’s Speakeasy who told us that they had actually experienced some spirits within the prison. While they could not give us their names, they did tell us that in one of the main attractions in which the lights strobe, both guests and employees have seen a black figure in the room. Somehow darker than the pitch black they were engrossed in, the figure has never been physical but has sent chills down the spines of many people.
One West Chester student, Matt Davis, shared with us his experience at the penitentiary: “Definitely one of the more unique fall destinations around, a trip to Eastern State Penitentiary is a great place to visit this spooky season. Their haunted experience, ‘Terror Behind the Walls,’ takes you through six different attractions each with its own theme. Each of theses attractions is located in a different cell block within the once operating prison. While the attractions themselves were not overly terrifying, the eerie vibe of the building was enough to make anyone guest feel creeped out. The prison is renovated minimally, and visitors get to experience it in many of the same ways that prisoners themselves did. Actors pop out of cells that murderers and bank robbers once called home, and that may be the scariest part of the entire attraction.
Visitors have the option of making the haunted house interactive by wearing a glow stick around their necks. Those who opt to don the bright pink glow stick are open to being grabbed by actors and separated from their group. I experienced this several times and was even brought into a room with ‘Dr. Wiggles’ who instructed me to create a body with mutilated limbs and organs (don’t worry, I promise they weren’t real). While this experience was a little more funny than scary, it was something I have never seen at another haunted house, and I really enjoyed it. Top all of this off with an opportunity to grab a drink in the cell that the infamous gangster Al Capone slept in, and a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary makes for a great night out with both friends and family.”
Overall, for anyone looking for great scares on a college budget, Eastern State Penitentiary is the place to be this fall season. Able to accommodate large groups, it’s the perfect way for you and your friends to spend Halloween now that we are sadly too old to trick or treat.
Breanne Cura is a fourth-year student majoring in liberal studies with minors journalism and media and cultures. BC902453@wcupa.edu