Eastern State Penitentary opens, hosts night of fright

Imagine being trapped inside a haunted prison, surrounded by imposing walls nearly forty feet high, disoriented by eerie lights, encircled by zombie guards and tormented by deranged inmates in dark and slimy narrow passageways.

Welcome to the Eastern State Penitentiary, home of Terror Behind the Walls, Philly’s own dreaded haunted house that rises from Center City with its ominous stone façade and towering turrets.

This prison was at one time the nation’s most expensive building, constructed in 1892. Its design was intended to prevent contact between inmates and guards and to provide the means for solitary penitence. It created the perfect environment for the human mind to snap into insanity and derangement, for sadism and torment to develop among guards.

In January of 1970, the prison was closed as the building grew old and the idea of penitence was abandoned. Its history connects it with Benjamin Franklin and Lafayette; it has housed Al Capone and witnessed integration of black and white prisoners.

This prison was the first one to house both men and women. It was left standing idle and decaying until committees were formed and architects, preservationists and historians were hired to preserve it. It was unlocked in 1991 to reveal an environment worse than any horror movie set ever conceived. In fact, it was used in the film Return to Paradise, in which it was cast as a South Asian prison.

Terror Behind the Walls takes advantage of this terrible environment to scare the wits out of anyone daring enough in order to raise money for the preservation of the historic site.

Master artisans of the horrible have built four incredibly detailed haunted houses using the prison’s unique features. This is the hard work that has ranked it the ninth scariest venue in the United States out of 13 sites reviewed by Hauntworld Magazine.

The journey costs $20, taking you through Maximum Security, an interpretation of a cellblock fallen into ghostly mayhem, where 13 Rooms contain scenes of an out of control prison. The wildly artistic experiment with bizarre 3-D images contains the winding and unpredicatable Tunnel Escape, something that only a disturbed mind could conjure up.

If the scenery is not enough to send people crawling home to their mothers and keep them on the verge of suspenseful paranoia, Terror Behind the Walls will violently throw people off the edge with a full cast of awful ghouls and guards, inmates and monsters and all things unnaturally terrifying.

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