It was on a dark, rainy night, lightning flashing in the black sky, when the old warehouse loomed in the distance. Hidden away, the warehouse beckoned all to come into its depths and experience the thrills and chills that come directly from the mind of one of America’s most haunting poets, Edgar Allen Poe.
Haunted Poe, performed by Brat Productions, showcases some of Poe’s most famous works, including “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Raven.” The show, located in South Philadelphia, is hard to find without a good GPS but well worth the effort to locate it.
Even before the show begins, the audience is entertained by the Lobby Wench and Brute, aptly named for their coarse behavior and voices. The line moves past an open parlor in which Poe writes his frightening prose. The audience is then led to a small theater where a short puppet show gives a brief history of Poe’s life before coming to Philadelphia.
The real show begins when groups of up to 15 people are guided through 13 different rooms, each themed and varying in level of creepiness. The actors and actresses act out the stories around the audience, sometimes jumping out at them or speaking the lines into their faces. There is even one room where they dance with the members of the audience, twirling them around the ballroom, and perform magic tricks and acrobatic skills.
Many of the rooms are filled with optical illusions, uneven floorboards or strobe lights. One hallway has cockroaches hung in spider webs suspended above the floor, causing many people to duck underneath to avoid the disgusting decoration. Audience members are forced to walk single-file down creepy crypts, visit a graveyard and enter the catacombs of “The Cask of Amontillado.” Statues come to life, doors slam open and shut and dismembered body parts hang from the rafters. And, of course, there are screams: Lots of them.
The idea for Haunted Poe takes its root in Poe’s past in Philadelphia. Although Baltimore claims his body, Philadelphia boasts many of Poe’s greatest stories, including “The Raven,” written while his wife was ill with tuberculosis. It was Philadelphia’s dark, crime-filled streets of the 1840’s that gave him the inspiration to write some of his most horrifying works.
However, Haunted Poe is, at its heart, an artful interpretation of the stereotypical haunted house with a good dosage of Poe-inspired terror. The performers are actors, musicians, poets and singers–half of the attraction composed of haunting, beautiful music heralding lost loves. They act out the stories and poetry with the utmost of sincerity, giving no reason for Poe to turn in his grave.
Both the brave and the meek will enjoy this show. It gives a delicate balance between a horror movie and a psychological drama, attracting those who like to scream as well as those who just want to see a show.
The madness, the depravity, and the very minds of Poe’s characters will both appall and intrigue you. As the raven shrieks, “Nevermore!” you will shiver, knowing that it calls not only to Poe, but to you as well. As the heart beats under the floorboards, you will flinch, trying to forget the tell-tale heart in your own life but to no avail. And as Poe asks if there is balm in Gilead, you will tremble, realizing that you too wonder at such things. Should you choose to go to Haunted Poe, know this: You will be shadowed by Poe’s words – evermore!
38 Jackson St. Philadelphia, PA 19148
Dates: Oct. 28-Nov.1
Times: 7:00-9:30 p.m.
Running Time: Approximately 45 min.
For more information, see hauntedpoe.com