Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary

This weekend, we kicked off Fall {and the start of the Halloween season!} with a little visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary’s very own Terror Behind the Walls.

Terror Behind the Wall is is a massive haunted house in a real prison. 

orginal prision

A little about the prison -> Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.

daytime tour

Living in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, literally steps away from this massive landmark we are frequent visitors to the prison. As a neighbor that lives around the corner from the prison, the wonderful folks at Eastern State provide us {and all other local neighbors} with free yearly membership passes, along with free passes to Terror Behind the Walls. I think they do that as a “thank you” for us putting up with the crazy crowds the 6 weeks around Halloween!

It’s a pretty awesome deal, I love walking around the prison during the day – they have great tours all the time and if Brooks is fighting a nap I will strap him on and we will take a walk around the inside of the prison – it’s a beautiful space inside the city & a great place to check out if you are in the area for the daytime tours alone!


Since we were provided complimentary neighbor tickets to the haunted house, there were select nights we could choose from to go and this weekend happened to work out best for us – so we asked Charles’ parents to babysit and we enjoyed a little date night out on the town {or in the prison!}.

This is the third time Charles & I have been to the Terror Behind the Walls haunted house and let me just tell you – it’s all sorts of awesome. The people working this event do a tremendous job with the attractions, with the costuming & make-up and the acting in general.


Each year they add new attractions and excitement within the haunted house, so even though we have been before, this time was very different than the last.

This year we signed up for the “interactive” experience – which means we got a glow stick necklace & “blood” markings on our face – this made us stand out to the cast & meant that we could be grabbed, held back, sent into hidden passageways, removed from our group, and even occasionally incorporated into the show. 


The interactive experience was so much fun. Charles & I got separated, pulled into secret passageways and were “picked on” more by the cast. At one point, I had to run down an entire cellblock, with all sorts of “inmates” on the loose, all alone! Charles got pulled into a special ramp and went down a slide!

I should add that this sort of stuff doesn’t really scare me {it did in previous years, but since then I’ve given birth and nothing is scarier than that!} so this was just really fun for me ->But it IS scary if you are into {or not into?} that sort of thing. I highly recommend it, it’s an awesome experience and the people of Eastern State do an awesome job with it!


Brooks looking skeptical

and my MIL slightly scared

during the daylight 


I think its fun to be scared & do “scary” things this time of year. It’s fun to get into the halloween holiday spirit and have a little fun with the season. The prison is such an eerie place during the day, because it’s abandoned/preserved ruins – turn off the lights and dress some people up in scary costumes and it’s definitely a good time.


I honestly can’t say enough good things about it, they do such a good job with the show and you get your money’s worth – we were inside the “attraction” part of the haunted house for over an hour! It was a long experience, but in a good & fun way! There were six different themed areas within the prison walls that we visit – the newest attraction this year was the Machine Shop & that was a good time with scares galore!

I think the cool part is that tickets for this event are sold in all 50 states and 26+ foreign countries – people literally come from all over the world just to experience Terror Behind the Walls {see why we were given free tickets – they want to keep the people that live here year round happy with all the extra crazy crowds!} It’s so fun to live next to such an awesome landmark.

guard tower

Is it wrong to tell Brooks when he’s older that he better be good or we are going to send him here??

juuuuust kidding! 


From the ESP website -> IS IT REALLY HAUNTED?

Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. With the growing interest in paranormal investigations, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Nearly 60 paranormal investigation teams explore the site each year, capturing extensive evidence of ghosts within the penitentiary walls.

Eastern State Penitentiary has been featured on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters; the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Challenge, and Most Haunted Live; Fox Television’s World’s Scariest Places; TLC’s America’s Ghost Hunters; and MTV’s FEAR. Our website features extensive clips that document real investigations inside the nearly 200-year-old prison.


I’ve said it before, but I will say it again – the Terror Behind the Walls {and Eastern State in general} is an awesome experience. If you live in Philly or are nearby, come and have fun being scared! It’s a very memorable experience – you will be glad you did it!

And do the interactive experience! Be Brave!



Are YOU afraid of haunted houses?

What’s the scariest {Halloween-inspired} attraction you’ve experienced?


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  • Reply Hannah September 22, 2014 at 8:27 am

    We were there this weekend too! Although, I was scared out of my mind. My favorite part was the 3-D spinning tunnel. 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine September 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Ah! Haha, so many of my friends had gone over the years, but I never did. Now I’m done in DC so it’s a no-go again this year, but one year I will finally have to get out there!

  • Reply Miles September 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Great review! What were your favorite attractions at Terror?

  • Reply Tiffany September 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve been before and didn’t find it TOO scary, but there is no way I could do the interactive experience! That would freak me out! Ha!

    We live in the DC area so we like to go to Markham’s Haunted Forest (although haven’t been since having kids since that would require a babysitter…NOT little kid friendly!).

  • Reply Patty O September 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I’ve been to Terror Behind The Walls, not the interactive experience, a few years ago and it was totally awesome! I look forward to maybe doing the interactive experience this year!

  • Reply Danielle September 24, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I live in the neighborhood also. How did you get complimentary neighbor tickets?! I’ve been meaning to go every year and that would be a great reason to go.

    • Reply Leslie September 24, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Hi Danielle,
      I went to the membership desk, showed them my ID & apparently within a certain block radius, they give out complimentary memberships to the prison, which include terror tickets – to neighbors.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

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