A veteran haunt celebrating 25 years of horror, Terror Behind the Walls takes over the Eastern State Penitentiary at night during the Halloween season. With this top haunt, the sets simply can’t get more realistic. That’s because the haunted attractions are all built within a real abandoned prison. And that’s not just hype.
Yes, the prison is actually real
Eastern State Penitentiary is a real prison that was used from 1829 until 1971. If that weren’t enough, the building has been featured on more than a few shows about ghost hunting, and is believed by many to be haunted.
Whether you believe it’s haunted or not, you can certainly see why there are stories from the second you approach the building. The prison walls enclose 11 acres, or a large city block, and the only entrance is through the ominous gothic guardhouse that resembles a castle out of your favorite horror story.
Six attractions with a wide variety of horrors
Since the building is a prison, it would be easy to assume that all of the scares are of the “escaped convict” type, but the scaremasters at Terror Behind the Walls know better. They created 6 different attractions and managed to fit them within the walls, each with their own chilling theme.
Lockdown takes you through Cellblock 12, originally constructed in 1911, and now home to chaos. The noise is ramped to a deafening level perfectly designed to put you on edge. Monsters, deranged guards, mad inmates, and incredible props (including a Tesla coil) create utter chaos that takes full advantage of the edgy state. It’s perfectly executed to fray nerves and horrify.
Infirmary is built into the actual prison hospital and, if that weren’t enough, the actual prison psychiatric ward. Madness is everywhere, from the authentic props and setting to the well-acted horrors that send chills down your spine. Unlike other asylum haunts, this has an extra edge: prison asylums were designed to make escape impossible, and in this asylum, the bars are real.
The attraction Detritus shows the skill of the scaremasters by stepping away from convicts and into bone-chilling psychological scare. Built in one of the original cellblocks from the early 1800s, this attraction takes you into complete blackness. All around you is overgrown decay, the kind of decay that can only come from more than a hundred years of neglect.
In the Machine Shop attraction, you journey into a world of chilling industrial nightmares. Abandoned machine shops can be scary enough, and the scaremasters build on that fear by adding layers of evil horror. The most impressive part of this haunt is how the combination of environment, noises, and acting merge together to create terror.
Added in 2015, Quarantine 4D switches everything up by creating a mind-bending environment of psychedelic horror. The set designs are especially impressive in this haunt, since they have to work within the confines of the prison. Hallways turn out to be flat walls, and horrors will suddenly jump out at you from walls that seemed solid a moment before. All of it is merged with perceptive scares that make you question reality.
The final haunt is Break Out, and they hold nothing back for this attraction. You’re taken through a massive prison break where prisoners use everything from ropes to tunnels and ladders to crates in their escape. Prisoners even leap out of corners to grab visitors and help them make their getaway. As you can guess, this final haunt is extremely dependent on actors. A combination of planning, training, and choreography helps make this final haunt as epic as it sounds.
Yes, the prisoners can touch you. If you let them
Terror Behind the Walls sets out to truly terrify you, which is why they’ve made their entire haunted house (and all six attractions) interactive. Like other interactive haunts, the level of terror is entirely in your hands. Wear the glowing necklace and you mark yourself as a target. If it gets too much, remove the necklace, and you go back to being a “safe” observer.
- Although the haunts flow one after the other, you can leave at any time.
- The haunts are all indoors, but they won’t let you in with open-toed shoes or sandals.
- The penitentiary is not heated, so dress accordingly.
- Tickets and VIP passes can be purchased online, and it’s a good idea to avoid the line.
- Eastern State Penitentiary is a registered national landmark, and Terror Behind the Walls is a nonprofit. Any proceeds actually go to maintaining the landmark, and is the biggest source of funding to preserve it.