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Eastern State Penitentiary ramps up fear factor

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STORY WRITTEN BY VINCE CAREY
vcarey@delcotimes.com
@vincecarey on Twitter

PHILADELPHIA >> You will get scared.
“We are going to scare everybody,” said Amy Holloman, the creative director for Terror Behind the Walls at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary. “Adults, families, teenagers and children. We want you to have fun here at Halloween.”
In each of the past 25 years, thousands of people have taken the challenge of getting scared at the former prison. This year, despite having to close up shot for the weekend of Sept. 26 because of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia, the crowds have been lining up around the block.
“It wasn’t great to close,” Holloman said. “We understood, though. There was a lot going on.”
There is a lot going on at Terror Behind the Walls as well.
There are six different attractions that cause different levels of fear.
Begin with “Detritus” where visitors experience what it’s like at night in part of the original 1800s cellblock. It’s a pitch-black walk through the overgrown labyrinth of cells.
There is also the “Infirmary,” where you can meet with some, well, interesting nurses and doctors. FOR A PHOTO GALLERY, CHECK HERE
Those who want to be scared can check out “Lockdown,” a walk through cell blocks that were abandoned in 1971. That guard may help you get through, or maybe not.
Back again this year is the infamous “Machine Shop.” One of the loudest experiences at the prison. Visitors walk through the actual prison machine shop, but everything is now being handled by zombies and monsters. FOR MORE SCARY FUN, CHECK HERE AND HERE.
“This is the perfect setting in the entire world for a Halloween event,” Holloman said. “We have 30-foot Gothic castle-like walls and crumbling cell blocks.”
Every year, Terror Behind the Walls is tweaked a bit, and this year is no different. New to the prison is “Quarantine 4D” and “Breakout.”
“Quarantine 4D” is a black-light experience that requires those old-style 3D glasses.
The basic story behind the attraction (as if it really needs one), is a zombie-like disease has broken out in the prison. After being pulled in by gas-mask-wearing guards, each person sets off the alarm and is pushed into the next part of the attraction.
“As people leave the ‘Infirmary,’ one of our classics, they will learn of a virus,” Holloman said. “Every visitor will catch this and enter ‘Quarantine 4D,’ where they’ll experience hallucinations, distorted vision and dizziness.”
Throughout “Quarantine 4D,” there are interesting guides who will send people through different areas of the attraction.

J.R. BLACKWELL - TERROR BEHIND THE WALLS There is the opportunity to become part of the attraction.

J.R. BLACKWELL – TERROR BEHIND THE WALLS
There is the opportunity to become part of the attraction.

About midway through is an actor dressed like Medusa, a costume that takes nearly eight hours to perfect.
“If they can escape the clutches of quarantine, they will then be led into ‘Breakout,’” Holloman said. “This new attraction is a combination of SWAT team members who are trying to help you get out while zombie inmates are trying to break away and escape.”
As if it wasn’t scary enough to walk through a dark, dank old prison, Terror Behind the Walls again this year offers a chance to become part of the attraction.
By wearing a glow stick around the neck, those who want a little extra can be pulled into cells to be interrogated, pulled through and be checked out by the actors.
“We started something last year that no other haunted house has tried,” said Holloman. “By opting-in, you are given a tracking device and will be separated from your party and have a truly scary experience.”
There are plenty of freaky monsters and zombies hanging around Terror Behind the Walls.
There are zombie chorus lines to entertain everybody standing in line.
This year, there is also a chance for people to get a drink near Al Capone’s cell.
“It’s a chance to hang out for a bit and see some of the history behind the prison,” Holloman said.

IF YOU GO

Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary is open every Thursday-Sunday through Nov. 7.
It is also open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, starting Oct. 13 and Monday, Oct. 26.
Cost: $39 on Saturdays, $29 Fridays and Sundays, $19 every other day.
Times: Saturdays 6:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Fridays and Sundays 7 p.m.-midnight. Other days it’s open 7-11 p.m.

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