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The Hobbyist: Terror Behind the Walls like running through horror film

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By Andy Stettler
astettler@mainlinemedianews.com
@AndyStettler on Twitter

Editor’s Note: The Hobbyist is one of Ticket’s newest blogs. The Hobbyist columnist Andy Stettler follows the most interesting hobby, tech and geek events in the Philadelphia area.

I closed my eyes as the man in the striped prison suit with the grey-green face, black lips and eyes that no longer seemed human, swung his oversized, improvised weapon toward my wife and I Saturday night. Only when he didn’t hit us, did I remember we weren’t in a real horror movie.
Later that night, while rain fell in an ominous mist we entered the next portion of the Terror Behind the Walls experience pushing and pulling each other’s arms and stretched sweatshirts as we darted through rooms and long dark hallways where decaying prisoners laughed with wide, wicked grins.
But even when I touched the sticky make-up blood on my face provided by staff at Eastern State Penitentiary (“Have fun,” they said) and even while running from a blood covered in-mate I was sure I had seen in a press photo, I was completely, 100 percent, immersed in the experience.

eastern state penitentiary, terror behind the walls

An actor in full make-up before she leaps toward a group waiting in line Saturday at Terror Behind the Walls. (Andy Stettler/Digital First Media)

I grew up watching slasher films and now, of course, love AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” I like to think I’m someone who can recognize good make-up, at least from an amateur horror film buff’s perspective.
But once inside the experience, after the gray faced girl at the penitentiary entrance confronted my wife and another couple as we passed her, screaming something about her mother “won’t like that,” and after our tickets were taken and we were next in line, I never once commented on the acting or the make-up. I don’t think my brain had the time to process those critiques.
That’s because while my wife and I ran screaming through Terror Behind the Walls this year and maybe a little more briskly than our group, our imaginations were certain the experience was real.
Except one time. Even with all of my so-called experience watching Michael Myers and Jason chase down their victims in movies such as “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th,” even after I’ve chuckled at the scream queens who so obviously are about to meet their end, there I was.
I was in the middle of the prison in a dark room with very little light but I was sure there was some kind of psychotic monster within two feet of us. As my glasses completely fogged up due to the excessive sweat pouring down my face out of fear (strike 1), lack of exercise (strike 2) and constant screaming (strike 3), I realized I would be one of those stereotypical slasher movie victims.
The Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 and closed in 1971 after 142 years of active use. The penitentiary has more than 980 cells and became home to the roughly 75,000 inmates that served time there.
The Terror Behind the Walls attraction includes six scenarios for thrill seekers. Tickets are available Sunday through Saturday raning from $19 to $45. For more information visit EasternState.org/halloween

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