Thursday, September 26, 2013

Backyard Tour: Donuts and Terror


I am not sure what rock I have been living under but I just heard about Terror Behind the Walls earlier this year. For those clueless like me, it is an immersive haunted experience in a real life prison, which is just a few blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 


When I found myself in Philly last weekend to check out the Rittenhouse Art Festival and get fresh hots from Federal Donuts, I dropped a measly $13 and checked out the opening weekend of Eastern State Penitentiary's annual event - Terror Behind the Walls. I selected an entrance time of 8:30PM, right after an early dinner, and showed up outside the castle-like structure a few minutes after 8PM. Shortly thereafter, the rain began...a trickle at first and then a massive downpour. An hour or so later...drenched and cranky...I finally made my way to the gate of the penitentiary.  First, I had to sign a waiver, which states that if I die from the terror, that's on me....not the creators of Terror Behind the Walls.

Then, I was given a touched during the experience or just observe the horror. I chose just rotting zombie fingers were going to poke my theater-loving body. 

Finally, the experience began. Miraculously, crankiness evaporated and rivers of muddy water on the grounds of the penitentiary no longer annoyed me. I was going to get the bejesus scared out of me as I made my way through the following maze of horror:
Yard Out
The Gauntlet
Lock Down
The Experiment in 3D

Forty minutes later, I emerged from prison adrenaline pumping, completely stimulated. I walked through a cell block engulfed in darkness, witness some "experiments" and had a 3D experience. Terror Behind the Walls is a clever, well thought out, one-of-a-kind experience. It is a must do for adrenaline seekers and one of (if not) my top haunted experience to date. (Tip: Invest in the Quick Pass if long queues are not your thing.)

The proceeds from Terror Behind the Walls fund maintenance of Eastern State penitentiary, a historic landmark and the second largest structure built in the US.  It was the first true penitentiary even though more people probably went mad or killed themselves from the solitary confinement than were reformed. And its radial design was a model for numerous other facilities around the world. So,even if you can't make it to Terror Behind the Walls, it is still worth a trip to tour this amazing and historic landmark. 

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