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Terrifying Tourism: Explore Philly’s Eastern State Penitentiary

Opened nearly two hundred years ago, the world’s most expensive prison is now one of the scariest themed attractions around. The stone gothic structure, originally designed in Benjamin Franklin’s home and built with soaring 30-foot high fortress walls, was built with the intention to terrify those that entered its boundaries. Its dark past alone is enough to give us the heebies-jeebies, but fill it with zombies, escaping prisoners, otherworldly demons, and bloodthirsty barbarians and you’ve got one hell of a haunted house--pun intended.

Terror Behind the Walls is Eastern State Penitentiary’s collection of six haunted attractions and experiences included in the price of admission. Take your fear of hospitals to a whole new level in the Infirmary Attraction where you will encounter maniacal surgeons, dentists, and nurses. Lock Down is zombie survival experience as zombie inmates have taken over and zombie guards have lost control. Put your mind to the test in the Quarantine 4D attraction which challenges your worst fears with mind-altering special effects that simulate hallucinations, blurry visions, and moving walls. For more information on the Terror Behind the Walls attraction, availability, and a preview video, click here.

Eastern State is much more than just a monstrous haunted house. “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, artist installations, and history exhibits are all included in admission as well. For the main audio route tour, you’ll receive an mp3 player and headset upon arrival that will guide you through the penitentiary with narration by actor Steve Buscemi. The main audio route lasts about 35 minutes total and features subjects like escapes, riots, sports, sexuality, and more as the voices of three former wardens and 25 guards and inmates create an intimate walking tour through the cell blocks. Along the way, make stops for the occasional interactive tours offered by the tour staff. The Hands-On History stops include Open the Front Gate, Unlock a Cell, Learn to Play Bocce Ball, Explore the Underground Punishment Cells, and more.

One of the most notable features of Eastern State Penitentiary is Al Capone’s cell. In 1929, Al Capone was traveling from Atlantic City to Chicago when he stopped to see a movie in Philadelphia. He was caught and arrested for carrying a concealed, unlicensed .38 caliber revolver. The courts sentenced Capone to one year in prison, but the officials at Eastern State Penitentiary allowed Capone comforts not typically granted to inmates, including fine furniture, oriental rugs, oil paintings, and a radio so he could listen to waltzes. For more information on Al Capone’s cell at Eastern State Penitentiary, click here

Interested in our current criminal justice system or studying the subject? You’ll be interested in the Big Graph, a four-dimensional sculptural bar graph display that illustrates three sets of statistics. The 16-foot tall, two-ton steel sculpture compares the alarming incarceration rates of the United States to other countries, incarceration between races, and the growth rate in the country over the past century. The Big Graph is on display during all public hours and is included with admission; visit its companion exhibit, Prisons Today, and click here for more information.

Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19130
215.236.3300

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