Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary

Terror Behind the Walls

Eastern State Penitentiary during Halloween season: probably the one time you’ll ever hear a grown man frightfully utter the words, “monster be good.”

No, it wasn’t my husband, but it was the guy in front of me who was getting chased down by a “prisoner” with a chainsaw. What am I talking about, exactly? I’m talking about Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia; what was once a real prison (it was abandoned in 1971) becomes the perfect setting for a spooky haunted house for 8 weeks throughout the fall.

Let me just start off by saying that I thought maybe, just maybe, I had outgrown haunted houses. What used to be a lot scarier was now starting to become kind of…cheesy.

I was wrong.


The first thing I noticed was that this particular attraction seems to draw in an older crowd; I didn’t feel so out of place as I looked around and saw a lot of people in their 20’s like me, along with plenty of people even older than that. A lot of the haunted attractions I have been visiting seemed to attract more teenagers than adults.

The second thing I noticed was the fact that I had to sign a waiver before proceeding. Say what? My heart began to pound a little bit at that point.

The third thing I noticed was that they had an option for a “normal” experience or for the “intense” experience. The intense experience, apparently, involves touching. They straight up ask you, “do you want to be touched?” Hmmm. Probably the only place where you can ask a total stranger that question without getting punched in the face. If you choose not to be touched, you continue on: otherwise you put on a necklace glow stick so that you’re easily spotted as someone who wants the ultra terrorizing experience.

Now, I have to say, I just loved this option. I was expecting for there to be some physical contact, but given the chance to opt out of it completely made me happy. I felt that previous haunted houses were a little too grabby for my liking – pulling my hair, shaking me, and stabbing me in the legs with their fake (yet still painful when used with force) chainsaws. No, for me, I went the no-touch route.


And it was still TERRIFYING.

That’s when the safe word comes in – “monster be good.” Say this to any of the actors , and they’ll back off. I’m not that much of a chicken that I used it, but it’s nice to know the option is there. And it was pretty amusing the hear the guy in front of me use it constantly.

I also loved the fact that this was in an actual prison – a real building with history. This old abandoned setting was creepy enough on its own. Even when you’re navigating your way through, you’re still pretty freaked out without someone jumping out and scaring you. They say it’s really haunted and there have allegedly been ghost sightings, too.


It’s a big facility with a lot of different rooms, but what was great (at least in my opinion) is that it’s broken up into several parts (with one area involving the use of 3d glasses – fun). So once you leave one section, you wait in line for the next. Perhaps standing in multiple lines doesn’t sound too appealing, but they didn’t take long and I like the fact that it helped to break things up. It gives you a chance to catch your breath. The whole experience took about 45 minutes, but I went on a Wednesday night. Expect longer lines if you go on the weekends or closer to Halloween.  You can also opt for a VIP pass, which will allow you to skip the bulk of the line.

Visitor Information

Hotels in Philadelphia: Philly’s Center City is about an hour and a half away from Field of Screams, making it an easy day trip if you’re visiting the area.  Our top picks for hotels in Philly include The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, The Rittenhouse, and Rittenhouse 1715.

Flights to the Philadelphia International Airport: Tons of routes from around the country (and the world) go directly to the Philadelphia International Airport every day. To find a flight that’s best for you, check out OneTravel to compare your options.

Tickets: To learn more about Terror Behind the Walls and to purchase your tickets, visit the Eastern State Penitentiary website. They also offer daytime tours if you want something a little more mellow.