Terror Behind The Walls
While training at my headquarters, I joined some colleagues on an evening trip to Terror Behind The Walls which is a haunted-house-style exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly. Yanks take their Halloween seriously and haunted houses are all the rage around October, but this particular one is known as one of the top sites in the country. The natural setting of the dark, ominous, deteriorating prison makes for the perfect location. The layout was clever, with the prison being used to make 6 differently themed sections: 1 with insane criminals, 1 with mutilated/power-tool-wielding madmen, 1 demonic, 1 jungle and 1 with occult/alien stuff. Each section was a small maze with the appropriate number of dark corners, strobe lights, haunting sound effects and fake walls for people to jump out of. As soon as someone jumped out and scared one of party, a few people behind them saw it, so the actors were good at timing their pranks to hit about every 6th person. I was impressed with they way they varied their tactics so that even I was caught unawares at times and almost jumped … almost.
If you’re brave enough to be touched and interacted with, they mark you by putting a red glow-band around your neck, which basically announces, “scare me to death, touch me and occasionally take me away from my group.” Most of my colleagues and I took the red bands so we got the full monty. I was targeted for a few private scares, including crawling through a spooky tunnel and being strapped to a dentists chair to have my hand crushed by a huge clamp. The best sneaky scare was a man in a black morphsuit with coloured spots, hiding against a spotty wall that he blended into perfectly. He managed to scare almost everyone because he was practically invisible.
By far the scariest room was a long, smoky hallway with death row inmates lined up along bothwalls every few metres. They wore striped suits and had black sacks over their heads like they were marked for death. We were forced to walk down this long, horrific corridor and most of them were just dummies, but some of them occasionally jumped out to dart amongst our group. There was a slow strobe flashing the whole time so the effect was stunningly spooky.
There must be thousands of tacky haunted houses out there with bored actors and unoriginal, pre-fabricated mazes and costumes, but this was nothing like I’d imagined. The combined effect of the great costumes, actors and scenery all behind the prison walls truly produced a feeling much like terror.
Terror video – http://www.easternstate.org/halloween/preview-video
A neat review – http://www.visitphilly.com/articles/philadelphia/top-reasons-why-terror-behind-the-walls-is-best-haunted-house-in-america/