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Terror Behind the Walls, the nation’s number one haunted attraction, kicked off its 2012 season at Eastern State Penitentiary this week.  The Penitentiary was once an actual prison located in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. Eastern State Penitentiary was state-of-the-art when it opened in 1829 and served as a functioning prison until it closed in 1971.  After E.S.P. (as the insiders call it) closed, the giant stone facility began to deteriorate and ruin.  Those ruins of dark cellblocks, high fortress walls and crumbling stone eventually became the backdrop for a haunted attraction that is equal parts terrifying and unique.

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In addition to the top-notch haunted experience including state-of-the-art light, sound and props and costumes that patrons have experienced the last two decades, the good folks behind Terror Behind the Walls have some brand new features for 2012.  The 2012 attraction will feature six separate themed areas woven together.  The Gauntlet, Lock Down, Detritus, The Experiment and Infirmary and Night Watch each have individual back stories, a separate area of the prison and costumes and players all their own.  As stand alone sections they easily rival most haunted houses, hay rides and tours of their kind; weaving them together under one ticket is what makes Terror Behind the Walls consistently place in the top attractions nationwide.  Also brand new to 2012, VIP Tours, a chance to experience the attraction in small groups. (Available only online at the above link.)

I took a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to prepare the almost 200 costumed actors that bring the attraction to life and toured one of the six attractions that make up the 2012 Terror Behind the Walls Attraction.   (Eastern State Penitentiary,  of course, invited me to all six sections of the attraction, but due to “light” constraints I was only able to shoot one area.  And of course by “light constraints” I mean I was too scared to go to the other five after the first one! ).  Even though I sat and watched the actors arrive dressed as normal every day students, soccer moms, starving artists, etc., once the transformation was complete, mixed with the backdrop of the prison, the lighting, the sound and the story line of the attraction- it’s really, really scary.

If you have the guts to go to Eastern State Penitentiary, the best way to get tickets to Terror Behind the Walls is online.  The tickets are $40 per person but you can save up to 50% if you order online in advance.  Tickets are available at
By: Tony Romeo / PHL17