September 16, 2021
Eastern State Penitentiary will hosting Halloween Nights this fall, a new take on its terror-themed festivities that will include haunted houses, live performances and themed bars.
Eastern State has hosted Terror Behind the Walls — a theatrical, terrifying event that earned it national recognition as one of the top haunted attractions — since 1997. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the attraction to forgo Halloween festivities of any kind for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Now, the terror will be folded into a large-scale Halloween festival where guests can choose their own paths: terrifying or family-friendly.
"Eastern State and other companies and organizations have taken this time to take a step back and to think about what you do, what you can do better, and think about different ideas," Director of Operations Brett Bertolino told WHYY. "Some of that thinking encouraged us to look at the building in a different way."
Halloween Nights includes 15 attractions, including two haunted houses, a 3D fun house, two walkthrough experiences and three live performances. The festival will span the entire 10-acre property, opening portions of the complex for the first time.
The cell blocks and courtyards will be transformed into immersive, interactive spaces with large-scale video projections and other special effects designed to be creepy, but not terrifying. They will include a zombie dance performance and beer gardens.
People looking for a scare can head to two walkthrough areas or stop by the Bloodline Lounge — a vampire-themed bar and lounge.
For those looking for something less scary, Halloween Nights will feature an audio tour of the prison's architecture with a newly recorded narration by Steve Buscemi and guided flashlight walking tours of the prison's hospital wing.
Guests can visit four themed bars and lounges inside the penitentiary, including the Speakeasy at Al Capone's Cell — a prohibition-themed bar and lounge with live entertainment. Tickets are $13 online and $15 at the door, and include one complimentary beer, wine or soft drink.
"There is truly something for everyone at Halloween Nights, including diehard Terror Behind the Walls fans as well as those who'd prefer a less scary, but still fun, fall experience," Bertolino said. "Our new festival model allows guests to choose their own path, to spend more time exploring freely, and to celebrate the Halloween season in the completely unique setting that is Eastern State Penitentiary."
The penitentiary will remain open for daytime tours during Halloween Nights. Tours run Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round.