Location: 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Terror Behind the Walls is a major, mainstream haunted attraction which takes place within the confines of the historical, famous and intimidating structure known as the Eastern State Penitentiary. The architectural design of this real life prison is hauntingly breathtaking, and we found ourselves looking down rows of abandoned cellblocks, and into cells as we made our way through each attraction. Eastern State Penitentiary once held notorious criminals such as Al Capone and Willie Sutton, and is a United States National Historical Landmark. Eastern State Penitentiary’s imposing structure is worth the visit alone, and has been featured on popular paranormal television shows such as “Ghost Adventures” and “Ghost Hunters”. Terror Behind the Walls is celebrating its 25th season, attended their Kick-Off preview event and after party. Over the past several years Terror Behind the Walls has gone through great lengths to make its massive attraction an intense, mature and highly interactive experience. Terror Behind the Walls utilizes effective time management to control each que line, and has consistently reduced line back-up in each attraction. We ran into other groups only when there was a backup due to a scare, early into the haunt or if we had to rejoin the regular groups after a moving through one of the unique hidden passages, or bonus events. Overall, Terror Behind the Walls does a good job at managing crowds and line control while within the prison.
Despite enormous crowds, the attraction finds ways to make guest interactions unique. The set design is of the highest quality, it augments the grim atmosphere Eastern State Penitentiary and the character actors are detailed, and relentless in their efforts to scare. Guests may be sent down secret “passages” which involve walking through tight spaces, can be abducted from their groups and thrown into cells, placed on operating tables, made to crawl and be subjected to various other unique “experiences” if they chose the all-out “contact” experience offered by this attraction. The actors do a phenomenal job of targeting guests and making the attraction unique despite the long lines, and sometimes back up which is the result of huge crowds. Even if you do not chose to participate in the more aggressive “contact” event, you still may be sent down pathways away from longer groups and participate in events that can be best described as bonus mini-attractions within the expansive haunt. We wished the experience did not end, as the attraction moves rather quickly and ends abruptly. Terror Behind the Walls is a fantastic event, and one of the best mainstream haunted attractions you can visit this Halloween season. We hope they continue to utilize the imposing Eastern State Penitentiary to continue to expand this attraction and look forward to visiting again soon!
The attraction is extremely interactive and at times intense despite the number of people who travel through the attraction, we also suggest (although possibly frowned upon) that you attempt to separate yourself from the larger crowd backups as you make your way through the prison. Some of the creepiest, and scariest interactions occurred when we were left alone in the various rooms such as the infirmary with the talented scare actors and detailed animatronics/props. The attraction, composed of six separate scenes or mini-attractions has great set pieces, incredible designs, and excellent actors and is an experience that we suggest all haunted attraction fans visit.
Terror Behind the Walls is an extremely popular attraction and attracts some of the largest crowds we have ever witnessed at a haunted attraction. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office for different times which indicate when the guests should line up for the event outside of the prison gates. Prices change depending on the time slot and day selected and show times are approximate. We strongly suggest you purchase a VIP fast pass upgrade, or check out the nightlight if you plan on waiting in the long lines. The last show time typically starts after 11:30, and from what we saw, due to the number of people attending the attraction there were delays. Furthermore, parking for the event is at the Philadelphia Zoo’s parking garage on West Girard Avenue. Guests are transported to the attraction via a “Ghostbus”, and parking costs $20.00 ($13.00 via cell phone or online purchase).
Terror Behind the Walls is composed of six separate attractions or themes linked together throughout the massive prison. Each attraction is unique to the other and each has their strengths and weaknesses. Prior to entering the attraction guests are asked to choose whether or not to participate in an interactive, hands on experience, and receive a “tracking device” (also known as a glow neckless). Terror Behind the Walls advertises that those who wear the neckless may be grabbed, pulled into cell blocks, sent into hidden passageways, incorporated into the show and possibly removed from a group. While we traveled through the attractions we not only were subjected to these types of interactions but saw others ahead of us also be fortunate enough to be chosen by the actors to become direct participants in the show. One guest for example was forced to crawl through one of the attractions hidden passages, another was pinned against the wall by an imposing “prisoner” we were “cut” by shank wielding prisoners as we moved from attraction to attraction. The interactive experience is highly entertaining and we recommend you opt into the experience.
The first attraction at Terror Behind the Walls is “Lock Down”, featuring rioting inmates, and an impressive electrical/pyrotechnic show throughout the tight corridors of “Cellblock 12”. Prisoner actors grasp at guests, break from cells and the rushed, panic induced pace of the attraction simulates a riot scene. The aggressive scare actors in “Lock Down” do a fantastic job of interacting with the long lines of guests who enter into the attraction. “Lock Down” features atmospheric set design and use of lighting to create memorable scenes. One scene in particular, features a long corridor leading out of the attraction that blinds guests with white light, fog and slow strobe lights. “Dead” bodies line the walls of this ominous corridor and some are quite alive. Of the six attractions “Lock Down” had the most problems regarding line backup. This does reduce the scare level of the attraction as at times we witnessed scenes/actors who were ahead of us then quickly attempted to move back into their original place. “Lock Down” also continues to move rather quickly, wish makes the experience feel short. Terror Behind the Walls should try to find strategies to reduce back-up in this attraction and lengthen the “Lock Down” experience.
“Machine Shop”, the second attraction at Terror Behind the Walls, was added last year and is the most aggressive and interactive of all six attractions. Machine shop is an expansive boiler room setting featuring aggressive actors who force guests into cages, taunt, make others crawl through tight corridors and “brand” guests throughout the attraction. We witnessed a guest be placed into a cell, thrown into a dentist chair and be assaulted by the talented, intimidating scare actors. The gritty, rusty nature of each scene, coupled with effective jump scares and detailed props make “Machine Shop” one of the best interactive attractions at Terror Behind the Walls.
“Detritus”, is an outdoor/greenhouse themed attraction which featured some excellent jump scares and again some extremely interactive actors. The outdoor sets of “Detritus” feature detailed themes, from the greenhouse with well-hidden scare actors to an abandoned graveyard scene. “Detritus” has improved its rather short experience over the past year. Last year we had issues with actor placement, and line-back up which were not an issue present in our visit this year.
“Infirmary” was the scariest of the six attractions at Terror Behind the Walls and the one which did the best job of splitting up groups. We practically went through this attraction by ourselves, got to experience the disturbing medical instruments, aggressive doctors, brutalized patients and gory props found in each room. We saw other groups being dragged into operating rooms, and had to move through a bonus corridor/hall which we were pressed tightly against walls, and reflective glass. The set designs and use of animatronics to create misdirection compliment the demented scare actors found throughout this attraction.
“Quarantine 4D”, is one of the two new attractions at Terror Behind the Walls this year. The art design and creativity of this attraction is top-notch and the attraction also features several unique experiences such as hidden passageways. The use of 3D glasses, fluorescent light and a funhouse-like atmosphere make this attraction rather enjoyable but not particularly scary. “Quarantine 4D” had several back-up problems, which hindered the experience. “Quarantine 4D” also felt short, and we surprised it had ended early. This attraction has room to grow and improve upon next year.
“Breakout”, the last attraction at Terror Behind the Walls, was an underwhelming ending to the overall incredible haunted attraction experience. We were quickly ushered into this new attraction for the 2015 haunt season, and again talented scare actors did a great job of simulating a prison escape. However, “Breakout” ends abruptly, we actually walked out expecting the attraction to continue but found only the exit area. Terror Behind the Walls would be best served in designing a longer, more impressive last attraction to leave guests with a memorable finale.
The Final Word
Terror Behind the Walls continues to improve every year, major production, and is a one popular haunted attractions we have ever visited. The attraction’s designers continue to find ways to make guests become direct participants in the experience. The aggressive scare actors, incredible set designs and interactive rooms make this one of the best mainstream attractions you can visit this season. We hope the attraction continues to add to and enhance its newer attractions it has opened for the 2015 season. Terror Behind the Walls continues to change its show, and add new unique experiences every year, and we look forward to visiting again next year!
Categories: Haunted Attraction Reviews