Thursday, October 20, 2011
Hiatus Report - Part 2
Turns out, right here in Philadelphia, we have the “Number 1 Haunted House in the U.S.” as rated by AOL City Guide (does anyone still use AOL?). And they are correct. Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary is without a doubt, the best haunted house I've ever been in. I took the boys last year and The Pudge wanted to go again this year with a buddy of his who had never been there before. The Boy is away at college, so he wasn't part of this. The Pudge's buddy, Birch (I made that up to protect the innocent) is in Boy Scouts too. But more importantly, his uncle (with whom he lives) runs a major, neighborhood haunted house in his backyard every year. So The Pudge and I felt it appropriate that we take Birch with us. The two of them will be part of the uncle's haunted house again this year, so I don't have to take them out trick-or-treating anymore.
The uncle starts constructing his haunted house in August, and he really does a good job. He's an English teacher and a published author of horror novels (go figure) although I have not read any of them. He has never been to the penitentiary and I had hoped he would join us, but he had his own project to finish.
A note about Birch. I was a little concerned taking him to this because he came from a broken home and has some minor psychological problems. The Pudge has been friends with him since he transferred to his elementary school in 3rd grade. His uncle assured me he'd be okay. And he was, but I had that in the back of my mind the whole time we were there.
Anyway, the Penitentiary, opened in 1829 is massive. Surrounded by 30 foot stone walls and covering 11 acres, this place is huge. Al Capone did his first stint in prison here in 1929 - 8 months for carrying a concealed weapon. It was abandoned in the early 1970s and fell in to disrepair . It was opened again in 1988 as a historic landmark for tours and for the Terror Behind the Walls tour in 1991.
Once you're in the prison, you go through different sections such as the infirmary and the prison block. The place is run down and gives it that "Munsters" look, but completely safe. There are actors everywhere, jumping out, making noise and opening doors and windows. It's mostly dark or eerily lit, fog machines everywhere and a lot of other surprises. It takes the better part of an hour to get through everything and is not for the easily scared or claustrophobic (The Mrs - she never goes to stuff like this).