Eastern State Facade at Night

FAQ

Is it scary?

You bet it's scary. We do our absolute best to terrify you and your friends. Just imagine being inside an 11-acre abandoned prison at night. This is the nation’s premier haunted attraction, head and shoulders above the hayrides and haunted houses out there. Our goal is to make you scared. Really scared. And yes, it's possible that someone (or something?) might be lurking inside one of those empty, dark cells you keep walking past….

More of what to expect on our preview page.

Will I be able to leave if I get too scared?

Yes. If at any point you wish to exit the attraction, just let one of our actors, event staff or security officers know and they will escort you out. Please be advised, however, that there are no refunds.

Can the actors touch me?

When you enter Terror Behind the Walls, you will be confronted with a critical decision: should you explore the prison and watch the action, or should you mark yourself to truly interact with the denizens of the cellblocks? Those who opt in for true interactivity may be grabbed, held back, sent into hidden passageways, removed from their group, and even occasionally incorporated into the show. They will deal with the consequences of their decision through six long attractions.

Is it really haunted?

Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. With the growing interest in paranormal investigations, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Nearly 60 paranormal investigation teams explore the site each year, capturing extensive evidence of ghosts within the penitentiary walls.

Eastern State Penitentiary has been featured on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters; the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Challenge, and Most Haunted Live; Fox Television’s World’s Scariest Places; TLC’s America’s Ghost Hunters; and MTV’s FEAR. Our website features extensive clips that document real investigations inside the nearly 200-year-old prison.

What’s new this year?

Each year, Terror Behind the Walls is a little bit bigger and a little bit better, with new effects, new costumes and makeup, and updated and expanded attractions.

And for 2014, we're unveiling the most interactive attraction in the history of the event - Machine Shop.

Hidden deep inside the cellblocks is a long-forgotten machine shop. Evil pervades this space – an evil with one mind but with many bodies. Will you survive, or will you become just another cog in the machine?

This one-of-a-kind attraction features intense startles, immersive one-on-one experiences, and gruesome industrial scenes. It takes the highly interactive Terror Behind the Walls experience to new heights.

More of what to expect on our preview page.

How do I buy tickets?

Buying online is ALWAYS the cheapest and most convenient way to purchase Terror Behind the Walls tickets, guaranteed. You’ll save time and money, and purchasing in advance is the only way to guarantee entry to the event.

How much do tickets cost?

Ticket prices vary. Visit our schedule & prices page for ticketing options.

Where does the money go?

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. is a charitable nonprofit organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All proceeds from Terror Behind the Walls help us operate and preserve this National Historic Landmark. Terror Behind the Walls is the single largest source of revenue for the historic site. Thank you for your support!

How long is the wait?

If you buy your ticket in advance online, you shouldn’t have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes! All tickets are sold in half hour entry windows. You will enter the penitentiary complex within the half-hour entry window printed on your ticket, have your photo taken, and then enter “Yard Out.” You can expect to spend about 30 minutes in Yard Out before entering the first of six haunted attractions.

Please do not arrive before the time printed on your ticket; this will only extend your wait time.

When should I get in line?

You should arrive within the half-hour entry time printed on your ticket. Do not arrive before the time printed on your ticket; this will only extend your wait time.

How long is the experience?

You can expect to spend about 30 minutes in Yard Out before entering the haunted houses. Once you enter, it takes about 45 minutes to walk through all six attractions. After surviving Terror Behind the Walls, you may want to visit the exhibits or gift shops, feast on some batter-dipped Oreos or fresh funnel cake at the snack bar, or groove to the Monster Mash with our Zombie DJ. Groups making transportation arrangements should anticipate leaving about two hours from the entry time printed on their tickets.

What if it rains?

Terror Behind the Walls runs rain or shine. Please dress for the weather, and be sure to wear appropriate footwear. Sandals, flip-flops, open-toed shoes, and high heels are not permitted. Most of the event takes place inside; however, the line and some sections of the tour are outdoors, and the penitentiary is not heated.

Is it appropriate for kids?

We recommend that kids ages 7-12 visit on our Family Nights, held each Sunday until 7:30 pm. (On these nights, kids who get too scared can say, “Monster, be good!”) Kids under the age of seven are not permitted on the site. Visitors under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian complete a waiver for them. You can download a waiver here.

Are Family Nights as scary as other nights?

Yes. It’s the exact same show, but our actors are on the lookout for kids who may be too scared. Our actors will back away if a kid says, "Monster, be good," but kids who don't ask for mercy get none!

Are there special rates for kids?

Yes, but only on Family Nights. On these nights, kids’ (ages 7-12) tickets purchased online are half price for entry times before 7:30 pm. Discounted kids’ tickets are not available on other show nights, so we highly recommend that families or groups with children visit on Family Nights. Offer not valid at the box office. Cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions.

Are there special rates for students?

Yes, but only on Student Sundays. Every Sunday night, students of all ages can purchase half price tickets for entry times after 7:30 pm. College students must present a valid student ID upon entry. Offer not valid at the box office. Cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions.

Do you offer group rates?

Yes! Discounted tickets are available for groups of 20 or more. In order to receive the discounted ticket price, groups must purchase their tickets in advance. Please see our group page for rates and additional information. Cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions.

I’m not a kid, a student, or a member of a group tour. Can I get a discount anyway?

Sure! Visit any Pennsylvania or New Jersey LUKOIL location for a $5 off coupon. Coupons available while supplies last. Cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions.

How do I get there?

Terror Behind the Walls is located at Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130. Convenient to Septa routes 48, 43, 33, 32, and 7. No parking available at the penitentiary.

Terror Behind the Walls parking is located at The Philadelphia Zoo’s new parking garage at 3500 W. Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104. A Ghost Bus shuttle will take you from the zoo to the penitentiary and back. For more information about the Ghost Bus or for customized directions, visit our parking & directions page.

Where can I park?

Terror Behind the Walls parking is located at The Philadelphia Zoo’s new parking garage at 3500 W. Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104. A Ghost Bus shuttle will take you from the zoo to the penitentiary and back. For more information about the Ghost Bus, visit our parking & directions page.

When should I arrive at the Ghost Bus parking lot?

Plan to arrive at the Ghost Bus parking lot 30 minutes before the time listed on your ticket.

Is there a drop off / pick up location?

Beginning at 6 pm, there is a drop off / pick up zone located directly in front of the penitentiary on the north side of Fairmount Avenue at 21st Street. Guests wishing to use the drop off / pick up zone should approach the penitentiary from the east on Fairmount Avenue. This zone is for active loading and unloading only. No cars or buses will be permitted to wait in this area.

Why do I have to sign a waiver? What does it say?

Eastern State Penitentiary is a ruin which sat abandoned from 1971 until the early 1990s, and Terror Behind the Walls is a high-startle, high-intensity event featuring strobe lights, fog machines, and electrical effects that can affect pacemakers and other implanted medical devices. We therefore require that every visitor complete a waiver before entering the property. You can download a waiver here.

Should I have any safety concerns?

Eastern State Penitentiary was abandoned for more than 20 years. While visitors are no longer required to wear hard hats, the building remains in a state of semi-ruin. Visitors should exercise caution and stay within the clearly marked public areas. For your safety, the penitentiary complex is monitored by a closed circuit surveillance system.

During Terror Behind the Walls, Emergency Medical Technicians, Philadelphia police officers, uniformed security officers, and plain-clothed security officers are on duty to assist visitors.

Eastern State Penitentiary has a zero-tolerance policy for troublemakers. Troublemakers will be ejected from the penitentiary complex without refund. We want everyone to have a safe, fun time.

Can I attend TBTW if I am pregnant or have other health concerns?

Terror Behind the Walls is a high-startle, high-intensity event featuring strobe lights, fog machines, loud noises, and electrical effects that can affect pacemakers, other implanted medical devices, and those prone to seizures. Visitors who are pregnant or who have certain health conditions should consult their physician before attending the event.

Is TBTW handicap accessible?

Many people in wheelchairs visit Terror Behind the Walls each year. That said, the penitentiary complex is not fully ADA compliant. The building is nearly 200 years old and is a National Historic Landmark. Sections of it may never be fully accessible.

There is a small section of the haunted house that goes up onto the second floor of a cellblock. This section of the route can easily be bypassed. The rest of the route is equipped with ADA compliant ramps and meets most ADA guidelines.

Can I bring __________?

If you have to ask, it’s best that you leave it in the car or, better yet, at home. We are dedicated to providing a safe, fun event for every visitor. Therefore, weapons of any kind, pepper spray, pocketknives, lighters, flashlights, alcoholic beverages, and any other potentially dangerous objects are not permitted inside the penitentiary.

We have a strict "no guns" policy, which means that even persons licensed to carry a firearm, including off-duty law enforcement officers, will not be permitted to bring their weapon into the penitentiary complex (and we can't hold them for you, either).

Our security team checks all bags for potentially dangerous objects and conducts random pat-downs.

Cameras are permitted, but photography and videography are not allowed inside the haunted houses.

Will I learn about the penitentiary’s history?

Yes, Terror Behind the Walls takes place in America's Most Historic Prison. You will begin your evening in a former exercise yard, surrounded by massive 30-foot-high walls. During your tour, you will walk down several real cellblocks, past the long abandoned cells that once held some of the 80,000 men and women that served time at Eastern State. Halfway through the tour, you will have a chance to visit the penitentiary’s central surveillance hub. Here, you will have a magnificent view down all seven original cellblocks.

Following the tour you’ll have a chance to enter Cellblock 1, where our staff can answer your questions about Eastern State’s fascinating history, and you’ll receive free admission to one of the historic site's small exhibits (formerly the no–contact visitation room for inmates), where you can watch a video about the penitentiary’s history and read a bit about the penitentiary's past.

The best way to learn about Eastern State's history and architecture is to visit during daytime hours. All visitors to TBTW receive $5 off a daytime tour ticket with their TBTW ticket or ticket stub. Daytime admission includes an audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi, several Hands-On History interactive experiences, and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

We hope you will gain a glimpse into Eastern State’s fascinating history during TBTW and return for a daytime prison tour.

Where’s a good place to eat/drink near the prison?

At the conclusion of the Terror Behind the Walls tour route, you will find a snack bar with chicken fingers, fries, funnel cake, and other quick bites.

There are no formal dining facilities within the penitentiary complex; however, there are several wonderful restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood. We strongly recommend calling ahead to make reservations for large groups. For a list of restaurants, visit our dining page.

How can I get a job with TBTW?

For information about joining our Scream Team, please visit our jobs page.