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Eastern State Penitentiary Brings History and Reflections on Criminal Justice to Halloween Nights

Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary, 2021

September 8, 2021

In addition to seasonal entertainment, Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary offers a variety of tours and exhibits that shed light on the complex history of the penitentiary and invite reflection on issues of social justice and mass incarceration today.

History and Criminal Justice Programming at Halloween Nights
Visitors to the festival can experience a brand-new highlights audio tour, recorded exclusively for Halloween Nights, with narration by actor Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, Armageddon). “The Voices of Eastern State” Highlights Audio Tour is a 20-minute, self-guided tour that leads visitors through Eastern State's center surveillance hub, Cellblock 4, and the prison’s baseball diamond. It gives an overview of the history of Eastern State Penitentiary and encourages reflection on issues of justice and mass incarceration today. Included with general admission to Halloween Nights.

The Big Graph is a massive, three-dimensional bar graph sculpture illustrating the unprecedented growth in U.S. incarceration rates since 1970, when Eastern State Penitentiary closed. The graph also compares the U.S. incarceration rate to other nations’, and it shows the racial breakdown of the American prison population in 1970 and 2010. The Big Graph is located on the penitentiary’s baseball diamond and is visible to all who attend Halloween Nights. Included with general admission.

The historic site's award-winning exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration is also available to all Halloween Nights visitors. It uses innovative filmmaking and digital interactives to reflect on recent historic changes to the U.S. prison system, to encourage reflection, support dialogue, and suggest steps that visitors can take to help shape the evolution of the American criminal justice system. Included with general admission to Halloween Nights.

The After Dark CB3 Tour is a 20-minute, guide-led, flashlight walking tour of Cellblock 3, also known as the Hospital Block. During this interactive tour, visitors learn more about Eastern State's medical history and explore the Operating Room and other fascinating spaces. $10 per person, available at the door, subject to availability.

"Adding these engaging, mission-based programs to our Halloween festival marks a great step forward for Eastern State Penitentiary," said Sean Kelley, Senior Vice President. "We developed these tours and exhibits to engage with visitors in an informal, interactive way. They're designed to spark conversations and encourage reflection. Criminal justice issues have never been more critical, and we know that many Halloween Nights visitors will appreciate the chance to engage with these experiences."

Partnering with Fair Chance Employers
For concessions available during Halloween Nights, Eastern State Penitentiary partners with local businesses who share its commitment to fair chance hiring. The food and beverage providers listed below provide employment opportunities to people who may otherwise be excluded from the mainstream economy, including people who have been incarcerated.

Triple Bottom Brewing Company is a craft brewery with a social mission. They celebrate community through great beer and creative collaboration, and work to uplift all members of our community as they build and grow their business. As a fair chance brewery, Triple Bottom creates meaningful, living-wage jobs for people who have experienced homelessness or incarceration. Triple Bottom Brewing Company partners with Eastern State Penitentiary to present three themed bars at Halloween Nights:
- The Fair Chance Beer Garden, located on the penitentiary’s baseball diamond and offering a selection of Triple Bottom beers, including the Eastern State collaboration brew Purpose Pale Ale
- Tricks and Treats, offering candy-themed cocktails and beer pairings with fun-sized candy
- Gargoyle Gardens, offering fall beverages like hot apple cider, pumpkin punch, mulled wine, and French toast ale

Down North Pizza, a 2021 Philadelphia magazine ‘Best of Philly’ winner, is a mission-led, for-profit restaurant serving up their famous Detroit-style pizza during Halloween Nights. Down North Pizza’s mission is to reduce recidivism in Black and Brown communities through economic empowerment and opportunity. They exclusively employ formerly incarcerated individuals while providing culinary career opportunities at a fair wage (minimum of $15 per hour) and an equitable workplace. Their iconic-Philly-rap-song-themed menu is an offering of unique flavor profiles that help move forward Down North Pizza’s goal of “changing lives through pies.” During Halloween Nights, Down North Pizza will offer slices of their No Betta Love and Roc the Mic pizzas as well as classic lemonade.

/Lōˈkal/ Artisan Foods Group is a Black-, woman-owned business dedicated to hiring youth from underserved communities and offering at least 35% above minimum wage. /Lōˈkal/ uses ingredients grown and sourced responsibly with respect to origin and seasonality. While their product offerings are sweet and fun, providing quality and traceable ingredients is a priority. During Halloween Nights/lōˈkal/will offer French Toast Bites (traditional, pumpkin spiced, vegan traditional, vegan pumpkin spiced), bacon on a stick, coffee (hot and iced), and apple cider (hot and iced).

Raising Funds to Support Eastern State Penitentiary’s Mission
Halloween Nights is a major fundraiser for Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Proceeds from Halloween Nights support Eastern State’s mission to interpret the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, and benefit the preservation of Eastern State Penitentiary, a National Historic Landmark.

Eastern State members receive discounted admission to Halloween Nights, complimentary Express Entry, a discount in the store, and complimentary admission to the After Dark CB3 Tour, subject to availability. Two behind-the-scenes experiences are also available exclusively to members.

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary is open for tours year-round. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; award-winning exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and the Trustee Emeritus Award for Stewardship from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, which hires people who were formerly incarcerated to lead tours of the historic site, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others.

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Nicole Frankhouser

Director of Marketing and Communications
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