It’s that time of year again! Fall, pumpkin spice, Halloween and haunted attractions are everywhere. Every September my Girlfriend and I plan out which haunted events we want to attend. Our favorites are Six flag’s fright fest, the Bates Motel, Eastern State Penitentiary, and Pennhurst Asylum. They are all unique in their own way while all being thrilling and exciting each time. This year since we are both in college we don’t have that much spare time to travel far to haunted attractions so our planning had to consider our time.
We drew up a list of ten different attractions and how far away they are from where we live. Each weekend we see how much time we can allot to our experiences and we then pick from the list what attraction can accommodate our time parameters. Last weekend Eastern State Penitentiary was the attraction we chose to visit. We have gone the past two years to the Terror Behind the Walls event they host. The historic atmosphere where dangerous criminals were held and the eerie abandoned buildings give this event a uniquely frightening feeling. Although this year, they have upgraded their experience above and beyond the normal scare.
Eastern State Penitentiary added the Hex Challenge into their event. This is an additional charge admission event that allows you to experience more than the regular walk through to the six different events they offer. This Hex Challenge is a mix between a quest and an escape room puzzle. I went into the event completely open minded and was unsure what exactly I would be doing. By the end I couldn’t stop smiling from how thrilled, amused, and impressed I was with what the Terror Behind the Walls had presented this year.
The evening started by deciding what we wanted to eat for dinner. We decided that Chipotle was a quick, easy cleanup choice that would allow for us to spend more time enjoying the event rather than eating.
The experience starts when you arrive at the massive wall encompassing several city blocks. There are actors dressed up on the sidewalk helping those find their way to where to enter as well as getting them warmed up for the scary creatures that await inside. Next you go through security, then sign a waiver (adds to the “what’s going to happen to me” factor). Next you check in with which program you are doing. Express passes and Hex Challenge enter one line and speed to the front. Then herded into a briefing room to learn the rules and proper ways to act. The biggest decision comes next: you decide whether or not you want the monsters to be able to touch you. This is decided by a glow in the dark necklace you get to wear. I highly encourage everyone to opt into this part of the experience. Especially because it can be taken off at any moment and thrown to the ground preventing the monsters from touching you. There is also the option to get some “blood” placed on your cheek to be dressed up like the actors. There are six different areas that everyone walks (some run) through. The neat thing is that all the areas are the cell blocks to the historic prison system where actual criminals stayed. The Hex challenge adds a backstory to connect all six areas with a story line. This was a nice feature that is very different from previous years. Before each area you are briefed with the situation and are asked to accomplish a task before being thrust into the normal action of the experience. It’s a very personal experience which gives you the fright of interacting one-on-one with the actors and your group. I’m not going to give any spoilers to the Hex challenge, but you do get to go down a slide into a ball pit!
Once you escape from the Penitentiary and the last area of the experience you are let out into a courtyard where there is a food stand, a gift shop, and the entrance to another great addition this year: a speakeasy. This was one of the more fascinating areas to experience. It costs $10 to enter, but you get a complimentary drink (alcoholic or a soda) and access to some nice entertainment. This speakeasy is a hall of the Penitentiary that has been converted into a temporary lounge. There are a few of the cells open for you to go in with your group and relax after being scared for the past hour. In these cells there are different attractions. One cell has a museum exhibit that is unexplainable. Other cells have a fortune teller, a blackjack table for a chance to win a piece of chocolate, some furniture to sit and listen to the phonograph playing and take in what it felt like to live in a cell in the Penitentiary. Finally, the speakeasy includes a view of the famous Al Capone’s cell just how it was when he stayed there.
Everything about this experience was thrilling, exciting, and memorable in the best way. The Hex challenge was a great new way to interact with the actors and get an immersive experience. The Speakeasy afterwards was an era appropriate display which allowed me to calm down after the heart racing adventure. I would really enjoy doing this again and it’s a great start to a new type of haunted attractions. I would advise the event planners to put more publicity on the speakeasy since it was a historic touch that was the perfect end to the night and I wish more people got to experience it. I can’t possibly give you the feeling of the experience so I dare you to try and escape from Eastern State Penitentiary for yourself. Good luck.