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Terror Behind the Walls

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Terror Behind the Walls

Post by Tater Salad on Tue Oct 26, 2010 1:03 pm

"Terror Behind the Walls" is a Halloween event held annually at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is run by Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. (ESPHS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Proceeds are used to fulfill the mission of ESPHS, which is to make accessible, preserve and interpret .

The event, which is also billed as "A Massive Haunted House in a Real Prison," is actually made up of five separate haunted attractions inside the 11-acre (45,000 m2) complex.


History

The first Halloween fundraiser at Eastern State Penitentiary took place in 1991.[1] The first year, the event was held just on Halloween weekend, and tickets were only available as part of a dinner package through neighborhood restaurants. The event consisted of actors telling ghost stories in the abandoned prison. A few hundred people attended that first year, and attendance increased each subsequent year. However, the event struggled to find an identity, and took various forms, including short theatrical performances and true tales of prison murder and violence.[1]

In 1995, the event was rebranded as Terror Behind the Walls, and became a high startle, low gore walkthrough haunted attraction, which it continues as today.[1][2]

The event was a single, long walkthrough. In 2001, it was broken up into three separate, smaller haunted attractions. One of the attractions introduced that year was a 3-D haunted house. At the time, it was the only 3-D haunted house in Southeastern Pennsylvania and one of the first in the United States.

By 2003, the event had grown to a point where it was no longer feasible to build up and tear down the entire attraction each year. That year, four semi-permanent haunted attractions were constructed inside the penitentiary complex.[1]

Today, Terror Behind the Walls has grown to become one of the nation’s largest and most well known haunted attractions.[3] It had been consistently ranked as one of the top haunted attractions in the nation, including such recognitions as: “#1 Haunted House in America" by AOL City Guide [4]; "9th Best Haunted House in the United States" by Hauntworld Magazine "One of Bloody Mary's Favorite Haunted Houses" in The Tales of Bloody Mary comic book; "Best Haunted Attraction" by The Scare Factor!; and "Best Professional Haunted House" by Hauntfreaks.com.[1]
[edit] Impact of the historic site

The Eastern State Penitentiary is both a National Historic Landmark and a stabilized ruin. Because of this, Terror Behind the Walls faces many challenges that most haunted houses do not face.

Hard Hats - Because of the poor condition of the building, the City of Philadelphia required all visitors to wear a hard hat while on the property. Terror Behind the Walls was perhaps the only haunted house in the nation to have such a requirement. In 2000, stabilization efforts, completed with funds raised from Terror Behind the Walls, eliminated the need for hardhats for people visiting the Halloween event (although they were still necessary for day time tours until 2003).[1]

Historic Tours - Until 2000, the daytime historic tour route and the haunted houses occupied many of the same physical spaces in the prison. Because of this, the majority of the haunted houses had to be constructed and torn down each year. In 2003, semi-permanent haunted houses were built in spaces not used for the daytime historic tours.[1]

Preservation - The preservation of the building is one of the primary focuses of the mission of ESPHS. Therefore, no aspects of the construction may damage or permanently alter the physical fabric of the building. The attractions are built in such a way that if they were removed, the area would look exactly as it appeared before construction began.[1]

Addressing Prison Issues - Because part of the mission of ESPHS is to interpret the building’s history and address current issues in corrections, it would be irresponsible and inappropriate to make light of such issues. Therefore, Terror Behind the Walls is probably the only prison themed haunted attraction to not feature an electric chair or other forms of capital punishment. In addition, the haunted house makes no attempt to address the history of The Eastern State Penitentiary. Terror Behind the Walls is not, nor is it intended to be, a historically accurate representation of the prison; it is simply a prison themed haunted house.

Not For Profit - Terror Behind the Walls is a fundraiser for a charity organization. It is run by ESPHS, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Visitors can write off one half of the ticket cost as a tax deductible donation. Terror Behind the Walls is, arguably, the largest not for profit haunted house in the entire world (in both money raised and attendance).

100% of the proceeds benefit preservation efforts at The Eastern State Penitentiary, a National Historic Landmark. Terror Behind the Walls is the single largest source of revenue for the historic site.[1]

Real Hauntings - The question of whether or not Eastern State Penitentiary is actually haunted is hotly debated, but many people believe it to be true. Records show that, in the early 1940s, inmates and officers began reporting supernatural phenomena. Since Eastern State was abandoned in 1971, the number of ghost sightings has increased.[5]

The site is frequently visited by paranormal investigation groups, and findings are mixed. Although many groups do report experiencing some sort of ghostly happening, some groups leave with nothing.

The Atlantic Paranormal Society, known for their TV show, Ghost Hunters, released footage of what they claim to be a ghost. However, this has not been truly determined.[6]

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Eastern State Penitentiary


The Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP[4]) is a former American prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is located on 2027 Fairmount Avenue between Corinthian Avenue and North 22nd Street in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia and was operational from 1829 until 1971. Its revolutionary system of incarceration was the first to establish the policy of separate confinement, emphasizing principles of reform rather than punishment. Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its unique wagon wheel design. When the building was erected it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.

The prison is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark,[3] which is open to the public as a museum for tours seven days a week, twelve months a year 10 am to 5 pm.


History

Designed by John Haviland and opened on October 25, 1829, Eastern State is considered to be the world's first true penitentiary, despite the fact that the Walnut Street Jail, which opened in 1776, was called a "penitentiary" as early as 1790 . Eastern State's revolutionary system of incarceration, dubbed the "Pennsylvania System" or Separate system, encouraged separate confinement (the warden was legally required to visit every inmate every day, and the overseers were mandated to see each inmate three times a day) as a form of rehabilitation.

The Pennsylvania System was opposed contemporaneously by the Auburn System (also known as the New York System), which held that prisoners should be forced to work together in silence, and could be subjected to physical punishment (Sing Sing prison was an example of the Auburn system). Although the Auburn system was favored in the United States, Eastern State's radial floor plan and system of solitary confinement was the model for over 300 prisons worldwide. The original goal was for prisoners to want to open up to God, thus seeking penance.

The original design of the cells were separated by a metal door and a wooden door to filter out noise. The halls were designed to have the feel of a church. Some believe that the doors were small so prisoners would have a harder time getting out, minimizing an attack to a security guard. Others have explained the small doors forced the prisoners "bow" while entering their cell. This design is related to penance and ties to the religious inspiration of the prison. The cells were made of concrete with a single glass skylight, representing the "Eye of God", hinting to the prisoners that God was always watching them. Outside the cell, there was an individual area for exercise, enclosed by high walls so prisoners couldn't communicate. Each exercise time for each prisoner was synchronized so no two prisoners would be out at the same time. Prisoners were allowed to garden and even keep pets in their exercise yards. When prisoners left the cell, a guard would accompany them and wrap them in a hood. [5]

The original design of the building was for seven one-story cell blocks, but by the time cell block three was completed, it was already over capacity. From then on, all the other cell blocks were two floors. Toward the end, cell blocks 14 and 15 were hastily built due to overcrowding. They were built and designed by prisoners. Cell block 15 was for the worst prisoners, and the guards were gated off.


It was widely believed (then and now) that the policy of keeping prisoners in intense isolation, rather than leading to the spiritual actualization and social reform it intended, induced significant mental illness among many of its prisoners instead. The system eventually collapsed due to overcrowding problems. By 1913, Eastern State officially abandoned the solitary system and operated as a congregate prison until it closed in 1970 (Eastern State was briefly used to house city inmates in 1971 after a riot at Holmesburg Prison).


The prison was one of the largest public-works projects of the early republic, and was a tourist destination in the 19th century. Notable visitors included Charles Dickens and Alexis de Tocqueville while notable inmates included Willie Sutton and Al Capone. Visitors spoke with prisoners in their cells, proving that inmates were not isolated, though the prisoners themselves were not allowed to have any visits with family or friends during their stay.

The Penitentiary was intended not simply to punish, but to move the criminal toward spiritual reflection and change. While some have argued that the Pennsylvania System was Quaker-inspired, there is little evidence to support this; the organization that promoted Eastern State's creation, the Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons (today's Pennsylvania Prison Society) was in fact less than half Quaker, and was led for nearly fifty years by Philadelphia's Anglican bishop, William White. Proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent. In reality, the guards and councilors of the facility designed a variety of physical and psychological torture regimens for various infractions, including dousing prisoners in freezing water outside during winter months, chaining their tongues to their wrists in a fashion such that struggling against the chains could cause the tongue to tear, strapping prisoners into chairs with tight leather restraints for days on end, and putting them into a pit called "The Hole" dug under cellblock 14 where they would have no light, no human contact, and little food for as long as two weeks.

In 1924, Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot allegedly sentenced Pep "The Cat-Murdering Dog" to a life sentence at Eastern State. Pep allegedly murdered the governor’s wife’s cherished cat. Prison records reflect that Pep was assigned an inmate number (no. C2559), which is seen in his mug shot. However, the reason for Pep’s incarceration remains a subject of some debate. A newspaper article reported that the governor donated his own dog to the prison to increase inmate morale.[1]

On April 3, 1945, a major prison escape was carried out by twelve inmates (including the infamous Willie Sutton) who over the course of a year managed to dig an undiscovered 97-foot (30 m) tunnel under the prison wall to freedom. During renovations in the 1930s an additional 30 incomplete inmate-dug tunnels were also discovered.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.[3][6]

The prison was closed and abandoned in 1971. Many prisoners and guards were transferred to Graterford Prison, about 31 miles (50 km) northwest of Eastern State. The City of Philadelphia purchased the property with the intention of redeveloping it. The site had several proposals, including a mall, and a luxury apartment complex surrounded by the old prison walls

During the abandoned era (from closing until the late 80s) a "forest" grew in the cell blocks and outside within the walls. The prison also became home to many stray cats.

In 1988, the Eastern State Penitentiary Task Force successfully petitioned Mayor Wilson Goode to halt redevelopment. In 1994, Eastern State opened to the public for historic tours.


Architectural significance



Eastern State Penitentiary's radial plan served as the model for hundreds of later prisons.

When the Eastern State Penitentiary, or Cherry Hill as it was known at the time, was erected in 1829 (the idea of this new prison was created in a meeting held at Benjamin Franklin's house in 1787) it was the largest and most expensive public structure in the country.[7] Its architectural significance first arose in 1821, when British architect John Haviland was chosen to design the building. Haviland found most of his inspiration for his plan for the penitentiary from prisons and asylums built beginning in the 1780s in England and Ireland. These complexes consist of cell wings radiating in a semi or full circle array from a center tower from where the prison could be kept under constant surveillance. The design for the penitentiary which Haviland devised became known as the hub-and-spoke plan which consisted of an octagonal center connected by corridors to seven radiating single-story cell blocks, each containing two ranges of large single cells—8 x 12 feet x 10 feet high- with hot water heating, a water tap, toilet, and individual exercise yards the same width as the cell.[7] There were rectangular openings in the cell wall through which food and work materials could be passed to the prisoner, as well as peepholes for guards to observe prisoners without being seen. To minimize the opportunities for communication between inmates Haviland designed a basic flush toilet for each cell with individual pipes leading to a central sewer which he hoped would prevent the sending of messages between adjacent cells.[7] Despite his efforts, prisoners were still able to communicate with each other and the flushing system had to be redesigned several times. Haviland remarked that he chose the design to promote "watching, convenience, economy, and ventilation"[8]. Once construction of the prison was completed in 1836, it could house 450 prisoners.[9]

John Haviland completed the architecture of the Eastern state penitentiary in 1836. Each cell was lit only by a single lighting source from either skylights or windows, was considered the “window of God” or “Eye of God”. The church viewed imprisonment, usually in isolation, as an instrument that would modify sinful or disruptive behavior. The time spent in prison will help inmates reflect on their crimes committed giving them the mission for redemption. Gothic churches and cathedrals were mainly built in Europe, France and England in the 13th through the 17th centuries. The structure was not only built in a Gothic style to intimidate wrongdoers, but to remind the free citizens what might befall on them should they break the law."[10][11]


Modern Day

The Eastern State Penitentiary operates as a museum and historic site, open year-round. Guided tours are offered during the winter, and during the warmer months, self-guided tours are also available (narrated mainly by Steve Buscemi, with former guards, wardens and prisoners also contributing). In addition, it holds many special events throughout the year. Each July, there is a Bastille Day celebration, complete with a comedic reinterpretation of the storming of the Bastille and the tossing of thousands of Tastykakes from the towers,[12] accompanied by a cry of "let them eat Tastykake!" from an actress portraying Marie Antoinette. In October, it offers the "Terror Behind the Walls" haunted house.

The facility has been kept in "preserved ruin", meaning no significant attempts have been made at renovations or restoration.

Due to its ominous appearance, gloomy atmosphere, and long history, Eastern State has been used as a location for television programs and films about hauntings. Paranormal TV shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and MTV's Fear explored the paranormal at Eastern State, while Terry Gilliam's film Twelve Monkeys used it as the setting for a mental hospital. Eastern State was also used in a episode of Cold Case titled "The House" which dealt with a murder after an inmate escape. For the show, the prison was re-named Northern State Penitentiary. On June 1, 2007, Most Haunted Live! conducted and broadcast a paranormal investigation live (for the first time in the United States) from Eastern State Penitentiary for an unprecedented seven continuous hours hoping to come in contact with supernatural beings. Punk group the Dead Milkmen also filmed the music video for their song "Punk Rock Girl" in Eastern State. In the PlayStation 2 game, The Suffering, players can find a video documentary of Eastern State Penitentary, one of the inspirations for the game. In 1996 and 2000, the World Monuments Fund included Eastern State Penitentiary on its World Monuments Watch, its biennial list of the "Most Endangered" cultural heritage sites.

In June 2008, Paramount Pictures used parts of Eastern State Penitentiary for the filming of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

In September 2008 the History Press released Eastern State Penitentiary: A History, the only comprehensive history book currently in print about Eastern State. It was written by a former tour guide with the assistance of the site's education director, and has a forward written by the penitentiary's former social worker.



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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by Breezey Breezey on Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:28 pm

Well Tater!... thank you! Just HOW did you know this would interest me?!
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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by Tater Salad on Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:32 pm

"Well Tater!... thank you! Just HOW did you know this would interest me?! "


Oh, just a hunch...

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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by Breezey Breezey on Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:01 pm

A hunch. lmao!! Thank you for your hunch!
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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by roxanna on Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:07 pm

thanks tater, very interesting. good to hear they keep the original building intact, i like the ''ruined'' look better than a reconstruction.
the history of the building adds to the ominous look of it,forbiding ,yet irresistably fascinating. i would love to visit !!
i wonder how anybody could even think torturing people would make them reflect on their crimes and see the error of their ways !! just an excuse for sadists to go rampant.they say there are no electric chairs or other capital punishment devices, does that mean capital punishment was not practised in that prison ?thanks again for an interesting read .
ps. have you been there ?

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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by Tater Salad on Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:04 pm

Roxy, I was there a few years ago for the haunted house, but have never been there during the daytime hours for the tour. I don't know that there are no electric chairs or the like there, I think they were just saying that were none on display, as not to emphasize that aspect of the punishment.

I don't think the torture and bizarre punishments were part of the original plan, but carried out by some of the guards on their own, at least to my interpretation. The whole concept was pretty much the start of a general movement away from punishment and heading towards rehabilitation, even if it wasn't always carried out ideally.

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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by Tater Salad on Wed Oct 27, 2010 12:13 am

Okay, after doing a bit of further research, apparently there never was an electric chair at Eastern State Penitentiary, as executions were not held there. Some prisoners sentenced to death were held there, but executed elsewhere.

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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by roxanna on Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:52 am

quite a radical thought in those days to rehabilitate prisoners,i would think that works for some of them,but by no means all.
i'll check up on the Adelaide gaol , it is no longer in use .i was there for a re-enactment of a woman ,in the 1800's ,accused of murdering her husband, and the process of the trial, these days ,with the available ''evidence'' she would never have been convicted.thanks for the food for thought...and yet another project..

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Re: Terror Behind the Walls

Post by JackRabbit on Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:30 am

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Wow! Cool stuff!
Thanks Tater. Very interesting.

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