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15 Reasons Why Terror Behind The Walls is the No. 1 Haunted House in America

Eastern State Penitentiary is home to the largest and scariest haunted attraction in the country

Looming over Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood for more than 185 years, Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most historic abandoned prisons in the country.

The gothic, 11-acre structure was designed to intimidate with its foreboding exterior and seven imposing cell blocks. Prisoners were confined into solitary cells and forced to remain in silent reflection of their crimes during their confinement, making Eastern State the first true Penitentiary. While the practice of total solitary confinement ended in the early 1900s, many believe spirits of those imprisoned at Eastern State remain there to this day.

The haunted history of Eastern State makes it the perfect setting for the largest haunted house in the country, Terror Behind the Walls. Visitors from around the world flock to the prison during Halloween to experience intense frights and interactive scares every year.

Ghoulish guards patrol the grounds while rabid inmates terrorize visitors during six horrifying experiences hosted in the historic cellblocks: Lock Down, Infirmary, Detritus, Break Out, Machine Shop and Quarantine (in 4D).

Still not scared? Well, we’ve put together 14 reasons why you should be, below.

It’s located in a real former prison.

Eastern State Penitentiary – with its massive, fortress-like 30-foot-high walls – is an intimidating and spooky presence in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood. (R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)


The prison is 185 years old and is in a state of sustained ruin.

Once the most expensive building in the world, Eastern State shut down in 1971 and now is full of spooky empty cell blocks and crumbling walls. (Photo courtesy Eastern State Penitentiary)


It’s enormous.

Eastern State covers 11 acres and more than 450,000 square feet of remote corners and dark hallways. (M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)


Cells were designed specifically to isolate prisoners.

The prison’s experiment — to reform criminals through strict isolation — soon became a model for designing prisons world wide.


Some 80,000 inmates were imprisoned at Eastern State over the years.

In other words, that’s a lot of former “guests” that could have decided to stick around and haunt the place.


Many people believe it really is haunted by the spirits of some of those inmates.

It’s not a stretch of the imagination.


The abandoned prison is scary enough during the day. Once the sun sets, it’s downright terrifying.

Eastern State Penitentiary has been called the most haunted place in the world. (Photo courtesy Eastern State Penitentiary)


Terror Behind The Walls offers nearly an hour of intense frights and scares.

The atttraction is consistently ranked one of the best haunted houses in the country.


There are six different attractions inside Terror Behind The Walls, each one scarier than the last.

The six attractions are Lock Down, Infirmary, Detritus, Break Out, Machine Shop and Quarantine (in 4D). You’ll encounter ghoulish guards, rabid prisoners and creepy nurses during your visit. (M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)


The Machine Shop encounter is housed behind the long-vacant death row section of the prison.

Visit the rarely seen cells behind death row before entering the Machine Shop at Terror Behind the Walls. (T. Scheid for Visit Philadelphia)


You’ll encounter demented guards and rabid inmates during your visit.

Don’t run to the guards for help — they may just put you in a cell. (M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)


There just may be someone lurking in that empty cell.

Performers take great pride in making sure you are truly scared during your visit. (M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)


You can opt for an even scarier, more interactive experience.

Opt-in by picking up a glowing necklace at the entrance — then expect to be grabbed, taken into hidden passages and maybe even become part of the show. (M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)


Terror Behind the Walls is so frightening you may want to do it all over again.

The Travel Channel calls Terror Behind The Walls “One of America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions” in the country. After your visit, you’ll know why. (M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)


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