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  • Writer's pictureChandler Clouser

Terror Behind the Walls - 2019 Review

Haunted Attraction Reviewed: Terror Behind the Walls

Location of Attraction: Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Date of Review: Sunday October 6th 2019

Total Number of Attractions Available: SIX

Overall Haunted Attraction Rating: 9/10

Entertainment and Food Rating: 9/10

Atmosphere Rating: 10/10

Overall Costume and Make Up Rating: 9/10

Overall Cast and Crew Rating: 9/10

Overall Props, Animatronics and Set Design Rating: 9/10

Overall Scare/Thrill Factor Rating: 9/10

Overall Feedback: Last Saturday, Fright Review Squad once again visited Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind the Walls for a heart-pounding, relentless 2-hour voluntary incarceration. Set in the heart of Philadelphia, this haunt garners national attention both on and off season for the remarkable, darkly historic location of this fright experience.

From the parking garage at the Philadelphia Zoo, guests board the Ghost Bus to be escorted to the prison. The immediate atmosphere shifts from the bright lights of a spacious parking garage and the safety of your vehicles to the energetic chatter and murmurs of guests as they take their seats aboard the bus and realize they are about to experience an attraction unlike any other. Take a moment to look around on the bus at the other guests. The unique “opt-in” experience at this haunt guarantees that no matter who you start out with when you attend, you’ll be thrust into situations that separate you from your group and spit you out with strangers. Soon, you may be laughing, screaming, and fleeing with the people now seated around you.

Stepping off the bus and making your way down the block toward the entrance, the looming 30-foot walls of the Penitentiary are immediately foreboding. Spotlights shine from the guard tower, and already zombie prison guards – uniforms tattered, skin peeling—begin to target members of the crowd. Stand in line in an orderly fashion as you make your way inside the prison gates, or you may just attract the attention of the undead! Lines to the attraction are formed by order of entrance times on your ticket, and may be long, but the team at Terror Behind the Walls doesn’t skimp on actors. They work the crowd lines with spooks and giggles and your wait is guaranteed to be an entertaining one.

Hearts start pumping as you sign your waivers, decide whether you will “opt in” or “opt out” and are christened with the bloody X by a few elegantly evil nurses to begin your SIX attraction experience. Our advice? Always. Opt. In. (You can “break out” of your “tracking device” if the experience becomes too intense).

**A note about opting in: our large group was 15 members deep to start with. By the end of the experience, we were split into groups of three or less. Almost every one of us was able to experience a personal terror in an interactive environment or with an engaging haunt actor. From being trapped in a cell, to being raced down a hallway on a gurney, to painting walls with blood or having the worst “dental experience” of your life…Terror Behind the Walls does everything in its power to be true to its name. This is a phenomenal level of personal engagement that guarantees uniquely terrifying experiences for you and ALL of your friends.


Of the many things that work for this haunt, the “storytelling” element of this experience is one of the finest and most cohesive since our experience with Pennhurst. It isn’t merely the natural atmosphere created from Eastern State Penitentiary’s prison walls that make this an exciting haunt – the props, intricate special effects, well-crafted makeup and especially the actors make this place the intense thrill that it is. This isn’t one of those simple “the actor jumps out and yells ‘boo’ ” haunts. These are true performers, with theatrical sets, lighting and makeup that are all worthy of the tremendous history and location that is Eastern State Penitentiary.

Actors carry out the storytelling for their areas with creativity, intensity and quickly timed responses to unexpected guest reactions using solid acting and body movements that immerse you deeply into the experience. Flow and believably could be ruined without the actors who are giving their all to each performance. The teamwork here really helps with the style of haunt this is, and Terror Behind the Walls masters teamwork. Once you enter the first attraction, you sequentially continue through each of the subsequent experiences. Terror Behind the Walls chews you up and spits you out.


In Lock Down, we join the story of flesh-crazed zombie inmates who have broken free in a riot to battle the guards. Get through the cell blocks to safety and sneak below through the Machine Shop, where cult-like crazed individuals seem to have a bit too much in common. Similar in looks, behaviors, intensity…watch out or they may just mark you with a touch of their evil, always looking to have one more body to become…one mind, one machine.

From the Machine Shop, we discover the Blood Yard where cannibals have tapped into their primal side and have a hunger for fresh meat. Surprises await at every turn, so try to survive with your limbs intact. Things get a bit...wild…out there.

Will you be feeling a bit ill by then? We certainly weren’t feeling like ourselves. Just in time, we are guided to the infirmary to be inspected for signs of infection. But the doctors, dentists and nurses prove to be the ones who are a bit…sick. We hope you clear Quarantine so that you can Breakout. Although this is a frightfully fun place to visit, this is not a place you’d want to call home.


The guards were in a panic and something was very wrong. Our group entered one of the most visually stunning, hair-raising areas we encounter each season. The prison cells of Eastern State Penitentiary create their own dark, disturbing atmosphere. Very quickly, a zombie inmate grabbed a member of our group and forced her into a cage for confinement. Hearts were racing as we made our way up and down hallways past crazed inmates, through the fog and toward staircases. If you dare, look around to see some of the cell blocks that many true “ghost hunters” believe are occupied by spirits.


Last year, the actors in this haunt were truly “One mind, one machine!” With uniformly completely shaved heads, military intensity and a cult-like enthusiasm, this group is always a high-energy crowd favorite. Members were plucked from our group, where they were forced to participate in putting their finger into dark holes (we’ll let you find out what happens), hands gripped in vices by devious machinists, and generally terrorized. We made it out, but not all of us made it out together! By this point, our group had been scattered and mixed around.


To be honest, this haunt had our hearts pumping so hard that at this point, things get a little fuzzy. Imagine drums, doom, cannibals, acrobatics, and threats of violence at every turn and you will have just touched the surface of what you will experience in the Blood Yard.


This truly terrifying experience has several of the best opt-in experiences and haunt actors. If you are UNLUCKY, you may get a chance to meet Dr. Dijon and his fellow medical professional – two absolute pros who can smell fear a mile away and deliver a scare to just the right person – who will give you the ride of a lifetime. Lucky enough to escape the doctor? You may be screened for infection and lectured about how each q-tip and tongue depressor can be used to detect disease…or spread it. Missed out on those two performances? Oh, don’t worry. There is a dentist and his gruesomely gorgeous nurse who will be happy to take care of your complaints. But don’t be too much of a pain, or you may find yourself an unwilling volunteer for surgery.


This 4D experience does its best to stimulate all of your senses. It has been taken to the next level with textures, familiar “3D” elements, and a few surprises we don’t want to spoil. While many haunts have a “3D paint room filler,” this experience goes far beyond, disorienting your every sense.


The inmates and guards are back, and it is time to find your way out of the prison. Will you make it? We won’t give any more spoilers, but this final experience can force you to want to flee. Careful where you go or who gets ahold of you, though. You wouldn’t want to be struggling to get out, or running around in circles…

When we left breakout, many of us looked around and realized that we were nowhere near the other 14 people we arrived with. Did they survive? Half the fun is chatting with your friends, finding out where they went and how their unique experiences differed from yours.


You have now finished your final attraction. Or have you? Stepping into the Yard, our group dropped their guard and headed toward the food and photo stations but were surprised to see even more prison guards in the yard. They lurked, crept, spooked, and created amazing photo experiences for guests who were taking one or two final selfies. But stick around and look sharp, or you might miss their most impressive skill. Suddenly the music starts pumping, the beat turns up and the real performance begins: the zombie SWAT team draws back to the center of the yard, come together and begin to perform a high-intensity perfectly choreographed dance. Spooky, spectacular, fun and in true Philly style, this dance team absolutely SLAYS. There’s nothing dead about these undead. The hyped up, great energy they created made us reluctant to go home. It is a phenomenal end to an intense evening.

Terror Behind the Walls is well worth the hype and the travel time. We encourage you to visit this intense, atmospheric, interactive haunt at least once. But, with so many “opt in” opportunities, you can return again and again and each experience will be high-intensity and completely new. If you pay Terror Behind the Walls make sure to tell them Fright Review Squad sent you their way. Happy Hauntings Folks!

Fright Review Squad - Favorite TBTW Attraction Poll

(Number of votes by FRS members)

- Lockdown: 1

- Machine Shop: 1

- Infirmary: 8

- Blood Yard: 1

- Quarantine 4D: 3

- Break Out!: 1


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