Night tours at Eastern State Penitentiary replace Terror Behind the Walls due to COVID-19

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — COVID-19 safety concerns have prompted Eastern State Penitentiary to cancel its biggest fundraiser of the year: Terror Behind the Walls.

The popular Halloween-time attraction will instead be replaced with night tours of the Fairmount penitentiary.

During the tours, movies made by inmates from various prisons are projected on a large stone wall. Audio tours are available, and art installations are on-site while you roam through the cellblocks and yards.

“I’m glad to see that they are open. … It is something in place of the Halloween fun,” said Mary, who experienced a night tour with her husband, Jerry.

“We are members and we have been supporting them since the very start,” said Jerry. “They took a big hit because they don’t get to do the Terror Behind the Walls, so anything that can keep them going is certainly a great thing.”

Terror Behind the Walls, an annual haunted house in the closed prison-turned-museum, has always been the “financial backbone” of Eastern State, according to Senior Vice President Sean Kelley.

“It has been a massive challenge financially to keep the organization running, and it’s going to be tough moving forward,” he admitted. “That said, there’s been some great help from the government. We have some very generous donors, and if people in the public want to help out, they can come and take a night tour, and that will help us keep the place running in the winter.”

The building is the star this year, not the costumed ghosts and goblins that have created a fan following over the past 29 years.

“We wanted to find a way to make the building still available and do something this fall,” Kelley added. “We were actually inspired by Alcatraz, that has been doing night tours for years. And so people just love being in these old buildings at night.”

Tours run on select nights now through mid-November. The tickets are timed. Only 50 people are allowed in every half hour, between 6 and 9 p.m. Tickets start at $19.