The ghoulish zombies from Eastern State Penitentiary‘s Terror Behind the Walls are making a rare non-Halloween appearance tomorrow, in honor of Friday the 13th. They’ll be taking over the Rothman Ice Rink in Dilworth Park in front of City Hall for Zombie Skate and the living are invited to join in. Read more »
Confession: I am not a Halloween person. The last time I put any ounce of effort into a costume was when I was a “pop star” — no pop star in particular, just a pop star — in seventh grade. Clearly, even then, I was not committed.
So when we were thinking about our Be Well Philly Underground event for October, I wanted it to be in the theme of October — and that theme is Halloween, duh — without being too pumpkin-y and costume-y and, well, Halloween-y. So when our lovely events coordinator Kaylie, who many of you Undergrounders have met, suggested Eastern State Penitentiary, the former prison in Fairmount, as the space for October Underground event, I was sold. It’s spooky. But not cheesy. Perfect.
We got to planning and luckily it all came together. And man, our October Be Well Philly Underground event, an outdoor yoga class in the prison yard space of Eastern State Penitentiary led by the lovely folks of Fairmount’s Yoga Habit, was even cooler (and MUCH spookier) than I’d imagined it would be.
We’ve wrapped up Independence Day festivities for another year, but don’t put away your red, white and blue gear just yet. July 14 is Bastille Day, France’s commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in 1789 during the French Revolution — and you don’t have to be a Francophile to enjoy a good party with crepes and Champagne. Read more »
With today’s news of Game of Thrones dragons descending on Dilworth Park, we thought it might be a good time to tell you that Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones launch party returns to Eastern State Penitentiary on Thursday, April 14th. The event serves as the debut of Ommegang’s new Game of Thrones inspired beer, Seven Kingdoms Hoppy Wheat Ale.
Tickets are $55 per person and includes tastes of the new Hoppy Wheat Ale and previous Game of Thrones beers along with other Ommegang beers. There will also be fire spinners, live music, a DJ dance party, and the Iron Throne itself. Di Bruno Bros. will provide a selection of Westeros approved meats and cheeses.
Eastern State Penitentiary may now be best known as a historic site and an annual Halloween attraction, but the realities of the prison were more horrific. From its opening in 1829 to the end of the practice in 1913, prisoners were primarily kept in solitary confinement. The constant solitary confinement was tortuous to the inmates. Many suffered there.
This, of course, has led many to the next logical conclusion: The prison is haunted by the souls of its former prisoners. Eastern State is infested with ghosts. Read more »
Is the Eastern State Penitentiary haunted? Maybe, but scares were definitely plentiful as the preserved prison kicked off its Halloween-season show, Terror Behind the Walls, over the weekend.
First Thoughts: There is no doubt that this is a very popular event for Philadelphians. Not far into Saturday night the line wrapped around the exterior of the Penitentiary. The actors who greeted visitors amped up the excitement as we waited for our fake blood and pictures before going inside.
What’s New: Two of the six attractions, “Quarantine 4D” and “Break Out!” are new additions to Terror Behind the Walls. “Quarantine 4D” concerns the aftermath of an infection in the prison, leaving visitors to stumble through a hallucinatory path of bizarre sights, altered perception, and colorful creatures. In “Break Out!” inmates scramble to try to escape their prison as you look for your own exit.
Secret Cinema Presents Outside the Wall, a Prison Film Shot in Eastern State Penitentiary…at Eastern State Penitentiary
What could be cooler than watching a locally shot prison (and parole) film from inside the very same prison where it was shot 66 years earlier? How about watching it outside Al Capone’s old cell?
Jay Schwartz, founder of the Secret Cinema — a film series that has made a name for itself by showing only 16mm films — sets up his projector and screen in the historic prison’s hallway directly outside the gangster’s former holding pen. Schwartz likes this spot in the prison the most because “you have the best peripheral vision of prison bars while you’re watching the movie… You definitely have a constant reminder of where you are.” Read more »
It’s one of Philly’s most treasured traditions: Thousands storm Eastern State Penitentiary on Bastille Day to reenact the great French Revolution with a cast of characters that run the gamut from folks who were actually there (Hello, Marie Antoinette) to those who had a hand in French and even Philly culture through the ages, like Edith Piaf, a baguette and a Tastykake. It’s organized in part by local performance troupe the Bearded Ladies, the founder of which traditionally dresses up as the Little Sparrow herself, Piaf. There are performances, rally cries, heads saved from guillotines and eventually—the moment everyone waits for—the proclamation to “Let them eat Tastykakes!” that triggers a storm of the local-made treats being hurled over the prison walls into the hands of the hungry, drunk crowd.
As always, the celebration ends with a poignant message. Last year, a statement was made about same-sex marriage in Philadelphia. This year, the performers brought out signs reading things like “#BlackLivesMatter” and “Power to Syria.” HughE Dillon was there this Saturday for the 21st annual event, where he got shots of all the players, including a black Pope. Check them out below:
There’s a Marie Antoinette impersonator, a drag queen singing French, and a ton of syntetically-produced cakes that are going to fly through the air. Anytime the Bearded Ladies get involved with an event, things are bound to get a little strange, but, this year, their partnership with the Eastern State Penitentiary Bastille Day Celebration is a whole other level of crazy. Read more »
Philly videographer Cory J. Popp released the latest in his “Uncover Philly” series, which takes a look at and tells the stories behind some of our favorite spots around the city.
In “From Prison to Playground” he goes inside Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), and recalls the days long before tourists were let in, when a bunch of local kids used it as a place to hang. He talked to Bobby Quinn, one of the leaders of that group in the 1980s, who tells the story with a sense of nostalgia that almost brings tears to his eyes. “It was our playground. It was our city,” he says. “It was our neighborhood inside a neighborhood—a kids neighborhood.”
Then Popp takes you inside the prison, in rarely seen spots that have yet to be opened to tourists. It provides a glimpse of what the facility may have looked like to Quinn and his friends in the ’80s, when the storied prison was kept in a state of preserved ruin. It’s kind of ironic, given that in about a month one of the busiest days at ESP will take place, when hordes flock over to see the annual Bastille Day Celebration (and gorge on Tastykakes). More info here.
Check out “From Prison to Playground” below.