HughE Dillon: Eastern State Pen’s Terror Behind the Walls

Cecily Tynan's cat-woman costume, scary teddy bears and more at the VIP party for the haunted tour

On Saturday night, I headed over to the Terror Behind the Walls VIP Party at Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) to kick off the 2011 haunting season. This year, Terror Behind the Walls celebrates 20 years with two new attractions: the Gauntlet and Break Out! First I headed over to the party to see who was out and about, and if anyone got dressed for the optional costume party. I was lame and didn’t or, er, I went as a paparazzi.

The party was packed with sponsors, friends, people in the hospitality field, press and notables affiliated with the whole operation. Below, looking scary are Cindy Wanerman, first vice president at UBS Financial Services and chairman of the board of ESP, with her daughter, Stacey Wanerman.

Below: Amy Cretaro, director of development at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, and William F. McLaughlin, Jr., chair at Independence Seaport.

Below: Claire Brown Kohler, Irene Levin (sitting) and Phil Nannay, president of Applehead Factory Design Studio. Nannay’s company collaborates on Teddy Scare, which is a scary teddy bear they design each year that is exclusive to Eastern State and sold in the gift shop.

Below: Andrew Morgan and Brett Bertolino, director of operations at Eastern State Penitentiary. Jason Ohlsen, Eastern State’s associate director for design services tells me that every year he starts planning the following year’s show about 10 months before the event. This past spring he married his girlfriend, Erin Montiro, in the first and only wedding performed at the prison.

Below: Ellis Walding, Roosevelt Pub, Mike Kates, Philadelphia Trolley Works, Mike Douthwaite and Alfred Barone. Trolley Works runs the “Ghost Bus” that takes visitors from the Philadelphia Zoo overflow parking lot to ESP and back. A storyteller on each trolley or bus will tell the group about real ghost sightings in Philadelphia, including the story of the Eastern State locksmith who had a very eerie experience in a prison exercise yard! Ellis Walding tells me he’s in the movie Backwards, which filmed this past summer in Philly. Last night, the star of the movie, Haverford native Sarah Megan Thomas, and the production team, returned to shoot an additional scene where Ellis, who plays Sarah’s boyfriend in the movie, goes out on a date with her and they kiss.

Below: Ali Gorman, 6 ABC’s health and medical reporter, with Greg Watson and 6 ABC weather guru Cecily Tynan. Cecily tells me her kids love Halloween, but are still at the age where they appreciate the hay rides, and not the haunted houses like she and husband Greg. Cecily’s favorite room at ESP is the spinning wheel, and the 3-D room. I’m partial to the 3-D room myself.

Below: Dan Reinherz and his new bride, KYW’s Hadas Kuznits, and friends Talila Wllner and Gene Gleller loved the haunted prison; they had a goulish good time.

Below: Cari Feiler Bender, Relief Communications, wants you to know about the 25th Annual AIDS Walk on October 16th. Laura Burkhardt just launched her new business, The Lab, Creative Consulting, and Keren Ini, director of catering operations at Di Bruno Bros. For those of us who didn’t get all costumed up, ESP gave us devil horns, and a few of us actually went full-throttle and got our scary faces done up. Not this group though.

Below: Jessica Whiteman, event coordinator for Historic Philadelphia, and Mark McCollum, promotions and guest services coordinator for Historic Philadelphia. After the party, my friends and I headed for the haunted tour. I had just done it last year, twice, and really wasn’t expecting to be scared since I felt like I knew it. BOY was I wrong. It’s better this year. Where last year you would just cue in the courtyard waiting to go into the fortress-like building, this year your trip to fright begins earlier as that space is now the Gauntlet. The rest is waiting for you to discover yourself.

The terror doesn’t end just when you leave the prison. Don’t be surprised if a ghoul comes up from behind and gives you a good scare as you head home. (I love the guy on the left pointing toward Mike Toub after his scare, but if you look closely someone is just about to scare the heck out of him.) Check the ESP website for times and prices.

HughE Dillon covers parties, events and more for the Philly Post. You can follow him on Twitter @iPhillyChitChat and visit his daily online social diary at