-- Eastern State Penitentiary’s annual Halloween festival debuts Pumpkin Plaza activation, Boogie Monsters dance crew, and new S’mores and Lore storytellers for 2023 season --
September 12, 2023
Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary returns for its 2023 season on Friday, September 22. The annual event, which runs select nights through November 11, features three reimagined experiences this year along with many returning visitor favorites.
Halloween Nights is a massive Halloween festival that contains five haunted houses, as well as historic tours, themed bars, live entertainment and more, and occupies all ten acres of Eastern State Penitentiary’s abandoned cellblocks and yards.
Three experiences have been revamped for the festival’s 2023 season:
- The outdoor courtyard formerly known as Gargoyle Gardens has been rethemed to Pumpkin Plaza, featuring new props and photo opportunities inspired by traditional Halloween imagery like pumpkins, hay bales, and skeletons. The festive atmosphere of Pumpkin Plaza is enhanced by fan-favorite vendors French Toast Bites and Halloween Nights’ own Tricks & Treats.
- In Pumpkin Plaza, visitors also encounter The Boogie Monsters, Halloween Nights’ premier hip-hop dance team (formerly The Skeleton Crew), featuring new characters inspired by classic horror tropes like mummies, jack-o-lanterns, and Frankenstein. The Boogie Monsters’ custom, UV-activated costumes and makeup were conceptualized and created by Halloween Nights’ in-house team and offer a modern take on the monsters we all know and love to fear.
- At returning attraction S’mores and Lore, reimagined live storytellers, inspired by summer camp counselors, share a new slate of traditional ghost stories as visitors roast s’mores around the fire.
Halloween Nights also expands several scare zones throughout the festival for the 2023 season, including a courtyard in the northwest corner of the penitentiary complex that now allows two paths for visitors to choose from: scary, or less scary. In addition, Halloween Nights continues its popular option to “opt in” for a more intense experience. If they choose, visitors can pick up a glow necklace from the newly designed “glowzebo” at the entrance to the festival. Anyone wearing a glow necklace may be grabbed, sent into hidden passageways, and even temporarily separated from their group.
“We’re thrilled to bring visitors another year of festive fun,” says Erin Davis, Director of Halloween Nights. “It takes months of thoughtful planning to ensure that every season of Halloween Nights is bigger and better than the last. In addition to revamping attractions, we are always making small improvements that have a big impact on the visitor experience. This year, we’re adding more scare zones and photo opportunities, enhancing our characters and sets, and increasing the number of performers throughout the festival. From the moment visitors step through Eastern State’s imposing front gate, they will feel truly immersed in the completely unique world of Halloween Nights.”
In addition to five haunted houses, visitors to Halloween Nights can experience themed bars and lounges, live entertainment, immersive walkthroughs, and historic tours including a flashlight walking tour of the penitentiary’s hospital block.
Within the festival is an area for the historic site’s flagship interpretive experiences. In The Fair Chance Beer Garden, Halloween Nights visitors can take a break from the scares and engage with the award-winning contemporary criminal justice exhibits The Big Graph and Prisons Today or take a history highlights audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi.
Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary is open select nights from September 22 through November 11, 2023. Ticket prices start at $39 and vary by night. Tickets are on sale now at www.HalloweenNights.org.
A Massive Halloween Festival in an Abandoned Prison
The setting for Halloween Nights is unparalleled. Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a lost world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. This gothic structure, with soaring 30-foot-high fortress walls, is intimidating enough during the day. At night, the cellblocks fall into darkness and the penitentiary takes on a different energy. Halloween Nights brings visitors into the penitentiary’s cellblocks, exercise yards, workshops, outdoor courtyards, and hidden nooks. Nearly every inch of the penitentiary complex is activated for the event.
Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Halloween Nights does not affect operation of the historic site, which remains open for daytime tours every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. year-round. All proceeds from Halloween Nights benefit the preservation and interpretation of Eastern State Penitentiary, a National Historic Landmark.
Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary runs select evenings from September 22 through November 11, 2023. Ticket prices start at $39 and vary by night. Tickets are on sale now at www.HalloweenNights.org. Purchasing tickets online in advance is strongly recommended. It’s the cheapest and most convenient way to purchase tickets and is the only way to guarantee entry to the festival. Some tickets may be available at the door, but capacity is limited, and many nights do sell out.
For more information about Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary, the public can visit www.HalloweenNights.org.