Oni and I went to the special Eastern State Penitentiary Terror Behind The Walls Remix event on November 10, 2012 in Philadelphia, PA as media guests. This one night event was touted as being “a different show than the 28 before it. Darker. Bloodier. Terror Like You’ve Never FELT.” We’d already been to ESP once this season and found it to be the same high quality as our previous year visits, so we were intrigued by what the “remix” would bring to the haunt. Oni had some questions about this, since it wasn’t entirely clear from their marketing copy what changes would occur–though we had our suspicions based on the word “felt” that they were going to add the ability for you to be touched by the scare actors.
So, with all of this in mind we went off to the haunt. First off it was very obvious that the remix was seeing some really heavy traffic. The line for the haunt was as long as we’ve seen it on prime time days.
After picking up our tickets we proceeded inside and found that a few things had been changed for the entrance area. Instead of a plain photo op point like previously, you could now have your picture taken with one of their famous gargoyles. (in fact, Oni had previously noticed that they weren’t in their usual spot above the front gates and we wondered if they hadn’t placed them up due to it being a one night event….well, we got our answer).
Next up the queue line was set in a different orientation–which lead to what we expected, a new station to allow them to mark you if you wanted to allow the scare actors to touch you.
Of course Oni and I went for the full treatment.
One interesting thing was their use of both the face marking and the glow light. We were told that you could bow out of the touch element by removing your glow light (a good idea, I can see how someone might grow uncomfortable and want to back out of the touch element, but not want to leave the haunt entirely–a dual factor approach isn’t a bad notion for these cases).
So once we were set with our markings we went into the haunt. The first noticeable change was the audio–instead of the standard creepy soundtrack they were using some pretty intense club/industrial music throughout the haunt. Surprisingly it worked really well given the hardcore element of the location itself.
The different sections of the haunt were all pretty much the same as their regular versions, but with the actors able to touch you it gave new life to many areas. They amped up some of the fog as well to make it even more shocking when someone would rush out and grab you. The one thing we did notice was a wide variability in how the scare actors interacted with attendees. In some cases the actors reverted to their standard no-touch routines (we wondered if maybe some of them weren’t really comfortable with touching people), while some went hog wild and literally grabbed you and dragged you along. It was a wild ride, but one that we really enjoyed.
Oni and I are fans of haunts that have touch policies, so we really felt that this element really made the whole experience even better. We’d honestly suggest they consider making this policy standard. The prison motif lends itself really well to this notion.
So overall we liked the experience the remix brought to ESP. They told us that they would be continuing these post Halloween special nights each year in the future, but with an idea of making them different each time. That’s great, but keep the touch element and you’ll have a even greater hit on your hands for this haunt.