moonlit garden

Archive for the tag “Eastern State Penitentary”

Haunted House Attractions

Haunted house stories are for me the most potent kind of horror story.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve moved around a lot but moving into an old house can be unsettling.  I don’t think my worries are as practical as worries about plumbing.  It’s more of a sense that a place has been much lived in, and some living is deeply unhappy.

Thus, haunted houses are more fun and scarier to me than most CGI monsters.  I read an article by John Seewer in which he listed a lot of haunted house attractions.  They all look spooky but I like the ones best that are held in old buildings.

Eastern State Penitentiary has a yearly haunted house named Terror Behind the Walls.   The living here must have been lonely since the penitentiary had implemented a system based on isolation of the prisoners.  It has also been used as a setting for several films such as Twelve Monkeys.  The website for the haunted house part lists several scary areas:  intake, the experiment, lock down, and night watch (with flash lights).  The tour has actors. A new section is the infirmary.  The building looks surprisingly attractive in its decay.

Winchester Mystery House -  I have read about this house in several of  those guides to the usual books, and Mrs. Winchester seems to have been quite the eccentric.  The story I read held that she was heir to the fortune made from the patent of the Winchester rifle.  She came to believe that the ghosts of the victims of the rifle would find her.  To counteract this ghostly persecution, she resolved to erect a bewildering home with stairs leading nowhere and doors that open to blank walls.  The more mundane story is that she was crushed by her grief over her husband and baby’s death and she designed the house as a kind of distraction.  She lived till she was 83 so something must have been working.  The house has a flashlight tour but there seem to be no actors.  Here is a guide to the house with lots of photographs.

Waverly Hills Sanitorium – This was a hospital for tuberculosis.  I used to think that tuberculosis was kind of an antique disease but apparently it’s still active.   However, it used to be a common and deadly illness.

At the turn of the twentieth century more than 80% of the population in the United States were infected before age 20, and tuberculosis was the single most common cause of death. By 1938 there were more than 700 TB hospitals in this country. David A. Cramer, MD

The misery that this place has accumulated over the years is a bit staggering.  I think it must be a happy place now since it’s being renovated and has tours for history buffs and psychics all the time.  I gained a few more facts and legends from a very entertaining book Weird Kentucky by Jeffrey Scott Holland.

  • it is located in  Jefferson County, which at the time had the highest number of people afflicted with the disease in the country.
  • 1 person died an hour at the height of the epidemic
  • corpses were removed via a tunnel so that the living patients would not be distressed (where the haunted tour is held)
  • it was later used as a geriatric hospital but closed because of patient abuse
  • Room 502 – legend has it a nurse hanged herself there
  • Legend has it that a girl without eyes and nicknamed “Mary” appears on the third floor
  • In 2000, an alleged psychic and one of the present owners found a photograph of a girl inscribed with the name “Mary Lee”

The tour is called the Body Chute.  You are required to bring a flashlight and there are actors in place.

I’m going to make a post on fictional haunted houses and virtual haunted houses.



Due to the new necessity for full disclosure as discussed here and here and here, I will be candid about my resources.

John Seewer article – received a newspaper clipping from my mother which I have since discarded.

Weird Kentucky – read the essay on Waverly Hills from my sister’s copy which she borrowed from the library.


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