The sun has long since set. The moonlight—broken up by vacant high-rise buildings—casts long shadows across the dimly lit expanses of city streets and walkways. Wandering in the dark, you feel a familiar sensation. Are you being watched? In this city, you very well might be. Someone’s following you—you’re sure of it. You can feel their eyes and hear their footsteps. Maybe there’s something malicious lurking in the shadows. Maybe Philadelphia’s grisly history has left behind more darkness than you can comprehend. Or, maybe it’s just the age-old atmosphere of Halloween in the air.
Yes, Halloween: you’ve read correctly. In Philadelphia, waiting until October to experience the chills caused by eerie edifices and spooky structures are entirely unnecessary for those seeking a taste of Halloween this summer. Eastern State Penitentiary, Laurel Hill Cemetery, and Ghost Tours of Philadelphia all offer an abundance of events catered to those that appreciate the value of a good scare, and all provide extended hours throughout the summer.
Eastern State Penitentiary, known for its housing of infamous mob boss Al Capone, is open year-round for visitors but this summer offers special “Twilight Hours” to artistically inclined guests. Professional and aspiring photographers are welcome to stroll the premises and bring their equi ent between 5 PM and 8 PM from June 4th and August 6th, giving a few brief months to explore and capture this frightening complex when the sun sets. There are also a few new features to the daily tours, such as “Hands-On History” that allows visitors to see more of the complex and experience life as inmates did, such as exploring the “windowless, punishment cells.” Access to the Penitentiary ranges in cost between $10 and $15, and includes all features of the site.
Laurel Hill Cemetery has served as the final resting place for Philadelphians since the mid-nineteenth century, beginning when Quaker John Jay Smith decided that a more peaceful resting place should be offered within the city limits. Before Fairmount Park, this cemetery was considered the place of recreation and relaxation for city residents, and remains one today. Like Eastern State, Laurel Hill is offering extended hours on selected days through August, inviting photographers and amateur explorers access to the land until 8 PM, nearly four hours after its usual closing. The Lunar Strolls cost approximately $15 per person and can be purchased online.
For those wishing to encounter the potentially paranormal, Ghost Tours of Philadelphia offer a variety of tours with extended hours all summer. “We get reports of hauntings from various people,” Tour Manager Eileen Resser said. “We like to have stories that revolve around the history, and we like this to reflect the area…with all the historic sites in Philadelphia.” The Candlelight Walking Tours and Ghost Hunting Tours are conducted on foot, however a Haunted Trolley Tour is available as well, covering more ground and providing an alternative on warmer days. The tours areavailable at 7:30 PM every night, but if you’re brave enough, there are tours at 9:30 PM on selected nights for those wishing to experience the mysterious history of Philadelphia’s past. Ticket prices range from $10 to $17, but there is a $2 discount for each ticket purchased online or by phone.
And so, Philadelphians, put some new batteries in your flashlights, slide on your walking shoes, and prepare to be scared because there are numerous premises awaiting your exploration. If you think you’re up to feeling the hairs on the back of your next stand on end or a brief gust of cold air, why wait until October?
Alyssa Shaw is a first year English Major at Drexel University.
Images courtesy of Laurel Hill Cemetery and “Surveillance Mirrors” photo by Albert Vecerka