Themed entertainment is becoming increasingly interactive, catering to an audience that enjoys a hands-on approach to experiences, rather than passively watching. Walt Disney World recently added an interactive queue and even interactive ghosts to the famous Haunted Mansion dark ride. But the concept of interactivity is reaching beyond theme park boundaries, as far as historical sites.
When we last visited Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania., it was to go behind the scenes for their annual Halloween event, Terror Behind the Walls. Outside of the spooky season, Eastern State Penitentiary offers year-round tours of the United States’ first penitentiary. The rule was always “look but don’t touch” around the old, dilapidated buildings – until this week.
Eastern State Penitentiary kicked off its 2011 season by literally handing visitors the keys to the cellblocks with new Hands-On History interactive experiences. These short demonstrations take place throughout the penitentiary complex, each lasting five minutes or less, during which an expert Eastern State tour guide leads visitors to perform physical activities themselves.
In the spirit of hands-on, we sent Ray Keim to preview the new Hands-On History experiences. You may know Ray Keim from his web site, Haunted Dimensions, featuring intricate paper models. Or perhaps you know him from his behind-the-scenes work at Universal Studios Florida. When not in Orlando working on Halloween Horror Nights, Keim lives in Pennsylvania and has taken many leisure trips to Eastern State Penitentiary in the past. But this week, we gave him the opportunity to get closer to its jail cells than ever before.
Watch as Ray Keim takes you on a video trip through the new Hands-On History experiences as Eastern State Penitentiary:
While there are no video games or animated ghosts at Eastern State Penitentiary (though it is said to be haunted), the new interactive elements added to the historical sight mirror the experiences theme parks guests will find as Disney and other themed entertainment companies take a similar “hands-on” approach to their new attractions.
Eastern State’s Hands-On History experiences give guests a chance to open its massive front gate, explore the underground punishment cells, unlock a cell, reveal the synagogue’s hidden panel operate antique vents in the greenhouse, among other new interactions.
The Hands-On History programs run every day through November 30 as part of the 2011 season and are included in the standard price of admission. More information about Eastern State Penitentiary can be found on their web site.
Photos from the Eastern State Penitentiary Hands-On History experience:
(Photos by Ray Keim)