A Haunting Event at Idaho Penitentiary
by Rachel Holt
“It’s just a fun place to be. I know that’s funny to say about a penitentiary.” Jennifer Finke, an Old Idaho Penitentiary volunteer since 2008, says with a laugh.
Frightened Felons is an annual event put on at the Old Idaho Penitentiary around Halloween. It’s a two night event and features a number of different activities. “It’s a party for history,” says Amber Beierle, Education Specialist and Visitor Services Coordinator.
“There had been a demand for years to do a scary spooky Halloween event out here. They used to do an event out here about 20 years ago. They had some Halloween events that were successful and we initially designed Frightened Felons as a tour. The first year 1,700 people showed up, which was not conducive to doing tours,” Beierle says with a laugh, “but we realized we had a niche and have done different things to expand. Really that’s our goal every year, to add a small caveat and make what’s working better.”
This year there will be a mug shot booth, a haunted cell house, a Thriller dance performance by Thrill the World Boise, costume contests with prizes, food vendors and much more. For the scavenger hunts, hunters must interact with inmate actors and go inside dark buildings. The last 3 years Finke has been an inmate actor playing the part of Mad Margaret Hardy, a woman who killed her step daughter by throwing acid on her.
The death map highlights 120 inmates that had died while they were in jail. The haunted cell house is a scary maze with many secrets. Beierle emphasizes that participation in the haunted cell house is voluntary; visitors don’t have to partake in this attraction if they don’t wish to.
In that spirit, the event is divided into two nights: an adult night (18 years old and up) and a family friendly night. The family friendly night is slightly less scary but offers all of the same attractions.
“I like that we have a family and adult night because it allows us to do scarier things at least one night since people bring in small children,” says Finke.
This year’s event will be Friday October 31st and Saturday November 1st, with family night on the 1st and adult night on the 31st.
Tickets can be purchased in advance from brownpapertickets.com or a limited offering available on site at the Penitentiary. This year there will be a VIP ticket that includes a tour of the cemetery, an area normally off limits to the public.
Beierle encourages anyone interested in attending to purchase their tickets in advance. Every year the adult night has sold out.
Additionally, each year the event is staffed by 40-60 volunteers a night. Volunteers do everything from guiding tours to playing inmate actors to making prizes.
If you are interested in volunteering for Frightened Felons or at the Idaho Penitentiary, would like more information about Frightened Felons event or about the Old Idaho Penitentiary please check out their website at: http://history.idaho.gov/old-idaho-penitentiary-events or follow the Old Idaho Penitentiary on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.