Here is a slick little video from the Public History program at Temple University about Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the annual haunted prison event there:
Eastern State Penitentiary is the most important prison museum in the United States, respected for its programs and the quality of its interpretation as well as the historic significance of the building. It is also home to the annual Terror Behind the Walls event where this nationally-significant historic site is turned into a fun house entertainment.
This Philadelphia Weekly article goes deeper into the controversy over the exhibit, which even Program Director XX admits "compromises the mission" of the museum. According to the article the event used to be much worse than it is now:
In the mid-’90s, “Terror”—which brought in new consultants to conceptualize the haunt—started transforming from the creepy candlelight tours of the first few years to something far more outrageous and sensationalized, with its actors recreating scenes specific to the prison’s history: Women crying because they’d been raped. Prisoners going crazy and climbing the walls due to the unyielding solitary confinement that the prison’s Quaker founders believed would cause inmates to reflect and repent their misdeeds. And a man standing on the roof stabbing himself, fake blood spurting all over the place.
The article also notes that Terror Behind the Walls is "a crucial cash cow" that "generated 65 percent" of the museums $4 million budget last year. I am shocked that a haunted house event could produce that much revenue--good for them!
I am interested in similar events--are there other historic sites that make compromises to host popular events in return for revenue and public support?