Haunted things originally inspired October's weekend getaway. However, cycling the bike path in Philly scored the highest points on my scale.
I enjoy having the bejeezus scared out of me, I love roller coasters and paranormal hauntings and suspenseful films. A few years ago, the NYC show "Sleep No More" gave me a good scare but I have not been to a haunted house or event since then. My little sis lives for this stuff, and goes to different haunted attractions every year. C and I thought we would check out the Asylum in Eastern, PA, and make a weekend out of it. C lived in Philly for a few years before she moved to Jersey, so she is familiar with the city. Fortunately, I have a friend (Danna and her husband Sangre) in Conshohocken, a suburb outside of Philly. C racked up the bicycles and we drove down shortly after I got out of work on Friday the 6th. It was such an easy drive, we arrived in Conshohocken around 630.
We weren't moving our bodies too early on Saturday, but we managed to be on the bikes around 10ish. The Schuylkill River Trail is a bike path that passes through Conshohoken on the way into Philly. We were able to pick up the path less than 20 blocks from Danna's place. The trail is amazing! It is paved, clean and runs alongside the river, through the trees. I love cycling away from cars, so much more pleasant to breath. Philly seemed heavy on the cyclists and much more bicycle friendly than my area.
We made loads of stops on our ride: to stop in the park, watch the dragon boat races, to take photos of boathouse row, to grab coffee and walk around the Eastern State Penitentiary (not an active prison, but open for tours and haunted events). There are two gargoyles atop the entrance to the penitentiary, which definitely cannot be original but are really rad looking nonetheless.
For an October day, it was damned hot! We cycled into the downtown area known as Center City, to pop into the Wooden Shoe Anarchist Bookstore. Unfortunately, they are so anarchist that they weren't even open, despite their listing as open at noon on a Saturday. We finally cooled down enough to become hungry and found a cute little sandwich shop. We shared a delicious pulled pork sandwich before sauntering on down South Street. By this time it had gotten fairly busy and we decided to get going. We passed the Wooden Shoe on the way to our bicycles and this time it was open.
Next stop- ice cream. Of course, we always save room for sweets. Via Yelp, I found the Scoop Deville ice cream shop on Walnut Street. We parked our bikes in time to see and support the the Philly Trans March with a few hollers and raised fists.
We cycled to the 30th Street Station to try our luck at taking the bikes on the train. We were both feeling it, not being on a bike regularly. The station attendant told us we were cheating...riding the train back to Conshohoken. We were both alright with that, since we logged around 25 miles for the day, (after not riding for quite some time.)
We still needed to ride up a big hill to get back to Danna and Sang's place. Once back, both C and I started waning in energy and I was not so sure we would make it to the haunted attraction. But we rallied: after showers, snacks and coffee, we were off to the Asylum. Sadly, the attraction was a let down. I have a lot to say about this but it boils down to this: I felt like the actors were trying too dang hard to scare us. The actors get in your face, scream in your ear, touch you and follow you, which is so extra, and to me that equaled annoying. The other part of it, is my own damn fault. I had not researched anything about the place, and apparently it was a state asylum that only closed in 1987. A lot of bad things happened there such as patient abuse and horrid living conditions, which is what ended up closing it down. Aside from the government using the upper part of the grounds for Veteran housing, the sprawling site sat unused for awhile, and of course was vandalized. In 2008 some dudes bought the property. So now, some people are making big bucks exploiting the mentally ill. I say this, because they hire many actors to play over-the-top mentally ill persons in the various attractions, the "asylum" being the worst. What did I expect? Well, I was expecting paranormal or eery, spooky type stuff...not some woman dressed in a hospital gown yelling and banging her head against the wall. True, it is my fault for not researching what the hell I was doing, but sometimes that is the fun of it. However, especially after reading about the disgusting things that occurred at this mental hospital, I would not support this in the future.
Sunday, rainy day. The previous day's cycling caught up with us- we couldn't haul our arses out of bed until past 11. Sang insisted on making us all breakfast before we set out. C had gotten in touch with a Philly friend, so we headed into the city (by car this time) to hang with her and her new baby. Before making our way home, we dined on fancy grilled cheese and charred broccoli at the American Sardine Bar in South Philly. Philly has got some chill vibes, very different from NYC. I would definitely visit again, especially to do some cycling.
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.