director, said planning goes on year-round and sets are built months in advance. And each evening just before dark, about 130 performers converge on a makeup and costume room to be turned into gruesome characters.
Actress Jude Feingold, who has regularly performed Shakespeare, was happy to play an ax murderer on one recent night. Now in her fourth season at Eastern State, Feingold said she returns each year because of the great cast and crew - and for the satisfaction of scaring big, tough guys in baseball caps.
''I think it has a really good spirit,'' she said.
Speaking of which: Are there really ghosts at Eastern State? Prison officials say people who study the paranormal believe the site is one of the most haunted places in the U.S.
Hollaman once heard a series of unnerving, unexplained noises while working late a few years ago. Petrified and unable to speak, she left immediately.
''Thousands of people ... have lived and worked here. There's been a lot of intense experiences inside this building,'' Hollaman said. ''It's hard to imagine that they haven't left a trace.''