The local commercial haunted house
industry got its start in 1970 at a small house on St. Clair Avenue in
Clifton, charging customers the princely sum of $1 to experience 16
rooms filled with classic monsters such as Dracula, the Wolf Man, Mummy
and Frankenstein’s Monster. Huge crowds swamped the event, and the WSAI
Haunted House was the talk of the town that October. The Sycamore-Deer
Park Jaycees and radio station WSAI were at the forefront of an
entertainment phenomenon that’s now a multimillion dollar industry with
hundreds of events across the world.
A peaceful autumn hayride though a cornfield is not only
shattered by creatures “stalking” the rows of corn but by no less than
three flame-belching vehicles determined to run the fragile wagon off
the path. Deep in the woods, there are backwoodsmen with ear-shattering
shotguns and Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The dark
barn at the end of the tour is an appropriate climax — new are the
Hostel room and a zombie room (with an impressive wagon assault by the
Always among the Tristate’s most extreme attractions, the
Chambers has made substantial improvements to both its lighting and
rooms. The new LED lighting makes for a more subdued and less intrusive
look while at the same time bringing out the details it’s meant to
highlight. The Graveyard has been completely reworked with an impressive
large skull that must be entered. As always, the building itself seems
to be possessed, using its walls, doors and ceilings to entrap and
Ranked No. 11 nationally by Hauntworld Magazine,
the Dent Schoolhouse features more than 75 animatronics and a selection
of the area’s most recognizable haunt characters. Homicidal janitor
“Uncle” Charlie McFree, Bludzo, Jasper & Jinx, Damien Reaper,
Calliope and Fatso are a few of the twisted souls encountered. Actors
are given a lot of freedom creating their characters and rotate personas
on a regular basis, ensuring you’ll never see the same show twice.
The Dungeons are darker and larger this season, twice as
long as five years ago. It’s the “Year of Fear,” and Demonic Derek has a
body bag fitted just for you. There’s an excellent amount of grisly
detail and some very unique rooms, like one featuring nurse zombies and
“Pyramid Head” from Silent Hill. Room design is devious, so much so that
we still had trouble finding our way through during a second tour.
Slasher movie icons mix with good old-fashioned Demons from Hell and the
Dark Lord himself.
Mayhem Mansion is alleged to be the site of a mass murder
perpetrated by 1920s bootlegger Robert Haverford. One second-story
window has come unboarded, and it’s through there you’ll enter. The
Mansion is dark, deceptively large and outfitted with nothing but period
props and furnishings such as a decades-old embalming machine and
mortuary table. Clear Plexiglas floors, invisible walls, tilting
hallways and rooms with no apparent egress make every step an adventure.
Where else can you find a character named Bug Boy playing
bingo in the Tired Bones Retirement Castle? Well, at least he was until
that chandelier tried to squash him. That’s one of the quirky rooms that
you’ll see at the Haunted Hall. There’s a whacked-out nursery with a
deadly baby and an Ice Scream stand that lops off the hands of grabby
children. If you’ve never seen a coffin double as a rotisserie oven or
been forced to enter a cage full of demons, look no further.
At 36 years and counting, St. Rita’s is the nation’s
oldest haunt east of the Mississippi River. This season is one of its
best, with virtually every area being changed or revamped. A large cast
insures that each room is filled with multiple characters, each with
professional-level costuming and makeup. The dripping cavern in the
basement and the filth encrusted restroom (almost as bad as your average
gas station) will have you believing it’s the real thing.
Now entering its 20th season, the Nightmare is celebrating
by opening up new areas of the 288-foot-long former river dredge
William S. Mitchell. This season a crushed section of the first deck was
reclaimed and features the Machinist and his biomechanical crew,
punching up the event’s “ending scare.” Also new is the Laundry Room,
featuring the macabre sight of a crew member dancing with a half-corpse —
those spilling entrails can make the old box step a bit treacherous.
The Chambers of Horror comes to you this year in 3-D ... Demons, Darkness and Doors, that is. Boasting 33 scenes and 100 doors, they offer hauntgoers ample opportunity to land in hot water. Or inside the walk-in freezer of a family of psychos whose scion warns that “anyone touchin’ muh wives is gonna be hung up next to ’em!” Not to mention near the tendrils of a bizarre creature in a hallway wallpapered with cocooned victims.