My mission this October is to visit as many haunted house in the area as possible. Like my beloved punk concerts, I feel the need to see as many haunted houses as possible before I become the out- of- place "creepy old guy." For the next several weeks, I will be visiting the best Chicagoland has to offer and posting my reviews. This past weekend, I found myself in Round Lake Beach and at Navy Pier checking out two of Chicago's best ranked houses.
The Realm of Terror
The Realm of Terror, located at 421 W. Rollins Road, is currently ranked third on the Best Haunted Houses of Chicago list. Steve, one of the creators and actors in the house, informed me of how unique The Realm truly is. From its conception, the house exemplifies the blood, sweat and determination of its creators to ensure thrills and chills for its patrons. As I was told, their best performances usually include some type of excretion from the truly frightened.
The wait to get into the haunted house didn't seem too bad however that judgment might not be accurate considering how lousy the weather was on opening night. The Realm of Terror cleverly includes a smoking area, food for purchase (such as chili dogs) and even booze. I must say this is the first time I've seen the option of kicking back a few while you wait.
Before entering the house, patrons step up to a big screen television and are informed they are going to watch a family video. This family video is fragmented and very reminiscent of Rob Zombie's version of House of 1000 Corpses. By the time the video ends it becomes painfully clear this is a morbid family with a fetish for screams. While we were watching the film, an actor in a gory hockey mask brandishing two giant blades emerged. Aside from breathing down our necks, he banged his weapons on the ceiling while a damaged girl swatted at our feet. Needless to say, the effect gets the blood pumping while simultaneously adding to the excitement. We were given the standard rules (the actors won't touch you so don't touch them, don't touch the props, etc) and proceeded to make our way through the house.
The house is stalked by 30 ghouls including demonic clowns and deranged surgeons. One actor, in particular, stood out because he delivered a very uncanny version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" while wielding a bone. Instead of just jumping out in front of us, these ghouls get up close and personal. Expect your personal space to be invaded. Also beware of loud noises being used as scare tactics. Each room of the house leaves a different lasting impression. Without spoiling any surprises, let's just say from the operating room to the toilet The Realm of Terror offers something to spook just about everybody.
The last leg of the house literally is a maze... a maze with strobe lights and plenty of fog machines. The experience can only be described as feeling like your playing an old video game while having a seizure. The maze, albeit small from the outside, easily took us 20 minutes to successfully get through. The effect is amazing and alone is well worth the ticket price.
Steve informed me they created and built majority of the props seen in the house. Seeing as I can barely make a convincing sock puppet, I found this to be very impressive. From prosthetic pieces to decaying bodies, the crew at the Realm of Terror really went all out.
The house opens at 7:00pm (Friday- Sunday) and has plenty of free parking. Tickets will only set up back $13 ($11 if you print out the coupon on their website). As far as haunted houses go, this is probably the best bang for your buck. Buying a ticket also supports a good cause. A dollar out of each ticket sale is donated to Shriners Hospitals for Children. The experience is meant for a mature audience so leave the young ones at home (no one under the age of 10 is permitted). It should also be noted that portions of The Realm might be considered offensive. If the weather is lousy, be sure to dress appropriately as there are some parts of the house that aren't completely covered. For more information, check out http://www.realmofterror.com/.
The Fear at Navy Pier
Saturday was yet another rainy day in Chicago which again didn't fare well in terms of turnout for local haunted houses. We made our way to The Fear at Navy Pier which was voted the best haunted house last year on HauntedHouseChicago.com. Despite the lack of a line, we were directed to go through the cue in order to justly be startled before entering the main attraction.
During our brief wait, a Goth girl entertained the crowd by dancing with fire while heavy metal music blared. In front of us in line was a chatty guy who picked up on my smartass comments and quickly joined our conversation. He seemed to be the most pumped to be there and acted although he was at a concert. After our brief wait, sirens blared and the doors opened to the house. Once inside, the crowd was divided into three lines.
The Fear sets up a background story of a captain who has captured some of the most terrifying creatures in existence. These poor souls were chained up in shipping containers left only to dream of their revenge. Like The Realm of Terror, they play a video which informs us that these creatures have escaped and essentially we're in danger. Another siren blares and each line is herded off into the next room. In order to fix the timing, the actors who control the door only let one line in at a time. Our line consisted of three... the overly enthusiastic guy, my husband and me. Our line also happened to be the last to go. During this wait, we learned the chatty guy had gone through the house 4 times prior to his round with us.
Once we were allowed in, we came in contact with the shipping containers. The shipping containers sported drop-panels so actors could easily startle us as we weaved through the hall. Many of the rooms inside The Fear sported drop-panels and hiding spaces for people to jump out and startle anyone passing by. Aside from the cargo area, The Fear also has a medical unit which is illuminated by strobe lights. The actors are busy performing experiments and we were even asked to become donors by a surgeon holding body parts.
I'm sure you're wondering why I bothered mentioning the guy in line. Aside from seeming to be a bit off kilter, he does play a role in the suspense of The Fear. When we entered a room lined with coffins and mirrors, our strange companion was dragged screaming through a drop-panel. Although it was pretty obvious he worked for The Fear, I'm sure that gag has worked at freaking people out in the past.
The overall house wasn't very big but it did succeed in starling me several times. Once we left the house, we went through the innards of a large inflatable dragon. Given its size, it was easier to see the actors thus making it less likely for an actual scare. However when we reached the end of the dragon, it was pitch black and hands started grabbing at our legs.
The Fear opens at 6:00pm (Thursday-Sunday). The starting price for tickets is $20 a person or $25 for a VIP Fast Pass (front of the line service). In case you were wondering, there is an option of acquiring a souvenir photo. The cost of parking varies depending on duration and garage. The Fear was perhaps a little too short for my liking given the amount of money spent. For more information on The Fear, check out http://www.thefearhauntedhouse.com/.
I will be checking out The Dungeon of Doom and Statesville Haunted Prison this upcoming weekend. Stay tuned for their reviews and feel free to leave suggestions for any houses you think are worth a visit.