Best Haunts in Town

Daniel Fiddler, Arts and Life Editor

Leaves are orange and crunchy. Pumpkin flavor is in literally everything. The weather is swinging like a black cat’s tail. It can only mean one thing. Halloween is lurking behind the corner.

The 13th Floor is an official selection of America Haunts: The scariest haunted houses and attractions in America.
The 13th Floor is an official selection of America Haunts: The scariest haunted houses and attractions in America.

Chicagoans are fortunate to have no shortage of haunted happenings to choose from. All month, world class haunted houses have been springing up all over. We attended several of the most talked about haunted houses to find out what’s scarier—the houses or their ticket prices.

#3-Fear City (Morton Grove)

Fear City’s victims are taken through a decrepit urban sprawl haunted by the city’s insidious inhabitants. You’re taken through narrow alleyways, a scary subway and creepy apartment rooms. Each room was heavily decorated with junk, trash, rot, glowing TVs, crackling radios and grotesque caricatures, looking more like an episode of hoarders than a haunted house, which was all the more unnerving.

The actors in Fear City were particularly good. There’s nothing worse than a Louisianan Witch Doctor that can’t quite commit to the accent, but the actors in Fear City had their characters down pat. Each room was a scene telling little horror stories throughout the tour.

Fear City’s strengths lie in its concepts. Eventually, it drops the whole city motif to make room for the brightly colorful Dia de los Muertos room and an eerie extra-terrestrial scene—some of the coolest parts of the haunted house. As creative as each room may be, they don’t exactly flow together.

At $25 dollars a ticket, Fear City is fun. It’s not the scariest and it’s not the most shocking, but it’s a damn good time. For more, visit

#2-Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare (Villa Park)

Rock star and horror film director Rob Zombie’s touring haunted house came to Villa Park for this year’s Halloween season. The house has been drawing a lot of criticism for its recreations of infamous American murder scenes like the Manson family and John Wayne Gacy.

Divided into three separate attractions Great American Nightmare is a massive installation art piece, each house challenging your notion of what a haunted house can be.

The first house is the Lords of Salem maze named after Zombie’s 2012 movie. If you’re claustrophobic, it can be terrifying, but if you’re not, it’s basically just a walk in the dark.

Next, you enter a cartoon brought to life in Rob Zombie’s Haunted World of El Superbeasto 3D. The most entertaining attraction of the three, this house is a luminescent landscape of psychedelic scenery and whimsical caricatures set in mythical Monsterland.

“The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” is an animated exploitation horror movie based on the comic book created by Rob Zombie. It follows the adventures of a former luchador and adult film star named El Superbeasto, as he and his stripper/super-spy sidekick Suzi-X take on an evil scientist, monsters and an army of Nazi werewolves and zombies.

Let’s start there. I realize Zombie is making reference to exploitation b-movies like “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS,” but I was taken off guard and disturbed when I encountered a cartoony severed head of Adolf Hitler preserved and rotating in the evil lair of movie villain and zombie Nazi Commandant Hess.

Beginning Nov. 9 Fear City will transform into a tactical are- na, the Midwest’s largest airsoft and strikeball area.
Beginning Nov. 9 Fear City will transform into a tactical are- na, the Midwest’s largest airsoft and strikeball area.

Little did I know, this was just a fraction of the poor taste I was about to encounter.

Great American Nightmare culminates with Haunt of 1000 Corpses, a recreation of the “Museum of Monsters and Madmen” featured in Zombie’s 2004 film “House of 1000 Corpses.”

Haunt of 1000 Corpses takes visitors on a walking tour through America’s most notorious and violent murder scenes. It’s got all the hits: Lizzie Borden, Ed Gein, the Manson family and many others.

I have to admit, this house got to me. I walked through the dioramas with increasing disgust and anxiety.

Just when I thought I’d had enough, I came into the room that’s been facing a lot of criticism since it was installed. The dummies of two dead boy-scouts sat on a couch, one of them with a long pink balloon shoved into its mouth, while an actor dressed like John Wayne Gacy (aka Pogo the Clown) sat across in a chair folding phallic balloon animals.

Attorney Terry Sullivan who helped prosecute Gacy told The Daily Herald “I find it to be in terrible taste.”

In response to critics, one of the house’s producers, Steve Kopelman told People “It’s tasteless and offensive, but its art…Sometimes art is offensive.”

It was definitely offensive, but I can’t deny the impression it left on me. Zombie spared no expense in recreating the horrific crimes, and to his credit, the whole attraction flows seamlessly between elaborate sets. He achieves an unsettling balance between a cheesy haunted house aesthetic and realistic carnage.

Considering the quality and scope of the production, $25 doesn’t seem like a whole lot to ask for, but customers should know what they’re in for. Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare won’t necessarily make you jump and scream, but it will stick with you when you leave.

For more, visit

#1-The 13th Floor (Melrose Park)

The 13th Floor was the most fun I’ve ever had at a haunted house.

Stripper rules apply at The 13th Floor; you can’t touch the performers, but they can touch you. This is different from Fear City and Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare, where it’s promised the performers won’t touch you.

Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare has been getting a lot of flak for its depiction of infamous American murder scenes.
Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare has been getting a lot of flak for its depiction of infamous American murder scenes.

The house is split into two attractions, The Rising, a gothic graveyard scene straight out of Poe, and the Dead End District, an apocalyptic city-scene infested with Zombies.

Unlike the other haunted houses, which were both broad in scope and very concept driven, The 13th Floor has one goal in mind—scaring you at every turn. Where the other houses take you through from room to room, and the actors are there to tell you little stories, every room in The 13th Floor is crowded with twists and turns, and the actors are primarily hidden, with no other purpose than to get you when you’re not looking. The ever-winding maze makes it impossible to predict when the next ghoul will strike.

I had a particularly scary encounter inside a tilted room modeled after a pirate ship. From the moment I stepped onto the slanted floor, the other patrons and I experienced an intense vertigo. At that moment, a ghost-pirate popped out of a chest and grabbed me by the arm. When I got myself back onto steady ground, the dizzying effect lingered, leaving me disoriented and vulnerable to more attacks.

I’ve been going to haunted houses since I was a kid. I intend no machismo when I say “I don’t get scared at haunted houses.” When I entered The 13th Floor, I was a kid again, giddily shrieking, clinging to the person in front of me. The best way to describe it is that giddy nervousness you get when you’re playing hide and seek and you’re about to get caught.

Tickets range from $25-30, and can be purchased at