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The Prowler

HellsGate Haunted House Review

Lauren Hansen, Editor-In-Chief

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Haunted houses terrify me, but even I can appreciate how well-made HellsGate is. I honestly had a great time.

While waiting to get in, the ghoulish actors entertain the guests making the minutes pass quickly. Participants can take photos of and with the actors.

The masked monsters lean far too close for comfort, though, as none spoke a word. One crawled across the dirt beside me without my notice, and I almost stepped on the zombie’s hand.

The walk through the site takes roughly 40 minutes.

The night begins after the sun has set. Groups pass through a trail made ever the worse by fog so thick one is often walking blind and as a warning to remain on the track. Several jump scares are caused by downright horrifying beasts who grunt and growl more than speak.

Visitors must be ready to run as the chainsaw wielder makes chase, and don’t get in anyone’s way because when it comes to survival it is all for one. I had two people push me out of their way and my entire group got scrambled.

Each creature looked as though it walked straight out of the “Walking Dead”, but with more intellect. Everything was so outlandish I was left wondering what was a prop and what was real.

While on the trail I had edged too close to a person I thought to be a fake scarecrow or perhaps a corpse statue only to be spooked as he growled and leaned toward me.

The experience doesn’t end with the path. Guests leave the lawn behind to enter the haunted manor.

Before I even entered the first room, I sat in the front hall listening to the undead assistant of the professor rattle off the rules. Once I remembered that I can’t touch the actors and they can’t touch me some of the horror disappeared.

The first room of the house is the only area in which I could say I felt an honest terror. Upwards of forty people were packed in there. The set was of an old living room: a black staircase, tall stained glass windows flashing with artificial lightning and a flickering fireplace.

My heart stuttered as the lights cut off. Suddenly, the children who had just a moment ago been in an unmoving painting began a monologue which ended with them screeching while falling from the ceiling on wires along with other spirits of the house.

The effects were a force to be reckoned with. The lightning and thunder did seem authentic, and the frequent strobe lights left me feeling as off kilter as the fog.

The actors who snarled from inside the walls, rattling them left me especially skittish.

After the living room, a kitchen opens with slaughtered pigs hanging from the roof.

The medical wing held open patients who seemed to be sacrifices. The splattered guts were grotesque, but well placed and the plague masks were a thoughtful addition.

Next, there was what I believed to be the basement which held live rodents, snakes and other bugs.

This lead into a storage room where guests had 30 seconds to find a key, and if they did their ticket was free. The lights flashed sparingly making it difficult to see. It made it much more reliant on a person’s sense of touch.

Overall, I couldn’t pick a room that I consider the best. They were all horrifying in their own right, though I found the bedroom with the staring, soul-searching eyes particularly unsettling.

The actors remained in character for the most part, but occasionally would stop for a moment if shocked or confused. The contortionist took up the challenge to do something my friend couldn’t as he began to mimic her movements and the man with a chainsaw high-fived my friend for coming at him instead of running.

One of the few flaws was that the ending of the manor was anti-climactic. I expected someone to jump out at me or perhaps some creepy music, maybe even an axe wielder, but I just calmly returned to the bus.

It is still well worth the wait and somewhere I wouldn’t mind returning to which was an opinion shared by those who were there. Everyone seemed more energized than shaken when they left.

Guests park in the Metra Lot, 1300 South State St., Lockport IL 60441 where a bus then drives five minutes to the site. Open now through Oct. 31.

4/5 stars

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HellsGate Haunted House Review