Designer weaves tale of real-life Chicago killer into Rosemont haunted house
Mark Kaschube is not a fan of the "every room is different" kind of haunted house.
That's not to say that the rooms in Screams in the Park, the Rosemont spook house he designed, won't offer unique scares. They will, but they'll also connect in a thematic way.
Screams in the Park
What: A haunted house based on the real-life story of H.H. Holmes, an infamous Chicago serial killer.
Where: In the basement of the parking garage at MB Financial Park, east of River Road between Balmoral and Bryn Mawr avenues in Rosemont.
When: 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 18-20 and 25-27, Wednesday, Oct. 24, and Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 29-31; 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 and 28
Info: Tickets cost $20 at the door. Go to screamsinthepark.co or call (847) 349-5008.
"I like it when there's a storyline," Kaschube said. "I think you can build mood better that way, and it feels almost like a movie to the person walking through."
Screams in the Park is one of many elaborate, cinematic and sophisticated haunted houses ready to scare the daylights out of suburbanites this Halloween season.
Unlike the relatively tame and simple haunted houses of yesteryear, Screams and other suburban terror havens — Eleventh Hour in Elk Grove Village, The Asylum Xperiment in Villa Park, Massacre in Naperville and others — go for the jugular.
Screams in the Park is inspired by the real-life case of H.H. Holmes, a physician who killed multiple victims in his Chicago hotel near the turn of the 20th century. (Interest in the Holmes story spiked recently after it was explored in Erik Larson's best-selling book "The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.")
"He was America's first real serial killer," Kaschube said with the enthusiasm of a true haunted-house fanatic. "His victims entered that hotel, not knowing they'd never exit. It's a fascinating story, and it was great fun bringing it to life with this haunted house."
Kaschube designed the rooms in the haunted house to approximate some elements of Holmes' hotel, though he stresses that Screams in the Park is not meant to be 100 percent historically accurate.
"We put our own spin on this," he said. "But that hotel was a great starting point, because it had things like chutes and secret passages, bookcases moving aside, that kind of thing. Stuff that was perfect for a haunted house."
And no, Screams in the Park doesn't pull punches when it comes to scares. Expect plenty of simulated blood and gore. While there is no specific age restriction in place, the Screams website suggests that the haunted house is for those 13 and older.
"Do I ever think it's too gross? Too disgusting? Not really," he said. "Look, horror movies do this kind of thing all the time, and people still flock to them. I think we have a natural interest in pushing our fears at things like this, because we know it will all be over in an hour or so."
Kaschube, a Lemont resident and dentist who maintains a suburban practice, said his interest in haunted houses actually grew out of a childhood fascination with magic shows.
He put together his own magic act before his dental practice took off. One of his shows had a Halloween theme, which led him toward designing haunted houses.
Kaschube hasn't given up on magic. He will headline "Halloween Magic 2" on Sunday, Oct. 28, at Rosemont's Akoo Theatre. Unlike Screams in the Park, the show at the Akoo will be decidedly family-friendly.
"I still get a charge out of performing, even though I don't get to do it as much as I'd like," he said. "And the haunted house stuff is great, too. I love seeing people get genuinely thrilled by something I and all the actors and designers worked so hard to put together."
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