Last year, Midnight Terror Haunted House thrilled visitors by moving to a bigger, better location in Oak Lawn. This year, they've reinvented that extra space into a "fear-for-all" playground of fright for a more uniquely nightmarish experience.
Determined to give paying customers fresh thrills in 2017, Midnight Terror creator/co-owner Justin Cerniuk and his crew spent the offseason redesigning more than 85 percent of the haunt. But they did more than expand the size of many of the sets, improve the props and wardrobe, and fine-tune the animatronic, CGI, lighting and sound effects. They also "unleashed the monsters." Translation: the creepy characters lurking around every corner now have the freedom to frighten you in their own creative way.
"Many haunted attractions choreograph their actors too rigidly, making them to do and say the same things and robotically remain within a limited zone. That can get boring and predictable," says Cerniuk. "We're letting many of our scarers customize their characters and be more spontaneous and unpredictable. We've created more secret spaces for them to hide in and given them a wider territory in which to terrify."
Rest assured that the golden rule of haunting remains in effect: the hired help isn't allowed to touch paying customers, and vice versa. That doesn't mean Midnight Terror's scream team won't touch a nerve, however.
"We're emphasizing more old-school startle effects and jump scares this year. Attendees will appreciate the level of detail in our sets and the impressive theatricality on display. But it's the sudden shocks that will leave the strongest impression. Prepare to be thoroughly scared," says Cerniuk, an ex-Marine and Oak Lawn native who launched Midnight Terror in 2014.
"In the military, they call an overwhelming display of force 'shock and awe.' Here, we use a different phrase for the same effect -- 'shock and saw,'" he says. "They use stealth bombers, we use chain saws."
It's this commitment to horror excellence that's earned Midnight Terror high praise; in 2016, the attraction was awarded third-place honors for best haunt by IllinoisHauntedHouse.com and was named a top 13 haunt by HauntedHouseChicago.com.
A ticket to Midnight Terror provides admission to two haunted houses in one location. The first is Black Oak Grove, where the ghostly Willow and her cult of possessed followers roam like wraiths throughout the village. Follow their eerie trail as you wind through a cannibalistic butcher shop, a spine-chilling school, a jail where the inhumane inmates are in charge, a disquieting library, and other town fixtures. The second part of your journey leads through the Factory of Malum, named after a demonic overlord who has enslaved an army of monstrous minions hellbent on preventing you from making it out of their industrial complex of creatures alive.
"We've created a unique mythology and series of characters that drive the back story behind these two haunts. Every year, we add a new chapter to this ongoing narrative," Cerniuk explains. "But you don't need to be aware of this to come and enjoy Midnight Terror."
Here's what patrons can expect in 2017:
• A 35-minute walk-through (on average) across two haunted houses
• More than 60 rooms and over 100 actors spread across 26,000+ square feet
• The House of Lilly -- a brand-new paranormal escape room (optional for an extra fee)
• Free entertainment for guests waiting in line -- such as DJs, stilt walkers and street drummers
• A gift shop where Midnight Terror shirts, hoodies, hats and other apparel as well as Halloween-themed merchandise can be purchased.
Attendees can also claim valuable promotions, including:
• $2 off each ticket when purchased online at midnightterror.com
• Half off regular admission on opening weekend, September 28, 29, 30 and Oct. 1 when purchased online
• $5 off for students with a school ID every Thursday or Sunday
• "Lights-on" trick or treating on October 31 from 3:30-5:30 p.m., when kids 12 and younger can walk through, free of charge, with the lights on and wave to the actors, who will be in friendly mode and giving out candy.
Midnight Terror Haunted House is located at 5520 W. 111th St., Oak Lawn, Ill., 60453, just east of the intersection of Central Avenue and 111th Street. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office on site: regular admission per person is $25 at the door or $23 online; VIP admission per person, which provides faster entry without having to wait in the general admission line, is $35 at the door or $33 online. The attraction is wheelchair accessible and open, rain or shine (a covered waiting area is provided), from: 7-10 p.m. on Sept. 28, Oct. 1, 5, 8, 12, 15, 19, 22, 26, 29, 30, and 31; and from 7-11 p.m. on Sept. 29-30, Oct. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28. Visitors can park for free at the Oak Lawn Metra station parking garage (located at 9525 Tulley Ave.) and take a complimentary round-trip shuttle -- with costumed characters aboard to entertain passengers -- to the Midnight Terror site.
For more information, visit midnightterror.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.