Zion's Dungeon of Doom ready for a terrifying Halloween season
If you've got an hour this Halloween season, Pete Koklamanis believes he can make it the most terrifying of your life.
Koklamanis is co-owner of Dungeon of Doom, one of the suburbs' most well-known haunted houses. Dungeon of Doom, located in Zion, subjects visitors to an hour of gruesome scares, all fueled by intricate technology and actors who never hesitate to go for the jugular.
"We deliver 60 minutes of absolute fear," Koklamanis said. "Even people who think they've seen it all will find themselves shocked by our haunt."
Dungeon of Doom spreads its scares over 42,000 square feet of space that includes a variety of rooms designed to prey on just about every type of fear and phobia. Koklamanis is particularly excited this year about the Tomb of Doom, a new attraction for 2017.
The Tomb of Doom is a spooky underground temple that sends visitors on a circular route surrounded by cold rocks and a number of grotesque worshippers and gatekeepers. The attraction ends with the emergence of a monstrous evil.
"The design is incredibly ornate," Koklamanis said. "That's part of what I love about this -- finding ways to use technology and engineering to create something that's thrilling and scary."
Other attractions at Dungeon of Doom include Buried Dead or Alive, an exercise in claustrophobia; Hades Boiler Room, which delivers industrial-strength scares; and the self-explanatory Cabin of Carnage. (Like many suburban haunted houses, Dungeon of Doom is not suitable for young children. The haunt's website recommends that parents consider it a "PG-13" attraction.)
Koklamanis, who owns Dungeon of Doom with business partner Anthony Relken, has been working on haunted houses since his father-in-law introduced him to the field in 1997.
At first, haunted houses were a hobby that he pursued while working as a chemist at Abbott Labs. But Koklamanis enjoyed the work so much that he soon made haunted houses a full-time pursuit.
Dungeon of Doom came into its own in 2008, when Koklamanis and Relken made the 29th Street location a permanent one for the haunt. Having a permanent site allowed them to invest in technology and machinery that created increasingly dynamic effects.
"Technology has really changed the whole haunted house game," he said. "We're able to make floors and walls move like never before. We can create lighting and sound effects that have pinpoint timing. It's pretty incredible.
"At the same time, though, there's a part of this that hasn't changed at all," he added. "We have to know how to startle and scare our customers as they walk in the dark. We have a cast of almost 120 actors who really work hard on their characters and their techniques."
Koklamanis believes that haunts like Dungeon of Doom bring fright back to the Halloween season.
"I remember trick-or-treating as a kid, staying out well past dark with no parents out, and the older kids in the neighborhood would do their best to put a scare into us," he said. "I loved those nights. Dungeon of Doom can make you feel like that again."
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Dungeon of Doom haunted house
Where: 600 29th St., Zion
When: Open Friday through Sunday and select weekdays through Oct. 29, plus Tuesday, Oct. 31, and Nov. 3-4. Hours vary.
Tickets: Start at $25. Go to dungeonofdoom.com.