Buff zombies. Creepy clowns. It's all part of show at Paranormal Cirque in Gurnee
Buff zombies perform high stakes gymnastics, scary clowns drag audience members onstage and an intense chainsaw-wielding usher urges patrons to their seats.
Welcome to Paranormal Cirque, the traveling horror-themed circus that debuted outside Gurnee Mills Thursday night and performs in its black and red big-top tent through July 21.
Attendees said they were drawn by a love of horror, something the circus provides even before the show begins. Preshow performer Sonya Black -- aka Stabatha Nightly -- skulked around the concession area with a club topped by a skull and a buzz saw.
"We make people drop their food, fall on the ground. Tiffany made someone pee their pants last week," said Black, boasting Joker-like mouth scars, black makeup and heaps of blood. "Some people are jumpier than others and some people make the choice that we do not advise where they come here intoxicated."
One of her "victims" was Christina Tuskey from Plainview, who was standing with her friends when Black came up behind her and let loose a creepy high-pitched laugh.
"I'm way into horror stuff and this is my first time going to a circus," Tuskey said after Black moved on to her next victim. "The anticipation is literally killing me."
Death is a running theme through the show, designed for mature audiences.
The characters range from the undead to the soon-to-be dead. One performs an impressive gymnastics routine with a big ring before having his head chopped off.
Ricardo Ottvan from Riverside was one of many patrons dragged on stage during the show and made to perform by creepy clowns.
"I had a feeling they were going to pick the bald guy," Ottvan's friend Sara Kraft said, who added that seeing him onstage was one of her favorite moments. "The lady next to me kept laughing and nudging me saying 'he's doing great!'"
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," Kraft said.