Chicago

The Spookiest Haunted Houses in Chicago

Try being the fun kind of scared.

Disturbia Haunted House
Disturbia Haunted House
Disturbia Haunted House

While it’s hard to imagine anything more terrifying than the year 2020, Halloween is still going to put in its best effort. In case your real life wasn’t filled with enough anxiety, you can now double down on your terror fantasy with a trip to a Chicago-area haunted house. While many longtime area haunts have been shuttered for this year, a solid base of haunts remain with a few new drive-in haunted house experiences adding a new wrinkle to the experience. Here are 10 of the best haunted houses for 2020 in Chicago and beyond.

Disturbia Haunted House

Downers Grove
This new haunted house from the creators of Basement of Dead sets up shop in the scary-in-a-different-way Butterfield Mall, with the haunt’s parking lot adjacent to an Olive Garden and a Hooters. Details on what exactly to expect are scarce for this new haunt but if you dig what Basement of the Dead are throwing down, odds are you will like this offshoot as well. Similar to Basement of the Dead, the event includes an outdoor line with outdoor entertainment in addition to standard safety protocols such as masks, enhanced sanitation, and timed ticketing.
Cost: $30-$80 (masks on sale for an additional $9)

Highway of Horror

645 W. Madison
This new drive-through haunted house pops up in a derelict parking lot along the east side of the Kennedy near Presidential Tower, where a drive-in movie experience sets the narrative of a horrible accident that occurred on the site with views of downtown skyscrapers in the background. Be prepared for dozens of demons and zombies to jump out, rock your car, and spray fake blood as you are confined to your car for the full 90 minutes. You are not able to leave your car or roll down the windows for any reason “short of a heart attack,” but the good news is that the car-less can also rent a private BYOB geodesic dome for eight people that is sanitized in between haunts. There will also be a Broken English taco truck on site, which is never a scary proposition.
Cost: $75 per car or $100 for dome

Alley of Darkness

Replay Lincoln Park
This new drive-through haunted house is similar to Highway of Horror, only this one takes place in a creepy Red Line alley outside an arcade bar in Lincoln Park instead of a downtown parking lot off the highway. Like Highway of Horror, a drive-in movie experience sets the premise before actors pop out to scare the hell out of you with the help of sound effects and (optional) sprays of fake blood. You are also confined to your car for the duration, although this haunt only lasts 30 minutes as opposed to 90 at Highway of Horror. And while there are no domes or taco trucks on hand, those without cars can rent one of Replay’s sanitized-in-between-use vehicles for an additional $25.
Cost: $75 per car (plus $25 for optional rented car)

Terror In The Timbers
Terror In The Timbers
Terror In The Timbers

Terror in the Timbers

Elgin
This new drive-through haunted house meandering through the woods at Camp Big Timber pays tribute to some of Chicago’s darker historical moments. Turn off your headlights and tune into a predetermined radio station before slowly creeping along a wooded path with plenty of stops for various fright-filled haunted scenes along the way. The haunt is themed after infamous Chicago butcher and America’s first serial killer H.H. Holmes, the Devil in the White City star believed to have killed up to 200 people in the late 1800s. While we’re not sure whether or not some of the bodies were dumped in the woods around here as the haunt indicates, this slightly more educational experience should be fun for the whole family.
Cost: $65 per car

Basement of the Dead

Aurora
Four years since being named the “#1 Haunted House in the World” by the Buzzfeed community, this haunted house is known for taking advantage of its natural setting in the basement of a creepy 140-year-old building in downtown Aurora to scare the shit out of people who are afraid of the dark. For 2020, there will be no lights and no actors. Just your group (each group enters privately), a glowstick, and full animatronics. Masks and temperature checks are required, with all guests to sanitize their hands before entering and disposable gloves available upon request. To further encourage social distancing, there will be an outdoor line with outdoor entertainment.
Cost: $30-$80 (masks on sale for an additional $9)

Dungeon of Doom

Zion
Located in the old Briquette factory in a dreary industrial park surrounded by woods, it takes a full 60 minutes to make your way through the variety of scare rooms in this massive 45,000-square-foot house of horrors that bills itself as one of the longest “single-walkthrough haunted attractions” in the nation. Renovated experiences for 2020 include The Boiler Room and The Underworld, plus plexiglass shields added to allow the actors to scare the holy hell out of you… safely. Temperature checks, masks, and hand sanitation are required, with timed tickets and groups separated about two minutes apart. And instead of a line, you wait in your car.
Cost: $90-$180 per group of two or more

 

Massacre Haunted House
Massacre Haunted House
Massacre Haunted House

Massacre Haunted House

Montgomery
Known for movie-quality sets and fear experiences designed for more mature audiences, this custom-built haunted house features more than 20,000 square feet of terror across 60 rooms that include tombs, caverns, mazes, and a 360-degree 3-D haunted house. For 2020, the entire facility has been made one-way to allow small groups of six to seven to walk through, with all groups entering privately. Contact items have been removed in favor of 20+ touchless hand sanitizer stations, with added animatronics making up for a reduced number of actors. Temperature checks and masks are required, with timed entry and daily hospital-grade facility-wide sanitation.
Cost: $30-$40

Midnight Terror

Oak Lawn
While the themed experience at this 26,000-square-foot haunted house (located across the street from Holy Sepulchre Cemetery) no longer begins with the fun 5-minute interactive shuttle from the Metra parking lot thanks to Covid, don’t let that spoil your fun. With on-site parking and nightmare-inducing experiences such as Factory of Malum and Black Oak Grove available for private groups of two to six, this theatrical actor-driven haunt will be sanitizing its entire facility every hour. There will also be timed tickets with masks and temperature checks required, in addition to the adding of hand sanitizer stations and the removal of all hanging items.
Cost: $20+

13th Floor Haunted House Chicago
13th Floor Haunted House Chicago
13th Floor Haunted House Chicago

13th Floor Haunted House

Melrose Park
This large, well established, and slightly more corporatized haunted house (which now operates in more than a dozen cities) is back in 2020 with a new “Deadly Reflections” attraction to be experienced alongside welcome new Covid-era additions such as smaller groups, less waiting, and more spacing. No one will touch you and nothing will be sprayed on you, with the added spacing allowing the staff to try out some new “interesting storyline tactics.” Masks and timed reservations are required, with staff temperature screenings and hand sanitizer stations available.
Cost: $26-$33 per day (add $10 for fast pass or $20 for skip the line)

Evil Intentions

Elgin
The naturally decrepit setting of the 55,000-square-foot Old Elgin Casket Factory offers the perfect environment for this haunted house that is reportedly actually haunted by some of its former residents. Whether or not that’s true, there’s no denying this is one of the top haunted houses in the area with super professional crews and plenty of scares that play off the building’s sordid history. Group size is limited to five for this roughly 30-minute walkthrough, with masks and temperature screenings required in addition to online timed tickets and hand sanitizer available.
Cost: $35Sign up here for our daily Chicago email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Jay Gentile is a Thrillist contributor and freelance journalist. Follow @thejaygentile.

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

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