ESCAPE ROOMS – Vault Escape – Illinois

Vault Escape

I had the pleasure of checking out Vault Escape while in Chicago for the weekend. I didn’t plan ahead, so I was happy to book the small one player game in the front window of the location. It was a really clever idea and use of space. I like circuses so I quite enjoyed the theme. There aren’t as many puzzles as the hour long games and you don’t get hints on this one. I had a bit of trouble with some of the tech malfunctioning. Luckily one of the game masters realized it and stepped in to help. It’s a fun little game in the storefront. I had the opportunity to peak into one of the other games and that looked well done. Unfortunately I didn’t have time in my schedule to play any of the full length games at the location.

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HAUNTS – Six Flags Great America – IL

Six Flags Great America Fright Fest 

I love Six Flags Fright Fest in my home park of Magic Mountain, so I figured I’d attend Fright Fest at Great America while visiting the Chicago-land area. I was sorely disappointed. It’s nearly impossible not to try and compare the two parks, but they are so drastically different that they can’t really be compared. I came to Great America with the expectation of seeing professional haunted attractions like their sister park and what I found were teenagers running around in plywood mazes decorated with cheap props and hardly any set pieces. The Hell Fest maze was one of the best overall, it had a few visually impressive scenes. All of the mazed lacked scares. The actors didn’t seem to grasp the concept of setups for scares. The cast also seemed to lack motivation to remain actively in character. Almost all of the characters seemed to specifically avoid my camera while trying to catch them in action in the scare zones for social media and my youtube channel. The one stand-out exception is the Ring Master. The Ring Master seemed like a very well trained, talented performer among a cast that overall appeared like they didn’t even want to be there. I also noticed one female chainsaw actor that was working very hard in a scare zone while everyone else trudged along looking like overworked lumberjacks. I honestly can’t remember most of the mazes now as I write this only a few days later because they were that forgettable. I do remember the price tag…$50 for front of the line fright fest pass on top of park admission. I have an annual pass that allows me access to the park, but even so this event isn’t worth the general line cost of $35 unless you are a local that plans to attend multiple nights and just wants something to do in the evenings that’s Halloween related for the month of October. I made it through all of the mazes, but didn’t have the opportunity to see any of the shows. It does appear that there are some fun live performances on the schedule. Thank you to the Ring Master that turned around my night right at the end as I was leaving.

I also want to take a moment to point out that the guests at this Six Flags theme park seemed much less respectful than all other Six Flags parks I’ve visited. I saw kids in the mazes playing on a set piece, kicking walls, grabbing props and all around being jerks whether they were in groups with friends or with their parents. I imagine being part of the cast at this park can be especially difficult at times.

Overall I can’t really recommend Great America Fright Fest 2018, but want to reiterate that every Six Flags Fright Fest is unique so this doesn’t reflect my opinion of Fright Fests across the country.

HAUNTS – Haunted Jail in Colombia City – Indiana

Colombia City Haunted Jail  

I can’t say enough good things about The Haunted Jail!!! This experience is definitely one of my highlights of the 2018 haunt season. I drove about 2 hours from my parents’ house in Indiana to attend The Haunted Jail on a Thursday night in September. It wasn’t a particularly busy evening and I was able to go through the attraction alone. I purchased the upgrade so that I could experience the VIP section on the third level of the haunt.

First I want to point out the venue…it’s an ACTUAL haunted jail. The jail was decommissioned several years ago and has become a permanent home to the haunted attraction, but contains cells from it’s time as a jail as well as possibly some of the souls that were kept here. It’s naturally creepy without the props and actors. However the props and actors add a level of scare factor that would be impressive in any venue. I was given special permission to film inside the haunt as I walked through (which I will post on my YouTube Channel) and normally when I am filming I’m pretty difficult to scare. I was shocked at how many times the hardworking actors “got” me. I screamed more walking through the Colombia City Haunted Jail than I did the entire night at Universal Studios HHN. Kudos to the incredible cast! I’m impressed. I love the dedication to their characters. You can tell they are well trained. The art throughout the attraction is beautifully done. The props are professionally made with a level of detail that I found impressive. I love the creativity throughout. The Haunted Jail is a wonderful stand alone haunted attraction and worth the trip even if you aren’t located in Colombia City.

I also had the pleasure of speaking with the owner and I love the way they support and work with the youth of the community. Not just what you see as the general public, like the Boy Scouts selling popcorn out front, but also from within the ranks of the cast. It’s not your standard haunt. It’s something special. I highly recommend The Haunted Jail. Be sure to buy the upgrade to VIP and do their coffin ride experience too.

*Note: There are a lot of stairs in this attraction.

ESCAPE ROOMS – Espionage Escape Rooms – Indiana

ESCAPE ROOMS – Espionage Escape Rooms – Indiana

Espionage Escape Rooms Pharaoh Game 

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The Pharaoh Game at Espionage Escape Rooms is a topnotch escape room that could hold it’s own in a much more competitive market than Northern Indiana. I was pleasantly surprised by this game. My team consisted of my parents and myself. They’ve played a few other games with me over the years.

We were transported to the Pharaoh’s tomb as we entered the game. The room was beautifully decorated to look like a tomb complete with a bit of sand on the floor. The props in the room reacted to our actions, as well as a few standard locks. However most of the puzzles were very well integrated into the theme and story. I especially enjoyed one prop that was built in a unique way that I hadn’t experienced quite like that before. I always love when a designer can surprise me. The puzzles were all very logical and fun. There is a small amount of searching that could be easier with a larger group, but our group of three had no problem with a small nudge from the game master.

The owner was our game master and she was very professional and passionate about the industry. I’m excited to play her next game when I am back in town for the holidays.

I highly recommend Espionage Escape Rooms!

HAUNTS – Dead Rising – IL

Dead Rising

IMG_7369.JPGDead Rising is an intimate haunt located in the back area of a strip mall near a McDonald’s in Crestwood, Illinois. (The McDonald’s is key for anyone needing to use the restroom, as this haunt doesn’t provide restrooms.)

Dead Rising isn’t your typical walk through haunted attraction with winding dark corridors and monsters popping out with shaker cans, it is much more interactive. After purchasing my VIP ticket to bypass the 30 minute wait I was placed with 4 youth from the general line. The actor tried to split up the groups of friends and place one from each with me, however I do believe the entire line knew each other. I didn’t ask, but had the impression they were somehow a large group of classmates.

IMG_7362.JPGThe groups are limited to around 5 people due to the immersive nature of the scenes and the space in the small rooms. I have been attending many haunts alone on my Midwest trip, so it was kind of fun to be placed with kids that were so excitable. At one point they nearly trampled me to escape a clown. I enjoyed watching the actors interact with them more than my personal experiences.

I felt like the opening elevator scene took an especially long time, but other than that the scenes were effective and timed perfectly. The actors did a great job of playing out their scenes. I personally found it to be more of a fun immersive, than a scary haunt. I won’t be in town for their adult event, but I spoke with someone about it and apparently it’s an even more immersive version including blood splatter, adult language and more. It’s a unique event and a good stepping stone for those interested in immersive haunts.

 

HAUNTS – Undead Acres – IL

Undead Acres 

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Undead Acres is known for their zombie paintball ride with several scenes and many zombies to shoot. They also have a walk thru haunt, paintball shooting gallery, food stand, photo ops, bonfire and GOATS! Yep, goats…you can feed ‘em.

Undead Acres was the third attraction I attended on the last Sunday of September 2018, so when I arrived at nearly closing time it wasn’t nearly as busy as I expect it will be later in the season. I was able to look around, but had no real wait to get on the haunted trail. A guide summoned me to follow. I walked alone behind the cloaked figure through several scenes. They didn’t tell an overall story as a whole, but individually they were recognizable as the staple haunt scenes including clowns, butchers, monsters and even a young person in a yellow raincoat spouting, “You’ll float too.”

IMG_7378.JPGThe actors made very challenging physical choices for their characters from rapid crawling, falling and more. Their physical strength, flexibility and dedication impressed me. The overall creepiness of the location being outdoors in the open along a trail was effective. I like the use of the guide.

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Overall, it is a haunted trail with a lot of heart. I did not participate in the paintball experience. If you are in the area, definitely stop by Undead Acres and shoot some zombies. Be sure to say hi to Lily the goat for me.

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HAUNTS – Midnight Terror Haunt – IL

Midnight Terror Haunt 

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Midnight Terror Haunt in Oak Lawn Illinois is a wonderful story based haunted attraction. I was most impressed with the skill shown by the actors in this haunt. It’s rare to experience a walk through haunted attraction in which every character you encounter appears to be a theatrically trained actor. I am happy to give this cast and crew a standing ovation. The storytelling in Midnight Terror Haunt is wonderfully executed. The scares are plentiful. I enjoyed the use of levels and actual mazes aspects throughout. The sound and lighting effects were well done. The set and props at times were very impressive as well. I highly recommend checking out Midnight Terror Haunt if you find yourself in the Chicago-land area.