A&E | Herald-News

For a scary good time, check out 4 haunted attractions in Will County

One is very family friendly, too.

Haunted spaces are especially popular during October, and Will County has four options for some good frightful fun.

Three of them are in Lockport: HellsGate Haunted House, Curse of the Bayou, and the family friendly Hayride of Horror.

The Old Joliet Haunted Prison at 401 N. Woodruff Road in Joliet, run by Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group again this year, offers two attractions, according to its website.

“Abominations” features beings with a hunger for souls and “Tormented” features paranormal scientists, according to the website. The attraction runs through Nov. 5, according to the website.

Haunted fun for the whole family

Andrea Vaughn, creative director of Hayride of Horror and Curse of the Bayou, said Hayride of Horror’s eighth season opens Friday and the 25-minute hayride is able to be family friendly because the actors, ages 4 to 60s, “are trained to scare properly.”

Tickets for both attractions are available in the bandshell at Dellwood Park, 199 Woods Drive in Lockport she said.

While waiting for the hayride, attendees can watch horror movies on a 20-foot screen, Vaughn said. Bonfires and food vendors are part of the event, too, she said.

The haunted hayride, which is based on the park’s history, is the main event, she said.

“In the early 1900s, the park had a world’s fair kind of event,” Vaughn said. “There were roller coasters, water towers and people ice skating on the lake. It was just huge. Then in 1905, it all burned down and turned into a ghost town around here. So we tell the story of the history of the park while adding horror elements.”

Vaughn stressed the production is structured to make everyone feel safe. For the most part, attendees are 15 feet away from the scenes, “although some actors do come up on the tractor to scare you,” Vaughn said.

The 20-minute self-guided Curse of the Bayou is on the same site and combo tickets for both attractions are available, Vaughn said. Curse of the Bayou is the story of a voodoo priestess who’s called out from her home in the swamps, Vaughn said.

“She’s looking for her beating heart to help her come back to life,” Vaughn said. “It’s darker, grittier. It’s also a lot of fun.”

The scares in Cure of the Bayou are closer to attendees than they are in Hayride of Horror.

“But I’ve had kids as young as 9 go through it and enjoy it,” Vaughn said.

Children may wear costumes to the events, but adults cannot, she said. Pets also are not allowed. Both attractions run through Oct. 29, according to the Hayride of Horror website.

Missing characters from the former Statesville Haunted Prison? Find them at HellsGate.

HellsGate Haunted House opened in 2016, took a break during the pandemic and starts its sixth year Friday, said John Laflamboy, founder and director of Zombie Army Productions, which produces HellsGate Haunted House.

The attraction runs through Nov. 5, according to its website.

“It has a very comprehensive storyline, Laflamboy said. “It is one storyline, and it is inside that world we build that you visit every year. But that is not to say the show is the same every year.”

Laflamboy said 25 to 30% of the experience changes every year. This can include new rooms, expanded trails and, for this year, the migration of the “iconic prisoners from Statesville” to HellsGate, he said.

Zombie Army Productions, which runs HellsGate, also ran the former Statesville Haunted Prison in Crest Hill and that haunted house closed at the end of the 2021 season, Laflamboy said.

“Some of these characters have been around 15 years and have a following. They have fans,” Laflamboy said. “What better place to hide them from the authorities than out in the middle of the woods in an abandoned mansion?”

Here’s how HellsGate Haunted House works. Attendees park at 301 Second St. in downtown Lockport to be shuttled out to the site and dropped off at the vacant lot, Laflamboy said.

They walk the trails, go around the cemetery and then up to the hill “just to find the haunted house,” Laflamboy said.

Once inside, attendees will slide down into the basement. If they find the key, their ticket is free that night. Laflamboy said HellsGate has an average of three key winners a night, he said.

“This year, the key is on a character,” Laflamboy said. “So you have to find the keymaster. And then they will ask you a trivia question based on the HellsGate lore.”

Illinois Haunted House Reviews praised both HellsGate and Hayride of Horror and Hauntworld Magazine lists HellsGate as No. 3 at America’s Scariest Haunted Houses of 2022.

“My mom [Charlene Schmitt] is very fond of the show,” Laflamboy said.

An adult must accompany anyone under the age of 12, Laflamboy said. Tickets online are less expensive than at the door and ensures no one drives out on a night the event is sold out, he said.

HellsGate does offer a less scary, trick-or-treat option for young kids during the day Oct. 30 when “all the monsters are hiding and sleeping,” Laflamboy said.

The event includes a costume contest and trick or treating through the woods and house, he said. Proceeds are donated to charity, he said.

For tickets and information, visit hauntedprison.com, lockportpark.org/HayrideOfHorror and hellsgate.com.