13th Floor plans to open Old Joliet Haunted Prison in fall

Joliet City Council votes Tuesday on special use permit for project already underway

Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group after waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic plans to open its haunted house at the Old Joliet Prison in September.

“We’re back on track now,” Bryan Kopp, senior general manager for Thirteenth Floor, said Friday.

Work crews have been readying the former women’s prison, located on the other side of Collins Street from the main prison, since early this year and have targeted a Sept. 17 opening.

Thirteenth Floor expects to draw between 1,000 and 5,000 people a night for the Halloween season haunted house, a number that Kopp said “might even be a modest estimate.”

With COVID-19 restrictions loosening up, Kopp said Thirteenth Floor is counting on a return to normal business by this Halloween season, although he said the company will follow whatever local, state and national guidelines are in place.

Thirteenth Floor has haunted house venues across the United States and another Chicago-regional location that has been moved from Melrose park to Schiller Park for this season.

The Old Joliet Haunted Prison has been in the works since January 2020, when the Thirteenth Floor and the city of Joliet entered into a sublease and development agreement with plans to open a haunted house that year at the former women’s prison at 401 Woodruff Road.

It’s an ideal venue, and scary enough as it was when they got there, Kopp said.

“The building is exactly what you expect – a creepy old prison,” Kopp said. “It was very spooky to explore the place, especially in the basement.”

Even so, Thirteenth Floor is adding its special effects to the building but counting on the unique setting to make it a unique attraction.

Besides the haunted house, which is scheduled to run through Nov. 13, Thirteenth Floor expects to run year-round social gaming and other activities at the building. Some activities at other Thirteenth Floor locations include escape rooms and ax-throwing.

Thirteenth Floor has yet to announce what it will add to the Joliet site beyond the haunted house. But Kopp said the unique setting offers opportunities not available at other locations.

“There might be new things we develop for this property because it’s such a unique site,” Kopp said.

Even though Thirteenth Floor has obtained building permits to move ahead, the project still needs a government approval that goes to the City Council for a vote next week.

The council will vote on a special use permit for the project.

Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis said the city’s planning department advised that another approval was needed for the entertainment venue, which is being put into an industrial zoned site.

The city’s zoning board has recommended approval for the permit.

The permit includes conditions that Thirteenth Floor develop traffic, parking and security plans for the site to be approved by the city. Thirteenth Floor also would be required to remedy any unsafe conditions that develop and abate any problems that arise with noise and garbage.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News