Halloween hauntings: Roundup of creepy attractions
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent October 3, 2012 5:28PM
Reapers Realm is in Hammond, Ind. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
If you go
◆ 228 S. County Road 500W, Valparaiso
◆ Hours: 7-11 p.m. Oct. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, 31. May open Thursdays and Sundays later in October; check website for updates
◆ $20 per ticket
Lake Hills Haunted House
◆ 8640 Lake Hills Drive, St. John
◆ Hours: 7-11 p.m. Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26; 7 p.m.-midnight Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27; 7-10 p.m. Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28
◆ $15 per ticket
◆ Kid-friendly versions noon-4 p.m. Oct. 27 and 28, with $5 tickets.
◆ 626 177th St., Hammond
◆ Hours: 7 p.m.-midnight Oct. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27; 7-10 p.m. Oct. 7, 14, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31
◆ Tickets run from $10 through $40, depending on the number of attractions viewed
Haunted Hill Hospital
◆ 6112 Old Porter Road, Portage
◆ Hours: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 19, 20, 26, 27, 31
◆ Parking across the street at Crisman Elementary School
◆ Admission is free but donations are accepted for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Gabriel’s Horn shelter for women.
The House of Lost Souls
◆ Butterfield Pavilion at Old Fairgrounds Park
◆ Corner of Calumet and Evans avenues, Valparaiso
◆ Hours: 6:30-11 p.m. Oct. 19, 20, 26, 27; 6:30-10 p.m. Oct. 21, 28
◆ $8 for adults, $5 for children 12 and younger
◆ A portion of all proceeds supports Toys for Tots.
Updated: November 6, 2012 6:06AM
Northwest Indiana has plenty of places to get scared this Halloween season, some beginning this weekend and others opening their creaking doors as the month moves closer to that haunting last day of the month.
There’s plenty of variation among the local haunted houses and attractions, some with a history that goes back 22 years. They include ones that started professionally and some that began as amateur projects.
This will be the third year for the rural Valparaiso terror asylum that tells the story of Dr. Amhurst working experiments on his patients in order to save his wife’s life.
After Amhurst Asylum’s first year, hauntedhousechicago.com awarded it Best New House; this year, Amhurst is fifth on the site’s list of Top 13 Haunted Houses within 150 miles of Chicago.
Not one to rest on success when competing with about 99 other attractions, the team members began planning their haunting in May, two months earlier than in 2011.
“We’re excited for this year. We’ve just got a lot of new rooms; we’ve got a new make-up team this year. It’s going to be scarier than ever,” proprietor Jim Alvarez said.
Alvarez likes to bring in artists, musicians and performers from local high schools and make it a memorable and learning event for the actors, including acting and make-up classes.
This year they have more than 100 students from 11 high schools assisting, plus adult volunteers.
Joel Hill began Haunted Hill Hospital in Portage through his own joy in decorating his house for Halloween, but for 2012, the city asked him to get a special permit because of its growth and city officials’ concerns.
Last year, the attraction had 1,200 visitors, up from 500 the year before, because of Facebook and word of mouth, Hill said.
Like Amhurst Asylum and Lake Hills Haunted House, the 8,000-square-foot Haunted Hill Hospital has a medical theme, but Hill said the difference is how they treat visitors.
“We don’t rush anyone through,” he said, and actors come out to take photos with people waiting in line.
It became a public attraction when his son Justin, now 17, had a party for his soccer team, and trick-or-treaters asked if they could go through the haunted house.
It’s become professional over the years with Joel fabricating props and Justin designing costumes.
“If people enjoy seeing it as much as I enjoy doing it, we’ll keep doing it,” Hill said.
The House of
The crew members at The House of Lost Souls in Valparaiso likes to tailor their performances to the people coming in, being family-friendly for younger visitors but working harder to scare those who are stone-faced.
“Each group is going to get a more personalized show,” house owner Stefen Hutchins said.
Hutchins said this attraction differs from others because they want people to face their fears, whether spiders, clowns or “creepy little girls.”
“A lot of them have good set design, but we focus on the scare,” he said. “We find a way to get to them.”
The House of Lost Souls began in a Portage park shelter six years ago but moved to the Butterfield Pavilion three years ago, increasing from 450 to 5,000 square feet.
“We’re getting bigger every year, and moving to Valpo was one of the best things for us,” Hutchins said.
The only municipal-run haunted attraction, Lake Hills Haunted House in St. John enters its seventh year of operations by earning the title of No. 8 on the hauntedhousechicago.com Top 13 Haunted Houses.
Although it is three places behind Amhurst Asylum on the list, “we’re working on overtaking them,” town councilman Mike Forbes said.
Work began in July on the house — an old clubhouse on the lake turned into a doctor’s home — and the crew has produced four new rooms and three new passageways to go after visitors’ fears.
“We cover all the basics: claustrophobia, clowns ... ” and some medical themes, Forbes said.
The story is that Dr. Goodenevil opened his home during the Depression to transients who killed his daughter. And now he tries to bring her back and get revenge through science and other means.
Forbes said the crew keeps the house at a PG-13 level and the intensity turned down, but parents should be aware this is not for younger kids, even with the less scary Oct. 27 and 28 kids days, where they leave the lights on.
Opening in Hammond in 1990, Reaper’s Realm is the largest of Northwest Indiana’s haunted attractions.
It includes a haunted mansion, haunted woods, a new feature called “The Dark Zone,” and a carnival, and each year Hluska Enterprises tries to make 50 to 65 percent of the attractions new.
This year they’ve replaced the “Saw”-inspired Hellhole with The Dark Zone, which owner John Hluska is keeping quiet about, hinting only that it’s based on a disaster zone and “there’s a surprise twist.”
“It’s about three times the size of Hellhole,” Hluska said.
It’s a new concept, although the laser maze from Hellhole has been moved into Reaper’s Mansion.
Reaper’s Mansion is three stories tall and in the old Indiana Botanical Gardens building off Interstate 80/94 at the south Calumet Avenue exit.
Visitors can choose to visit one or all of the attractions on the site, based on the ticket package they buy.