'Fear City' Haunted House Readies For Apocalypse

Last year, they only had a month to prepare the huge, destination-quality Morton Grove attraction. Now, they've had a year to develop new frights. How scary is it? Well, they keep a nurse standing by.

After rehearsing Fear City's 100 actors — who play zombies and other creepy creatures-- until midnight Tuesday, owners Chuck Grendys and Jim Lichon still had enough energy left Wednesday morning to wax enthusiastic about this year's theme. 

The oversized, 40,000-square-foot Morton Grove haunted house, which is holding a media preview Friday and officially opens a week later on Oct. 5, will riff on the Mayan end of the world prediction. It's called "Fear City Apocalypse."

If that weren't enough, they've added a second horror attraction, "Hades," which will take visitors through the seven circles of — well, you know.

Since Huffington Post named Fear City "Chicago's scariest haunted house" last year, horror fans may consider Hades and the improvements to Fear City a way of pushing the (blood-soaked) envelope even further. 

Last year: Fear City debuts with theatrical flair (VIDEO)

Last year: USA Today names Fear City a "Must-See"

When visitors enter Fear City this year, they will encounter three levels of zombies, in various stages of a frightening illness, explained Grendys, who owns a set design company, and Lichon, an art director.

Snot and vomit

"Level One zombies are sniffling — and you'll probably get sneezed on," said Lichon. "Level Two zombies vomit on you. And Level Three zombies are ravenous from vomiting their guts out, so they just want to eat you."

After visitors enter a desolate, garbage-strewn space, they're herded onto a Chicago subway train to "escape" the devastating disease, and get a jiggling ride complete with the sounds of a real CTA journey. Then it's up to the intrepid to make their way through the rest of the 35 or so rooms and survive unscathed. 

Get local news (not from Hades, sorry) in a daily email from Patch. It's free.

New this year is a blood-letting room, where zombies hope to be cured of their afflictions with a sanguine solution.

Walking through the Inferno

Visitors who venture into Hades, which Grendys describes as "an interactive experience with the seven deadly sins," can expect to make their way through the seven circles of hell — which really do go around in circles, and change every time you go around. Once you enter, be ready to squeeze through inflatable tubes that surround you on the right and left.  When you finally make it to the inner circle, there's entertainment in a theater in the round.

Lots of planning went into it

While Lichon and Grendys specialize in creating illusions, they've had to jump through the same HR and logistical hoops as any other business owners. Sitting in their office — yes, hell has an office, or, as some would say, hell IS an office — they talk about having to do background checks on the 100 actors they've hired to elicit screams out of you. Because, when you think about it, you don't want a real serial killer in a haunted house. 

Fear City also complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so someone in a wheelchair could — and has — gone through it.

The attraction also has a state of the art fire alert and life-safety system. If an emergency took place, lights would come on and actors would turn from murderous pursuers into angels leading you to safety, Grendys said. 

"Because if you're going through a haunted house, you can't always tell if it's an emergency or if it's part of the show," he explained. The show does contain some smoke effects.

The medical stuff

And, yes, there is a medical person standing by, in case someone hyperventilates or gets injured. 

"Last year, our box office lady missed her stool and fell," Lichon said. "And we had one actor who ran into a wall, and then two other actors who ran into each other and hit their noses."

But Grendys and Lichon aren't anticipating any problems. Instead, they're expecting crowds of thrill-seekers to venture into their lobby from all over the place, since it has become a regional draw. 

"Last year we had people from Detroit, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana," Grendys said.

You'd think there would be quicker ways to get to Hell. But apparently, lots of people are willing to make the drive.

If you survive, be sure to like Patch on Facebook for more of our silly humor--and yours


Tickets: $25 for Fear City, $25 for Hades, both shows for $35. Purchase online at fearcitychicago.com; enter the promo code "Patch" for $3 off (offer good online only). With a VIP pass, $10, visitors can skip the line.

Location: 8240 N. Austin Ave., Morton Grove. (I-94 to Dempster, west to Austin, south to Fear City)

Dates: Oct. 5 to 7; 11 to 14; 19 to 21 and 25 through 31.

Timing: Expect to spend 30 to 35 minutes in Fear City and 12 to 15 minutes in Hades.

M. Kim Jr. September 27, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I'm looking forward to seeing these haunted houses right here in town. They are also giving money from sales to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Going there will not only be fun but be helping others too. I found this information out on their website when I logged on to buy my tickets at www.fearcitychicago.com this morning.
Mark V. Matz September 27, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Nice to see a business helping contribute to a good cause and not just worried about making money. Seems like a good place to go into October for some Halloween entertainment...and it's right here in Morton Grove too! I found this notice on their website - http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/Calendar?id=289301&view=Detail
barry September 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
I took my son and some of his friends last year.... They had the time of their lives and I will take them again this year. I it will be interesting since they are now in high school. I ill have them bring extra underwear just in case. Lol.
Keith September 29, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Not just looking to make money?!?!? They charge $35. Thats a ridiculous amount for a haunt. For all we know they are donating 1 cent per admission to charity. Id rather spend $8 and go to the Skokie Haunt. What kid is gonna throw down $35 for a haunt. Thats a $10 increase as well for the same square footage too! Nice guys, huh?!?!
M. Kim Jr. September 29, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Interesting how some people can make assumptions without knowking the facts these days. Has Keith seen BOTH the Fear City AND Hades shows (there are two of them for the price he mentions) to judge the differnce in quality? If you want steak or hamburger do you expect to get them at the same price? Does he know what it costs to produce or how many people they employ? Also, the amount they give to charity is 3% according to their website and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Greater IL's too, so the charity seem OK with it. I wonder what amount he or the Skokie show is giving to any charity? If some people would rather go to another, cheaper haunted attraction, that's their choice. Sorry Keith, enjoy your show but don't waste time being negative about something you're clueless about. Here's the haunted houses' website, so hope people will make up their own minds about this and enjoy Halloween the way they want to and stop listening to negative people. www.fearcitychicago.com
keith October 01, 2012 at 03:05 AM
It doesnt matter if its 2 haunts or 10 haunts M Kim its the same square footage. Yes, I do no how much $$ it takes to run one, I used to work at one. I was at Fear City last year, their first year. It was lousy. Ive been to dozens of haunts throughout the years, i know a well run haunt and a poorly run money grabbing one . Of course a charity will take 3% of funds...they're a CHARITY they take ANY contributions. The Skokie show, $8 is run by the park district and uses kids and volunteers to do the show. You cant compare a small haunt aimed at little kids to a haunt charging 4 times that amount.
M. Kim Jr. October 01, 2012 at 04:00 AM
I didn't think haunted houses were compared by square footage? Too bad you didn't like Fear City last year, but taste is an individual thing and critics all have their opinions. Question, how much tax payer money is involved in running the house in Skokie that allows such a low price along with volunteer kids and volunteer labor? You are right about not comparing a small haunt aimed at kids to a professional one aimed at adults, so why are you doing that? I get it, you're supporting your Skokie show, that's great, but why knock somebody else's? I don't see anybody who likes Fear City knocking yours. It's a big holiday, think there's venue's for all tastes and pocketbooks. Good luck with your (or your friends') event in Skokie. Found a another opinion about the show on their FB page - Fear City Haunted House - http://www.examiner.com/slideshow/fear-city-haunted-house-will-make-your-hair-stand-on-end
keith October 01, 2012 at 11:21 AM
My point is , the haunt is the same size as last year, but for $10 more. Its like going to a restauarant, and paying $10 for the same steak you ate the last time you were there. I have no affiliation with the kiddie haunt in Skokie. Never did. I dont even live in Skokie anymore, Im just a visitor now. My knock isnt the haunt, its the greed. They are the highest haunt in Illinois. Look for yourself. These are guys know people in the media industry(good for them) who had reviews made by their buddies, saying its the scariest house etc. before the house was even fully set up last year, before the doors were even opened! How can a haunt that isnt even open or fully built get a review like that?!?! http://www.hauntedillinois.com/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?t=2217 And you're right, dont believe me, read the reviews of the people who were there last year, and then tell me if its work $35 or even the $25 they charged last year. Sadly, the only thing scary is the price. LOL! http://www.hauntedillinois.com/hauntedhousereviews2011.php?mode=d&hauntedhouse=76&sort= http://www.hauntedillinois.com/reviews/2011-fear-city-review.php
M. Kim Jr. October 01, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Sorry Keith, guess we have to agree to disagree - but you've probably seen the new Patch story about THIS year's show - http://niles.patch.com/articles/fear-city#photo-11545225. Maybe last year's good reviews happened because the other media industry guys saw a preview and wrote their reviews before it opened up to the general public just like Patch must have done here. I still can't understand why anyone would be so consistently negative about somebody else's haunted house unless there was some other reason? Greed? Come on! Just because you don't like the price point is hardly evidence of that. Not exactly greedy to be employing so many people or giving to charity is it? Maybe you didn't get picked to work there or something - you did say you worked at other houses in the past? We've both got our opinions, maybe it's time we let the people decide how they want to spend their time and money for Halloween. Good luck with your kid-focused haunt in Skokie...will tak my neices and nephew there to enjoy it...so no hard feelings.
keith October 01, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Write a review here after you go. Let us know how it was.
Michael Cesario October 06, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Lousy?? I was there last year. It was by far the best haunted house I have been to EVER and I have been to many.
M. Kim Jr. October 06, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I went last night to see Fear City and Hades. Lots of people in line when I got there about 10pm. Kind of eerie and dark with spooky music and actors in the lobby. Without giving away too much, about 30 minutes later I come out totally pleased with the many various rooms, actors and special effects. I then got in line to see Hades after having a Culver's ice cream served by two young ladies also in scary make up. Hades was very creative theater with a theme, different than the first part, but very innovative and oddly spooky. I hope everyone goes as it is well worth the money. But do not take little kids as it would probably scare them too much. I say a bunch of photos on their Facebook page which is Fear City Haunted House and more on their website which is fearcitychicago.com. Halloween is here so time to get scarred.
Jordan Graham October 06, 2012 at 10:47 PM
I'm considering making a visit. What's the consensus? Is it worth the price the of admission?
Jeff L October 08, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I guess I joined this conversation too late it seems. I have worked for Dungeon of Doom in Grayslake and in Zion when they moved up there, and Dream Reapers in Melrose Park. I havent worked at any haunts for about two years now. I went to see Fear City last year because I knew some of the people who worked their last year. Then it was $25. It wasnt very good, and I would NOT recommend it. When I saw they "merged" with "Hades" ,a haunt that was in Chicago at one point but went out of business due to their greed, I now know Fear City MAY be in trouble. This also explains the extaordinary price of $35. When a haunt raises their prices that much in generally means they took a pounding the year before. Hades, did the same thing some years ago. That is absolutely ridiculous for any haunt regardless of whats in it. Im glad Mr Kim enjoyed it, and felt it was worth it. What I saw last year was a get rich and get out scheme from the Fear City owners. It would not surprise me if they were gone after about 5 years or so. They have good props, but dont deliver a good haunt. The workers themselves have said as much. What people do with their hard earned money is their business. I havent seen too many reviews this year for the haunt so I cant comment. There is one review posted at hauntedillinois.com.
ABM October 24, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Could anyone give their recommendations on the age appropriateness of Fear City and Hades? I have a 9 year old boy who wants to go. Thanks.
Pam DeFiglio (Editor) October 24, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Hi ABM, when I interviewed the owners, they said it's more for about age 13 and up. On the other hand, I once took my kids and their friends to a haunted hike that had my family screaming, but left the 10-year-old friends completely unfazed. You know your kids; use your own judgment.
Pat Craig October 25, 2012 at 12:54 AM
ABM- The venue warns that it might be too intense for younger folks. The makeup is professionally done and very realistic. The sets are movie or TV quality and the experience can be quite intense. As Pam said you know your own children but be aware it is targeted to an older crowd.


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