'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. 

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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.

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 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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