Reviews & Accolades
TheScareFactor.com’s Statesville Haunted Prison Review – 2015
Reviewed by: Team Zombillies on October 10, 2015
The Scare Factor: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.71
Ho… lee… COW!!! Our 2015 visit to Statesville Haunted Prison was our team’s first and this incredible attraction surfaced as one of the top 3 highest-rated haunts in the history of The Scare Factor! With two separate attractions rolled into one ticket at one location, Statesville offers a very big bang for their customers’ bucks. With the real, Stateville Correctional Facility being (literally) right across the field, Statesville HP embraces that concept and brings the idea of a maximum-security prison that houses inmates accused of inconceivable crimes to a reality that surpasses any experience that our review team has endured in quite some time! Trust us when we say that you don’t want to cross “The Warden.” Their second attraction, dubbed “City of the Dead,” adds a sub-story twist to that same theme and winds you through the perilous passageways beneath the Prison. Here, you will bear witness to the demonic creatures that continue to rise from their tombs while “The Gatekeeper” and his minions attempt to overrun the cursed souls charged with keeping them at bay. A third, “Zombie Sniper Paintball” attraction is also available at this location, where you can climb aboard military vehicles and annihilate the infected undead! Statesville has earned its place at the top of the country’s leader boards, so be prepared for wanting to go through multiple times to catch everything you missed the first time through. Management informed us that they change around 40% of their show every year, so returning customers should be in for some new treats as well. If you’re looking to visit one of the nation’s top haunted attractions this year, then Statesville Haunted Prison is NOT to be discounted!
Cast: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.65
On an average night during haunt season, as if anything can be called “average” at Statesville, between 100 and 160 actors and actresses bring pure terror to those brave enough to breach the walls of the Prison. Starting with the queue actors, each of them were very believable as they interacted with and glared at us as if they could cut our heads off through looks alone! “Captain Flagg” was among the first that we met during our visit as he was seen herding cattle… I mean… customers, into the prison and banging himself against the walls on occasion during our walk-through. This is one VERY energetic crew! Many of the other characters zipped overhead, dangled from the walls, bounced right by us, and one even asked our advice on a final meal selection. On a side note, Statesville doesn’t allow very young people to attend their attraction… at least not without an accompanying adult. Part of that rule is due to some explicit dialogue, as we heard some hefty words during our tour, so be advised of that. Despite this, each of them used unique dialogue that directly related to their characters, scenes and even props at times! You probably won’t hear generic scare-actor lines here like, “Get out!” or “Wanna play a game?” Each of the actors are trained on the background of their character so they can adjust their dialogue use accordingly. The most interactive character that we noticed as we served our time was one particular inmate who successfully blocked our path, took one of our group members’ hat and even managed to obtain a few items from us in exchange for safe passage! It’s not often that we see an interactive chainsaw assailant, but the one at Statesville knew just how to “trim [us] up” when he realized his initial, spark-throwing scare wasn’t quite as successful as he’d planned. Being able to adapt in a situation like that is a sign of excellent training. The highlight of the creatures inside “City of the Dead” seemed to be their amazing vocal talents; they were just as unique as the characters’ identities! Among the most believable in the underground “city” were the scarecrow, the moss monsters and, actually, the multiple queue entertainers that conversed with us before we entered. Part of creating a realistic and believable experience is being able to tailor the show for each of the customers that go through. These guys and gals, along with the vast majority of the entire crew, excelled at this and really helped bring the story of the Prison and the City to life!
Costuming: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.84
Around 12 makeup artists are necessary to get their huge cast “riot-ready” each night. Characters are shifted along each of their airbrush and makeup stations in an assembly-line format until each and every one of them look as close to flawless as possible! Quite a strong collection of masks were noticed during our walk-through of each haunt and many of them were never seen before by our review group. Some of them were so realistic, we still aren’t really sure if they were masks or not! Along with colored contacts, many “accessories” were utilized by the various characters and creatures lurking within the complex including, but not limited to, a saw blade protruding from one of their faces. On the subject of prosthetics, Statesville makes their own transfers just to be sure they’re 100% original. These aren’t your Halloween-store “severed head” lacerations and “broken bone” wounds. Close examination yielded copious amounts of realistic detail, although a trained eye could pick out a few minor imperfections. But don’t get us wrong… each of the characters and monsters in both attractions looked their respective parts very believably with head-to-toe costumes. Many of the outfits in “City of the Dead” matched their surroundings… literally! The Prison housed a plethora of intimidating inmates, doctors, Statesville’s own brand of clowns and grueling guards just to name a few. The same costuming detail witnessed inside the attractions extended to their queue actors as well, which helped solidify a completely-believable overall experience.
Customer Service: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.81
As we passed by the outskirts of southern Chicago, we started seeing billboards for Statesville that got us excited ahead of time and confirmed we were headed in the right direction! When we approached the entrance, there was a small sign depicting the name of the attraction, but the initial sight of the farm silos, pumpkins and hay bales didn’t exactly reinforce the fact that we’d arrived at the infamous “Statesville Haunted Prison.” However, upon further investigation, we noticed one of the pumpkin-painted round bales by the road with half of a lifeless corpse dangling from its jowls, which did imply that we’d surely reached our destination (or at least someplace that likes scary stuff as much as we do)! Multiple flaggers at every intersection of the gravel, well-lit and free parking lot seamlessly guided us to our spot and warned us of oncoming traffic as we made our way to the ticket booth. Multiple ticket windows help keep the crowd moving and are labeled separately in case you’ve purchased tickets in advance. Several friendly staff members, security guards and police officers also assisted customers in navigating the property and professionally helped us with any questions that we had for them; although, some of them did seem a bit short with us at times (probably due to the massive number of people they deal with in a given night). If gift shops and memorabilia are your thing, this place has got plenty of it! From their huge gift shop, pumpkin farm and various harvest-related items to multiple concession stands and “Statesville Haunted Prison” and “Zombie Army” apparel, there was no shortage of souvenirs to be had by any stretch of the imagination. As we crossed the threshold from the Seigel’s Cottonwood Farm area into haunted house territory, we were greeted by fire-twirlers and an assortment of sinister queue characters. Some of them include “Fluffy” (a straight-jacketed villain), a very creepy clown wearing riot gear and the very intimidating “sword guy” that looked like he’d just walked out of a sinister, sci-fi, action movie! Once you leave the main queue line, Statesville doesn’t like to let you stand around for very long without a change of scenery. Each of the holding areas, where groups of people were moved around to in batches, were very entertaining and interactive experiences and surely a welcome sight after a 2- to 3- hour wait in line. Speaking of the queue area, nearly all of the waiting lines are covered in case inclement weather poses a threat during your visit. On your way out, a couple of haunt-themed, carnival-style games and free photo ops are available to help round off your night! The queue actors were obliged to pose with us for some scary selfies, too.
Atmosphere: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.92
Since this was our first visit to Statesville, we were very curious as to what we were about to find upon arrival. At first, the atmosphere seemed to be very family-friendly. After parking, and following the stampede to the ticket line, we continued to wonder where the prison was. Only after picking up our tickets and being directed where to go did we see it. My, what a sight it was! A man was dangling from high above as we walked further towards the entrance and the words, “HOLY SH!T” escaped our dumbfounded lips. Not only did the décor of the haunted prison hit us like a sack of potatoes, but the sheer number of people that were there was astounding! There were so many customers in line and roaming around waiting to visit this attraction; it was crazy! Watch towers, flame twirlers, the “Zombie Army” bus and another bus all let us know we were at the one and only Statesville Haunted Prison! The façade/watch tower looked very authentic and the culmination of everything around us had us jumping up and down in excitement and anticipation to enter! Many roamers engaged with us as we stood there, baffled, which helped prepare us to enter even more!
Special Effects: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.68
Where do we begin? Statesville consisted of so many original, unique, clever and downright disgusting items that you’re sure to find plenty of things that you haven’t seen before! If you’ve never been there before, you might even find yourself picking your jaw up off the floor like we did (you must be quick at this; these fiends are on body-part-watch at all times)! Some of the high-tech effects that we came across were familiar to us, but we have never seen most of them used as effectively as they were here! The opening scenes to each haunt contained phenomenal usage of effects and they produced many screams from their helpless victims… err, customers! Exquisite detail was everywhere! Everything we could see around us was elaborate and the detail even existed in places where it was least expected (or even needed)! Such attention to detail is a feat in itself, but when every square inch of the haunt is detailed at movie quality, it’s not something that’ll soon be forgotten. We noticed rats in the walls, authentic cells, many mirrors, overgrown vegetation, a restroom in major need of some cleaning and so much more! Realistic sound effects, as well as real sounds, flooded both attractions. Some of them were sirens, horns, loud dub-step (in this case “clown-step”), growls, menacing laughs and pleas for freedom. Strategic lighting effects accented the scenes throughout both attractions and we also encountered some specific techniques that were used to the extreme! If you can walk a straight line upon entering the prison, you probably won’t by the time you leave! Additional effects that we came across included multiple meat grinders, rolling barrels, live critters, a webbed vortex tunnel, giant spiders, a collapsing ceiling, an electrical/water mishap and an exclusive, overhead airbag surprise!
Theme: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.68
The background story behind each attraction can be found on Statesville’s website. However, a portion of them will be explained to you before you enter each one. The theme introductions were very impressive and gave us a good idea as to what we were about to experience. In “Statesville Haunted Prison,” the darkness has taken control of this maximum security facility and “The Warden” is welcoming all visitors! We must say they did their best to make us feel as if we had actually been incarcerated! We were placed in multiple holding boxes while being scolded to stand in single file lines, sent to the commissary for our orange jumpsuits, blankets and shoes and then given the ultimate tour of the rest of this hardcore facility! Within these cells, we came face-to-face with many inmates who showcased some of their mad habits that landed them here, thus reiterating the theme our entire way through! “City of the Dead” is the burial pit for all of Statesville’s past inmates. We were told that they keep burying and burying them and these creatures just keep coming back! There were so many unexplainable creatures amongst this tomb that we felt completely immersed into the haunted house and lost track of all reality… until we finally dug our way out! Although the prison theme itself isn’t the most original concept we’ve seen, the storyline behind it is! We do recommend that you visit their site and read up on the full details of both attractions before you visit. It’ll help increase each haunt’s realism effect as you walk through!
Fright Effect: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.42
A multitude of fright techniques were put to the test during our visit at Statesville. It was obvious that this crew allotted a lot of time towards coming up with innovative ways to scare their patrons! We fell victim to ingenious hiding spots throughout both attractions. However, they were more abundant in “City of the Dead.” We were very impressed with the strategic and scare-friendly set designs that we battled through in multiple areas. One of those types of scenes forced us to get closer and closer to outraged captives by design, regardless if we wanted to or not! Another one of these intense areas was the prison’s finale where we had to dodge hanging bodies, which dampened our chance of quickly escaping! The scares were distributed amongst each of us (only 2 in our group) and, due to the amount of crew members that they have, we’re sure they will evenly distribute their attention amongst larger groups rather than just the front or back of the line. Another side effect of stumbling upon so many cast members was their ability to provide effective distractions. As soon as we would become absorbed in a particular prisoner or effect, something would take full advantage of it and hit us from the other way! Other types of frights that we encountered included classic phobias, disorienting rooms, grueling dialogue and plenty of unexpected surprises! One of said surprises caught one of our group members off guard so well that he nearly fell on it (which HAD to be entertaining for anyone who may have witnessed it)! Not only did they provide all of these different fright techniques, but they literally came from all directions! The “Sister’s Room” was very effective and left us wondering for quite some time which one(s) were real and, we must say, we didn’t figure it out on our own! Be sure to always watch out for the prison’s murderous clowns! They may try to obtain your body parts and use them in their efforts of resurrecting their “Circus of the Dead!”
Value: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9.7
General admission to witness Statesville’s “meat processing” first-hand will cost you $30.00 per person and includes admission to both “Statesville Haunted Prison” and “City of the Dead.” If you would like to opt for the “little-to-no-wait” route by skipping the wait under the tent, VIP passes are available for $45.00 online or $50.00 on-site. From the time “The Warden” began to give us his impressive spiel ‘till we made it out of the prison, our first haunt time came to a total of approximately 21 minutes. In “City of the Dead” we spent around 12 minutes from the time “The Gatekeeper” began his introduction trying to escape the attraction. That gave us a combined total of 33 minutes, bringing this value to 1.1 minutes of entertainment per dollar spent. This number does not include the time that we were in any holding boxes before being greeted by “The Warden” or “The Gatekeeper.” Although this number is slightly above average (1.0 mpd), the level of frights and quality of this attraction combine to make this an extremely hard value to beat! Combo tickets to both attractions AND their Zombie Sniper Paintball Ride can be purchased for $65.00 (including VIP to both haunts) if you are interested in trying out one of 22 “zombie-neutralizing” paintball guns while perched aboard an Army truck! Be sure to visit their site for group rate information; you can also fill out a short survey that will give you a $5.00-off coupon good for Thursdays.
Want to see how Statesville Haunted Prison was scored? CLICK HERE!
HauntedIllinois.com’s 2015 Statesville Haunted Prison® Review
Reviewed By: The Scream Queen
Visibility/Location: Statesville Haunted Prison is very easy to find via GPS. Visitors will notice bright lights directing them to the parking lot, as well as a large pumpkin out front. What may be confusing is that Statesville operates out of Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm, so there’s more signage for the farm than the prison. Still, there’s a sign out front directing visitors to parking. After entering, there are multiple parking attendants to direct guests to spots.
Wait Entertainment: Wait entertainment varied based on what ticket package that was purchased. Before getting in line, there was a live act demonstrating fire breathing and various tricks. A wide variety of music (from metal to rap) was played to keep guests entertained. One major difference was the in-line entertainment. I had upgraded to a VIP pass, which meant a separate, dark, closed-in waiting area with a shorter line. However, only two actors (one one stilts with fantastic face makeup, one dressed to look like a demon) sporadically worked the line, leaving big gaps where there wasn’t much to look at. The actors seemed to be doing a great job working the General Admissions area, which had a much longer line. There were also several TVs that played the Statesville trailer on a loop.
Admission Price: General Admission tickets grant guests access to Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead for $30; VIP passes are $65 (though cheaper deals can be found on various deal sites) and include Statesville, City of the Dead, and a round of Zombie Paintball.
Length: Statesville Haunted Prison: 16 Minutes* City of the Dead: 9 Minutes*
*Since people move through haunted attractions at different rates, your time will vary.
Note: The time shown here represents the actual time spent moving forward through the attraction. Time spent waiting in queue lines, staging areas, intro scenes, rules rooms and when traffic jams cause patrons to come to a halt, has been subtracted.
LPR: 1.840. LPR stands for Length/Price Ratio. It represents perceived value of an event, by comparing length vs price of admission. Higher numbers represent more value per dollar. Actual quality and/or entertainment value of an event are not factors in this calculation. Click Here to see how this event compares to others visited this year by the staff of HauntedIllinois.com.
Scare Factor: Statesville has a Medium scare factor.
Crowd Control: Statesville has crowd control down to a science; there are multiple checkpoints along the way where groups are paused to maintain the flow. Even the rule room in the beginning of the haunt serves as a checkpoint to help split up groups. Still, there were a few points where I caught up to additional groups. Overall, the pacing was well-managed, and I was able to walk through at my own pace.
Summary: Statesville has long been considered an institution of Illinois haunted houses. Year after year, it’s placed in the top 10 as one of the best haunts in the area, so it was important to see if it still held up to that reputation this year.
When I arrived at the haunt, I was surprised to see how many workers were available to help. Year after year, the workers at Statesville are incredibly friendly and helpful; they quickly directed me to parking and showed me where to line up to exchange my voucher. There was also plenty of security around to maintain order, which was great to see.
The first stop on my tour of Statesville was a quick round of Zombie Paintball, which is included in the VIP pass. Here, guests board an Army Troop Carrier Truck and go through a short course shooting static and moving targets. This course is a fun way to get into the mindset of the season, as some of the targets are actors dressed as zombies. There was a small issue with the lead actor’s microphone not working, but other than that, Zombie Paintball was a solid start to the tour.
Afterwards, we were directed to the enclosed VIP waiting area, which is rather dark and unexciting. There was a group of performers doing fire breathing and assorted tricks outside the waiting room, but it was difficult to see them from the VIP area. There were also only a few actors who were working this line (one, on stilts, was particularly great at making a menacing face while towering over the crowd). Still, it seemed like much of the in-line entertainment was geared towards the General Admission line, which was admittedly much longer.
After about a half hour wait, my group was escorted into Statesville. The opening scene breaks groups into lines, and the prison overlord welcomes all of the guests to the prison and previews a bit of what is inside. However, I found it difficult to understand exactly what is being said during this scene, as there is a lot of background noise for effect. Still, this scene makes good use of props, darkness, and even a startling effect before allowing groups into the next room.
I thought that the next room would be the beginning of the haunt, but it actually turned out to be the rule room. This room was led by a prisoner with one of the most pleasant voices I have ever heard (seriously, he should be doing commercials). Again, the lines were broken into groups, and the prisoner went over the rules and hyped up the crowd. He also asked us our favorite scary movies and described scenes within the haunt that would relate to those movies. Great work doing crowd control, but I wonder if the intro room and the rules room could somehow be combined to speed up the process.
When we finally entered the prison, I was immediately impressed by the actor interaction. Statesville boasts that guests will visit 23 rooms with over 100 insane criminals, and it certainly delivered. Actors were constantly popping out of no where and interacting with the guests, evidenced by the amount of screaming within the haunt. In one scene, an actor even showed me a plate full of live roaches, which was an awesome, creepy touch. Hilariously, one of my friends was wearing a dinosaur hat, which many of the actors mentioned. So, if you want to get maximum actor interaction, make sure to wear a dino hat!
Perhaps the best part of Statesville is how incredibly detailed the scenes are. There are the typical prison cells, along with a kennel, a school bus, a hospital (make sure to check out the jars of urine samples along the wall), and a clown area complete with strobe lights and tight quarters. My favorite scene of the night, however, is an incredibly claustrophobic caged area where we had to walk through tiny passageways, surrounded by criminals. As we squeezed through the passageways, prisoners cackled and hassled us. This was a really great scene, as it gave the sense that we were never leaving the prison.
The haunt ended with a long hallway, which unsurprisingly had an actor with a chainsaw to chase guests out. I’d love to see this scene reimagined, as the chainsaw chase out is done so frequently.
After finishing Statesville, we were guided to the next haunt, City of the Dead. City of the Dead has the feel of an underground cave, and included demonic miners and vaguely hillbilly characters. This haunt was a quick but well-decorated walk through a cave, with plenty of spiders and snakes throughout. A live snake was a particularly nice touch about halfway through! While occasionally the secondary haunt can feel like an add-on to an attraction, City of the Dead does a nice job of working as a stand-along attraction. It does, however, rely more on animatronics than actors for the scares, but overall, it’s a good complement to Statesville.
Overall, Statesville Haunted Prison is a great haunt to visit. The attention to detail and sheer amount of actors makes it a standout among other haunts, and it’s definitely a leader in the area.
The 7 Scariest Haunted Attractions Around Chicago
#1 Statesville Haunted Prison
The lunatics at Statesville Haunted Prison are just starving for some company, in case you didn’t notice. We don’t know where they train the people behind the scenes at this place, but we’re pretty sure they may have actually just escaped prison. Yeah, we’re gonna go with that. Wherever they got them, they’re not afraid to get up close and personal with their bloody axes, machetes, and knives.
Looks tasty, huh? It’s no wonder why this spot has consistently been ranked among Chicago’s best, and was even recently featured on the Travel Channel. They really play on the emotions of pure insanity, and the fear factor is through the roof, if simply for thinking about the fact that there are actually loonies out there like the people here. Be prepared for plenty of in-your-face-action at this spot.
Behind the Thrills Review 2014
Darkness Reigns Supreme at Statesvile Haunted Prison & City of the Dead
To simply say that Statesville Haunted Prison & City of the Dead are great haunted houses, is a disservice in the worst possible way. The passion and expertise infused into this haunted attraction on every level elevates it to a tier of haunt experience shared only by the top haunts in the nation and theme park events like Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.
Owned by Paul Siegel, and in a permanent location at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill, IL, Statesville Haunted Prison & City of the Dead has doubled in size since its inception fifteen years ago. Paul has teamed up with John LaFlamboy and his production company, Zombie Army Productions, to create an immersive, interactive experience unlike anything you’ve seen before.
In Statesville Haunted Prison, visitors encounter anarchy and pure evil, as they’re processed and sent on a tour into hell. The inmates have taken over, and they’re eager to add you to their body count. Those that survive their incarceration then journey into City of the Dead, a subterranean nightmare world of caves and mine shafts, where Statesville’s past “residents” have risen from their mass graves, and other terrifying monstrosities scurry about, eager to rip the flesh from your bones.
The production values at this attraction are jaw dropping. The sets are film quality, and you are fully immersed. The combined size of both haunts is only 15,000 sq ft, but feels immeasurably larger. “We have a philosophy,” LaFlamboy explains, “where other haunted houses design in square feet, we design in square inches.” Paths twist and turn, and you find yourself moving through multiple smaller rooms within much larger environments. Every surface is detailed and textured; nowhere in this haunt will you find blank, black plywood walls. Everything feels real and fully fleshed out. Stunning practical and special effects like running water, sparks, fog, projections, and even real mice and cockroaches are added to create living, breathing worlds. Even without the denizens roaming the dark corridors, the sets are impressive in scope and scale. But the psychopaths and monstrosities are there, chomping at the bit to give you the fright of your life.
On an average night, Statesville Haunted Prison & City of the Dead has between 150 – 200 creatures lying in wait in the houses for their next victim. Character development is a key component of actor training, and they know their roles well. During our visit, the actors never broke character, even after interacting with visitors for longer periods of time. They add the final element to the already beautifully designed sets, and you soon forget that you’re not actually in a nightmarish realm of madness, chaos, and fear.
The scares are in full force at this attraction, and range from creepy to very intense. Whatever you’re afraid of, it’s a sure bet you’ll find it roaming around the maximum security cells and abandoned caves. Statesville uses the full range of techniques to make you scream, from boo holes and makeup effects to puppets and full animatronics. Actors fly overhead or lunge at you from the darkness, then disappear into the depths of the houses just as quickly as they appeared. The scares are expertly designed for maximum effect, and are layered so well that you’re left guessing where the next will come from. Statesville Haunted Prison is committed to offering a unique brand of terror. LaFlamboy describes their philosophy: “If we’re not coming up with stuff we’ve never seen, we don’t really want to put it in there;” adding, “If we’re not setting the trends, we’re failing.” They have perfected the art of the scare. Customers have even been so horribly terrified in the queue line, they leave before stepping foot inside the first house!
With Hollywood-level production values that rival those of the theme parks on the coasts, intense scares, and even a bit of comedy, you’re guaranteed to have a good time. LaFlamboy’s gauge for success is clear: “When you see [visitors] come out and they’re laughing or cheering, or they look like they’re having a good time…that’s the goal.” Statesville Haunted Prison & City of the Dead is a must-see event if you’re anywhere near the Chicago area, and is a destination worthy of traveling to from other parts of the country. I can’t recommend this attraction enough.
Statesville Haunted Prison & City of the Dead is currently running select nights through November 2. The attraction opens at 7:00 PM, and runs until 10:00 PM on weekdays and 11:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $30 for general admission, and $50 for VIP. Discounts are available on-line. Children under 10 will not be permitted, and minors under 15 MUST be accompanied by an adult.
Behind the Thrills
Haunted Attraction Magazine Review 2014
There is one trend that I’m see this year in advertising in the haunt industry. It is the slogan, We are the most extreme haunt that you have ever seen.” A lot of these haunts will use physical tactics and torture to fulfil their claims. One haunt in Crest Hill, Illinois uses more of a physiological approach to get the point across. And it works.
Statesville Haunted Prison is the twisted creation of Zombie Army productions. It is divided into two separate attractions Statesville Prison and the equally disturbing City of the Dead. You know from the moment you hit the queue line this is not your typical haunted house. You see patrons in the first entrance cage assuming the position and prison “guards” monitor their every move. Roaming characters assault you from every side of the waiting area. Anticipating this haunt put you on edge before you even enter.
Then comes time to enter Statesville prison. Your large group is escorted by the guards into a pre show type area where you are then split up into small groups. Typically, we slow down to take in every detail of a show and it is not long before other patrons are bunching up behind us. About 50 feet into the haunt I noticed no one was even in hearing distance. I instantly felt alone and uneasy. Then came the inmates: everything from dogs, to clowns, a psych ward and even a dominatrix type room of female prisoners.
Just when you have caught your breath; then you enter the second attraction City of the Dead. This haunts starts off with some zombies and your slightly deranged guides but then takes you on a tour of everyone’s biggest nightmares. You experience everything from creepy crawly critters to a cavern full of druid priests. This haunt could have come off campy but didn’t. It is no less intense than the prison. Some of the sets our very beautiful and you feel transported to a totally foreign environment.
The zombie army has diligently study the psychology behind fear and has found a million different ways to make you feel scared. We have already been to over 30 haunts this season and I can honestly say that Statesville prison is most extreme haunt we have been to thus far. There we points were I was almost not sure if we would make it out. The actors here are impeccably trained and NEVER come out of character. They climb, crawl, slide and fly but still maintain an intensely level rarely matched. We were delighted to see that this show and Zombie Army Productions lived up and exceeded their reputation.
Metromix Chicago Review 2014
- Line Length: 2 slashes
- Cost: 3 slashes
- Length of Haunt: 5 slashes
- Fear Factor: 5 slashes
- Overall: 5 slashes
Statesville Haunted Prison is located in Crest Hill, Illinois, and having traveled from Rogers Park, it was WELL worth the drive. My general admission ticket ($30) admitted me into Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead (COD), and it took about 35-45 minutes to complete both haunts. The production started as soon as I arrived on site, with characters walking and winding through the lines, scaring and entertaining anyone and everyone they could sneak up behind. After being herded into a cage with several other individuals, we were ordered to line up and it really felt like we were about to enter a real prison. Statesville Haunted Prison played with my mind a bit as it became a full sensory experience, and I was constantly trying to figure out what was a prop and what was about to jump out at me. It took me on an entertaining (but frightening) journey that left me panting, adrenaline ridden and excited to see what the next house contained. City of the Dead took me through the caves and depths of the earth where some of the darkest and most evil Statesville prisoners are kept. Besides the fact that the props were nothing less than extraordinary, the level changes and character work were awesome, and I never knew what was lurking just beyond my reach. Although I do feel the finale of COD could have been a bit more intense to leave patrons on a scare high after exiting, I don’t have any qualms with this fantastic fright! I also made the half mile ride on an Army Troop Carrier Truck with a gun loaded full of paintballs during Statesville’s added attraction, Zombie Paintball Ride. It was a unique and fun interactive experience that was well worth the mula. Overall, Statesville Haunted Prison and COD kept me screaming and sprinting from the moment I arrived until the very end. It’s a must see if you’ve got a hankering for an admirable haunted attraction! — Rianne Coale/Metromix
RedEye Chicago Review 2014
- Line Length: 2 slashes
- Cost: 3 slashes
- Length of Haunt: 5 slashes
- Fear Factor: 5 slashes
- Overall: 5 slashes
Statesville Haunted Prison is located in Crest Hill, Illinois, and having traveled from Rogers Park, it was WELL worth the drive. My general admission ticket ($30) admitted me into Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead (COD), and it took about 35-45 minutes to complete both haunts. The production started as soon as I arrived on site, with characters walking and winding through the lines, scaring and entertaining anyone and everyone they could sneak up behind. After being herded into a cage with several other individuals, we were ordered to line up and it really felt like we were about to enter a real prison.
Statesville Haunted Prison played with my mind a bit as it became a full sensory experience, and I was constantly trying to figure out what was a prop and what was about to jump out at me. It took me on an entertaining (but frightening) journey that left me panting, adrenaline ridden and excited to see what the next house contained. City of the Dead took me through the caves and depths of the earth where some of the darkest and most evil Statesville prisoners are kept. Besides the fact that the props were nothing less than extraordinary, the level changes and character work were awesome, and I never knew what was lurking just beyond my reach. Although I do feel the finale of COD could have been a bit more intense to leave patrons on a scare high after exiting, I don’t have any qualms with this fantastic fright! I also made the half mile ride on an Army Troop Carrier Truck with a gun loaded full of paintballs during Statesville’s added attraction, Zombie Paintball Ride. It was a unique and fun interactive experience that was well worth the mula. Overall, Statesville Haunted Prison and COD kept me screaming and sprinting from the moment I arrived until the very end. It’s a must see if you’ve got a hankering for an admirable haunted attraction!
HauntersDigest.com Review 2013
RedEye Chicago Review 2013
“It’s the most intense haunted attraction intro in Illinois, that’s for sure… seriously, people, let’s be honest: It’s how a haunted attraction opening should be – in your face, loud and memorable. ”
“Statesville Haunted Prison is designed extremely well with the sets, animatronics and actors all being something out of Disney World. These sets are film quality settings with extreme attention to the smallest of details. The creators have left no stone unturned in bringing the highest quality of entertainment to the guests here.”
“One of America’s Top 5 Haunted Attractions of 2013.”
“One of the best haunted houses in Illinois.”
CBS Chicago’s Best Haunted Houses:
“Chicago’s Most Hard Core Haunted House”
“It’s the scariest, most intense haunt in the region. Since 1996, Statesville Haunted Prison has been terrifying Chicagoland.”
Chicago Quirk, ChicagoNow.com 2011:
“It’s like walking into a movie. I forgot to be scared about half the time because I was so amazed by the scenery!”
“Statesville Haunted Prison is one of the best haunted attractions I’ve experienced. I actually felt like I was a prisoner.”
Huffington Post 2011:
“City’s Best: One of Chicago’s Scariest Haunted Houses”
“The idea of having a prison as the setting of a haunted house is pretty masterful.”
Voted MOST HARDCORE HAUNTED HOUSE 2011 by CBS CHICAGO
HauntedHouseChicago.com 2015 Official Review
Since the beginning, when we write these reviews, we try to speak directly to our readers. We not only try to capture and describe the experience, but not give away any of the major details that may prevent you from venturing out to taste the show for yourself. Each year, we at HHC have the honor of being able to immerse ourselves into a cornucopia of different fears, styles, and scare tactics all designed to force you to check under the bed just one more time before sleeping with one eye open. While some succeed much farther than others, there are very few that are habitual offenders.
That’s where the haunted house…haunted attraction party… October-based wild-and-crazy-adventure-ride officially mononymously known as simply, “Statesville” comes into focus.
See, ‘Statesville’ isn’t just a place. It is a living, breathing monster, caretaken for by 180-some proud souls and fed by thousands of patrons each year. (We may have even compared ‘Statesville’ to the Winchester Mystery House at some point in the past. And yes, that is still fairly accurate!)
Growing, and evolving each year, the crew here is always innovating, building, and designing ways to twist each turn into another page in the book of your worst fears. From the moment you step foot on the property, it becomes very clear that these guys do something well… very well.
Even before we reach the front door of the house, the outside cast/roamers have patrons hiding their faces and shrieking in terror. Safe zones? No, this is no 50-shades book. The cast and crew are hungry, and are licking their chops as you approach the table. Prisoners of various styles populate every nook and cranny and make sure you are paid the attention you deserve. Afraid of prison? Afraid of snakes? Afraid of rats? Crowds? Clowns? Doctors? The dark? Get out your checklist, because this place has you covered!
Some of the detailed highlights? How about the Rat King who lets real rats climb all over his body, and feeds them from his mouth? Or the very real, non-animatronic snake that slithers and coils around its handlers’ arm, posing to strike as you scamper by? Or a trip through the prison showers?
Or how about Big Daddy? One of the newest editions to this year’s show is a newly incarcerated prisoner who shakes down passing patrons for any trinkets they can spare in order for safe passage. (You have been warned!)
Or how about Tree? We ran into him preaching the horrific word inside the walls of the City of the Dead. With our guess of him being 7-feet something tall, there’s no ducking and covering on this one!
The Bottom Line: Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead deliver time and time again, and 2015 is no exception. This year’s show has all of your favorite pieces and some ones that will leave you holding your socks in your hands. With the thoughts of all the characters we met through our trek, there really is no hope for sleep tonight.
- Entertainment: 19.5 out of 20
- Scare Factor & Fright: 9.5 out of 10
- Acting: 9.5 out of 10
- Sets & Room Detail: 10 out of 10
- Costumes: 5 out of 5
- Make Up: 5 out of 5
- Sound: 5 out of 5
- Lights: 5 out of 5
- Props & Special Effects: 9.5 out of 10
- Originality & Story Concept: 10 out of 10
- Management & Owner Presentation: 5 out of 5
- Website: 5 out of 5
Total: 98 points out of 100 points possible
HauntedHouseChicago.com 2013 Official Review
Reviewed on Sunday, October 13, 2013, by the Official Haunted House Chicago Review Team
For the past umpteen years, we, the HHC Review Team, have gone to countless numbers of attractions within 150 miles of Chicago. (Because a great haunted house is worth the drive!) While there is a ton of planning that goes into our scheduling efforts, we don’t usually arrive until after the attraction has opened. (So they have a chance to warm-up.) But, for the first time, we arrived at Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead early!
As we awaited the opening of the gates watching patrons gather, the line quickly extended past the entire length of the attraction and down into the back parking lot. (And this was only a Sunday!) The clock struck 7:00pm, and shortly after, it was almost as if the beast had awakened. Music started playing, lights dancing, a 50-caliber gun started firing, screams from prisoners inside, and a host of their trademark characters filtered out onto the grounds. Like rock-stars arriving to greet their starving fans, each of them was met with applause and excitement. (And a few fans that seemed to head back to their cars!)
Call it amazing marketing and branding, call it great acting and entertainment, or call it a nice mixture, but this is part of the revolution we are in the midst. The days where actors and actresses put on generic outfits and masks is slowly going by the wayside. Today, more are creating identities and personas, with trademark characteristics and costumes. Fans know the characters by name, and welcome their torment. Because of this, haunt fans aren’t just coming for the tour through the house, but for the entire experience.
No one is leading this revolution more than Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead.
From the moment you get out of your car, to the moment you leave, the show is on. And those key characters? They are everywhere! Inside the prison, outside in the waiting cues, in your thoughts, and peeking into your dreams. The Captain, Fluffy, Heretic, Vladimir, The Cleaner, Nurse Mama, JuJu, Mad Dog, Cog, The Warden, The Blood Bitches, The Clowns, The Sisters, The Maniacs, The Guards, and the list goes on and on!
These characters give a tremendous accent to a show that is simply amazing. I’m not sure if it is still appropriate for the folks from Barnum and Bailey to still call their show the greatest, because they would have some steep competition. This year’s submission has to be the top entry they have had in their entire run.
For an attraction that was already on the top of their game and didn’t need any major facelifts, they took advantage of the off-season and made more changes than we have room to write. The most notable? The Warden’s Room. For years, this opening scene has captured haunt-goers like moths to a flame. After experiencing the 2013-edition of this room, the changes are quite evident and beautifully constructed. (And there is a nice little surprise at the end.)
The changes and upgrades only start there. Throughout both attractions you will easily notice tons of changes and upgrades that only heightened our experience and continued to make the atmosphere the most complete yet.
Now, let’s talk fear. Statesville and COD are VERY good at playing at people’s fears. They take it seriously! While everyone has a different phobia, they make sure you can’t escape it. In addition to all the creatures and clowns, they incorporate LIVE animals into their show. Just when you begin to settle into that comfort zone, they hit you square in the face with real rats, cockroaches, and a big snake. Inside of finding out what’s lurking behind the walls of Statesville, now you get to find out what’s INSIDE of them! This is just another method they take you into a new dimension of terror.
While Haunted House Chicago has awarded our Top Haunted Attraction Award to Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead for a number of years, they have also received national accolades from Travel Channel, Top Haunts Magazine, America Haunts, and the Huffington Post. Call them the new-age freak show, call them rock stars, or simply call them one of Chicagoland’s best haunted attractions, but this is definitely one attraction that you can’t miss!
- Entertainment: 19.5 out of 20
- Scare Factor & Fright: 9 out of 10
- Acting: 10 out of 10
- Sets & Room Detail: 10 out of 10
- Costumes: 5 out of 5
- Make Up: 5 out of 5
- Sound: 5 out of 5
- Lights: 5 out of 5
- Props & Special Effects: 9.5 out of 10
- Originality & Story Concept: 10 out of 10
- Management & Owner Presentation: 5 out of 5
- Website: 5 out of 5
- Total: 98 points out of 100 points possible
HauntedHouseChicago.com 2012 Official Review
Reviewed October 2012 by the Official Haunted House Chicago Review Team
As reviewers, we are faced with the challenge to remain unbiased and uninfluenced when it comes to haunted attractions. Just because we liked an attraction’s show in the past, doesn’t mean their current efforts will result in the same favor.
Now, at this point, most people know Statesville has been perched atop Haunted House Chicago’s Top 13 list for over a decade now. Sure, there have been a couple of years where they weren’t king of the mountain, but they always placed in the top three.
This is important to note as we write about our mind-set walking into Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead. In fact, we should say that we walked in with a fine-tooth comb and a magnifying glass, looking for problems and reasons they shouldn’t repeat as our top selection. Call it unfair or whatever you would like, but we can admit we wanted to find flaws in this year’s performance.
Boy, were we in for a challenge.
History shows us that the team here is extremely talented and executes incredible shows each night. With them setting the bar, they control the decision of how aggressive they would like to be for any given season. While many attractions would sit back and only make minor changes, the team here put the pedal to the medal. We truly had no idea just how busy they had been in the off-season.
As we arrived at the attraction, we were escorted through the main entrance to the front of the attraction. Met with a detailed prison facade, some metal music, and a cast of wandering monsters just drooling to welcome you. And don’t even think about getting out-of-line, as they have a nice .50 caliber gun to assist with crowd control.
As actors roamed the area and helped establish that there were no safe areas, guests are escorted from the waiting tent, to the “dog cage”, and finally to the holding cell immediately adjacent to the entrance of the prison. Our hearts raced with curiosity, as we finally were told that it was time to be admitted to Statesville Haunted Prison.
Once inside, Statesville began the show with their traditional Warden opening. Accented by a host of electric sparks and a state-of-the-art sound system that rattled the walls, the Warden set the table for the adventure ahead.
As we ventured through the prison walls, we encountered numerous prisoners. Some were asking for help in the bathroom or offering to play with your entrails, as others serenaded guests in the shower. Of course, there is always a host of prisoners just dying to scare the life out of out you.
The first major change to this year’s attraction was the Blood Room. The amount of detail in this newly designed boiler room was beyond anything we could imagine. But, what really makes the room is the actresses that rule this room. Known for years as, “Blood Bitches,” these ladies are scantily clad and covered in blood. Just their facial expressions and body language would have been enough. Except, they had this intense desire to cover you in blood. (Preferable, the victim’s own.)
Another major change to this year was the Electrical Room. Regardless if you are a firefighter, police officer, or just a normal patron, everyone knows that water and electricity don’t mix. Well, apparently, the demented minds behind Statesville didn’t get that memo and did just that. Easily one of the most memorable scenes to date, this room combines broken pipes, sparking electricity, and water, water, water. Above you, aside you, and all around you, we quickly buried our hands in our pockets and enjoyed the amazing details.
Other incredible rooms include the newly re-envisioned Sisters Room, the always crazy Clowns, and the truly insane maniac ward. AND don’t let us forget about the newest addition to the Statesville cast: cockroaches! Serving as Mad Dog’s new cell-mates, these creepy insects will keep your skin crawling.
Finally catching our breath, we escaped Statesville Haunted Prison. As the chainsaws buzzed our legs, we headed to the second part of the journey, City of the Dead.
For years, City of the Dead has been referred to as the “baby brother” to Statesville. Although not as intense and in-your-face, City of the Dead has continued to grow and progress into an amazing attraction on its own. After last season’s major facelift to the facade and entrance, we were invited to experience what the design team has been busy with for the past year.
Themed as a mine-shaft, we began the second part of our adventure watching the Gatekeeper explain that the lost and buried souls of the Statesville prisoners were buried here. Traversing from room-to-room, we were greeted by actors that rock and twitched, and even spoke in their own language. (This definitely takes fear to a new level!)
As our journey into the burial ground continued, we turned the corner and literally dropped our jaws. Staring us in the face was the major change & upgrade that had been teased for months. Replacing multiple rooms, guests now stood in the middle of an open cavern inside the mine shaft. But, while the scenery was indeed breathtaking, the bigger highlight was the new addition to the cast: a live snake.
(We at HHC are not snake experts, so we don’t want to improperly identify the reptile. But, for description sake, we believe it was a Ball Python or Boa.)
Regardless of the breed, guests are given a face-to-face meeting with this new addition, which is the first of its kind in the Chicagoland area! It was done so well, that it sent half of our seasoned review team running into the next room. It is easy to say, job well-done.
(Please note, as we did inquire, both the cockroaches and snake are handled by professionals and are not in any harm. Also, they do not touch the patrons.)
Did we mention bringing fear on a new level?
As we concluded our journey through City of the Dead, we made our way to their new “Midway” area. Here, you are able to purchase souvenirs, take a photo with a zombie, and play their Zombie Hunt game. In this game, you have to manage to take out the zombies with the laser guns before time runs out, or the zombies eat your brains!
Overall, Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead had another extraordinary performance for this season. The detail and the major changes that we experienced inside both attractions simply blew us away. Even though we tried as hard as we could to find fault, the show here is better than it ever has been. (And if they continue to make this level of changes each year, there will be no stopping them!)
Highlights we scream about: The massive changes in City of the Dead, the electrical room, and the live animals.
What to expect for 2013? This year took us completely by surprise. Honestly, we have no idea what to expect for 2013! (Be on the look-out for a special feature on the Travel Channel!)
- Entertainment: 19 out of 20
- Scare Factor & Fright: 9 out of 10
- Acting: 10 out of 10
- Sets & Room Detail: 9.5 out of 10
- Costumes: 5 out of 5
- Make Up: 5 out of 5
- Sound: 5 out of 5
- Lights: 5 out of 5
- Props & Special Effects: 10 out of 10
- Originality & Story Concept: 10 out of 10
- Management & Owner Presentation: 5 out of 5
- Website: 5 out of 5
- Total: 97.5 points out of 100 points possible
HauntedHouseChicago.com 2011 Official Review
Reviewed October 2011 by the Official Haunted House Chicago Review Team
For some, just hearing the name sends chills down their spine. While its formal name is Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead, this attraction has escalated to the status of being known by one name. And that name would be, “Statesville.”
Having won the Haunted House Chicago Haunted Attraction of the Year Award for the majority of the 2000’s, as well as 2010, Statesville definitely knows what patrons want and need in a haunted attraction.
From the moment guests enter the parking lot, the atmosphere of Statesville comes alive with its prison facade, blaring music, machine gun, and screams of victims already in the attraction. (Oops! We meant patrons.)
As we walked through the common-area to the waiting line, a good handful of actors were lingering, watching our every move, and ready to sniff out our every fear. When it finally came time for us to enter, a prison guard herded us into a holding cell. As we are prepped for the experience and terror we are about to receive, guards fulfill the illusion and make each guest feel like a prisoner ready to enter the big house.
As we awaited our turn, it is always enjoyable to watch the other patrons around us. They hide behind their group, or in the arms of their loved one, hoping they won’t be seen by the guards. While others, take in every minute of it, and try to make one of the actors break character. Without a doubt, it is always some of the best wait entertainment we experience throughout each Halloween season.
As we began our tour through Statesville, we started with their trademark opening scene, meeting the Warden and hearing about the lost souls that we will encounter. With many renovations that Statesville did this year, the biggest observation was the sound quality. For the first time, every word the Warden said was understandable, and the booming of his voice made the walls rattle. Definitely a great way to get a tingle into your system – and this was only the beginning!
At all times within the attraction, you are surrounded 360-degrees by prison decor and detail. They even make sure not to miss the dirtiness and smell! It is so well-presented, that it is extremely easy to let yourself believe that you actually are in a real prison. (Especially with guards circling as a constant reminder.)
We twisted our way through a number of hallways lined with cellblocks and different chambers of the prison. We visited the Cleaner in the showers, took a walk through the well-known “Sisters” room, and came upon one of our favorite scenes.
We entered the room that looked and smelled of excrement and found a large man wearing ONLY a diaper, sitting on a table. He found that his name was “Mad Dog.” We attempted to walk past him, only to be offered a taste of whatever he was covered with. As we refused, he decided that he wasn’t going to let it go to waste, and enjoyed consuming some on his own! He even made sure to sing us a song or two. (Coincidentally, this actor, was awarded the 2011 Jim Warfield Acting Award for his work in this scene.)
In 2010, Statesville unveiled the new Maniac Ward, and it was quite a sight to see then. But, for this year, they stepped it up yet again by increasing the number of actors in this room. There are so many that it will set your senses into a frenzy! Actors work in teams to disorient you and keep your attention searching for the exit. As you try to pay attention to one actor, another readies their attack right behind you. The intensity is at its highest and we aren’t quite sure on how, but the actors never slow down!
As we continued on our trek, Statesville continued to amaze us as we encountered their newest and most intense addition for the 2011 season, the new and improved Clown Room. Completely redesigned, the Clown Room is one unlike any that we have seen before. With a variety of clowns in every direction, this will send Coulrophobia-sufferers into an instant shock! One of the main features is a clown attached to a bungee harness. Showing that practice makes perfect, the actor is able to make unbelievable jumps and get within a few inches of patrons on the way down.
And just as you thought it was safe to leave, the final hallway helps to leave a lasting impression that you won’t forget!
As we finished our journey through Statesville Haunted Prison, we followed the path to enter the City of the Dead. While City of the Dead may not be as intense as its big brother, it is an outstanding journey through the underworld and packs quite a punch.
This year, a ton of time and effort was spent on renovating and updating the entrance to City of the Dead. (And seriously, what an amazing job!) Feeling right out of the set of a movie, City of the Dead has guests descend into the burial pit of caves through mine shafts.
Beginning the tour, we are introduced to the Gatekeeper and explained that he houses the souls of the former Statesville inmates here in the City of the Dead. As we weaved in-and-out of tunnels, there always seemed to be an actor ready to attack. If you let your guard down for even a minute, they would make sure they took advantage. They even have their own language they speak that is extremely creepy! By far, we have never seen actors take it to this level before!
While the twisting path kept us guessing where the next attack would come from, we found ourselves surprised time and time again. Of course, the trademark exit left us with smiles on our faces and craving more.
The last feature that Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead present to their patrons is the Zombie Hunt game. As you exit City of the Dead, patrons are offered the chance to shoot 6 bullets and try to hit 2 zombies. The challenge is to make sure that you didn’t let the zombies have a chance to grab a defenseless puppy! Even if you don’t play, it is extremely entertaining just to watch the action and those that do participate.
Overall, another outstanding year for the reigning champion! They showcased trained actors in beautifully detailed scenes to gave patrons the entire package. Proving once again why they have been selected as a Haunted Attraction of the Year Award recipient for multiple years.
Highlights we scream about: The new Clown Room, “Vladimir” & “Mad Dog,” and the re-designed City of the Dead entrance.
What to expect for 2012? As we’ve seen in past years, Statesville is second-to-none when it comes to reinvention. Each off-season, they are constantly tinkering, reconstructing, and redesigning. Might we see some other big changes next year? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But, if we had that magic 8-Ball again, signs would definitely point to, “Yes.”
HauntedHouseChicago.com 2010 Official Review
Reviewed on Thursday, October 7, 2010, by the Official Haunted House Chicago Review Team
Sometimes, and it is very rare, but sometimes, people or destinations earn enough popularity or street credit to be referred and referenced by a single name. For instance, Bono, Madonna, Vegas, Cabo, etc, etc.
In the Chicagoland haunted attraction market, it could be argued that there is only one that can be referred to by a single name, and that would be known as Statesville. It may also earn the credit for the longest full name as well, which is, Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead.
Statesville has even established such a reputation that one of my new review staff members, who has only worked with me for one year, trembled at the very sound of the name. Prior to her visit during our review night, she had only heard stories, urban legends, and fairy tales.
(Remind me to tell you about the 13-story haunted house that you get your money back if you get out.)
Did you know that Statesville Haunted Prison is actually based off of a real prison called, “Stateville Correctional Center” (Notice the singular tone.) It too is located just down the road in Crest Hill, IL. It is a maximum-security facility and opened in 1925. Not only is it one of the few facilities in Illinois that carried out executions, but has also been featured in several Hollywood productions such as, “Natural Born Killers”, “Bad Boys”, and several soap operas.
Speaking of executions, did you know that John Wayne Gacy was executed there?
One more fun fact: Did you know that the design behind Stateville was designed by British philosopher, Jeremy Bentham? (Ring any bells, Lost fans?)
I must admit that the very first time I headed to Statesville, circa 1998-1999, I too had delusions of a haunted house set in a real prison. Although it isn’t actually located near the real cellblocks, the legend and lore still add to the creepy aura that surrounds this attraction.
From the moment we stepped out of the car, Statesville slaps you in the face. Metal tones blaring, police gumball lights spinning, and prison bars covering the face of the monster you are about experience.
As we waited to enter, a good dozen prison guards milled about. Some monitoring, some yelling, and some turning sharply and shining their flashlights in our eyes. There was even a maniacal clown running loose, jumping on the cages, and bleeding all over. She even offered to share her gum; how nice.
With patrons eager and waiting on edge, the atmosphere couldn’t be more perfect. Most were too nervous to stand still. Some kept looking around cautiously, while others hid in arms of loved ones. Without a doubt, there wasn’t a dull moment and has to be among the best wait entertainment we have seen at a haunted attraction.
Inside, Statesville began with their trademark “Warden” entrance. Fun fact: Did you know that the song played is, “O Fortuna” from “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff? The full name of the movement is, “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi.”
(Today must be history day; so many facts!)
As we braved our way through a number of cellblocks, jails, and chambers, our first memorable scene came as we somehow wandered into the men’s shower room. Standing before us was a half-naked, rotund prisoner standing under a showerhead, rubbing his body, and singing a classic Divinyls track. There was even real, running water coming from all the showerheads. Not only did our focal point get wet, but even our group got a little sprinkle!
If I might say: one of the creepiest encounters ever. AND not a spot of make-up on this actor… just some baby oil.
It’s ok; I will wait for you to get that mental picture out of your head.
AND speaking of “sprinkles”, there was even a prisoner, how should we say, “relieving himself” in the trough. And if I remember correctly, it was glowing.
Just as we thought it was safe to peer out from behind our virgin eyes, we landed in a very disturbing room, inhabited by quite a large man covered in what seemed to be his own waste. Not only was he covered in it, but he also decided that it looked tasty… if you get my drift.
Wow. And really, folks, this was only the beginning. Not only does Statesville do the pop-scares and sneak attacks, but the mentally disturbing barrages really add a new dimension to haunted attraction terror!
Of course, Statesville kept staples like the “Ring” room and their famous Clown room. But, 2010 unveiled a brand new maniac ward and that is absolutely something special. With mental patients literally everywhere, it is probably the busiest room I have ever experienced. There were actors in wheelchairs, hanging through the ceiling, dangling from ropes, and even breaking straight out of the walls! We were told the real number later, but during our experience, we felt there had to be 50 people in that room alone!
With some of the best path and room designs yet, Statesville actors never stopped to breathe while zigging and zagging us through their fortress of terror. Whether we were walking through slanted walls, crouching down, or tiptoeing around obstacles, our eyes never stopped spanning for what was next…and we weren’t done, yet.
As we tried to catch our breath, we were lead to the gates of City of the Dead. City of the Dead is slightly less intense than the big house, but not an ounce less effective.
As we walked through scene after scene, resembling the underworld and beautifully crafted caves, hordes of actors, speaking some unknown language, assaulted us at every turn. Winding us around stalagmites, over bridges, and inside caverns, nearly every step brought us closer to another actor ready to strike.
Just as we thought we were out of the woods, and the end was in sight, City of the Dead pulls out a last shocker that was newly added for this year. It caught our entire team off-guard! (And no, we can’t tell you what it is; that would ruin the surprise!)
With all the updates and changes made, City of the Dead is finally an outstanding companion to its older brother and really helps to make this haunt combo a perfect 1-2 punch!
As we finally made our way to the parking lot, we couldn’t help but to have some of the biggest smiles on our faces yet. Statesville’s motto may be, “Feed the Beast,” but these monsters are aggressive, relentless, and hungrier than ever. In the 10+ years that I have been reviewing this show, this is definitely among their best performances yet.
If you were ever considering seeing the show before and haven’t yet, now is absolutely the time. And don’t worry about bringing them any snacks; with you there, they will have plenty of fresh meat.