Halloween happenings: Rantoul asylum is plain scary
Please excuse me, Mr. Vampire, I'd rather not have your fangs in my neck.
Tonight is a nasty night in Slayerville, where the Baldwin Asylum, 2040 Lon Drive, Rantoul, is overcrowded with zombies, vampires, corpses and ghosts.
We won't spoil the surprises for you, but the show has all but one of these frightening creatures: ghouls, goblins, vampires, Miley Cyrus, a werewolf in pain.
Sometimes the display is just a torso, a very real-looking, bloody and organ-deprived torso. Other times, it is animatronic.
Don't be surprised if you run into Ed Gein, the Wisconsin psycho who inspired "Psycho," because serial killers are part of the mix along with the supernatural.
If it bleeds, it leads.
Strobe lighting and eerie werewolf noises add to the discombobulation of the dark alleyways, where at any moment a character could jump out at you from a dark corner.
The shows, which are scheduled through Nov. 2, are in that most frightening of retail spaces: a dead Walmart. (Don't worry, Walmart fans, there's a new one across town.)
The delightfully creepy house is in a closed-off part of the Taylor Studios building. Before 5 p.m., it is as still as the tomb.
After that, no scream is too loud.
Baldwin Asylum owner Marc Dams is a longtime artist at Taylor Studios who is leasing a broad swath of studio space from his employer.
He's spent 13 years at the Rantoul company, which makes museum-quality displays for institutions all over the country. When Taylor Studios toyed with the idea of creating a unit for haunted houses, Dams was the leader of the research.
In the house that came out of his work, Dams has been abetted by criminally talented production manager Jason Thorn.
Together, they've put 1,000 hours into the show since May, Dams said — in addition to their full-time jobs.
Kenneth Amenda has also done a large part of the work, the owner said.
Kathy Dams, the creator's wife, is "a part-time counselor" when she works the ticket booth.
"I try to keep everyone organized," she said. "We've had people bail out early, crying."
There are also about 40 cast members.
"We are aiming for the sky. We want to build this show into a nationally ranked event. We came out swinging as hard as we could," Dams said.
Visitors to http://www.hauntedillinois.com ranked it as the third-best Haunted House in Illinois last week.
This despite the Baldwin Asylum's legal disclaimer. The place has a longer list of warnings than a pack of cigarettes:
"This attraction reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone. You will experience intense audio, lighting, extreme low visibility, strobe lights, fog, damp or wet conditions, moving floors, special effects, sudden actions, and an overall physically demanding environment.
"You should NOT ENTER this haunted house if you suffer from asthma, heart conditions, are prone to seizures, have physical ailments, respiratory or any type of medical problem, are pregnant or suffer any form of mental disease including claustrophobia.
"DO NOT ENTER the attraction if you are intoxicated, wearing any form of cast, medical brace, using crutches, or have any type of physical limitations. Do not enter the attraction if you are taking medication or using drugs of any type."
That's only about one-third of the entire warning. And it is written entirely seriously.
"The warning is to cover my bottom," Dams said.
He acknowledges that the flashing lights can be hard to endure for some people. Having a creature jump out at you is probably more fun when you're 20 than when you're 80.
But the Baldwin Asylum holds to its promise: a genuinely creepy and unsettling hour or so with props that are far more realistic than what other haunted houses have led us to expect.
Who knows? It could become a spin-off of Taylor Studios.
Betty Brennan, the owner of Taylor Studios, calls herself "a glorified landlord." But she's also a partner, helping with marketing, coding and other "business kind of stuff."
She said Taylor Studios had been researching haunted houses as a potential new market, as a separate entity, because "with Taylor Studios, it doesn't match our mission." She said she wouldn't rule out a stab at cornering the market on making accessories like deformed torsos and realistic monsters for the houses that make you cringe.
"It matches our fabrication and creative talents," she said. "We want to create experiences, and we know how to manufacture unique stuff."
If you go
What: The Baldwin Asylum by Slayerville Productions
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays until Nov. 2
Where: 2040 Lon Drive, Rantoul
Tickets: $15; can be ordered online
Warning: Not suitable for small children or people with some health problems
More Halloween options
Here are more Halloween options for folks of all ages as the witching hour approaches (fear not; we'll have more listings in next week's e3 as well):
The Haunt at Bone Saw Mill. 6 p.m. to midnight Oct. 18 through Nov. 2, Fluid Events Center, 601 N. Country Fair Drive, C. Ages 16 and up. Some of the most twisted and bloodcurdling visions of horror imaginable filled with spine-chilling denizens of the dark beyond. Also, Zombie Apocalypse — Zombie Hunt, an interactive zombie paintball shoot. Upon exiting the BoneSaw Mill you will be thrown into the depths of the zombie apocalypse; be on the front lines facing the zombie hordes. Haunt Prices: The Haunt, $15; Zombie Hunt, $15; The Haunt plus Zombie Hunt, $25; Family Pack, Buy a group of four get one extra ticket free. 359-6960, bonesawmill.com.
After Dark: Champaign Ghost Stories. Continues 7:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 18 and 25; Orpheum Children's Science Museum, 346 N. Neil St., C. Hear ghostly tales, revealing history and surprising stories of criminal activity through the streets of downtown Champaign. Tour guides take guests to landmark spots. Must be 12 or older. Tickets $10, members, $15, nonmembers at the door or online at orpheumkids.com/programs/specialevents#380.
After Dark Adult Series: Paranormal Investigation. 8 to 11 p.m. Oct. 19, Orpheum Children's Science Museum. Join the Champaign-Chicago Illinois Paranormal Society in examining the Orpheum for paranormal activity using the latest technology. Must be 18 or older. $30, members; $35, nonmembers. 352-5895, orpheumkids.com/programs/specialevents#390.
Zombie Run! Oct. 19, Dodds Park 4 Plex, Champaign. Participants will follow a guide through this 2-plus-mile course while dodging zombies, checking in at safe points, and looking for clues that will help them survive the reemergence of infection. Participants sign up as runners or walkers. Race finish features food, T-shirt sales. Fees $25-$37.50. 398-2550. To be a runner: https://registration.cparkdistrict.com/webtrac/wbwsc/webtrac.wsc/wbsearch.html?xxactivitynumber=251704. Crew member spots for Biters, Draggers, and Special Ops. To be a zombie: https://registration.cparkdistrict.com/webtrac/wbwsc/webtrac.wsc/wbsearch.html?xxactivitynumber=251706.
Danville Post 210 Baseball Ghost Rally. 6:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19 and 26, starts American Legion Post 210, 201 Prospect Place. Many scare sites and lots of fun to be had. $20 car load. Come and line up early. 213-7144, firstname.lastname@example.org.
17th annual "Haunted Happenings" at Kennekuk. Gates open at 6 p.m. Oct. 26, Bunker Hill Historic Area in Kennekuk County Park, Danville. A cook-your-own wiener roast (hot dog, chips and soft drink), hayride and haunted trail. There is a kid's barn with prizes for the smaller folks, and take a walk through the kid's trail. No pets allowed. $10. Tickets required, not available day of event. 442-1691.
Downs Haunted House. Continues 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 19, 25-26, 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 27, 107 E. Franklin St. Haunted House, hayrack ride, graveyard entertainment. $3 per person. 309-212-5003.
Gates of Delirium Haunted Attraction. Continues 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 18-Nov. 2, 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 27 and 31, downtown, 115 N. Central St. Voted a Top 5 Visitors' Favorite Haunt in 2012. General Admission $10. 379-7682, http://www.gatesofevil.com.
Ghost Train and Haunted Boxcar. Monticello Railway Museum, Monticello. Trains depart from the museum site only starting every 30 minutes, 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19, 25-26; every 30 minutes starting 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27. Regularly scheduled rides to Monticello available Saturday. All ages can enjoy the train ride through Camp Creek Hollow with a stop at Cemetery Road, but only the brave should check out the Haunted Boxcar. For younger children, matinees on Sunday for the train ride and lights-on walk-through of the Haunted Boxcar. Hot food and drinks available. Fare $7 for ages 2 and up. 877-762-9011, http://www.mrym.org.
'House of Thaddeus.' A locally-made feature film about an old house with a dark past is screening for two nights only: 7 p.m. Oct. 17 and 8:30 p.m. Oct. 18, Sleepy Creek Vineyards, 8254 E. 1425 N. Road, Fairmount. Tickets $8. http://www.SleepyCreekVineyards.com, http://www.HouseOfThaddeus.com.
The Midway of Madness Haunted Barn. Continues 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 18-19, 25-26, Champaign County Fairgrounds, Urbana. Bigger and scarier than last year. Admission $10. email@example.com.
Halloween Howl for Books. 4 to 4:45 p.m. Oct. 22, The Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St. Join us for a special Halloween edition of Read to the Dogs. Children are invited to practice their reading skills with our furry four-footed friends from a local pet therapy group. Costumes optional. 367-4069.
Annual Wesley Haunted House. 9 to 11 p.m. Oct. 24, 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 25-27, Wesley Foundation, 1203 W. Green St., U. Sponsored by the Wesley Student Foundation; Student Fellowship, and Etc. Coffeehouse. The largest student-run fundraiser for the Wesley Evening Food Pantry. Tickets $7, T-shirts $10. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family Halloween Dance. 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 26, Phillips Recreation Center, 505 W. Stoughton St., U. Dress up in your favorite costume and join the Urbana Park District for a hauntingly good time. DJ, dance floor, light refreshments and Halloween-themed crafts. For the whole family. Receive the Super Early Bird price of $8 per person when you register by Oct. 19. 367-1544.