Still scaring up fun
Dungeon of Terror marks its 13th year
MAZON — Mazon resident Deb Punke takes satisfaction in a job well done.
During the Halloween season, that job is taking part in creating, overseeing and acting in the village's annual Dungeon of Terror haunted house. She said if attendees aren't screaming and seeking out the nearest exit, they haven't gotten their money's worth.
"I love to see them get scared because it means we did our job well," she said.
The haunted house is located in a rented storefront at 515 Depot Street in Mazon — signs starting on Illinois 47 point visitors to the location. Admission is $12 per person for the Dungeon of Terror and the Maze of Terror, and the proceeds support the Mazon Fire Protection District.
"We have a volunteer fire department," she said. "So this has managed to buy a truck, get an oxygen tank and numerous other equipment we wouldn't normally get."
This weekend is the haunted house's final weekend for the season. It's open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, but Punke said the Dungeon of Terror will not close if there are people in line. She expects a strong weekend to close out the year, which has seen lower-than-expected attendance so far.
Punke said attendees who have gone before will find a completely new arrangement of rooms. Each year, a crew of volunteers tear down the haunted house and rebuild the winding series of rooms and hallways, finding new ways of using props and themes.
She said that novelty is what makes the haunted house a success — this year is its 13th year in operation.
"I love going to haunted houses, but I hate going to haunted houses that are the same year after year," she said.
During a daytime tour, Punke walked through the maze of rooms, which included themes ranging from zombies to clowns, and a room of full of spooky toys called the Devil's Playground. Cobwebs, blood and crawling insects are also prevalent in the decor. She said it takes about 20 minutes to walk through on an operating night.
The Dungeon of Terror appeals to the senses beyond sights and sounds as participants often have to press forward in the dark, through different obstacles or through narrow passages.
"Parts of this is pitch black," Punke said. "You have to feel your way through."
In addition to the rooms, which are completely outfitted with decorations, sounds and lighting effects, a fully-staffed night includes a cast of about 30 volunteers who add to the scary atmosphere as actors in the different rooms.
For the faint of heart, Punke said there are plenty of exits — they just have to say they want out and will be escorted to the nearest door.
One long-time volunteer visitors may interact with is Tom Hickle of Seneca. Hickle specializes in stage makeup for the actors and has been involved for five years, starting as a high school student, and he also makes appearances in the haunted house.
He said from night to night he tries to morph each person's look to make a new experience for attendees.
"I basically try to change everybody up as much as I can," he said.
He documented his looks on his iPhone, flipping through clowns to a spooky prosthetic face he created for himself.
He aims for a realistic, detailed look, "but creepy," he said.
Punke said in previous years, all the actors wore masks.
"In the last five years, we've progressively had more and more makeup," she said. "Makeup is more realistic and, quite honestly, it's scarier."
Like Punke, Hickle said creeping people out is his favorite part of being an actor. The last room of the night is his favorite to work in, because it tops off the experience.
"You want to try to scare the crap out of them," he said. "You want to make sure their night ended with a bang."
Punke said the haunted house brings the community together. In addition to the Dungeon of Terror, she said there will be a food stand selling everything from pizza and hot dogs to desserts and beverages to raise funds for the Special Olympics.
She also said the Dungeon of Terror transforms the community each Halloween season.
"Mazon comes to life in the month of October," she said. "It's a very quiet town — you've never seen so many people in this town. It's amazing how many people come."
• Dungeon of Terror
515 E. Depot Street, Mazon
HOURS: Fri. and Sat., 7 to 10 p.m.; Sun., 7 to 9 p.m.
• ABYSS Haunted House
7502 E. Hansel Road,
COST: $25 per person
HOURS: Fri. and Sat., 7 to 11 p.m.; Sun., 7 to 10 p.m.
• Chambers of Darkness
35332 Grant Avenue,
COST: $10 per person
HOURS: Fri., Oct. 26 and Sat., Oct. 27, 6:15 to 11 p.m.
• Statesville Haunted Prison
17250 S. Weber Road,
COST: $30, VIP $40
HOURS: Fridays and Saturdays (Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 2-3), 7 to 11 p.m.; Oct. 28, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, 7 to 10 p.m.