Reporter braves Morton Grove’s Fear City and lives to tell tale
Sara Sogol (center), 17, of Skokie, and Stephanie Rutherford (left), 19, of Harwood Heights, react while in the Fear City haunted house in Morton Grove on Oct. 6. | Michael Jarecki~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 12, 2012 11:03AM
MORTON GROVE — Heed my advice and get out of Chicago when the world comes to a crashing halt.
If you thought some of today’s urban dwellers were odd, wait until you meet the creeps that roam post-apocalyptic “Fear City.”
Owners Jim Lichon and Chuck Grendys unrolled a bloody-red carpet Oct. 5 to kick off the destination haunted house’s second Halloween season in Morton Grove.
The Emmy-award-winning set-design team converted a 40,000-square-foot warehouse at 8240 Austin Ave. into an urban landscape overrun by creatures more gruesome than the holiday’s typical cast of vampires and witches: humans, both dead and alive.
“Reality is scarier (than fiction),” Lichon said. “I like the idea of taking reality and making it screwed-up.”
As a scare tactic, it works.
I toured Fear City a week before the opening to experience the freak show firsthand and can attest: This is a fright you want to see.
Those brave enough to withstand the jeers and pleas of the 100-or-so zombie-like actors that inhabit the house are whisked through a world overcome with an unnamed infection.
For 30 minutes a gal pal and I interlocked arms and wandered through dozens of unique scenes that ranged from the seemingly mundane — a hotel lobby with a frantic mother carrying a baby — to the insane — the “Last Show on Earth” is a maze of crazy clowns and neon walls.
We had 20 seconds in each room to soak up a story, like the boy under the stairs who relied on a very-last resort for drinking water and Justin Bieber to get him through the apocalypse.
We got away from his “Baby, baby, ooh ...” crooning as quickly as possible.
Our encounter with people who had become “sick” was just as disgusting; a few times we came close to having fake vomit spewed on us.
At this haunted attraction the devil was in the details. As my friend put it, every scene appeared like a sophisticated set straight out of Hollywood. A blood-strewn butcher shop and ravenous zombies were fake but definitely not hokey.
As a city slicker myself I appreciated the play on a grimy Chicago, though I never hope to encounter a ride on the CTA Red Line like that in Fear City. A tip: Keep your eyes open and hang on.
The more true-to-life the scenario, the more anxious we felt.
Stumbling through a house jam-packed with food and supplies was like reliving the documentary series, “Hoarders.”
Afterwards I asked Lichon what made the overcrowded cabinets and a full-bellied man shouting from a recliner particularly disturbing.
He explained how a female character purposely whispers, “Don’t judge,” because that’s what we do as strangers in a strange environment.
“We’re trying to play on emotions and feelings,” he said. “It’s weird and totally different.”
“Fear City” and “Hades,” a new addition to the team’s haunted-attraction repertoire, run through Halloween, Oct. 31.
Tickets are $25 each or $35 for both attractions. A VIP fast pass is available for rush entry for an extra $10 and is free with a valid U.S. military ID.
Three percent of all ticket sales will be donated to the Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
On Oct. 11, or “10/11/12,” the haunted houses will donate 100 percent of proceeds from the door beyond the first 600 people to enter.
For tickets and show times, go to fearcitychicago.com.