What started as a Hobby, has become an Obsession…
Haunt 31 began well before our move to Lake in the Hills, IL in 1999. As a child I had always loved Halloween. Growing up in Willowbrook, IL on a few acres, I would stuff black garbage bags with leaves in the fall, tie them up, flip them upside down and with white spray paint, apply scary faces to them. In the dark, my friends and I would play ghost in the graveyard running around the yard and every so often coming face to face with one of the make-believe ghouls. As I got older, I would throw outdoor Halloween parties, again decorating with whatever “spooky” items I could find.
Fast forward to October 1999, our first year in our new home, I built a few painted plywood tombstones, and a static zombie. I think we had fifteen trick or treaters that year. The following year the Village of Lake in the Hills Park District offered a “scariest house” contest. I added a two-story tall spider web, more static zombies, and a bunch of tombstones and tied for “scariest house”. Tie? Really? as any red-blooded male knows, a tie isn’t a win; So, I spent the next year working on improvements, found the two scary guys website and made a pneumatic version of their body slinger. When the judges came to visit, we set off the pneumatic jumper and immediately knew we had won based on the screams. From there, the passion grew to what is now Haunt 31. In 2018 we gave candy to over 1400 children and entertained over 11,000 visitors in the month of October.
The props at Haunt 31 are mostly designed and built by myself, family, or friends. Very few animations are store bought. This hobby has taught me about pneumatics, how to weld, painting techniques, theatrical lighting, crow control, security, and other things the average person doesn’t stress over. If you include the cost of storage, air systems, props, security, and all aspects of the display, we have exceeded a $100k price tag. Set up typically begins Labor-Day weekend each year with family and friends volunteering time. Transport and erection of the large structures is first, followed by hours of modifications, wiring, lighting, and tests to ensure the safety and enjoyment of our visitors. Tear down starts Halloween night after the last guest has left. Once put away, the planning, purchasing of components, and building begins for the next year and it starts all over. Family trips typically center around Halloween events, campouts, and trade shows. I do night & weekend handyman work to help cover costs. We recycle scrap metal to help with storage costs. It really is a passion..
I often tell visitors that “I would do this even if only one person came to visit”. Truth is I would. I see the joy people get while they visit, and know that regardless how bad your day, week, or life may be, the time spent at our little haunt creates a memorable experience. Something families can talk about as they drive away, kids can discuss with their friends, and hopefully remember for the rest of their lives. For that moment, everything else doesn’t matter, only to be scared and have some fun before returning to the real world. Come check out Haunt 31 for yourself and take a moment to hopefully create some of your own memories for yourself and your family….