16741 88th court, orland hills, IL
"Dark Shadows", for the Tourers, conjures up memories of the 60's gothic soap opera featuring vampire Barnabas Collins. Thus, it was with great excitement that the Horror Tourers chose Dark Shadows, the home haunt, as it's very first foray into home haunt visiting. Although only the name bears any similarity to the TV show, we were nevertheless impressed at all that Dark Shadows has to offer, so much so, in fact, that we have returned year after year.
Upon first viewing, we were drawn to the great atmosphere in the front yard. In contrast to many home haunts, all of the props here were homemade, and many of them were animated as well. The yard was populated with skeletons of various types, from static props to ones that jumped out at you and even one that spit mist at you while hanging in the tree above you. Each of the props was complemented by eerie lighting and sound effects, including some great thunder and lightning effects that added to the creepy nature of the display.
All of the props were very well done, and were a departure from the standard prop types in their design.. Although skeletons are commonplace at many haunts, these were designed in such a way as to make them look as though they still had some flesh clinging to them, giving them a more "personal" look. In addition, the entire front yard display had an old and weathered look, from the old, rundown crypt to the crooked tombstones, adding to the notion that we were, indeed, visiting an old abandoned cemetery in some forsaken little hamlet.
All of this put us in the mood to see the inside of the garage, where the home haunt portion of the display resided. We expected to see something very detailed and clever, and we were not disappointed. Upon entering the garage, we found ourselves in a wooded scene, complete with low lighting and fog effects, followed by a jungle setting, with camouflage netting, vines, and snakes. Additionally, the lighting in this portion, and the fog effects, made it really seem as though we were in an outdoor setting, which is pretty remarkable given that we were in someone's garage!
Even better was a small footbridge that we had to cross to get to the next scene - a nice touch that added more "jungle" authenticity to the surroundings. And, of course, there was a live actor wearing camouflage who blended in with the sets very well, providing some cool scares when he jumped out at us. Following the jungle was what looked like a creepy old folks' home, complete with a skeleton in a rocking chair.that flew towards us when we entered.
The final room was a "chop shop" of sorts, featuring an actor in what looked like an electrical room, warily guarding the various body parts that were hanging there. Open entering, we were greeted with sounds and lights simulating shorting electrical wires, a technique which we have seen numerous times at professional haunts, but rarely at home haunts. It's effective and a bit shocking, no pun intended.
The final scare was a large 50 gallon drum rigged to bounce aorund and make noise - it was loud and surprising, and left us with one more jumpy moment before we exited.
Overall, we were impressed with Dark Shadows on a number of levels. From the creativity of the props, to the high quality of the animatronics, to the clever way a small garage was seemingly transformed into a well-designed haunt with numerous detailed rooms, Dark Shadows has it all. The fact that this entire haunt is put together in someone's yard and garage is impressive enough, but add to it the fact that the haunt setup could easily rival some of the pay haunts we have seen makes Dark Shadows a must see for any Halloween enthusiast.
Having been in the touring business for over a decade now, we have seen a lot of haunts of all types, and after a while some of the professional haunts get a bit samey. It takes a lot to impress us when it comes to haunted houses, so creativity and enthusiasm go a long way, and Dark Shadows has both in spades. Although the garage walkthrough is short (under 5 minutes), it rivals some of the pay haunts we have gone to, and we find it so enjoyable that we usually return to Dark Shadows more than once in a season. It's simply that good.
Do yourself a favor and make it out to Dark Shadows, if only to get an idea of just how inventive a home haunt can be. Dark Shadows convinced us to keep exploring home haunts by showing us just how well done they can be, and if you check it out you will not be disappointed. There's a lot to look at, and parts of the display, as well as parts of the haunt layout, change from year to year, so there's always something new to see. And since it's free you don't have to worry about wasting your money on a mediocre haunt.
Actually, Dark Shadows is so enjoyable that the fact that it's free doesn't even play into it for us. We'd have no problem paying for that kind of entertainment, so we make a point of donating to the cause every year ( a donation box is outside for those who choose to use it) - we suggest you do the same to keep Dark Shadows in operation for years to come. It's at the top of our "don't miss" spots every year!
Interview and Guided Tour
2012 on the spot review