Welcome One and All!

For all you Halloween Fanatics....this will be a review and links site of the Best Haunted Houses in the country that my wife Lisa and I have had the pleasure - or displeasure - of gracing....

I've been a *huge* Halloween and horror fan since I can remember...I dunno...it just brings the kid in me out...by the end of September, our place is suitably adorned and we await each weekend with anticipation of which haunts to hit next....

We've been blessed enough to be able to travel quite a bit around the country and see some wonderful attractions and the cities they lurk in...and we're hoping to pass on the fun we've had on to anyone willing to listen in....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chicago's ASYLUM XEPERIMANET - The Sinister Secret of Villa Park....and SVENGOOLIE RULES!!!



We're on the second-to-the-last HAUNTCAST and my final appearance there as well....bearing that in mind, I wanted to take us to Chicago one last time and look in on an attraction that was our biggest surprise for the 2013 season - and that's The Asylum Xperiment in Villa Park...

Their site address is asylumxperiment.com - drop the first "e" from experiment and you'll do fine! - and, of course, they're on Facebook as well....they don't have an official YouTube page, but there are A LOT of videos running around on there to whet the appetite, and, in particular, search for user mwedow53

There is just one word for this place, and it is AMAZING - I forgot who had recommended this to me - I think it was Mr. Gannon! - but I owe that person several beers - we would NEVER have thought to look for this place....it is ENORMOUSLY popular already, and highly regarded in the Chicagoland area.

The Asylum Xperiment was voted the #1 haunted house in the state of Illinois for 2012 and 2013 by Haunted Illinois, the top haunt review site in the state, who hailed the attraction as “ambitious”, “impressive” and “epic”. and who also stated in their 2012 review:

“…as I walked out at the end of my adventure, I just couldn’t get over the fact that it was like nothing I have ever seen this side of Disney World!"

The Xperiment was also voted as the #1 favorite on Haunted Illinois by their visitors as well....and they receive accolades left and right from numerous Illinois and Windy City write-ups, including Haunted Chicago, Chicago Stage review, plus both local newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times

This also marks a milestone as this is my final review while writing for HAUNTCAST ...nonetheless, stay tuned, one and all - the blog will be continuing for many (full) moons to come! 



My Lisa makes a new fiend...errr....FRIEND!!!
My friends Jack and Kathy gets sociable with Lisa's new fiend...

The co-owner of the Xperiment, one "Spike" Mike Skodacek and I


Speaking of Windy City haunts, the Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead combo haunt in Joliet, Illinois are AWESOME - they've been at it since 1996, they're huge and intimidating and one of the best out there and they even sponsor a zombie shooting range....check 'em out at statesvillehauntedprison.com


Speaking of zombies, they sponsor an ongoing online zombie melodrama a la THE WALKING DEAD based on their City of the Dead attraction on YouTube called Days of the Living Dead - type the title in to find them, they're on season four themselves as well!


Another spot worth looking into is Raven's Grinn Inn out in Mount Carroll, Illinois - it's fully automated, year round and quite legendary - check 'em out at hauntedravensgrin.com - they do book private engagements as well.


The Asylum Xperiment was voted the #1 haunted house in the state of Illinois for 2012 and 2013 by Haunted Illinois, the top haunt review site in the state...


For further paranormal investigation, I recommend looking in on Haunted Chicago.com, probably the most comprehensive online list available for the Windy City


While on the subject of Chicago Haunts and all things related, I wanted to give due credit to the guy who has always been a hero of mine - Rich Koz, a.k.a. the Son of Svengoolie, nowadays, simply Svengoolie - a man without whom his shtick I could not have....ummm... borrowed from at times...yeah, that’s it....

Without wanting to regurgitate too much - now how’s THAT for descriptive prose? -  I spoke about the love the Windy City has for Halloween and Horror movies also in HAUNTCAST #41, Chicago being the launching pad for legendary programs like WGN’s Creature Features and Screaming Yellow Theatre, which of course, featured the late Jerry G. Bishop as the original Svengoolie from ‘70 to ‘73.

For those who have not heard it, here’s what I ruminated on:
“Chicago haunts have a certain atmosphere to them - it’s hard to explain, it’s like a Chicago Dog or Chicago Pizza, there’s a flavor that you can’t duplicate except for there... I lived in the Windy City until I was in my early twenties, and, while the haunt industry was rapidly changing at that time, the lion’s share of spots were pretty dismal - most of the attractions were run by Jaycees - a charitable organization, whom, while they do remarkable work in and of themselves, in terms of their haunts in those days, file them “Quite Lame” -  cardboard sets, uninspired actors, and a generally rushed atmosphere. None too convincing.

Yard haunts were all over the place! I even remember a brief article on the local news in ‘76 about a man who had turned his front yard into a haunted attraction, with early versions of crank ghosts and the works!

You could always find the independents here and there if you looked for them - and they were always something to see - imagination ran wild and was usually peppered with the Creature Features of the day...

The ‘70s and early 80s were a hotbed for horror and sci-fi in the Windy City - there were literally tons of monster movies running every weekend - Creature Features, the original Svengoolie (Jerry G. Bishop), Chiller Theatre and The Monstrous Movie, Thing Theatre, The Monster Rally Movie and Monster Movie One and Two, and, of course, 1979 brought the Son of Svengoolie (Rich Koz) who’s still going strong even today...add in to that ceaseless afternoon reruns of The Munsters, The Addams Family and Godzilla related stuff like Ultraman, Johnny Sokko, and The Space Giants....ahhhh...life was good...

Chicago has always had a distinct love for Halloween, haunted houses and  the Universal Monsters - heck, monster movies in general! - for example,  in 1981, the Son of Svengoolie ran The Bride of Frankenstein one Saturday night against The Love Boat and Fantasy Island and won the local time slot! Eat your heart out Tatttoo! (Trust me, this was no small feat - both shows were immensely popular at the time and for a small upstart UHF channel to win out over both shows said plenty...)

Dare I say it, I wouldn’t be the man I am now if it weren’t for Chicago TV....I’m not sure that’s such a good thing...”

As for the Son Svengoolie, his show launched on June 16th, 1979 - the day after my 12th birthday - the best present I got that year

Even from that first show, there was something special about Koz - he didn’t take himself seriously - something a lot of horror hosts miss the boat on...and was very quick witted...incidentally, that very first segment is all over YouTube- and although a bit dated - note the film references Koz makes - it’s indicative of his talents....

Rich poked fun at everyone and everything, including himself, not to mention the city of Berwyn - and his song parodies with his long-time friend/keyboardist Doug Sharf a.aka. Doug Graves (get it?) were always a highlight.

Koz also ran a weekly mail segment, highlighting viewer letters, artwork and birthdays....and, yes, I managed to get myself and my pictures on more than a few times...

I never forgot one letter in particular - this was in October of 1982 or so, and I was 15 or 16 - I’d written what I thought was going to be a clever little piece of wittiness and all that, and next thing I know, Sven is raking me over the coals with it!

I was about to get my driver’s license  - I had said something about “if you don’t like the way I drive, get off the sidewalk!” and he roasted me with car crash sound FX and warning telling the everyone to “Run for it, people!” and then telling me to stop sending him requests for the original Godzilla and send ‘em to the channel between 8 and 10...a few of my friends caught this and I didn’t hear the end of it for weeks...

In late July of ‘82, WFLD tried an experiment and joint promotion with 7-11, running Revenge of the Creature in 3-D, with 7-11 being the place to get your glasses. In the end, it didn’t come off that hot - 3d works great on the big screen, not so well on the TV....still it was a bold move, got Sven a LOT of recognition, and something like this wouldn’t even get off the ground nowadays!

Svengoolie had a terrific run from ‘79 ‘til January of ‘86 when the Fox network purchased WFLD and promptly booted Rich to the curve after seven years...and, after moving to Dayton in 1988, I was out of the loop for a long time in regards to what Rich was up to, but when I heard of his return in January of 2005, I was floored - YouTube wasn’t as prevalent as it is now - but friends would send me the show on VCR tapes - remember those? -  and I was pleased to see that Rich was as funny as ever!

Speaking of YouTube, it has a lot of his 70s/80s material floating around, and if you want to see Koz at his funniest, look up skits like the Vampire Carpets man - who looks surprisingly like Revenant! Or does he? YOU DECIDE! - Svenard’s (a take of on Menard’s for those unfamiliar), Sh-Bombs, Svenford and Son, and, in particular, Mr. Robber’s Neighborhood, a skit that earned him his first local Emmy Award for Outstanding Entertainment program. 

Without Sven, I would’ve missed out on a LOT of terrific horror flicks  - things like Dementia 13, Blacula, Die, Monster, Die! and The Haunted Strangler, I also saw Universal classics like Dracula’s Daughter, The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man for the first time here as well, plus a lot of the Roger Coreman/Vincent Price Edgar Allen Poe flicks, including Masque of the Red Death and The Tomb of Ligeia (which, incidentally was the first time he mentioned me on his mail segment, so yeah, that one has a special place in my heart!)

Oddly enough, with all the correspondence we’ve had over the years, I’ve only met the man once! This was in October of 2009 at a local haunted house - we had a great time, and his reaction was hilarious when he finally put a face to my name - and very gracious as well. 

I still keep up with Sven’s antics on Me-TV...maybe not with as much consistency as I did at the start, but I have to say, it’s gratifying to see him still going strong after all this time.

Thanks for all the laughs, Rich - and may you rumble for many more years to come!


A few of the original TV Guide ads for Sven's first programs....

These postcards were sent out to all those who wrote in during the first few years of Sven's show  - still have mine!

GODZILLA 1985 certainly made an impact on Sven in....ummmm...1985...

Sven with the late Jon Pertwee - the third DOCTOR WHO - made an appearance on Svengoolie's show promoting the 1984 Chicago TARDIS convention...

The evolution of Sven's coffin - from 1979 to his newly unveiled crypt, circa 2013...

...and while on this subject, for those who remember it, go check out the WGN Creature Features Tribute site...for the last few years, they've ran a very successful online Halloween night show, complete with throwback commercials, show bumpers and all kinds of memorabilia peppered throughout the online broadcast...expect another come this Halloween as well!


And for more Svengoolie goodness, I offer up there links...