McHenry Jaycees Haunted House 2018
Reviewed on: Sunday, October 28, 2018
If you are curious about the history of the haunted attraction industry in the Chicagoland area, there are a number of people you could ask. There are a plethora of people from the mid-late 90’s, and early 2000’s that helped escalate and progress our industry to where it is now. BUT, before million-dollar budgets, before animatronics, before make-up schools and acting classes, there was pretty much only one place to get your haunted house on: the Jaycees.
Known formally as the “United States Junior Chamber,” the Jaycees (JCs) are a leadership training and civic organization for people between the ages of 18 and 40. Hosting a number of activities throughout the year, none were more popular than their annual haunted houses.
For our team, our first haunted houses were operated by the Jaycees. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, professional attractions were just starting, and Chicago only really had one or two. While these were great shows, the real heart and soul of passionate, hardcore actors were at the Jaycees houses. Trademarked by long stretches of black hallways and accented with in-your-face pop-scares that would send you jumping back each scene, Jaycees haunted houses were the best way to get the bang for your buck.
As the industry progressed, many professional attractions developed, and expanded the experiences to include more detailed scene work, props, and animatronics. Unfortunately, with limited or no budgets, many of the Jaycee shows no longer were able to conduct their annual shows. While at one time there were shows in the double digits, we slowly lost most of the shows until 2016, when we lost our last Jaycee show within 100 miles of Chicago.
But, in 2018, we were notified that there was a Jaycee house returning… and it was the last Jaycee haunted house in the entire state! After losing their old barn location to a required installation of newer fire protection, the McHenry Jaycees triumphantly returned! Making their home in an old office storefront, the Jaycees were ready to let the entire state know that they were back and ready to play!
From the moment we arrived, the passion oozed from the staff that was practically drooling to get their hands on us! Each scene was filled with a volunteer actor who was willing to play, converse, and banter back-and-forth. Playing out like a small theatre, we had the chance to experience a number of classic scenes like the electrocution chamber, spider room, and toy room, where we met the Toymaker!
Another trademark that we love about Jaycee houses is that actors aren’t afraid to keep the scene going… even when you exit the main tour! (Thanks Queen!)
Monsters of Note: The Toymaker, and the Queen of Hearts!
The Bottom Line: If you are under 30, this is an entirely different style of haunting that needs to be experienced. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! These are dedicated, passionate volunteers who deliver a classic old-school experience. And if you are over 30, hooray! This is a blast from the past, and we want to help keep it around for decades to come. Please support this amazing effort, for which our industry might not be here without!
~ Official Haunted House Chicago Review Team Review