Statesville Haunted Prison & City of the Dead
Crest Hill, IL
Reviewed on: Saturday, October 5, 2018
For 20 seasons now, our job is to travel thousands of miles in search of the best haunted attractions in the Chicagoland area. There is always excitement when a new show opens in town, but there is an even greater enthusiasm for veteran shows that have not only shaped the skyline of our industry here, but contributed across the Midwest and US. One of those incredibly special productions goes simply by the name, “Statesville,” and has undeniably become one of our industry’s iconic cornerstones.
Being in a class of its own, Statesville raises the bar year after year when it comes to entertainment and keeping their audiences’ attention. They work tirelessly in the offseason to tear down, redesign and rebuild, always making sure to give the best show possible to their patrons every season. Consistently awarded a top attraction, not only with us at Haunted House Chicago, but across the nation, Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead have become staples within the industry as well as somewhat of a standard, in which all other attractions are measured against.
As we began our 2018 experience, we approached from our car towards the outside prison façade and a line of people waiting to enter that extended far into the darkness. Sounds of a .50-caliber machine gun rang out amongst the audible soup of metal music, chainsaws, and screams. Line actors are abundant and help to prime patrons for their entrance into what they playfully refer to as, “The Beast.”
From the moment you step into the dog cage outside, the prisoners roaming about make you feel as if you are the “fresh meat” and they are all just ready and waiting for you inside. Filled with surround sound, electrocution sparks, dramatic flair, and surprises, we begin our adventure with a meeting with the Warden in their legendary opening. From there, we are thrust into the machine.
Throughout Statesville, there is constant activity at every angle. Every room you enter seems to have actors and actresses attacking from every nook, corner and crevice. Not only are these actors relentless, they are patient and precise. While not just attacking the first person in our group, they made sure each victim received attention. It was certainly apparent these are some of the best actors out there because we consistently found them acting before we entered the room, during, and even after we left. We never witnessed a reset, and honestly are curious just how many bruises, bumps, scrapes, and broken bones this team collects over any given season because they very visibly sacrifice their bodies for our enjoyment.
As we weaved our way through the rows of cell blocks making our way deeper into the depths of the prison, we visited the showers, electrical room, maniac ward, sisters’ room and even the clown doctor. But this year, Statesville definitely through us for a loop when we saw that they redesigned the clown room, taking you out of your comfort level and making it bigger and better than we have ever seen! Not only are there clowns everywhere, but it takes you out of your comfort level by adding a few more twists and turns, complete with some unseen scares just waiting to attack behind you!
Another major highlight is their central operating room/maniac ward. With superb layout and design, Statesville teases this room and zig zags patrons around the outside of the room, with only small windows into the action. But, the big payoff comes when you are finally immersed into the mayhem. A full assault on your senses, it is impossible to truly appreciate everything that is happening there. Through their patented brand of magic, the crew behind Statesville makes it appear as though there are three dozen actors in this room alone – in the ceiling, floor, and even the walls! There is a thick concentration of chaos, and one can’t help to love being right in the middle of it all.
After surviving the prisoners within Statesville, our journey wasn’t over just yet. Guests are in for a treat when they exit and are headed off to City of the Dead, the 2nd attraction offered. Just like its main house, City of the Dead is always changing. Not only do they redesign rooms within, but they incorporate live animals into their show as well! (And don’t have to travel far to find this out.) While Statesville focuses on the dark, the prison experience, and copious clowns, City of the Dead has larvae, critters, spiders, and snakes. LOTS of snakes. And yes, they are real.
A different concept than its big brother, City of the Dead has guests descend into the burial pit of the souls that were lost within the walls of Statesville. Slightly less hectic, patrons are treated into a voyage into the underworld caves experiencing a new vast landscape and environment, complete with an acting core that speaks their own language! Looking everywhere around you, including the ceiling, the caves engulf you into the unknown.
While there are many twists and turns amid the creatures of the depths in City of the Dead, there is also a very welcome and embraced sense of humor here. Some of the highlights for us included the opening videos in the waiting cues that mock on an Animal Planet-esque show and several funny dialogues from actors inside. It certainly kept us in stitches, as we were itching towards the door to get away from the snakes.
While many want to discuss City of the Dead as its own standalone attraction, it really isn’t. Not only from a ticketing stance because there isn’t an option to buy a straight ticket to only City of the Dead, but because it was designed to complement Statesville Haunted Prison. Or if you need a visual, imagine a ying and yang. Regardless of how you want to illustrate it, the combination of styles presented in both of these attractions combine together to make a night full of thrills, chills, entertainment, and fun.
Monsters of note: Fluffy, “Bane,” B-Rad and the dog cage crew, big mama, and “Kay” the actress with the very large rock stuck in her hardhat.
The Bottom Line: Once again, Statesville Haunted Prison and City of the Dead brought their A-game. The amount of set changes and detail that they put into these attractions always amazes us. But combined with a killer acting core, we find ourselves questioning when they find time to sleep because this is truly a monster of its own. This attraction has been a fixture in our ‘Top 13’ list since 1999, a multiple time recipient of our “Haunted Attraction of the Year” award, and is among our highest recommended attractions. Go face your fears now!
~ Official Haunted House Chicago Review Team Review