Statesville has long been considered an institution of Illinois haunted houses. Year after year, it’s placed in the top 10 as one of the best haunts in the area, so it was important to see if it still held up to that reputation this year.
When I arrived at the haunt, I was surprised to see how many workers were available to help. Year after year, the workers at Statesville are incredibly friendly and helpful; they quickly directed me to parking and showed me where to line up to exchange my voucher. There was also plenty of security around to maintain order, which was great to see.
The first stop on my tour of Statesville was a quick round of Zombie Paintball, which is included in the VIP pass. Here, guests board an Army Troop Carrier Truck and go through a short course shooting static and moving targets. This course is a fun way to get into the mindset of the season, as some of the targets are actors dressed as zombies. There was a small issue with the lead actor’s microphone not working, but other than that, Zombie Paintball was a solid start to the tour.
Afterwards, we were directed to the enclosed VIP waiting area, which is rather dark and unexciting. There was a group of performers doing fire breathing and assorted tricks outside the waiting room, but it was difficult to see them from the VIP area. There were also only a few actors who were working this line (one, on stilts, was particularly great at making a menacing face while towering over the crowd). Still, it seemed like much of the in-line entertainment was geared towards the General Admission line, which was admittedly much longer.
After about a half hour wait, my group was escorted into Statesville. The opening scene breaks groups into lines, and the prison overlord welcomes all of the guests to the prison and previews a bit of what is inside. However, I found it difficult to understand exactly what is being said during this scene, as there is a lot of background noise for effect. Still, this scene makes good use of props, darkness, and even a startling effect before allowing groups into the next room.
I thought that the next room would be the beginning of the haunt, but it actually turned out to be the rule room. This room was led by a prisoner with one of the most pleasant voices I have ever heard (seriously, he should be doing commercials). Again, the lines were broken into groups, and the prisoner went over the rules and hyped up the crowd. He also asked us our favorite scary movies and described scenes within the haunt that would relate to those movies. Great work doing crowd control, but I wonder if the intro room and the rules room could somehow be combined to speed up the process.
When we finally entered the prison, I was immediately impressed by the actor interaction. Statesville boasts that guests will visit 23 rooms with over 100 insane criminals, and it certainly delivered. Actors were constantly popping out of no where and interacting with the guests, evidenced by the amount of screaming within the haunt. In one scene, an actor even showed me a plate full of live roaches, which was an awesome, creepy touch. Hilariously, one of my friends was wearing a dinosaur hat, which many of the actors mentioned. So, if you want to get maximum actor interaction, make sure to wear a dino hat!
Perhaps the best part of Statesville is how incredibly detailed the scenes are. There are the typical prison cells, along with a kennel, a school bus, a hospital (make sure to check out the jars of urine samples along the wall), and a clown area complete with strobe lights and tight quarters. My favorite scene of the night, however, is an incredibly claustrophobic caged area where we had to walk through tiny passageways, surrounded by criminals. As we squeezed through the passageways, prisoners cackled and hassled us. This was a really great scene, as it gave the sense that we were never leaving the prison.
The haunt ended with a long hallway, which unsurprisingly had an actor with a chainsaw to chase guests out. I’d love to see this scene reimagined, as the chainsaw chase out is done so frequently.
After finishing Statesville, we were guided to the next haunt, City of the Dead. City of the Dead has the feel of an underground cave, and included demonic miners and vaguely hillbilly characters. This haunt was a quick but well-decorated walk through a cave, with plenty of spiders and snakes throughout. A live snake was a particularly nice touch about halfway through! While occasionally the secondary haunt can feel like an add-on to an attraction, City of the Dead does a nice job of working as a stand-along attraction. It does, however, rely more on animatronics than actors for the scares, but overall, it’s a good complement to Statesville.
Overall, Statesville Haunted Prison is a great haunt to visit. The attention to detail and sheer amount of actors makes it a standout among other haunts, and it’s definitely a leader in the area.
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