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2008 Haunted Sanitarium Review

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Haunted Sanitarium @ Theater on the Lake
2401 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60614

Visited: 10/11/08


Visibility/Location: If you aren't from the area, this event could be very hard to find.  Coming from the North, there weren't any signs along the main highway (Lake Shore Drive), telling you where to turn.  Even after finding the event, there was no indication of where you needed to go, to park.  They did have three search lights on location; however, the night I attended, they weren't being used for some reason.
Wait Entertainment: They did good in this category.  Near the ticket booth, there were some tombstones set up in the hallway.  Closer to the haunted house's entrance there was a cafe where people could purchase drinks and other concessions, while they waited.  The cafe area was dimly lit and there were huge cobwebs on the windows, with various creatures stuck in them.  They were also playing the movie "Gremlins" on a large projection screen.  A numbered ticketing system was used, which allowed patrons to sit and enjoy themselves, until their number was called.  It was an enjoyable alternative to waiting in a long line.    
Admission Price: $10.00
Parking: $14.00 (flat fee for parking in the Lincoln Park Zoo parking lot, which is the only nearby parking available) 

5 1/2 Minutes *  
= Since people move through haunted attractions at different rates, your time will vary. Note: The time shown here represents the actual time spent moving through the attraction. Time spent waiting in queue lines or staging areas has been subtracted.

Scare Factor: Medium-Low
Crowd Control: Crowd control was pretty good, but could have been a little better.  There were a couple of times when groups ran into each other.      


Throughout the Haunted Sanitarium there was an interesting array of scenes that didn't follow a central theme.  Some of the rooms were highly detailed, while others only had a few props.  The most detailed was the Egyptian Tomb with its textured "stone" walls, engraved with hieroglyphics.  I also liked the Christmas scene.  It featured a Christmas tree with glowing strands of lights, as well as Santa and one of his elves.  As Santa was approached by our group, a monster popped out of his chest.  Continuing on, patrons were attacked by a giant 12+ ft tall inflatable snowman.  The cornfield hallway had rows of corn stalks that lined both sides of the walkway, along with a few scarecrows sitting up on posts.  Another interesting scene consisted of a large, circular room with a black & white checkerboard pattern on half of the walls and mirror panels on the others.  Upon entering the room, there appeared to be no logical exit.  A large, costumed character followed my group around until we eventually found the hidden exit.    

While a number of the scenes were creative and detailed, there were a few that were not as elaborate.  One of those areas was nothing more than a large, dark room with buzzing bee sound effects playing.  There weren't any actors in the area and nothing of any consequence happened.  Another room had plain white walls, balloons on the ceiling and a couple of actors dressed up as clowns.  The actors did a good job in this scene, but more supporting props would have made it more enjoyable to walk through.      

As for the acting, that was a mixed bag.  Some of the actors had good pop-out scares, while others were less aggressive.  Unfortunately all of the actors weren't on the ball.  Some of them just stood there and stared at patrons, as they walked by.  Also, when I walked into the polka dot room, I caught a couple of the actors goofing around.  They didn't even stop what they were doing when they saw I had entered the scene; they just kept on talking to each other.  I found it interesting that there was such a diverse collection of characters inside the attraction.  Some actors were wearing simple costumes like a hooded robe and a slip-on skull mask, while others were wearing high-end, professional costumes.   

Overall, it was a decent performance by the Haunted Sanitarium crew.  Considering the cost of the event (admission, as well as the parking fee), I wish it had been a bit longer, though. Despite a couple of problem areas, this attraction was a still a lot of fun to go through and it is worth checking out.   


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