Monday, September 22, 2014

Midnight Terror Haunted House opens Oct. 2 in Oak Lawn

Sledge (the alter ego of Midnight Terror Haunted House owner Justin Cerniuk) is one of over 30 costumed actors eager to greet visitors.
Since he was 10 years old, Oak Lawn native Justin Cerniuk has yearned to create the ultimate spookhouse. Now, with the Oct. 2 opening of Midnight Terror Haunted House, Oak Lawn’s first ever commercial haunted attraction, Cerniuk is about to realize that dream — and give nightmares of the frightfully fun kind to the thousands of visitors expected to attend.

Cerniuk partnered with village officials to repurpose the long-abandoned Beatty Lumber yard property at 9531 S. 52nd Ave., host site of Midnight Terror, and create a win-win for everyone involved. Working diligently round the clock since August, Cerniuk and his team have converted the 4,000-square-foot Beatty warehouse into a creepy fear factory that will feature dozens of unique props, over 30 costumed actors, and 15 different rooms — including a crypt of the damned, haunted forest, and blackout barracks — that wind throughout the facility in unexpectedly frightening fashion.

Midnight Terror will provide patrons with memorable thrills they won’t get at any other paid horror-themed attraction. Everything inside is meant to overwhelm your senses, look disturbingly authentic and unfold unpredictably. From the custom-built animatronics and finely detailed props to the distinctive wall textures, eerie lighting design, and improvisational scare tactics of the actors, Cerniuk promises a Halloween thrill destination that’s a cut above the rest.

“We’ve even designed certain spaces to have distinctive scents, like the musty smell of the boiler room and the mildewed odor of the catacombs,” says Cerniuk, who personally designs and fabricates nearly every prop, fa├žade and effect used in Midnight Terror. “And visitors are getting a great value. This is no quick stroll through and you’re done. The attraction lasts up to 15 minutes, and it doesn’t end when you exit the building. There are more scares waiting for you outside, too.”

While many professional haunts charge $25 or more per ticket, admission to Midnight Terror is as low as $8 on select dates (after redeeming a $2 off coupon from; for those who want their chills without waiting in line, a $17 R.I.P. pass provides instant entry. What’s more, opening night admission is half price: only $5.

Cerniuk actually started Midnight Terror as a modest free front yard display, outside his Oak Lawn home in 2000, when he was only 10 years old. A year later, with the help of his uncle, Robert Page, he constructed a temporary haunted house in front of his garage. By the time he was a teenager, Cerniuk had become a master monster architect capable of making sophisticated one-of-a-kind props and animated characters, built from windshield wiper motors, air rams, motion detectors, micro-computer controllers and other parts he assembled together. Whether it involved welding linkages or programming relay sequences, this kid could do it all. Combine these skills with his love for Halloween and horror movies and it’s easy to believe that Cerniuk was born to bring out the goose bumps in his adoring public.

“When I was little, my uncle used to take me to some really good decorated houses in the area, where I got a lot of ideas,” says Cerniuk, now 24.
Midnight Terror Haunted House owner Justin Cerniuk readying a prop for his haunted attraction.

Midnight Terror took a vacation when, in 2007, Cerniuk enlisted in the Marines and, over four years, served in Iraq and Afghanistan during combat operations there. Cerniuk returned older, wiser and more determined to make his home haunt better than ever. By 2013, his yard display and haunted enclosure featured 28 custom animatronics, 12 volunteer actors and eight rooms. Fans rewarded his craftsmanship and creativity with heavy foot traffic (over 6,000 visitors last October) and ample donations, a portion of which Cerniuk donated to the Autism Society of Illinois.

Inspired by the overwhelming popularity of his Halloween attraction, and backed by a strong support team that includes Uncle Robert and his two best friends — Mark Krupa and Maciej Kulawiak — Cerniuk decided to go pro this year and bring his talents to the masses. Oak Lawn Trustee Tim Desmond and other village officials aided Cerniuk in finding the right available property and cutting through the red tape involved. Now, after months of careful planning, Midnight Terror Haunted House is ready to open for business.

“My goal is for everyone to have fun and enjoy a collaborative experience where our scare team and our visitors feed off of each other’s energy and excitement,” says Cerniuk, who cautions that Midnight Terror’s intense atmosphere is not for the faint of heart. “I want to bring back this haunted house every year, bigger and better than ever. I envision this as an exclusive Oak Lawn attraction. This is where I started 14 years ago. This is where I have roots, and I want to remain loyal to my home town.”

Midnight Terror Haunted House is located at 9531 S. 52nd Ave., Oak Lawn, Ill., 60453, near the intersection of 95th Street and 52nd Avenue. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the box office on site: admission per person is $10; a no-wait R.I.P. pass is $17; discounts for large groups are also available. The attraction is wheelchair accessible and open, rain or shine (a covered waiting area is provided), from 7-10 p.m. on Oct. 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 22, 23, 26, 29 and 30, and from 7-11 p.m. on Oct. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1. Visitors can park for free inside the nearby Metra parking garage at 9525 S. Tulley Ave. To purchase tickets in advance, get a coupon worth $2 off admission on select dates, or for more information, visit or email

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spirits on Sproat back to celebrate its 10th anniversary starting Oct. 3

Your favorite Halloween house will reopen beginning Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. In celebration of our 10th anniversary, we've moved the display to the back yard to accommodate more props and thrills! Make your plans to visit our improved Gallery of the Dead--if you dare!

For the complete schedule of dates and times we're open, click here.