|Things can get messy in the Black Oak Grove butcher shop.|
Never content to rest on his laurels or repeat himself, Midnight Terror creator/co-owner and Oak Lawn native Justin Cerniuk wasn’t satisfied with the size or expansion potential of his previous location in the village. That was the 6,000-square-foot Beatty Lumber warehouse property, which hosted the haunt in 2014 and 2015 but was razed over the summer. He and co-owners Robert Page and Maciej Kulawiak found the ideal digs in which to dig up the undead and expand Cerniuk’s ambitious nightmare vision: a former fabrics factory at 5520 W. 111th St., just 3.3 miles south of Midnight Terror’s last address and boasting 26,000 square feet.
“We hit the mother lode when we found this warehouse, which offers so much more room than our previous site,” says Cerniuk, an ex-Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan during combat operations there. “I’ve always dreamed of staging a really large, immersive haunted attraction. Now I can – one with a completely unique mythology, wide cast of characters, and ultra-detailed sets and props that combine to create an unforgettably frightening experience. This is going to be above and beyond any other paid haunted house you’ve ever visited.”
|Meet Tool – head foreman of the Factory of Malum.|
For those who dare to pass beyond Midnight Terror’s portals, here’s the inventive setup fiendishly concocted by Cerniuk and his skeleton crew: The small provincial settlement of Black Oak Grove (in reality the earliest known moniker for what eventually became the village of Oak Lawn) has become Ground Zero for a battle between the forces of good and evil. The once-thriving community has turned into a hellish landscape populated by Stalkers and FearCorps monstrosities lurking around every corner. The only path forward requires following the mark of Willow, a wraithlike female entity searching restlessly for her disappeared father, a factory owner named Sledge. Those who survive the horror of Black Oak Grove must venture through the Factory of Malum, named after the demonic overlord who has enslaved Sledge and his minions within an industrial labyrinth that manufactures your worst fears.
To make these demonic visions come to life, Cerniuk had to start from scratch. So he created a fresh and original storyline driven by an ensemble cast of creatures – each with its own personality, devilishly detailed design, and custom costume. (The story arc is detailed within Willow’s diary entries and brief webisode video segments posted at midnightterror.com.) The reinvented haunt’s mazelike walls were intricately hand-fabricated. Additionally, every nook and cranny along the maze was enhanced with elaborate props, set pieces and fright furniture. They add awe-inspiring color, texture, depth and realism to the environment and make for distinctively themed rooms, passageways and scare stations.
“The level of fine detail in the architecture, wallscapes, props, costumes and makeup, combined with our carefully timed scares and surprises, is impressive. It’s totally unlike any other haunted house,” says Cerniuk, who this year expects to well exceed the 15,000 visitors who attended Midnight Terror in 2015. “For example, we’ve created an enormous replica of an old town main street, featuring a butcher shop, school, library, jail, and mechanic shop, plus a 13-foot high waterfall.”
Highlights of the 2016 version of Midnight Terror include:
• A 30-minute walk-through (on average) across two haunted houses – Black Oak Grove and the Factory of Malum
• More than 60 rooms – double last year’s number
• Over 100 actors – at least 30 more than 2015
• Over 50 props custom made for Midnight Terror, Hollywood-style CGI effects, a cutting-edge lighting system, and a state-of-the-art sound system
• The guidance of skilled haunt industry professionals, among them veteran actor trainer/scare choreographer John Shankel, makeup manager Bonnie Bones, and scenery artist Barbie Hood
• A gift shop where Midnight Terror shirts, hoodies, hats and other apparel as well as Halloween-themed merchandise can be purchased
• Free entertainment for guests waiting in line – among them street drummers, stilt walkers and DJs.
What’s more, attendees can take advantage of valuable promotions, such as:
• $2 off each ticket when purchased online at midnightterror.com
• Half off regular admission on opening night, September 29
• $5 off regular admission on Thursdays in October if you bring an item for a military veteran (a list of acceptable items is posted at midnightterror.com)
• Ladies get $10 off on October 6
• Students with a school ID get $5 off on October 9
• Family Day on October 30 between 3 and 5 p.m., when kids age 12 and younger can walk through, free of charge, with the lights on and wave to the actors, who will be in friendly mode.
Cerniuk is also excited about off-season possibilities at the new location.
“Beginning early next year, we plan to offer laser tag in the same space as well as bookings for private parties,” he says.
Midnight Terror Haunted House is located at 5520 W. 111th St., Oak Lawn, Ill., 60453, just east of the intersection of Central Avenue and 111th Street. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the box office on site: regular admission per person is $25 at the door or $23 online; VIP admission per person, which provides faster entry without having to wait in the general admission line, is $35 at the door or $33 online. The attraction is wheelchair accessible and open, rain or shine (a covered waiting area is provided), from: 7-10 p.m. on Sept. 29, Oct. 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, and Nov. 4 and 5; and from 7-11 p.m. on Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29, 30 and 31. Visitors can park for free at the Oak Lawn Metra station parking garage (located at 9525 Tulley Ave.) and take a complimentary round-trip shuttle – with costumed characters aboard to entertain passengers – to the Midnight Terror site. For more information, visit midnightterror.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.