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You Wanna See Something Really Scary ... ? PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 11 October 2005 18:00
A nighttime walk through a haunted house? Scary. A nighttime walk through an unfamiliar forest or abandoned, ramshackle building? Scary. A nighttime walk through a haunted house set in an unfamiliar forest or abandoned, ramshackle building? Freakin’ terrifying.

At least, that’s the hope of organizers behind three Halloween attractions: Torment at 1200, Adventure Quest of the Quad Cities’ Haunted Hayride & Forest, and the Davenport Jaycees Haunted House.

Our area will certainly be replete with Halloween-themed entertainments through the month of October; fans of fear can enjoy Davenport’s second annual Field of Screams at the John O’Donnell Stadium (http://www.swingbaseball.com), Rock Falls’ Rangels House of the Dead (http://www.hauntedillinois.com), and the District of Rock Island’s Fright Night, occurring on October 27 (http://www.ridistrict.com).

Yet it’s unusual to land on a fright show where the venue is every bit as creepy as the attractions themselves.

Certainly, Terror at 1200 qualifies. Originated by Nancy and Steve Patterson, Torment at 1200 (named after the attraction’s location at 5030 North 1200th Avenue in Orion, Illinois) revolves around a central concept involving a mad scientist whose experiments on the dead have unwittingly turned them into – you guessed it – blood-thirsty zombies. Throughout it all, Nancy Patterson says, Torment at 1200 “makes you use all your senses ... hearing, smelling” – thankfully she avoids saying “tasting” – and the event’s co-creator warns that attendees should be especially careful of Eugene Cracker, “our zombie killer.” (It should be noted that the malevolent Eugene, like any resurrected cadaver worth his salt, is a zombie who kills, as opposed to the killer of zombies.)

Yet the attraction’s unsettling theme, according to Nancy, is nearly equalled by the unsettling atmosphere.

The tour, she says, begins with a hike “through a quarter-mile trail through the woods, followed by a walk to a 105-year-old barn” where, she admits, “there are rooms that are pretty graphic.” (Torment at 1200 is open to ages 13 and older.)

However, Nancy isn’t certain which is more frightening to Torment at 1200 guests: the rooms in the barn, the late Mr. Cracker, or the forest he inhabits.

“Different people are scared by different things,” says Nancy, “but for me, the woods is the creepiest part [of the attraction], especially when it’s dark. That’s what really gets people – when you have no idea what’s ahead.”

During most months, Adventure Quest of the Quad Cities (located at 3501 207th Street North in Rapids City, Illinois) is a family-friendly recreation facility. Yet in October, the outdoor locales turn surprisingly sinister. As at Torment at 1200, the two annual haunted happenings at Adventure Quest – the Haunted Hayride and the Haunted Forest – involve treks through unfamiliar woods, but Adventure Quest President Dale Morris adds that the creepiness factor is heightened by something rare in a Halloween-themed attraction: a basis in history.

Both attractions, which Morris says are appropriate for all ages, are centered around the murder of Colonel George Davenport, who, in 1845, was done in by a quartet of bandits attempting to rob his Mississippi River mansion. Three of the four killers were eventually apprehended and executed – the fourth was never found – and at Adventure Quest, guests can experience a guided tour of the (re-created) sites involved in this morbid tale. Morris reveals, “You’ll see where they [the bandits] were captured, where they were hanged, everything ... ,” and adds that the attractions are particularly nerve-jangling considering “we’re right on the Mississippi, where it all happened.”

More traditional scares – involving “an electric chair, chainsaws, and a Spook Maze” – are also offered by the recreation facility’s Haunted Forest, yet Morris believes that even the frights unrelated to the plight of Colonel Davenport are made more vivid by the venue’s locale: “Being outside in a big, dark forest will scare anybody.”

How about a big, dark building? For the second consecutive year, the Davenport Jaycees are holding their Haunted House in the former Great Western Supply Company building at 310 Western Avenue in downtown Davenport, and Chris Mandle, chairman of the Jaycees haunted-house committee, will be the first to say that this abandoned edifice – which, currently, serves no function outside of the Jaycees’ annual Halloween event – is nearly as scary as the terrors within.

“It’s a heck of a place,” Mandle says of the dilapidated building, adding – with a laugh – that the venue’s tumbledown interior allows the Jaycees, once November comes, to dismantle their haunted-house attraction “without causing any more damage” to the venue.

He’s not kidding. A tour of the facility reveals the building to be an ideal setting for a haunted house, all interconnecting rooms and narrow hallways, and much of it, Mandle admits, was pretty disturbing before he and his team got there. (“This room,” he says of the Jaycees’ “Room with a Thousand Faces,” “was already so weird-looking, we didn’t really do anything to it.”)

But what Mandle particularly likes about the Jaycees’ Halloween venue is its elasticity; he and his partners on the Jaycees’ Halloween committee – Chad Vroman, Chad Gaul, and David Overfield – are able to shape the attraction’s rooms to meet their needs, as opposed to being confined by the building’s design.

Mandle reveals that one of the haunted house’s 10 individual sites, “The Room of Dead Ends,” was constructed so that the scares come not just from the floor – where guests are kept in the literal dark about which way to turn – but from above as well. “We built these platforms,” he says, “so we have guys with chainsaws on top coming down at people.”

“The Exorcist Room,” Mandle’s personal favorite, has been designed as a replica of the bedroom where Linda Blair’s Regan became possessed in 1973’s The Exorcist, complete with a bureau that shakes, a book that flies across the room, and, in the center of the room, demonically possessed Regan herself.

“Between that and the furniture moving and them [the customers] not knowing how to get out, it’s really scary,” says Mandle. He adds that this room, which Mandle calls “the most in-depth one,” was the most difficult to construct, but insists that the extra work “is gonna be worth it for all the screams.”

And the former supply company was so maleable that Mandle and his construction team were even able to construct a means by which they could witness the attendees scream. “We built a hallway so we have behind-the-scenes access to every room, just to watch people get scared,” he says.

Mandle also says that future Jaycee’s haunted houses, if kept at the same venue, could become even more elaborate, as only one of the building’s three floors is currently being used for the haunted house. The building’s basement, too, is currently off-limits to guests, and Mandle adds that if the haunted house ever expands below ground, the locale is ready-made for shrieks.

“It’s scary as hell down there,” he says.

For information on schedules and prices, visit Torment at 1200 at (http://www.tormentwelve.com), Adventure Quest of the Quad Cities at (http://www.qchauntedforest.com), and the Davenport Jaycee’s Haunted House at (http://www.davenportjaycee.com/id27.html).
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