Review of HellsGate Haunted House Haunted Attraction
Review of HellsGate Haunted House Haunted Attraction
Review of HellsGate Haunted House Haunted Attraction
HellsGate Haunted House
HellsGate Haunted House is a Haunted Attraction located in Lockport, IL.
3101 Canal Street, Lockport, IL 60441View All Details
Free Parking, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Covered Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction
Team White City Devils reviewed this Haunted Attraction on October 19, 2018.
Special Note for 2018:
We’ve changed the way we give scores for this year. We are now using a weighted average that puts more emphasis on certain features of the haunt (IE: “How scary was it,” versus “Does the haunt’s location authenticate their theme”). That said, these scores should not be used in comparisons to previous seasons. For more information about this, click on the small “Score Sheet” link at the bottom of this review. We appreciate your understanding. Thanks and Happy Haunting! –The Scare Factor
Final Score: 9.49
Out in the small town of Lockport, Illinois lies a haunt that has been the brain child of the Zombie Army Production team for the last three years. As the story goes, prior to 2016, the haunt was held back from being unleashed for ten years as the creators had the mentality of, “If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this right!”
HellsGate (HG) has been open for a short period of time. We (as fans of haunts) have been every year since their reveal and we can say for a fact that HG has consistently raised the bar each year. The entire visit to HG (as their website states) is an adventure. Splitting the haunt into two parts (three if you include the bus ride) left us in a state of disbelief for our entire trip.
Unfortunately, another team from The Scare Factor (Team Zombillies) was unable to make the trip to HG this year due to their already overwhelming schedule. They (fortunately for us) bestowed the opportunity to review such an overwhelming wonder of a haunt, and we could not be more thrilled to report on our trip, as we have much to share!
With the 130 actors that we saw, there was an ample number of characters split between the trail and the mansion. Considering both sections, we decided to split up each section so one would have a better understanding of what to expect in each.
The cast in the forest section of the haunt did an excellent job on keeping the scares real and timing correct. Upon entering the trail, we couldn’t help but notice the dedication these actors had on being out in the dark/cold of the night and using such an appropriate setting all to their advantage. It was not that easy to spot anyone, as they blended in with the trees and the well-placed props within the trail. One actor got a great scare out of us by running towards us at full speed and then gliding by us on his knees. Needless to say, we didn’t expect that since we were walking an outdoor trail that was (at times) fairly muddy.
We did come across a variety of dialogue throughout the trail in different sections. The mausoleum had a number of actors screaming for the dead to return to their coffins, giving us a good idea of what was to come. Zombie actors were appropriately moaning and growling, which helped set the tone through the forest and gave us a moment of feeling like we were inside an actual cemetery.
Another actor at a different portion of the forest asked if we knew about his honey. This was a confusing moment, as this wasn’t something we have been asked at a haunt before. All the confusion was resolved once we entered the log the actor was blocking. When inside the log (needing to crouch down), we could hear the sounds of bees all over and the props of honeycombs and giant bees all around.
One thing we can constantly appreciate at HG is the dedication the actors have. When walking down the trail just before reaching the main gate, many yards ahead in the distance we noticed one actor under a dim light. She was standing menacingly twitching all about. When we reached a bit closer, she started moving towards us. She was obviously double jointed or must do a heck of a lot of yoga, because there’s not many people I can think of that can bend certain ways yet continue to move as she did. This generally scared the Hell out of us.
Overall, the actors in the forest did fantastic at keeping up high energy in what we can see being a demanding setting (considering how crazy weather can change around our parts).They all kept in character and continued to thrive within their scenes outside of the mansion.
The cast inside the mansion of HG was insane to say the least. Walking up to the front door proved difficult, as we were immediately surrounded by roughly 5-7 actors. Each cast member continued to grasp for our individual attention in what felt like an attempt to separate us. It almost worked but we caught what was going on!
Once inside the mansion, we saw a variety of actors in different scenes throughout the haunt. When we entered the kitchen, we were greeted by an actor wearing a pig’s head. Surrounded by many other animal parts, he was appropriately laughing at what seemed to be all of his hard labor in acquiring said animal parts.
Other actors inside the mansion all gave a variety of scares and used the environment to their advantage. There are portions throughout the haunt that are very narrow and difficult to maneuver through. These portions are made all the more problematic when the actors staged there are reaching out through every crack they can. Over all, everyone was of high energy and provided multiple scares throughout. No one broke character and the belief we were left with on what we were seeing led to our high score on this particular category.
We have to add on how incredible our tour guide was. Buna the Gypsy not only showed us the grounds of HG, she also (throughout our turn in the haunt) would appear in every room we entered, watching us on our every turn. She made our trip extra special! Further down our review we will mention how anyone can have the option on a special tour of HG as the one we experienced!
The costuming that outfitted the actors of HG left us wanting to get closer to them so we could retain all the details. Of course, anytime we would get close, we were led to another scare.
The costuming in the forest section was set up nicely. When we approached the front gate of the path, we were greeted by an actor wearing an open robe with his face painted as a skull. His costume was well-fitted with a giant Guan Dao (staff fitted with a massive blade) by his side. The skull paint was suitable with his scene, as the gateway to the trail was covered in actual animal bones. It was a chilling view and led to a good idea as to what was to come.
Throughout the rest of the forest, all costumes were appropriate, yet difficult to make out sometimes. We were given some light in some spots by way of lamps, fires, and of course the moonlight, yet some of the scares were encountered within the darker areas (appropriate use of environment).
When we ran into some zombies, we were able to tell their clothes were dirty and faces had a shade of gray upon them, giving them the look of resting for years and just coming back alive. We did run into one actor amongst a pile of bones and his costume was made of bones! The costume did not look of low quality like something one would find in a pop-up costume shop. Instead, every bone on the actor looked as if it was taken right from the pile of bones laying around, including the skull they had used as a mask. With prior knowledge of the gate using actual animal bones, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that what we did see happened to be real bones placed on yet another dedicated actor.
Costuming inside the mansion was all appropriate for the respective scenes. The twins of the house (who we ran into on more than one occasion) have such a menacing look about them that they were downright unsettling. The twins happen to be the poster children of HG, and with good reason.
One room we walked into was essentially like walking into a horror doll house. Around the rooms (yes plural) were a few giant porcelain dolls we were forced to walk around. Of course, what we are getting at is not all of them are “just dolls” as they fit an actor inside an entire giant doll (We will elaborate more on this scene in “The Scare Factor” section of our review).
One of the new rooms of the haunt has to do with a cave, and the dwellers of the cave are all suited with scale-looking armor. This may sound random, but it is really important to the scene (we will get into that later as well).
The overall score for costuming is appropriate due to all the details and realistic feel they gave. Combined with the performance and high energy from the actors, HG has a winning formula for suspension of disbelief for their characters!
Customer Service: 9.6
One of the most unique aspects of HG is the fact that you are shuttled to the grounds and there’s no other way to get there. Located in Lockport IL, everyone is told to meet at the Metra station in their downtown area. Parking is free and plentiful, so the only thing we have to do as customers was get to that station. There are plenty of shuttles going/coming to the station in rotation, making it only a matter of time until we were able to board one of them.
Once aboard, the shuttle takes a dark backroad where street lights eventually fade away. The destination is in the middle of the woods where we could see the lights coming from the ticket booths. Once exiting the shuttle, an actor did point everyone to the correct line (will call/ purchase onsite) and was friendly and professional. The ticket taker served us with a smile and helped us along our way in no time.
Safety should be a top priority for every haunt and HG is no exception. We would have thought that being as half the haunt takes place in the dark of the night, it would prove difficult or unsafe. Fortunately, they laid out stones creating a walkway to keep all guests on the correct path.
There is a gift shop at the end of the haunt, and it’s unlike any other. They not only offer merch from the haunt, but also wet specimens, local artists creations, and even small dolls like the ones inside the haunt (more on that later). We purchased a way cool wind-chime connected to a deer vertebrae, because why not!
Any information we could ever need regarding dates, ticket prices, ticket purchases, coupons, as well as a detailed past of the grounds can be found on their website, making it a one-stop shop!
The atmosphere at HellsGate is very entertaining. We would place the shuttle ride in this section, and its exciting to be able to overhear strangers and first timers wondering what’s to come. Some nights (we can recall from visits from yesteryear) the bus drivers even dress as actors which helps to keep up the entertainment.
Once we reached the grounds by the ticket lines, there were plenty of actors around to keep things interesting along with loud music to keep everyone entertained. We believe the overall fact of being in the middle of nowhere, in the dark of night, with the sound of screaming guests echoing between the trees, really did its own natural work at setting the mood for the haunt.
When we found the mansion (after the forest trail), we had to open the iron gate to get to the house. We won’t say much to keep it a secret, but just opening the gate is enough to set the tone for the atmosphere of the mansion setting in particular. Being able to view the front of the mansion at this point can be overwhelming; we had just made it through the forest in such excitement that it was surreal to think of all that lies ahead through the front door.
Considering one queue line is outside, and the other queue is in front of the mansion, it felt appropriate to score the way we did for this section. When one sees the overall layout of HG and the way everything is set up, it speaks for itself as to why they waited ten years to prepare for this haunt!
Special Effects: 9.38
HG has some of the most impressive effects we have seen!
As we mentioned before, the front gate of the trail is surrounded by real animal bones. This led us to believe that, in addition to the trail being out in the open, the “special effects” would be minimal. Instead, they use more simple, authentic-looking, and old-school tricks to take full advantage of the environment.
When it comes to lighting, we noticed a few lamps and posts but we also noticed real-looking and giant jack-o-lanterns! The pumpkins had to be upwards of 100 pounds easy, which was such a cool sight to see.
One of the more high-tech portions of the trail would be inside the honey log. With the use of green laser lights and fog, the feel is of some kind of swamp and made us want to walk slowly to watch our footing. We did find many awesome-looking coffins inside the mausoleum that doubled as hiding spots for actors. The groundskeeper of the cemetery had a back shed with many tools hanging throughout. It all combined into a believable trip with every new turn we went down.
There was a faint sound of music playing throughout the trail. Anyone familiar with Rob Zombie’s film, “Lords of Salem” will know the hypnotic, eerie tune. It felt appropriate to be played, especially in the darker areas of the trail as the tune helped set an unsettling tone during our walk. Though there wasn’t many high-tech effects, it was still creative and proved to be effective throughout.
Many of the highlights of special effects can be seen inside the mansion. Something beautiful that Zombie Army Productions (the founders of HG) does is their openings. Right away upon entering the front door of the mansion, the room has a high ceiling and the stained-glass windows flicker to look as if there is a storm outside. From there, after the room goes pitch black, we were introduced to the twins of the house. The whole scene is masterfully done and the special effects used are phenomenal. We don’t want to give everything away, so just know to pay extra attention to the intro of the mansion. First timers planning on visiting that are reading, remember to duck!
Throughout hallways and between scenes in the mansion, the intro to Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” was playing on a loop, which left us feeling anxious throughout. One room we eventually reached had some great props placed throughout, including prized animal heads and jump-scare animatronics.
One of the newest additions this year happens to be dragons of all things. Remember when we mentioned the actor’s costumes with scaled armor? This scene is where they come into play! The scene looked as if we walked into a cave, filled with fog and actual flames blowing. When we walked in a bit more, we could see two giant dragons high above us in the room. They are such cool effects and detailed to where we were standing in awe trying to take it all in which, of course, left us open for a jump scare! While we continued into the scene, we eventually found a third dragon! We won’t give away all the details but its something one can’t miss!
The special effects for both portions together make for a very impressive and effective haunt. All of the marvelous details throughout help make the props and animatronics that much more effective.
The theme of HellsGate is a historic one overall. The entire story can actually be found on the “About” section of the HG website. It’s a well-detailed story and a great read to help gain the background of everything behind the attractions. If on a desktop, we recommend clicking on “The Study” section and just going over the highlighted parts as it’s super interactive and creative!
For now, we will give the general story behind the theme but greatly recommend visiting the website for all details.
A decorative army medic known as the Captain fell into quite a depression after losing his wife and two daughters. He acquired a state burial contract (and housing) in Lockport, IL for unwanted and/or the forgotten deceased. With the deep depression, he makes friends with all the departed and eventually experiments with trying to reanimate the dead. In an attempt to try to bring his daughters back by “making contact” with their spirits, the Captain summons something far more demonic than what he anticipated.
Again, it is a very good read and the website makes the story and secrets behind the house very interactive. Be sure to pay attention to the twins when you visit as they will help tell the story.
Scare Factor: 9.42
Considering all of the other categories, the commitment and high energy from the well-costumed actors, along with the environment and awesome effects, really led to each of us being scared multiple times.
The greatest effect of the trail was definitely its darkness. The dark did a great job on hiding actors throughout and misguided our attention so we could be affected by the scares.
The actors within the trail did a great job with pop up scares and came close enough that we wanted to put our hands up for protection. They targeted everyone in our group multiple times and we were all scared throughout. As mentioned before, the actor under the lamp post who walked towards us while bending backwards was scary altogether. With an open path well within the trail, I think we all started running when we heard the sound of a chainsaw revving at one point.
The trail was effective with what they had and did a great job on providing enough scares to keep us guessing on what was to come next.
The mansion itself is great on providing scares in various ways. With all the details to take in its easy to get lost inside some of the scenes and just feel as if it’s all real. One of the more particular frightening parts to us was the twins’ room.
The twins’ room is everything a little girl could want, except all the evil parts! One scene around the room is their play/doll room. There is an insane amount of porcelain dolls that are creepier than any my grandmother had when I was a child. All the dolls are custom-made and designed to give an uneasy feeling, and they succeed on doing just that. As we progressed, there was a giant doll house we actually had to move through leading to the twins’ bedroom, which gave some surprise scares.
Throughout the mansion, we were in awe on how real everything felt and looked, and it helped to add to the overall scoring of the Scare Factor. With the great quality of the animatronics throughout and the actors always in action with their environment, HG flourished on providing our group continuous scares throughout our visit.
Entertainment & Value: 9.32
General Admission for HellsGate is $28 and VIP is $40. Our overall walk-through time for both attractions was 38.4 minutes giving our MPD value 1.37, which is well above our average for Chicagoland haunts. Our walk-through time for both portions of the haunt were well within reason. The trail took us just over 15 minutes and the mansion time was just over 23 minutes.
We cannot express how entertaining HG is! It was well worth the trip and should be on anyone’s haunt tour in the Chicagoland area. As we mentioned before, there is an option to experience the trip we had that includes a backstage tour and VIP ticket. The “All Access Pass” is the ultimate way to experience HG as we did! It is a premium price, but worth it as HG offers a premium experience!
There is another awesome package that will let the cast of HG mess with a friend or family member. “Hell Pass” will allow someone to give information on a family member or friend, and that person will be a direct target throughout the night. When we were taking the backstage tour, we happened to see an actor dressing as an alien, as somebody’s fear of aliens was targeted with the Hell Pass. It will give the whole group a night to never forget!
HG also offers the opportunity to find a skeleton key close to the end of the haunt in a 30-second challenge. The reward? Your ticket price back! It is a stunt most believe to be more of a scam, but we DID happen to find the key this year! It is such a cool stand-alone experience and we wish everyone who attends the best odds on finding the key!
Overall, we cannot say enough about our visit at HG. Zombie Army Productions really does continue to set the bar high and we cannot wait for what’s to come next season!
Photos from Review Trip:
Click to Enlarge
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Best Introduction of the Theme (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Best Zombies (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Memorable Moment - The Hidden Key (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Scariest Duo - Twins (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Best Introduction of the Theme (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Most Decorated Exterior (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out Award - Bad Kitty (Given by: Team Zombillies)