HellsGate Haunted House – Full Review

HellsGate Haunted House is a Haunted Attraction located in Lockport, IL.

3101 Canal Street, Lockport, IL 60441
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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, Special Events, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, Original Characters, Covered Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 9, 2021 by Team White City Devils.

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Final Score: 9.42

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When it came to the 2020 season, The team at Zombie Army Productions (ZAP) took one for the health and well-being of the general public and decided to remain closed for the season last year.

However, ZAP has graced Chicago by putting a 2021 schedule out and of course, HellsGate (HG) is on the list. The team at ZAP clearly made the most of the absent 2020 season to continue to add on to easily of the most detailed and mesmerizing attractions we have come across.

Cast: 9.27

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When it comes to the cast at HG there are plenty of key moments and characters that lurk around the grounds and are always up to no good. Reflecting back, these are some of the more involving actors we have seen. One of the tour guides we had was constantly showing his backside (not bare) to others and a hilarious fashion and even invited us in on the fun. I’m sure this wasn’t pleasing any of the other guests but when in HG, do as the natives I suppose. We of course happened to come across Buna, who is a fan-favorite at HG. She always happens to bring the already great mood up a notch. I don’t believe she is ever seen out of character. We had a backstage tour (it is an option for the general public! more on it on the entertainment value section) and Buna was Buna the entire time, knowing her response here, it would be something along the lines of ‘Well who else Buna gonna be!?’

We had a chance to see a mother and The Lady’s Maid walking the ground and they let their presence be known in such an ominous manner. It’s a cut of eerie that brings one back to a reality of sorts. Mother walks around with The Lady’s Maid but the maid’s head is entirely covered with a black velvetish mourning drape. I’m not very sure that The Lady’s Maid could see through this because she always had a hand on Mother’s shoulder. She was also softly crying the entire time no matter who was around or wherever she was led to. It was enough to want to pause everything and help this poor person.

The doorkeeper was also very personable and was quite entertaining. He talked through a squeaker with no words but somehow it was easy to understand him. He took half of a teddy bear I had (thanks Fluffy for that on an earlier visit) and tried to save him. When he failed to resurrect the bear, he squeaked the Funeral March melody we are all familiar with and had the whole crowd laughing.

The actors in the trail were plenty and good. They have a great set of dialogue and stuck to it in such a good manner. Someone had warned us the dead were rising and shortly after, we encountered a zombie. This noble person advised us to hurry as he sacrificed himself for our wellbeing.

Inside the mansion, we dealt with all sorts of great cast members with more of a drive to scare. Actors here seem to have no limits as they are crawling from holes on the floors and reaching out to rip your face off through the wooden structure of the mansion. Hell, they even were coming in from the ceiling mere feet above our heads.

Needless to say, the overall experience here is well received and the actors really take it up a notch to focus on a fun but frightening good time.

Costuming: 9.32

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In the costuming department, there is no lack of continuing impressive material. There is also a good combination of well-applicated makeup with some great quality masks paired with great costume designs.

The gatekeeper we ran into before entering the forest was a great example of a mask that looked of high quality used around a setting to help embrace a sense of realistic material. Around the entrance to the trail, there was a great-looking gate covered in actual bones and such. It makes sense for the keeper to have a similar-looking mask and gave the experience as a whole a complete and great feeling. Inside one of the sheds is another good example of mask usage as the actor (who did get a good scare out of us) had a sort of a vampiric-looking mask but the whole thing went beyond the chest as some masks do to give it a more complete feel.

When it comes to makeup, there is a sense of unison here from character to character as most seem to have a similar grey/white start in the application that is then covered by a black that is trying to take over strain by strain. It is noticeable on the twins as the black seemingly seeps from their eyes. It also goes along with the storyline which is a big plus!

We really can appreciate the full efforts brought here and didn’t notice any sort of stand-out or eye-sore moments in costuming. Nothing felt out of place, and it is what should be expected for such a high-quality show.

Customer Service: 9.58

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HellsGate’s parking lot takes place off-site a ways away, but guests are provided a bus shuttle to the property. They have changed parking lots from 13th street to 2nd to provide a way bigger space and way safer away from a fast-moving Metra train. This can be a tad confusing for first-time visitors putting HG in the GPS but there are plenty of signs pointing in the right direction so it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Not to mention there is plenty of information on their website as well.

HG takes safety very seriously, hell, serious enough to remain closed for an entire season during a pandemic. The team here are very professional and makes navigation on the grounds very easy as there are huge groups, and it can be a tad intimidating. They go one step further with an all-access option (more on that later) that gives the public a chance to see the attraction in a different light and even this is held up to an all-professional experience. We mentioned Buna was our guide and never once broke character, only when she admitted to wanting to be a twin and gave us a performance, we were foolish to have not recorded that.

Atmosphere: 9.62

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The atmosphere at HG is very electric in description. When we arrived from the bus there were some change-ups like a small beer garden (the big one is in the midway after the show) a few photo ops and of course the line tent. The pre-attraction show line has some actors walking around scaring and interacting, but it’s actually the after-show where a great deal of the entertainment is held that helps captivate the atmosphere as a whole.

I can’t confirm this and it’s strictly from a fan’s point of view, but I believe the layout is as such with the midway at the end because I would see no one wanting to leave… ever. It really is a sight to see just how the ZAP team put together such an area. There are food vendors, drinks, games, escape rooms, and a ridiculous (in a good way) centerpiece that really ties it all together. So, it is a bit odd for first-time visitors as I can see that upon arrival it may look a little plain with a ticket trailer and queue, but I know I wanted to spend the entire night and close out the haunt like it was some sort of bar or club and I was 23 again. All it was missing was a Ferris wheel and HG would literally be a carnival attraction also. I can go on, but I recommend finding photos of this on their social media at a minimum, visiting makes more sense.

Special Effects: 9.64

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Where to start’ maybe the fact that this attraction is not like most in the sense that it used to be a building that was once an *insert building occupation*. Instead, HG was specifically built from the ground up, giving the ZAP team a direct influence on every aspect and detail throughout the attraction. When entering the introduction room to the mansion, it is an instant transport to a giant room with high walls, there is a storm outside and it is all from within the haunt. The effects that go into this are just phenomenal, to say the least. Just after we are introduced to the twins, we are taken into the captain’s collection room full of great pictures, and a mummies sarcophagus, amongst other details showing practices into the dark arts. There is just so much to look at and it is all really beautiful stuff.

All this applies throughout the haunt also. In the study, the shelves are filled with actual books and taxidermy galore. There was a huge bison head mount that wasn’t even meant to be the centerpiece of the room by any means, it was rather cornered off actually and it added to the sense of the captain’s travels. Near the study is actually the garden which holds a plant that would put Audrey 2 to shame. This room also had a glass ceiling that lights up to give us a continuing sense that there was a storm outside and the sound of loud thunder rung out rather violently.

I could go on and on about specifics, but I only wanted to touch up on one other room that was absolutely beyond words. The dragon’s lair has the most amazing-looking room with giant-sized beasts that dwarf anything else. The whole room, top to bottom, felt as if we were in a legitimate cave. Because of the walkway and how we are looking at the room, it feels as though it goes on forever and is just something truly amazing. It is just an incredible experience overall and holds the same effect as when they were first introduced just a few short years ago. As much as I want to continue here, one should visit HG for the completely immersive experience.

Theme: 9.38

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The theme of HG is the same as previous years which tells the story of Captain John Flagg Moorstone. When he lost his wife and two daughters, he became depressed as anyone would in that situation. Having a state burial contract, The Captain buries all of the unwanted/ forgotten poor souls lost to disease and those with no next of kin. To be close to the site, the captain builds his mansion on the land of the buried.

Having lost every one of importance in his life, he begins hearing the dead talk to him and befriends all of the forgotten. This all leads to the captain attempting to reanimate the graves. All the while, he also hires a gypsy to contact with his daughters beyond the grave, and ends up coming into contact with a much darker entity than expected’

HG does a great job of telling the story and meeting these great characters throughout the haunt as well. Overall, it is the great storytelling that makes one feel as if they are walking through a movie, and I think that is more or less the point of having an excellent theme.

Scare Factor: 9.07

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As far as scary goes, HG has plenty of great moments including fear and uncertainties. When on the trail, there is one particular actor who seems to be a contortionist of sorts. When we first spot them it’s in the far distance on the main trail and it’s almost hard to make out what exactly we are looking at. However, when approaching closer, they start to move in unusual, non-normal manners that are freaky in this setting.

We did encounter some great jump scares throughout both the trail and the mansion. Some good standout scares would have to be in the doll room, where it is uncertain what is an actor and what is a prop so it can be a challenge to walk through. Another good scare we encountered would be the flying actor in one of the hallways. It is always great to see these types of scare tactics come together because it shows the whole team is on board with trying to provide a scary experience for all. It does feel that the scare points are on a more theatrical level and environment heavy approach over an actor-driven haunt, but it is still plenty spooky!

Entertainment & Value: 9.55

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Considering there are two portions to the haunt for the price of one ticket, HG is a must-see. Our walk-through time between the trail and the mansion clocked in at a crazy 38 minutes! with a 35-dollar GA price, our minutes per dollar value is 1.09. This doesn’t even include all the time you’ll want to spend at the midway. Prices for HG of course start at 35 and go up to the all-access pass which includes instant access to the haunt, merch, and a backstage tour of HG. This is totally worth checking into as HG is a must-see even in the back-of-house areas.

There is one cool factor that HG offers everyone also! In one room there is a 30-second scavenger hunt for the key to HG. If you find the key, your ticket is free. We witnessed someone do this this year and sure enough in the gift shop they turned the key in and received a cashback ticket cost. It wasn’t as cool as our first year reviewing HG and actually finding the key, but still cool.

Reflecting back a few years ago, this attraction was already amazing! Somehow, they managed to create a whole new aspect of entertainment to it that just makes sense there. I’m very excited to see what’s next at HellsGate!

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 7.5 out of 10

Greg – 10/10October 15, 2022
Best haunted house I’ve ever been to! Sets were excellent. Actors were spectacular. Should be rated …show more so much higher than it actually is. It’s a MUST SEE haunt. So glad we made it this year. Can’t wait to go again. Worth the 6 1/2 hour drive one way!

Charlie – 5/10October 21, 2023
This was my 3rd time returning to Hellsgate and I was very disappointed! Many of the scare actors …show more were replaced with animatronics and only the first people in our group got to experience the jump scares. People were piling up and they were rushing us through the house (not worth $40)! There were also many places throughout the house where scenes were missing an actor or had a static “doll” in place. I ended up bringing a group of 7 newcomers with me, and all of them thought it wasn’t worth the money.

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Past Awards

2022 Awards

Highest Rated Haunt in IL (Given by: The Scare Factor)

2017 Awards

Best Introduction of the Theme (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Best Zombies (Given by: Team Zombillies)

2016 Awards

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)

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