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This attraction was reviewed on October 18, 2019 by Team White City Devils.

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Final Score: 9.25

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Statesville Haunted Prison has been providing scares of a different caliber for over a 20-year period. They still receive some of the most visits in the Chicago area for haunts every season and for good reasons! SHP is a complete experience with actors in every scene, sets that are of movie-like quality, and effects that can only have the Zombie Army stamp. Being only our second visit ever for SHP (shame on us) we were completely excited for our return visit.

Cast: 9.24

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With an insane number of actors during our visit being 160 (175 is about the maximum they ever have on one night) actors were coming out full swing and delivering each time. The queue line at SHP is filled with many actors roaming the grounds and terrorizing meat (visitors) even before the haunt.

Sharky is such a fun actor and it was great to see all her props including the smallest toy chainsaw she uses on guests! She has a very disturbingly fun presence about her, and it works and keeps everyone excited. Fluffy, of course, is a celebrity of sorts in the haunt community and walks around and has no concept of personal space. We have witnessed fluffy pulling a hoodie over somebody’s head and tying the strings together. Classic thing Fluffy did last year actually, but always a fun story to tell!

Inside the prison, actors come out full force. It is chaotic seeing so many of them screaming and shouting throughout the prison but makes for a frightfully fun time. We encountered plenty of great interactions in the prison, including Big Mama’

Big Mama hands down runs the game in her cell block. She had no problem with breaking us down and forcing us to give her something to pass by her cell. Given the circumstances we found ourselves in the middle of, we had no choice but to part with a hair tie and the prison clothes we were given. Her cell is littered in hair ties (hundreds of them) all from guests forced to give them up. The way she approaches gives off a ‘Scared Straight’ TV show vibe and feels as if she is willing to do anything to assure dominance.

Inside City of the Dead, the actors came across with a ‘back road’ approach (hillbilly if you will). One of the actors in the queue line for CotD wanted us to find a husband inside for her. Unfortunately, all of the talks of her being Italian and able to cook a proper lasagna didn’t help convince anyone to come and marry her. When we progressed through CotD the actors all had matching southern drawls to them to further convince that they were hillbilly-ish. Every interaction we came across was convincing and some of them were unscripted for sure. I was asked if my mother lets me go outside dressed the way I was, and when I mentioned I seen another guest in line dressed with the same shirt and hat the actors acclaimed we should start a bluegrass band called ‘the flannel shirt backwards hat boys.’

Overall, the actors as a whole worked great together and gave a believable performance within the prison, making us feel as if we were in the middle of a riot. In CotD, the actors all preformed great together as well and were convincing by staying in character and interacting well enough to understand their purpose within CotD.

Costuming: 9.18

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Going through SHP, there is such a great variety of costumes and characters all together and the actors bring all of the small details to life. What’s wonderful about SHP and their costuming is every staff member behind the scenes are also in costume and geared up for anything that comes out of the prison. Many of the signature characters of course have a stand-alone look bout them. As we mentioned Sharky before, she’s a demented clown with some killer makeup and a crazy number of sharp teeth! She is also paired with a great shark hand puppet. Though there are plenty of clowns loose throughout the prison, Sharky does have that stand-alone aspect to her costume even though it is still in uniform with the other clowns.

In the prison, we mostly saw inmate attire throughout and everyone’s makeup was done up to give a grim appearance. The Warden has a complete suit and it is really amazing. The whole costume comes off as a demon of sorts and is of a high quality outfit. Some of the rioters are in riot gear they must have stolen from the riot gear room. Maniacs are suitably dressed in straight jackets and bare some really dirty looking makeup, giving them the appearance that they are left alone to fend for themselves and are not doing the best job.

Another particular scene in the prison is their clown room. Everyone in there had a similar uniform with the black and red checkers going on and matching colored make up. It left us feeling as if there was this special part of the prison cornered off just for the clowns, as all the attire appropriately matched the room we were in. It was all very creative and tastefully completed.

In CotD, the costumes were of their own standards and worked well to complete the look of this attraction as a whole. We couldn’t find anything particularly out of place or anything that didn’t belong, everything was well thought out and flowed nicely with CotD. Most of the attire were of stereotypical over-alls. But when it came to the dead rising, the zombies around had some great features that made it as if they were down in the caves of CotD for many years. Some of the actors also paired nicely with some snakes both big and small. It was pretty great seeing some live animals’ people may be afraid of, but they weren’t thrown around or used in an abusive way, instead they fit the attire!

Overall, makeup and costuming fit the themes of both attractions well enough to be convincing to the haunt as a whole. Stellar work!

Customer Service: 9.35

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SHP has all the information needed to visit on their website as well as social media accounts. They sit just a short drive north of the I-55 highway off the Weber road exit. It is super easy to find with plenty of parking on site.

During the daytime hours, Caton Farm is open for pumpkin patch action and hayrides and such. The cool thing is the farm gift shop is open with some SHP merch, but mostly carry Caton Farm related stuff, such as jellies, jams, sauces, and apple cider donuts.

Staff were all around and able to communicate any and all information to one another via headsets giving us a really great impression.

Safety isn’t an issue or even thought of from a guest perspective because of how serious they take it. As I mentioned before, ALL staff is set up in costuming and there is a reason for that. It makes any possible trouble or safety concerns easily taken care of during the show without taking away from the suspension of disbelief. If a tech employee has to fix something that may be hazardous to someone’s well being, they can do it right in front of guests walking through and 9 times out of 10 will feel like its just part of the show. Its quite the amazing set up SHP has in terms of security and tech help.

Atmosphere: 9.35

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As we mentioned, SHP sits on Caton Farm property, but during operating hours the only give away is the barns. Once we parked and found ourselves walking to the haunt, all we could hear was blasting music and the occasional machine gun going off. One of the first things we noticed was the guard tower standing alone. Here, actors are atop and jumping off to the ground, startling unsuspecting meat (visitors). SHP has one of the coolest faces built up to mimic a prison. Honestly, we constantly get asked from friends and/or people we talk to about haunts, and most of the time they believe SHP is an actual prison! I feel this is probably because the Old Joliet Prison is only a 15-minute drive from SHP, so I’m guessing it’s a fairly common misconception that only adds to the excitement of SHP.

Touching more on the prison walls, the whole front looks as if we were passing Cook County Jail. Each corner has a guard tower on top but there is also the stand-alone tower that has a secondary purpose of being the ‘Dog Cage.’ Inside the Dog Cage, we were crammed inside with about 50 other meats (visitors) and had to sing songs, turns out it was someone’s birthday actually. Being jammed in like canned sardines really did set the tone as far as preparing for the prison went. Actors were shouting instructions to everyone and we all needed to oblige them on their terms. SHP does a stand-up job on keeping the mood entertaining but also keeps guests questioning what is happening. The Dog Cage I feel is an easy mood setter and can panic guests at the same time.

Special Effects: 9.36

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When it comes to effects, SHP shares the impressive tie in of being completed by the team of Zombie Army Productions. ZAP really put in their all into giving some of the most impressive scenes and builds around and shines all over. They are always amazing and over the top in the animatronics built up as well as some great simple effects used.

In the prison, we found ourselves in a great queue line scene where the Warden was high above us, explaining that the prison is taken over. The theatricals behind this whole scene are equal to what we see going into their sister haunt, HellsGate. Both are impressive in their own right and SHP provides a bit more jump effects in this queued up scene. I won’t go into complete details on it, but I would recommend taking in this entire scene as a 360 as much as possible, so one doesn’t miss a thing.

In the prison attraction, there are plenty of examples of great simple effects than can make anyone’s skin crawl. There are some clear windows to show the ‘inside of the walls’ where we can see rusted plumping and also mice crawling all over it. We mentioned the use of animals before, but they are completely safe in the spots they are used. Speaking of plumbing, there is a newer scene where we ventured into the sewer of the prison and there are some really great effects in there I will not go into details on.

The details throughout the prison are simply amazing and felt as if we did just walk into a riot taking control of the systems. The maniac room is a very cool placement and scene. We are able to walk through on the safe part and see plenty of actors (that do not seem okay in the head) bouncing off the walls and making some pretty disturbing sounds. While walking by its nice thinking we are safe away from all of them, yet after a short walk we found ourselves right in the middle of the room amongst the disturbed prisoners. Its just good placement in a detailed scene and makes for a great effect in believing where we are for a moment.

The clown room is always a favorite for being bonkers. The room has a black and red theme going on and mirrors all over. There of course is a portion of the floor that becomes lop sided and it is a pretty great effect. One of the actors has a special way to come across the room within a few seconds and can suddenly go straight back. This is one of the more unique effects around!

Inside CotD, we are introduced to the Gatekeeper during the queued-up theme line. He’s an animatronic and is dwarfed by an even bigger monster named George we see shortly after. There are also some great animatronics throughout CotD, but these two we mentioned really are amazing. All of the scenes are meant to replicate a cave and do a really great job in doing so, the lighting and the water sounding effects used give the feel of CotD to be as realistic as possible. Some of the zombie animatronics used were well placed and reached out far enough to give a good scare. Being inside of a cave, there are all sorts of creepy crawly pests, so it’s no surprise we encountered some giant spiders down the line!

One of the simpler effects was during the air-bag walls. When approaching and walking through, not only is there an actor above us but we also have a decline in steps, making us feel as if we are sinking into the walls. Its actually a really cool way to use the air-bag walls. As far as effects go, SHP gives off so many creative effects in such a great way and continues to impress year after year!

Theme: 9.38

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SHP has a really great theme that works for both attractions overall. It is given from what I will refer to as the queued intro line. This line is pretty much where the haunt begins as the group witnessing this is up next for the main attractions.

The story (in a nutshell) is that the prison is home to some of the worst inmates who have committed some of the most horrific crimes ever recorded. These inmates have taken the prison by storm and now use it for their own enjoyment and personal playground. There of course is more details and character development plots I feel one should read up on before visiting, and always makes for an even better time visiting SHP.

CotD is actually the resting place for all of the deceased inmates of the prison. The hillbilly looking people we mentioned throughout this review are the gate keepers of the grave site and are used to keep the lost souls from rising back into the world.

It is a cool concept and works well in telling a story to keep everyone entertained throughout the visit. I may have left some key parts out on purpose just for the sake of our readers to check out the interactive website and learn more about the characters of SHP

Scare Factor: 9.08

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Considering the plentiful and skilled actors, scenes, and amazing props to work with, it remains no surprise that SHP does not lack in the scare department.

Inside the prison, we found ourselves in the middle of the riot. With all of the screaming and fast-moving scenes, it’s all enough to bewilder anyone caught in the middle. With actors, most of the scares come from them having a forward boast of confidence leading to an act of establishing supremacy over all who get in their way. We mentioned Big Mama before, but its will worth mentioning again in terms of being genuinely scared from her actions and dominance. During the Maniac scene, it is frightening when we figured out we would end up in the same room as those crazies. There is a deal of jump scares throughout of course and work just fine, but the ones where we feel as if we did indeed enter a prison give the most mental scares I feel.

Inside CotD, most of the provided scares were from jump actors and prop scares. The actors in CotD have no issue with working through and around their environment to provide some great jump scares throughout the attraction. Some actors do well hiding within the fog and others work best working the giant props. It all comes together in a fine balance in making anyone walking through screaming! In terms of really knowing the scenes and what works, CotD did a great job at providing enough scares throughout.

Entertainment & Value: 9.18

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General admission for SHP is $30 and VIP tickets are marked at $45. The lines for SHP can get crazy long so as always’ VIP VIP!

Our walk-through time is an impressive 39 minutes and that’s only counting the time inside the attractions. This is not including the entertainment of Sharky trying to chainsaw guests in line or Fluffy trying to cover someone’s head. With all the numbers out in the open, this brings our MPD value at 1.3 which is well above average around these parts.

There are also few zombie themed midway games for pay and a few other fun activities to be had such a free photo booth. There is a food stand available along with adult beverages (don’t over do it!).

Considering all that Statesville Haunted Prison has to offer, its no wonder they remain a Chicago must-see year after year. Also, I would take advantage of the coupon given after the haunt for a free VIP upgrade to HellsGate (sister haunt). SHP has been impressive each visit and I can say I cannot wait to see what they have in store for next year!

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