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New scares highlight Disturbia’s return

Michael Pantano shows off one of the more claustrophobic areas of his haunted house, Disturbia: Torment of Fears, Sept. 30 in Addison. The haunted house opens Friday, Oct.4. (Erica Benson -
Michael Pantano shows off one of the more claustrophobic areas of his haunted house, Disturbia: Torment of Fears, Sept. 30 in Addison. The haunted house opens Friday, Oct.4. (Erica Benson -

ADDISON – Disturbia: Torment of Fears will open for it’s fifth year in Addison today, but its creators have lifetimes of haunting experience.

The Pantano brothers have been building haunted houses since they were kids in their garage.

“If you want to be scared, you come here,” said Joseph Pantano about the winding maze of nightmares he and his brother, Mike, have been constructing inside the Links and Tees Golf Dome.

The brothers and a handful of crew members begin building the house in July every year. Actors and volunteers help them unload three tractor-trailers into the dome through an airlock entrance, but the brothers and their crew spend long days assembling they’re homemade haunt.

“We’ve changed every single year,” Mike Pantano said.

While the basic footprint stays the same, the Pantano brothers are always coming up with new twisted ideas for terrifying their customers. Even though changing just a few parts means spending more money and more time, they can’t seem to help their horror-loving selves.

Between touring demented circus-themed rooms and sickening butcher shop scenes, Mike Pantano’s smile widens as he describes this year’s biggest addition to Disturbia, a backwoods horror house.

“I want to have them so afraid before they go into the house,” he said while describing a typical 30- to 40-minute walk through phobia-themed rooms. Mike Pantano describes the purposeful details that are designed for more than a cheap scare.

“Our characters are interactive,” he said.

Every night, roughly 50 actors fill the dome-turned-torture-chamber all with precise directions. The brothers let them embellish on their characters, but they’ve spent hours devising particular scare-tactics that go far beyond yelling and lunging to disturbing and dark.

“We’d be nowhere without our characters,” Mike Pantano said.

The brothers pride themselves on Disturbia’s ability to involve visitors. With very few animatronics, a full cast of live actors and a homemade set, the haunted house isn’t just a showcase of creepy scenes that visitors walk past.

Between Mike’s architecture and construction background and Joseph’s career as a hairstylist, the two have all the creativity and structural know-how to develop horrifying scenes and fill them with terrifying creatures.

“It’s not a trick-or-treat haunted house,” Mike Pantano said.

While parents can bring children, Mike Pantano cautions against anybody under 13 in the house because even when his two high school daughters dressed up to scare people, he kept them in the lobby. Joseph Pantano said his 12-year-old daughter is completely resolved to selling glow sticks by the door.

Even though the haunted house is at an Addison Park District facility, the Pantanos stress that it’s not an all-ages fun house.

“We just rent the building,” Joseph Pantano said.

While they maintain it’s all in good fun, the house is even set up to separate a person from the rest of their group – one of Mike Pantano’s favorite tricks.

“It’s normally the girls,” said Mike Pantano about who usually gets trapped or separated.

He’s seen more than one couple come in together and leave arguing. He sees it as a sign of success. Tears, the occasional pants-wetter and even people escaping through emergency exits also give the brothers a sense of accomplishment.

“If they can’t make it through the haunted house, that’s our goal,” Joseph Pantano said.

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