LOMBARD – There’s a vacant business space directly to the south of Lucky Strike Lanes in Lombard.
If a curious visitor poked his head into the empty storefront, he’d find himself in the middle of a twisting maze of black.
This time next week, the maze will be filled with spooks and haunts for the Lombard Jaycees annual haunted house, but right now the corridors are packed with local teenagers.
The Lombard Jaycees boast at having the longest, consecutive running haunted house in the country at 60 years, said the club’s president, Jackie West. It’s the second of the club’s major, annual projects with the first being Taste of Lombard.
For the building and conceptual development of the haunted house, the Jaycees rely on the creativity of local middle and high school students to design and build the twisted, haunted rooms in the house, West said.
This year’s house is themed Happy Hell-A-Days, and features a series of rooms spookily decorated for holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Arbor Day, St. Patrick’s Day and more.
On Tuesday night, three Glenbard East High School students were busy working on the Mardis Gras room they’d created.
Aleesha Wilson, 14, her brother, Alex Wilson, 16, and their friend, Mia Marino, 16, had created the concept of the room and were preparing it for opening night. They’re all veteran haunters who said they’d gotten involved in the Jaycees haunted house because it sounded like fun. They also love scaring people.
“I love seeing [visitors] scared,” Alex Wilson said. “It’s so fun.”
The three teens are just part of a crew of about 60 people who will work on building and haunting the house.
They came up with the idea to make a Mardis Gras room after learning that the theme was holidays. Although the teens wouldn’t give away any secrets about just how they plan to scare people when the house opens Oct. 11, they did point out a balcony they’d made and said the room would be set in the French Quarter.
Before opening night, the haunters participate in a clinic where they learn different haunting techniques and develop the skits that they’ll be performing in their rooms.
“We like really good acting,” Alex Wilson said.
Most of the teens working on the haunted house come every night, or close to it, to help build and develop scary skits for the rooms. It’s a considerable time commitment, but something Aleesha Wilson, Alex Wilson and Marino said they enjoy because of the other cast and crew members. They described the group as one big family.
Opening night for the Jaycees haunted house is Oct. 11, and the haunters hope they can leave a lasting impression on the people who walk through their scares.
“I like things that stick with you, that stay in your head when you go home,” Marino said.