GLEN ELLYN – During the past three years, Ryan Janusz of Glen Ellyn has been many things: a doctor, a clown, even an insane asylum patient.
The Glenbard South High School senior embodied all of these characters as an actor for the Asylum Xperiment haunted house in Villa Park.
“The big thing is to really think about your character, his back story, and to really become your character,” said Janusz, 17.
Prior to working with the Asylum Xperiment, Janusz had helped with the “Haunted Hallway” at Arbor View Elementary School in Glen Ellyn while he was a student there and after he moved on to middle school. Aside from that spooky endeavor, Janusz didn’t have any other experiences with haunted houses or acting before becoming part of the Xperiment.
The Asylum Xperiment, located at the Odeum Expo Center, 1033 N. Villa Ave., began in 2010 and quickly gained acclaim and notoriety. It was named Illinois’ top haunted house in 2012 by Haunted Illinois, the state’s premiere Halloween haunt review site.
“We kind of went from nothing to the best there is really fast,” Janusz said.
The haunted house features three main scares in one, starting with “Home for the Horrordays,” which includes various scenes in rooms throughout the house. The frights then move below the house for a sensory experience designed to mess with the mind in “Subterranean.” Finally, the Asylum Xperiment offers a glimpse into the end of the world with “Armageddon.”
“From what I’ve experienced with haunted houses, the Asylum Xperiment is much more a living piece of art,” Xperiment spokesperson Lisa Molloy said.
The about 100 actors are very involved in the personalities of the rooms they haunt, Molloy said.
“There’s a real passion that our actors have for this,” she said.
Besides feeling that dedication himself, Janusz enjoys the camaraderie among the actors.
“We all love what we do,” he said.
Some of the craziest reactions Janusz has received from visitors to the Asylum Xperiment range from screaming and falling down to punching him in the face. It really depends on what role he’s playing that night, he said.
Most of the time, Janusz doesn’t worry much about whether someone’s getting too scared. He wants to make sure everyone’s getting their money’s worth.
“Not putting on the show for those people also hurts everyone else in the group who paid the same price,” he said.
Since Janusz also has the role of high school student to play, he’s not at the Asylum Xperiment every day, but he tries to participate as much as possible. On any given night, he could be there from about 5 or 6 p.m. until between midnight and 3 a.m.
Although Janusz will be heading off to college before next year’s haunted house, he plans to come back and help with some of the building and setup.
Each season, the Asylum Xperiment is built from the ground up to ensure it’s fresh and not recycled from the previous year, Molloy said.
One thing Janusz appreciates about the Xperiment is that its approach to scaring patrons differs from what is often found at other haunted houses.
“It’s not all blood and gore,” he said. “It’s really the classic style of haunted house.”