Date of Visit: 9/30/22 (Opening Night) Reviewer: Lindsay
It's a quiet Autumn night, yet Dellwood Park is bustling. People of all ages mill about in the square, lining up for tickets, buying concessions at a food truck, and talking excitedly. Some are hanging out on the nearby playground, playing on the swings and equipment. At first glance, it seems like any nightly event being held at a local park - if not for the fact that among the cheerful faces of families lurks monsters and creatures of the night. It's that time of year again: two special haunts, Hayride of Horror and Curse of the Bayou, have returned to Lockport, Illinois to give guests a night of frightful fun they won't soon forget.
You'd be surprised at how many haunts I've discovered through new Facebook connections. Among those were Hayride of Horror and Curse of the Bayou, both of which I began following after a friend request from one of their actors. I wasn't quite sure if they were two lengthy, separate haunts, or smaller ones tied into the same location - but since I had room for one more stop on my latest Chicagoland trip, and this place seemed like it'd provide a good value for my dollar, I decided to give them a shot.
If you can locate Dellwood Park, you'll find these two attractions pretty easily. Grab a free parking spot around the park and follow the torch lined trail to reach their ticket and concession stands. As I was waiting in line and recording on my phone, I spotted a couple of actors working the crowd, including a devilish-looking slider and a character on stilts. Something else I noticed was how diverse the crowd was here: all sorts of people were there to get their scare on. (I'm not local to this area, but I'm willing to bet this is a big hit with families looking for a spooky good time.) Tickets to either the Hayride or Bayou can be purchased individually, but the best value is found in the combo ticket that grants admission to both for $25. There is also a Speed Pass for busier nights.
After getting your tickets, you'll be instructed to proceed through whichever coffin matches the admission type you purchased. Fun music plays as you make your way through the line, and while I was taking in my surroundings, I noticed spots where groups could hang out at picnic tables or warm up by the fire. It wasn't too long before I rounded the corner and was greeted by "The Great Bodezi" (I probably spelled that wrong), who enthusiastically introduced me to his collection of freaks and sideshow performers. Among them were a beautiful snake girl kept in a cage, and a strongman hefting one of the biggest prop hammers I'd ever seen!
More actors roamed the line here, too. A cloaked character with a skinned face, and wielding a rather large hook, wanted to know where the rest of my review team was - and mused that maybe they got lost when I explained they're from West Virginia. And the aforementioned devil slider somehow managed to migrate from the ticket and concession area, to the Hayride's entrance undetected... I turned around to find him sliding right at me (resulting in yelling and running away). Sneaky!
If you purchased a combo ticket, the Hayride of Horror is going to be your first stop. This is about what one would expect: a nice, lengthy ride on a wagon, passing through a variety of sets filled with things to scare patrons. While I didn't find it all that scary myself, I still enjoyed it for how fun and interactive it was (though the spider's lair, with its webbed corpses, was pretty creepy!). The spooky music they had playing for the entire ride was also a nice touch. In addition to the spiders, some other scenes included Camp Crystal Lake, Michael Myers stalking us through the woods, zombies crawling and lurching out of a graveyard, and a cannibalistic hillbilly camp. There were a couple of empty stretches where everyone on the wagon was wondering when we'd be under attack, but for the most part, I thought they had a good number of actors.
The cast were more or less split between those that tried to strike from the sides of the wagon, and those that actually hopped on board with us. Everyone seemed to love Chucky and Tiffany, who not only got in a few scares, but also interacted with each other. Following an argument, Tiffany turned to me and scoffed, "Men, right?" I concur, Tiff. The hillbillies were a lot of fun, too, and *almost* had us convinced they just wanted us over for dinner... not to have us for dinner. Mama may ask you to sample some of her special cooking; I was a little taken aback when the actor smeared a dark, odorless substance on my fingers, but it actually wasn't bad! I'd like to drop a little shout out to their Michael Myers actor as well - completely true to the character and really put our whole wagon on edge.
Once you've disembarked from the Hayride, it's time to venture off into the woods and brave the Curse of the Bayou! This attraction has a story, built around a voodoo priestess who managed to breach the realms of the living and the dead, and has now summoned all manner of monsters to assist her in remaining in our world. Tread lightly as you walk among the trees, or she might ensure you and your group become her next victims. Be advised that this is more or less a haunted trail, with a sturdy climb uphill to reach it, followed by a maze in the middle. There are areas of low visibility and uneven ground, so make sure you bring good shoes!
Out of the two haunts, Curse of the Bayou was definitely the darker one and might be a little disturbing for younger children. When we reached the top of the hill (dodging some snarling zombies in the process), we were met with an impressive shaman, who insisted on a "sacrifice" to lead our group. Wanna take a guess as to who the lucky winner was? (Hint: why is it always me?!) We proceeded into a delightfully perplexing maze, where a black shape with a super creepy face stalked us throughout. I also really liked their plague doctor, an aggressive and imposing actor who repeatedly chased us, cut us off, and had a weapon he'd scrape along the ground and slam into walls - he got my group several times. Other characters we encountered were a girl weeping over a cradle (then immediately accusing me of killing her baby - c'mon guys, not everything is my fault!), a pack of animal-people prowling through the woods, and the priestess herself towards the end.
As for anything that could've been better, I only have two small nitpicks. Getting to the Bayou trail from the Hayride could be a little clearer for guests; a handful of us were milling around in confusion until actors came along and took us to the trail entrance. I didn't really notice any signs, but maybe there was something we all overlooked? The trail could also use a stronger final scare. I remember the priestess telling us we weren't what she needed and sending her chained-up servant after us, but that was about it.
Hayride of Horror and Curse of the Bayou were two more Illinois haunts I decided to take a chance on this year, and I was glad I did! Both were a lot of fun, and would be a great pick for Halloween lovers of any age, or someone looking to try their first haunt. It'll scare visitors for sure, but not enough to traumatize them or anything. If you're a local haunt enthusiast or one that's visiting this area, I recommend putting Dellwood Park's haunts on your list.
ENVIRONMENT: 7/10 - Most scenes weren't super fancy, but still looked nice, and it was easy for visitors to figure out what they represented.
ACTING: 6/10 - Pretty good across the board, with some stand out characters (see notes above). Not a whole lot of empty space between the two attractions, either.
SCARE FACTOR: 6/10 - Both myself and the other guests I saw were mostly enjoying the atmosphere and interaction. However, I'd be lying if I said they never got me (that plague doctor in Bayou had me fleeing the maze!), and I definitely saw them scaring other people too.
OVERALL: 7/10 - Dellwood Park's haunts are a great choice for any haunted house fan! Stop by and check them out if you can.