Updated: Feb 19
Statesville Haunted Prison 17250 S. Weber Rd. Lockport, IL 60441 http://www.statesvillehauntedprison.com
Date of Visit: 10/9/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
I couldn't tell you how I ended up in here, and I guess it doesn't really matter. What matters is that they got me, and I'm now being held captive in a cell block with dozens of strangers, all lined up shoulder to shoulder. It's dark, crowded, and hot, and the mask I'm required to wear is beginning to feel more like a muzzle against my face. Unfortunately, escape isn't a possibility anymore - the malevolent eyes of the gun-toting guards surrounding the room keep a constant watch over us. We are the new "meat", brought here for inspection before we are fed to the prison we've arrived at. And the prison will feed.
My thoughts are interrupted by the appearance of a robed figure up above. Squinting at his devilish face, I can only assume this is who they call "The Warden", the demonic force responsible for the evil that has taken this place over. He begins to address us in a booming voice, one where I can't fully make out the words, but I can tell things are about to go south for all of us very shortly. The excitement and tension among the crowd heightens considerably, to a point where it's almost tangible. Then the Warden suddenly springs from his balcony and flies over our heads, and the room quickly descends into chaos as the guards begin bellowing for us to move out. The insanity that is our incarceration has begun...
Statesville Haunted Prison- a creation of the team at Zombie Army Productions- has held a spot on my haunt bucket list for at least a couple of years. It's not incredibly far from where I live, I just never got around to putting it on my schedule. So you can imagine my shock when I logged in one fateful August afternoon and saw the announcement that 2021 would be their final season. My schedule was already very full, but I knew - it was now or never. October came, and on a gorgeous Saturday morning I was officially en route to Lockport, Illinois for a night of scary adventures.
At the time of writing, Statesville is only open for a few more weekends. With that said, if you're planning to go and aren't doing VIP, get there as early as you can! I arrived 15 minutes prior to an already packed house, with two big lines waiting to get in (they moved steadily, though). Parking is free, and plentiful in their big field. (A shout out is in order for their parking team - they were the friendliest and best coordinated I'd seen at any haunt.) Entry to the prison starts at $30, or $45 for VIP. I chose to partake in their "Twice the Terror" special, granting me VIP access to this haunt and its sister haunt, HellsGate Haunted House, for $71 after fees.
(Two things to note before visiting: City of the Dead, the other attraction that's normally included with your ticket, is not open this year. There is also a COVID-19 mask requirement while you are going through the prison, so remember to bring one with you!)
It's worth mentioning that the haunt is located on the site of Siegels Cottonwood Farm, and you will have a chance to look around a bit when you're buying tickets or preparing to have yours scanned. They sent online ticket holders into a nice gift shop with a lot of cute Halloween and Autumn stuff, through the farm's event hall, then into a midway area where concessions and such were being sold. Their port-a-potties are even designed to resemble outhouses (cute!). When you've had your fill of everything outside, make your way under the Statesville Prison sign to enter the prison yard.
Immersion is something that Zombie Army does very well, and walking into the prison yard is a clean transition from the real world into the one they've created. A foreboding red glow emanates from the STATESVILLE facade, which closely resembles an actual prison. Static guards are posted up in the watch towers, and an actor manning a turret occasionally fires off rounds over guests' heads. Members of the haunt's crew are dressed up in tactical vests to resemble security. And if you've read up on its story, you should know that the inmates are pretty much running the place now - so it should come as no surprise that you'll spot several of them on the loose! (A little warning: approach them at your own risk. I was so excited when my favorite- the straightjacketed Fluffy- granted my request for a photo, but accepting his outstretched hand got me yanked right into his arms!)
As with any prison, new arrivals at Statesville must undergo processing. Donning our masks, probably a couple dozen of us (maybe more) were crammed inside a holding cell and grilled about our crimes by Sharky, one of their clown inmates. (I was never more grateful to be short and surrounded by tall people.) Following that, we were sent into the prison itself for a brief wait in an indoor queue before being ushered into the preshow room and lined up in groups. I have to drop another shout out here for how organized their grouping system is: one line of guests goes through the exit, then everyone else slides to the left, and the next line goes in. Never seen that anywhere else, and it's such an efficient way to process a large number of customers. (They've got a couple more of these sorting rooms as you're going through the prison, a great method for breaking up the dreaded conga lines.) Prior to entering the haunt, you're treated to an awesome preshow that introduces guests to The Warden and sets them up for their incarceration. Things take a turn for the crazy once it's over, and next thing you know, you've been turned loose into the facility.
Statesville's environment is high energy and chaotic, with a lot happening around you at any given time. The haunt also has costumed operations staff on hand to move guests along if they slow down (my one disappointment, but it's understandable given how many customers they have to push through on a peak night). So it's difficult for me to get too specific in describing the experience. But the prison theme is carried faithfully through the haunt, with some surprises here and there (like the freaking gator we ran into at one point!). During your sentence at Statesville, you'll walk through the prisoners' filthy bathrooms and showers, navigate a number of anxiety-inducing, caged-in passages, make your way through the sewers, try to escape a disorienting cell block belonging to a horde of clowns, and much more. A loud, rocking soundtrack plays throughout, and the set design in every room is amazing. This is a heavy, grungy haunt, and it takes pride in being so.
Set free by the hands of the wicked Warden, Statesville Prison has been taken over by loads of different inmates, ranging from comical... to creepy... to downright monstrous and psychotic. They are everywhere you turn, and they run completely amok: hanging off the walls of the cages you pass through, lurking and following as you pass by, leaping overhead, and one even bounced around on a bungee harness! It was a little harder to be scared by them; due to the pace at which we had to move, I could sometimes see what was happening up ahead. However, there were more than enough distractions to allow sneaky, watchful prisoners to find opportunities to pop in my face when I wasn't expecting it, and I was stalked by quite a few more, especially in the clown block.
By the way, the fun doesn't necessarily end once your sentence is over. If you're lucky enough to escape the prison, you're welcome to hop into one of Statesville's two photo kiosks and have a picture taken and sent to your phone as a free memento of your experience. You can also hang out and interact more with the roaming inmates, play games, visit their merch counter, or swing back to the farm out front to buy some refreshments and relax. (Trust me... if you get out of here in one piece, you'll need a moment to take a breather! I know I did.)
In total, I traveled five hours from the Louisville, Kentucky area- and spent a few hundred dollars on gas, hotel, and other expenses- to reach one of my dream haunts. Statesville Haunted Prison was everything I wanted it to be, and I'm so grateful I could make the trip to see them before they close their doors for good. What I witnessed behind those prison walls, and the characters and people I met along the way, is going to live on in my memories for a very long time.
**This is a non-scored and unranked review.**