Visibility / Location:
If it weren't for Google Maps combined with Google Earth while planing my trip earlier in the day, I probably wouldn't have found Shadows Realm without knocking on community doors. From the main street (Seminary), there were no signs for the event, which is located in a four-plus complex of one-story group homes and community centers that had once been military barracks (the haunt itself occupies two of these). Being unfamiliar with the area lead to circling the neighborhood at least once before we found a single, spray painted sign with an arrow. It lead to a decent sized, well lit parking lot that had plenty of open spots, but only one more spray painted sign with the event's name at the front (pictured). There was no indication of where the actual haunt was from the parking lot- we found it by following the sounds of teenagers across an empty lot to another street adjacent (but not connected to) the parking lot. From there, we found the event entrance by following one more spray painted sign to a temporary ticket tent further down the street. Definitely a confusing route that could be improved upon in just about every area. If you've never been to the area, I suggest checking it out in day light first, if possible.
On the night I visited Shadows Realm, there was literally no line or wait. There was another temporary tent set-up not far from the ticket booth with a hand-painted sign that read "Spooktacular Snacks" selling concessions, and hard metal music could be heard playing from inside the attraction, but that was the extent of the wait entertainment. Busier nights may prove otherwise. The initial wait and rules room was sparsely decorated to resemble what I assume was some kind of courtyard garden, and lit only by battery operated candles and a large tube black light. More confusing than spooky, considering the location.
LPR Score = 3.500
LPR stands for Length/Price Ratio. It represents perceived value of an event, by comparing length vs price of admission. Higher numbers represent more value per dollar. Actual quality and/or entertainment value of an event are not factors in this calculation. Click Here to see how this event compares to others visited this year by the staff of HauntedIllinois.com.
Considering there was no one else at the event while I was going through (that I knew of), I was able to go at my own pace. The flow and layout were relatively easy to navigate.
Before I made my trip to Shadows Realm, I read up on a few reviews from last year's production just to get more of an idea of what to expect. Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to me until I spoke with a few volunteers at the event), last year's production was held at a completely different location and subject to a much larger budget. This year's location (the former morgue building of an old military complex) is reportedly much smaller and limited in resources than the Shadow Realm of last year, which set my vague expectations way off. I went in completely blind.
After light conversation with the volunteers, I found out the event is non-profit, run by the various Boy Scout troops of the area. Everything from construction and costumes to ticket clerks and actors were completely volunteer-operated, mostly comprised of Scout Parents and high schoolers. A small group of adults in minimal costumes (what appeared to be low-end reaper or monk robes and ambiguous face paint) manned the 'garden' waiting room, who engaged me in friendly chat about the Haunt, including constant suggestions that I come back and visit them again later in the month. The first room was painted like an aging parlor, and empty save for a non-costumed volunteer who took my picture for the experience (for no charge). The following few rooms followed the very typical 'haunted house' theme (kitchen- a single table and chair with garage sale place settings and plain walls;, bedroom- a raised bed with old, dusty quilt lit by an over-head black light) but with minimal props, decoration, and actors in minimal costume (some even appeared to be in plain clothes with some theatrical blood on their faces). The next few rooms fell away from the 'house' theme and held more to the traditional, individual scare rooms; there was the meat locker, complete with ceiling-hung 'body bags' to navigate around. There was also the 'graveyard' and 'zombie gauntlet' ( a long path lined on both sides by shoddy chain link and zombies that may or may not be real), the notorious 'womb of death' and -of course- the Clown Room- all of which were minimally painted and manned by actors in robes and masks. Gore and actual acting besides the typical jump scare and 'stalk and loom' tactics were at an absolute minimum.
However, in the middle of the tour, a volunteer seated in plain sight without costume handed me a pair of cardboard 3D glasses. I thought this strange, but refreshingly unique. Holding the lenses over my glasses as I went (because they will not fit correctly over glasses, be warned) I entered a several room-long 3D maze. The black light painted effect was honestly very cool, though the overall impact would have been greatly improved upon by utilizing actors in these rooms (there were none, though on busier nights, that may change). After another seated volunteer took my 3D glasses, I approached the strobe rooms; they were painted in typical fun-house fashion, designed to disorientate and heighten the senses, and done surprisingly well. Especially when the floor literally moved from under my feet. Ladies- leave your stilettos at home for this one.
Considering how long I've been involved with Haunts (20 years at this point), the fact that I encountered two different scare-gags and concepts (the 3D maze and moving floor) that I had never encountered before impressed me. While the costumes, make-up, and acting all very much reflected a charity/volunteer budget, the overall experience was entertaining. Shadows Realm is pretty low on the creep and gore factor, but good for the lover of classic jump-scares and Fun Houses. There were also at least four clearly marked emergency exits and an option for kid-friendly runs through the Haunt. I would recommend it for ages 10 and up.
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