Basement of the Dead: Is It Really The Scariest Haunted House in Illinois?


Stephana Ocneanu

Talented actor dressed as a terrifying clown stares down a eraman customer before jumping out for a scare.

Angelyna Madrid

By Stephana Ocneanu, Staff Contributor

Located in Aurora, Illinois, the Basement of the Dead has been critically acclaimed the best and scariest haunted attraction in the Chicagoland area. Founded by George Carpenter in 2000, and then purchased by the Barniak family in 2010, Basement of the Dead continues to uphold its recognition as one of the top haunted houses in not only Illinois but in the entire nation. Taking place in the basement of an-100-year-old building, customers attempt to navigate through the darkness of the basement, unaware of the lurking characters, spontaneous gusts of smoke and wind, mind-boggling illusions, and horrifying sounds and noises.             

Stephana Ocneanu
Customers line up before opening hours to avoid a long waiting period.

To determine just how truly terrifying this haunted house is, factors such as the actors’ performances, set design, and customer experience both inside and outside of the attraction were evaluated on our October 28th visit.

After arriving at the Basement of the Dead’s location, customers are quick to notice the beautifully strung lights hanging from the patio of the building. Don’t let the outside arrangements fool you though, because just as 6:00 P.M. hits, the monsters come out to play. While anxiously waiting to enter the haunted house, many don’t realize how much time has passed as they are entertained by the creepy characters roaming around and the energetic music played by the DJ (who is also in costume).

                                                                                                                                        “I’ve been a part of Basement of the Dead for absolutely forever. I have been working here for almost a decade now and I love it, just look at it” Sugar Daddy said, a flamboyant performer who did not disclose his real name in respect of not breaking character.

If customers are not already spooked by the time they enter the Basement of the Dead, they are surely in for a treat (or trick) inside the two-part haunted house. Inside, attendees meet frightening characters such as killer clowns, possessed nuns, flesh-eating zombies, mutilated animal-humans, and countless more indescribably terrifying creatures. Unlike most haunted houses, these characters follow you, disappear, and pop up again just when you think you’re safe — which you never really are because just as you are being chased out by a man with a chainsaw, you will shortly find yourself pushed into the 3D “Shattered House.”

“We believe that if you really want to scare someone, you need to help them forget that they are safe and that these are just a bunch of actors in masks and make-up. We do this by creating rooms that are so believable our customers get engrossed in the atmosphere.  For example, we want them to think they really could be locked in our broken down walk-in freezer with a humanoid pig freak,” one of the owners, David Seneker said in an interview featured in Hauntworld Magazine. 

The dedicated actors aren’t the only cause of this haunted house’s success, however. In addition to the mentioned characters, the carefully crafted set design, realistic-looking props and echoed sound effects contribute to the fear experienced inside. After making it out of the basement alive most customers, even the most difficult to scare, find themselves both relieved that it is over and eager to go in again.

“I don’t scare easily and there were a couple of times where they really got me so I would give it a 9,” Anna Rosenkrans said when evaluating the “overall scariness” of the haunted house.

After experiencing it both first-hand and interviewing customers before and after their 25-minute trip, it is easy to see why the Basement of the Dead is advertised as the best. Compared to other haunted attractions such as the House of Torment, Scream Scene, and Fright Fest, Basement of the Dead is a well-deserved contender for the #1 spot as it does everything the said attractions do, and then some. If you are looking for a hair-raising experience at a nearby haunted attraction to visit with some friends, the Basement of the Dead will be sure to fulfill your spookiest dreams, or nightmares.