Voodoo on Vassar

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Voodoo on Vassar

Ghouls from left to right: Courtney Larsen, (Redacted), Jesse Schultz, Mike Napoletano, Marc Levesque, (Redacted).

Ghouls from left to right: Courtney Larsen, (Redacted), Jesse Schultz, Mike Napoletano, Marc Levesque, (Redacted).

Ghouls from left to right: Courtney Larsen, (Redacted), Jesse Schultz, Mike Napoletano, Marc Levesque, (Redacted).

Ghouls from left to right: Courtney Larsen, (Redacted), Jesse Schultz, Mike Napoletano, Marc Levesque, (Redacted).

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Clown room, Zombie room, and the backyard tent. Ghouls: Michael Napoletano & Marc Levesque.

Voodoo on Vassar’s handmade sign.

Growing up, my dad and I would schedule aside time during the Halloween season to tour the Southern Chicago suburbs looking for the best decorated houses. The original list began on a website called Haunted Illinois and mostly consisted of houses south of Westchester, where we were living at the time. Mayhem on Mansfield was the name of the best decorated house in the Burbank area for about 10 years.

Today the list has become totally electronic and has expanded all across the Chicagoland area. Haunted Illinois even includes houses from yet another group of decorators called the Chicago Haunt Builders.

With the increasing spread of home haunts all across Illinois, and my seasoned knowledge of these horrifying houses, I knew I was adept enough to design my own home Halloween attraction and bring the tradition to my current home in Schaumburg!

Thus, The Crossbones Inn was born!

I had taken inspiration from homes that I had seen in order to put my own spin on the spooky scene! Many of the houses have a graveyard on their front lawn, but a select few went over the top and created a haunted house in their garage. I knew I had to take advantage of my two-door garage and transform it into something terrifying.

The most important part of the whole operation would be the live actors. Every professional haunted house has them, and so did Mayhem on Mansfield, which was one of the biggest reasons why it was so successful.

The Lindich family that ran Mayhem on Mansfield, used to have their kids and their teenage friends all dress up as various creatures. They would scare the visitors who dared to enter the completely decorated backyard, but at every half an hour, Thriller by Michael Jackson would start playing followed by Hey Ya! By Outkast and the ghouls would rise from their graves to join together for a dance routine in the backyard. The whole thing was choreographed and to this day I have never seen anything like it from any other live actors at any other house including the professional haunted houses.

I gathered up a group of friends that were willing to help set up, decorate, and scare the pants off of any trick-or-treaters. We were open during 10 different nights in October and got about 150 people in total. Some nights were better than others and it was hard to get victims because the event was brand new and in a caul-de-sac tucked away from the main streets. At this point in time we were not listed on Haunted Illinois either.

2014 was my sophomore year of high school and my sophomore year constructing the haunted house. The previous year we had won Best Overall house in the Schaumburg decorating competition, and we were set to do it again this year. This year the cast would change slightly and so would the layout. We added 2 tents to the outside of the garage for people to snake through before they got to the two-door garage which was set up similarly to the previous year.

The 3rd year was nearly perfect. 2015 we flipped the layout of the garage and added another tent so that there were 3 tents on the outside of the garage. It was this year that I realized that our name “The Crossbones Inn” was taken from a decorative sign that other decorated houses and even some professional Haunted Houses had. I wanted to be original and have my own name for my event. Some of the best houses had followed the pattern of alliterative names.

How would I think of a good name for a house on a street called Vassar?

Vampires on Vassar? We really didn’t have enough vampire stuff to make it that theme, and it would also be a disservice to the clown, skeleton, zombie and other themes that were prevalent in our attraction.

That’s when I thought of it: Voodoo on Vassar!

A name that would incorporate all the strange and spooky happenings at the dead end of my street every October.

2015 was also the first year that we were listed on the Haunted Illinois website with all the other attractions throughout the Chicagoland area.

Our 4th year in the Haunting business almost didn’t happen. My grandmother had passed away in early September and a part of me didn’t feel like taking on an operation as big as Voodoo on Vassar. However, I felt that the community, my friends, and my family were all waiting to see what I had come up with for what would be the final year of the haunted house.

This 4th year saw even more changes to the cast and additions to the layout. It was my senior year of high school and we were going out with a ban- no–a scream!

The garage was accompanied by a solid block of four tents out in front for the visitors to snake through and after they survived the front, they would have to make their way up and around the side of the house and through the backyard.

We finally pulled it off! Or so we thought!

I left home for college the next year, but then came back after some changes with the school and my personal life, I chose to return home for college. Some people were not as excited about my decision as others, but the group of people that were most excited were the Voodoo Crew, because they knew I would be taking the opportunity to bring the haunted house back.

I intended to do just that. I made it perfectly clear that it was going to be a one and done year for the event. After having very difficult weather over the many nights that we tried to scare people in high school, I did not want to have to focus on battling that every October throughout my college career.

The unfathomable results that ensued turned out to be quite different!

We had great weather throughout the month. In previous years, we have had to deal with the wind coming from the large soccer field that borders my backyard. This wind would typically turn our tents into kites and demolish the graveyard. This time around we were already prepared to battle the wind and we compensated like the veterans that we were! The rain is also a factor that limits our turnout, but the skies were in our favor for the majority of the month.

The crew worked relentlessly as well. Members that would typically goof around while we were setting up were more disciplined. Some were so eager to finish this masterpiece that they even purchased tools from Halloween stores to help the process or even compliment their costumes.

The new additions to the crew were beyond hardworking and dedicated- and that is an understatement! Jesse Schultz and Marc Levesque were just a few new names in the group that gave it their all when it came to building the haunted house and acting in it.

The new and improved Voodoo on Vassar included the 4 block tents out in front, the entire 2 door garage, up and around the backyard and even stretched out into the field behind my house. We didn’t win best overall due to the format of the Schaumburg competition becoming a Facebook competition.

“High school class of ’85 reunion popularity contest voted upon by people who don’t even live in the same state and cant even come and view [the winning houses]” was how my one neighbor described the new competition.

Despite not taking 1st place, we definitely had our best overall year! Anytime we can make improvements to the design and create something bigger than we have done before is a win in my book.

Indeed, 2018 was our best year yet. We had over 400 visitors and made over $200 in donations that eventually got split between our actors to repay them for their hard work over the restless month.

In fact, 2018 was such a hit that this October people have been asking if we were bringing Voodoo on Vassar back. To those people I say:

 While we definitely had the means to do it again this year, we are taking a year off. I had said last year that 2018 would be our final year for a while. I also did not want to return with something that was an almost identical replica of the year before, because it takes the scare factor out of the attraction completely. It is harder than you might think to change the layout when you are dealing with a set number of props, only so many outlets, and only so many things you can do to the layout in order to keep a nice flow for the visitors and the actors. That being said, we do have plans to come back bigger than ever in 2020. Over our extended offseason we have become members of the Chicago Haunt Builders which will take our haunting designs to new heights through new creative ideas and engineering skills.

So be on the lookout for Voodoo on Vassar in 2020! You will soon be able to find us on www.HauntedIllinois.com, the infamous Chicago Haunt Builders list, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you have any trouble finding us next October, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter: @VoodooOnVassar or our newly added Facebook page under the same name. You will also be able to search for us by using the hashtag #VoV20 when the time is near! Everyone have a safe and happy Halloween and we will scare you all next year!