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A look into the actors at Statesville Haunted Prison

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If there’s one thing Statesville Haunted Prison does best, it’s leaving none of Halloween’s feared phobias untouched. 

From clowns to real-life mice and snakes, or exorcisms to zombies, there is little to no doubt just why Statesville Haunted Prison, along with its connecting attraction City of the Dead, is considered the best haunted house in the entire state of Illinois.

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Teenage Statesville Haunted Prison actors pose for a picture before makeup check in. (Pat Mullane / The DePaulia)

Though it may be a bit far for most students, as it’s located 50 minutes out of Chicago, down in Crest Hill, the attraction is easily worth the drive.

“We came down from Aurora to see this. We’ve come every year I want to say for the past three years,” said 17-year-old Carol Staunton, who visited Statesville with her friends.  “We’ve seen a lot of this stuff before but it’s scary every time, plus they’ll change some stuff up every now and then.”

With 21 years to its name, Statesville Haunted Prison remains to be one of the longest running haunted houses in the market, and there’s good reason why it has become so widely recognized.

With makeup artists that can make faces looking burned, cut open, bloody and so much more, Statesville’s scariness lies in its ability to make everything look  real.  The haunted prison uses this realism to make its maze and different rooms just so cinematic in a way that makes each and every guest feel as if they’re in their own horror film.

“It’s cool because every room is different you know, like there’s clowns in one and then zombies in another,” said Staunton. “You know they’re just actors in masks and makeup but once you’re finally in there after waiting in line, it all goes away and you start screaming.”

For the actors behind the clown masks and burnt scarred faces, the screams are one of their favorite aspects to watch.

“There’s something fun about popping out and hearing these people scream for their life,” said Michael Miller, one of the actors at Statesville.  “It’s fun to dress up and have these makeup guys do something really horrifying to your face, the makeup always looks so cool.”

With technicians, makeup artists, actors, and more, Statesville employs over 200 paid workers every Halloween season. For some actors the haunted attraction serves as their first paid job, with many coming straight from school to begin their makeup and costuming.  For others that have been veteran actors with Statesville, the haunted attraction and Halloween season serves as a reminder to why they dress up and scare every year.

“I’ve been here for about 10 years now, and every year I love coming back here, seeing everyone, getting dressed up and doing all of this,” said Miller.  “We’re really a big family here, and you can tell by just hanging around us, everyone here loves what they do and if they didn’t they wouldn’t be here.”

For some of the more trusted and known actors at Statesville, their roles in the haunted prison can grow over the years, sometimes being one of the major scares.

“When you’ve been here for a while your role can get bigger and I’ve sort of had that happened over the years,” said Miller, who described his new role as the “rat guy.”  “I carry around my little mouse here, she’s basically come to be my co-star.”

Carol Staunton had even witnessed the friendly little creature in the haunted attraction.

“That was so creepy, I don’t know why they have to use mice, mice are so creepy,” said Staunton.  “He almost eats the thing and just thinking about that makes me want to throw up. Is that even sanitary for both of them, the actor and the mouse?”

For Kaity Siegel, the general manager of Statesville Haunted Prison, this is exactly the type of reaction that the haunted house is going for.

“One of my favorite features of the haunted prison would be watching all the big tough guys with their girlfriends and wives run out screaming and crying out of Statesville Haunted Prison and saying it wasn’t scary,” Siegel said.

The daughter of Paul Siegel, owner and mastermind behind the creation of Statesville Haunted Prison, Kaity Siegel has seen just how much the Halloween attraction has grown in both popularity and size.

“Back in 1995 we started with a haunted hayride and that year, all but 1.5 days, it rained. We then decided to move it indoors where we can somewhat control the weather,” said Siegel.  “We started with just Statesville Haunted Prison then decided to expand and add a second attractions, since no one else had two haunts in one location.”

And while Statesville remains as one of the oldest haunted houses in the country, the Siegel family and the rest of the Statesville crew make it a point to keep things fresh every year.

“Only way you can keep it fresh is by what we do with making sure at least 30 to 40 percent of the haunts are redone and fresh for new meat to come through our vicious walls,” said Siegel.  “And after we added our second haunted house other haunts took that idea so we had to one up them and three years ago opened our Sniper Zombie Paintball ride which is under maintenance for 2016, but will be bigger and meaner in 2017.”

As Statesville hold its reign as one of the top haunted houses in the state, Siegel and her crew do what they can to provide the scares and enjoy their favorite time of the year.

“Halloween is my favorite time of the year with the spooky atmosphere and the cool temperatures,” said Siegel.  “Only thing that terrifies me around this time is when it snows in October!”

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A look into the actors at Statesville Haunted Prison