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Some Haunted Houses Are Set To Open This Week In Chicago Area, But They Take All Year To Prepare

OAK LAWN, Ill. (CBS) -- Summerlike temperatures persist this last September, but there are fall-like feels in the suburbs - where some haunted houses are preparing to open this week.

Yes, spooky season is upon us. But as CBS 2's Lauren Victory shared from Oak Lawn, those frightening attractions take year-round preparation.

It was sunny and 80 degrees outside when Victory visited, but the goal inside "Midnight Terror" is to chill you to the bone.

"You're kind of menacing them as they come through here," said general manager Japes Palles, coaching one of his actors. He improvised a scary scene specifically for our camera.

"Go from small to big," he told a young woman crouched above our heads and dressed in a horrifying costume.

The run-through is a good opportunity to give pointers to his crew ahead of Midnight Terror's opening on Friday, Sept. 24.

"Make sure you're using your hands and kind of getting ratty," Palles instructs Jonathan Garcia, who used to be a customer and returned this year as a character. Garcia's role is "creepy sewer rat."

"I thought it'd be fun to dress as something new and jump around," Garcia said.

Kyle Eaton wore a busted birdcage around his head and violently shook throughout the scene.

"Some people run. Some people will just freeze up," he said of his favorite reaction from visitors.

Producing jolts of terror is only part of what it takes to haunt the public. Think of all the equipment: broken chains, old tires, busted cages and more.

"A lot of stuff we secondhand find and we just try to get some creative people together to turn trash into treasure," said Andrew Martingello, who manages the actors and has been heavily involved in creating the storyline at Midnight Terror for the past six years.

Planning starts in January. Set construction in March. Makeup and costume design is also quite time consuming.

"I think the average customer doesn't recognize the hours and hours and hours of work that goes into building and running everything," said Palles, who has been working in the haunted house industry for two decades.

Of course, crews at Halloween attractions across the Country also have the added challenge of managing the scare that is COVID-19.

Last fall's limited season was good practice for integrating masks into everyone's look. At Midnight Terror, smaller than normal groups are sent through with less creatures than usual waiting to pounce.

"We use sound a lot to our advantage. A lot of tight spaces and atmosphere really gets people," said Martingello of how they still get big screams with tinier crews.

Whatever they're doing, it must work.

"They [our CBS 2 reporter and photographer] knew you were there, and they flinched anyways. So, well done, sir," said Palles complimenting one of his actors.

Last year got confusing with Gov. JB Pritzker calling on for no haunted houses, but several attractions opening anyway.

What are the rules this season?

There are no capacity limits, but everyone must wear a mask inside regardless of vaccination status.

"Businesses are encouraged to require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 48 hours for admission. Outdoor events remain the best option," a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health tells CBS 2.

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