Friends create haunted attraction in old opera house

Heidi Terry-Litchfield, The Associated Press


Heidi Terry-Litchfield, The Associated Press

By Heidi Terry-Litchfield

COAL CITY, Ill. – In what was once the Coal City Opera House the same high-pitched notes that were heard a century ago are being heard this year – this time from the screams and squeals of those going through Nightmare on Broadway.

Sean Brooks, Jake Davito, Nick Crawford, Ryan D’Orazio, and Scott Kramer have decided to kick up their annual haunted trail a notch to become a full-fledged haunted house.

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For the past six years the group of friends have held what Brooks describes as a haunted trail that people from the community were able to go through on Halloween.

“It was always free and last year we received some donations,” said Brooks. “We decided to charge this year and donate a percentage of the proceeds to United Cerebral Palsy.”

He said they chose UCP after one of their sponsors mentioned the group.

Brooks’ uncle owns the building on Broadway Street that once housed the Coal City Opera House, and told the group they could use it.

“We are hoping to get historical status on the building that would allow us to get some grants,” said Brooks. “We would then like to create a more permanent structure haunted house.”

Guests entering the haunt will find a maze created from black plastic curtains that will guide them zig-zag through the second floor, encountering creatures both alive and fake, never knowing which is which until it’s too late.

Brooks said he feels the big scare of his haunt is the “clown room.” The room which takes up nearly half of the second floor is dedicated to the clowns of nightmares instead of circuses.

“A lot of people are scared of clowns,” he said. “We are giving them a whole room of their fear.”

Brooks said moving into an actual building and extending their hours – now open three nights a week, from last weekend through Halloween – seemed like the natural progression of things.

“Each year we get bigger and bigger,” he said. “With the addition of sponsors from the business community this year we felt it was time.”

Brooks hinted at a surprise that may happen on Halloween night but wouldn’t give any specific details saying he’d like to keep it a secret.

He has always loved going to haunted houses as well as putting on the trail each year but he admits they don’t scare him anymore.

“I like going to other haunted houses to get ideas,” he said. “I can’t be scared now that I’m a haunted house owner.”

The group of guys have been working tirelessly each night to get the house ready for opening night.

Even Davito’s parents Chet and Pat could be found cleaning up the mess made from the installation of the props.

The top floor of 569 S. Broadway Street had been used by another group as a haunted house in 2001, but Brooks said that isn’t the only haunting story that has been told about the building.

“It’s been rumored that the place is actually haunted,” he said. “One person claims to have seen and spoken to a ghost.”

The male ghost is believed to be the same one that has been writing his name “Jeremy” on the walls. He was an actor who died after one of the plays in the building.

“Other’s have claimed to hear baby’s crying or foot steps,” he said.

Whether or not you believe any of the rumors, Brooks said it adds to the idea of the haunted house being there.