Students seek thrills at haunted houses

By John McDermott

With Halloween quickly approaching, students across campus are preparing for the holiday the best way they know how: trying to scare themselves into the Halloween spirit. One quick way to get in the spirit is attending a haunted house, an experience that is based in both tradition and human psychology.

“The biggest reason (people like to go to haunted houses) is people like to get scared,” said Michelle Tatar, co-owner and operator of the Rantoul Fear Factory. “The element of surprise, not knowing what’s going to happen, it gets people in the mood (for Halloween).”

The Fear Factory, 320 E. Letchworth St., Rantoul, has provided frights for college students for the past 11 years, charging $10 admission for the house’s numerous attractions including Michael Myers, Jason of “Friday the 13th” fame, and most recently, a room based on the “Saw” series.

“We get a lot of students, especially from U of I and ISU,” she said. “College kids get caught in a rut of doing the same thing and it’s like a reality break. People say they forget where they are when they go through a haunted house. They feel like they are in a movie or in a completely different place.”

Adding to the spookiness of the Fear Factory are rumors that the haunted house is actually haunted.

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“I don’t believe it, but my husband built this thing and he won’t stay in (the haunted house) by himself,” Tatar said. “(My husband) and his brother swear they hear things move or noises.”

Rantoul Fear Factory’s main competition is Terror on Washington Street at 513 E. Washington St. in Clinton, Ill.

While some view going through haunted houses as a form of escapism, others use neuroscience to explain people’s desire to be frightened.

“It all has to do with what happens in the brain in relation to the fight or flight response,” said Amy Carmen-Peck, psychologist and clinical director at the University’s Counseling Center.

“When people get stressed, when they get startled, or when they get excited, the brain releases all kinds of chemicals and we go into this response, and that response is stimulating, exciting, it feels good,” she said. “The same thing happens in smaller form when you eat jalapeno peppers or have sex.”

For some, these responses can be overwhelming.

“I don’t like haunted houses, I get too scared,” said Jenny Rodenburg, senior in AHS. “But they’re fun. It’s tradition and it’s exciting.”