Haunted house built with love but designed to scare

Fear Factory is a haunted house filled with fright but built on a foundation of love.

Owners Michelle and Jason Tatar opened Fear Factory Haunted House in Rantoul 12 years ago. Fall has always been their favorite season, Michelle said. They went to haunted houses together when they dated, took their kids to haunted houses and now their kids work in the haunted house.

The Tatars started with only a lawn display for Halloween, which grew to renting out a basement, which finally grew into owning a building. The building is one of the abandoned buildings from when the Chanunte Air Force Base shut down.

“It’s really well done,” said Aerika Hutton, Fear Factory employee. “From the monsters to the decorations, they are very elaborate and thorough.”

With more than 20 rooms, Michelle said it takes participants about 25 minutes to get through the whole building. The Tatars have furnished the rooms and decorated them 360 degrees. Every year they evaluate what worked and what didn’t in order to make improvements. The Tatars modify the rooms by rearranging the furniture, adding different elements or changing the direction in which the people enter the room so there is a different feel every year.

So it won’t get to be an old activity, the Tatars only have the house open during the Halloween season. Michelle is a teacher and Jason a contractor.

The Tatars belong to a Haunted House association where they can exchange ideas with other house owners.

“Every haunted house has a chain saw,” Michelle said.

This haunted house goes more for the element of surprise rather than blood and guts scare tactics. Unfortunately, this causes some people — at least one a night — to get too scared.

In these situations, Michelle just hopes people will have a good sense of humor about it.

“I see if they’re okay, no one really freaks out or gets mad,” Michelle said. “You want to laugh, but you don’t ever want to laugh to their face. It is definitely humorous.”

However, haunted houses aren’t everyone’s idea of fun, as Jessica Nichols, sophomore in LAS, learned after she went to Fear Factory on an October Lovers outing.

“I was more uncomfortable than scared just because it is not my favorite thing,” Nichols said. “It was creepy, but not scary where I was going to have nightmares about it, or not be able to sleep or something.”

Michelle claims that she doesn’t get frightened very easily, so to her the house isn’t that scary.

“I would say 90 percent of people absolutely love it,” Michelle said. “They say that it’s really scary.”

As the owner, Michelle does the makeup and costumes for all the volunteers, a process she says takes about two hours.

She also deals with customers and assists in the various jobs throughout the night.

Working as either guides, “scare-ers,” security or concessions, the Tatars have about 50 volunteers a night helping run the haunted house.

As a guide, Hutton take groups of two to six people through at a time. The guides are instructed not to interact with the customers so they won’t take away from their experience.

Because the guides are so quiet, Hutton said customers often forget she is even there. She enjoys seeing the reactions of people when they get scared.

“It’s always fun when you get a group of college guys, going through screaming like little girls,” Hutton said.

Overall, the haunted house business has been extremely profitable for the Tatars.

However, at the level Fear Factory runs at, Michelle estimates about 80 percent of the profits go right back into the house for improving it.

They also donate to several organizations.

In the future, they are considering renting out the building for murder mystery parties or birthday parties.