Fear City Haunted House adds school to scare lineup in Morton Grove

The fourth season of Fear City Haunted House in Morton Grove promises to deliver plenty of scares as usual, but the debut of a cursed and abandoned all-girls school may leave scare-seekers running out the door.

Every year, Fear City owners Chuck Grendys and Jim Lichon spice up their 35-room main haunted house of horrors with the addition of a new separate haunted attraction.

The main part of the attraction, a decaying urban scene that takes visitors through a zombie- and ghoul-filled post-apocalyptic Chicago, will be coupled this year with a separate yet equally-creepy abandoned Catholic school, where unspeakable horrors allegedly took place many years ago.

Still two months ahead of Halloween season, Grendys and Lichon are adding the finishing touches to the 6,500-square foot “Our Lady of the Cursed,” with abandoned classrooms, a decaying cafeteria and creepily quiet hallways. Of course, a few creatures are waiting behind the doors of closed lockers lining the hall.

For the thousands of people who have come to experience Fear City over the years, they know it’s not your typical spook house.

From a hoarding room piled high with all sorts of disgusting real-life things to the rumbling broken-down haunted Red Line car and a very real-looking bloody butcher shop, Fear City each year puts on an elaborate show that has hundreds of people waiting in lines that stretch up to two-and-a-half hours long on weekend nights in October.

The 40,000-square-foot warehouse that houses Fear City is curated year-round by Grendys and Lichon, who spend all year searching garage sales, thrift stores and prop stores to find more scary stuff to add to their sets, many of which are made of parts from actual movies and TV shows.

Grendys — the owner of a movie-set building shop in Chicago called Big City Sets, and Lichon — an Emmy-winning set director who worked for Harpo Studios — met while working on the set of a Victoria’s Secret commercial several years ago.

On a muggy August evening, Grendys sat in an office wearing a “Fear City” T-shirt while sitting behind a massive calendar marking down the days until Halloween season, and recalled his story about meeting Lichon.

“We started talking about our future career plans, and we said ‘Hey, let’s do a haunted house,’” Grendys said. “Usually when people bring these kinds of things up, no one actually calls, but he did.”

When Harpo’s days in Chicago ended, Lichon had extra time on his hands to help Grendys tour haunted houses all over the Midwest.

Armed with plenty of ideas, the two got to work on making their dream of creating the best haunted house in the Chicago area a reality.

They settled into an empty warehouse building at 8240 N. Austin Ave. that once was once used for manufacturing pink lawn flamingos.

They hired actors, brought in loads and loads of props from movies and TV shows, and anything scary they could get their hands on.

Four years later, Fear City is now a go-to attraction every Halloween season for thousands of people of all ages all over the Chicago area — although the recommended minimum age for entry is 12.

“People know their kids better than we do,” Grendys said, “So if your kid is going to be sleeping in bed with you scared for the next month, it’s at your own risk.”

Fear City Chicago and Our Lady of the Cursed will open to the public on October 3. Doors open at 7 p.m. on show days and run until 11 p.m. on weeknights and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays through November 1.

Tickets are $25 for Fear City Chicago, and $20 for Our Lady of the Cursed. A combo ticket to both is $35.

A portion of proceeds from ticket sales support the Niles Township High Schools District 219 Education Foundation, which helps students in need.

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