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By Carmen Ensinger
It is that time of year – time for the fright of your life at 217 Terror in Roodhouse – on of the premier haunted attractions in the state of Illinois.
217 Terror, owned by Adam and Tina Cathers, opened for its 16th season this past Friday, Oct. 1 to a waiting crowd ready to have the pants scared off of them with the horrors waiting within the walls ahead.
Tina Cathers said it was your typical` opening night – things didn’t go exactly as planned, but everything worked out in the end.
“I think we were about 25 minutes late in opening just trying to get those last minute things adjusted like the lighting and the sound just right,” she said. “But the patrons in line waiting didn’t mind and were so excited that we were even opening because they were concerned as they had noticed that the original house had come down and were afraid that it was the end of 217 Terror, but it is not.”
The old house that had housed 217 Terror for around 13 or 14 of the past 16 years was torn down earlier this year and the Cathers are in the process of erecting two new buildings on the property to replace it.
The trouble started back in 2019 when the State of Illinois came down on 217 Terror saying they would be required to install a sprinkler system in the old home, which was only used for the one month out of the year. It was too costly a proposition, so the Cathers opted, rather than close down, to utilize an open, outdoor concept that year. It was just as successful as the building.
And, as it turned out, the following year, when COVID hit, because they had an open, outdoor concept, they were one of the few haunted attractions that were able to even be open. They had a banner year last year.
“Last year, we saw an increase in people traveling here from the Collinsville, Edwardsville area to our haunt,” Cathers said. “We also had a lot of people come here from all over including Champaign, Chicago, Springfield, St. Louis, Hannibal, and other areas.”
But, as the new buildings are not completed yet, this year is also an open air concept venue, meaning there is no ceiling so it allows airflow at all times. While one of the new buildings will be the haunted house, the other building will be used as a waiting area for those in line to go through as well as a break room for the volunteers and a dressing room for those volunteers.
All of the ghosts, goblins and ghouls one sees while going through the haunted house are volunteers. Cathers said there are times when she has to turn people away who want to be a volunteer to dress up and scare people. Cathers was asked what she thought the big attraction was to be a volunteer.
“I think a few things go into it,” she said. “One is you get to do something different – something outside the norm. You get to dress up and become a character and be or act like something or somebody completely different from what your normal life is like. Secondly, I think it is a sense of being part of a team, or part of a second family. Plus, you get to make people scream and you get to be really creative in the process. We try to encourage them to have creative control of their character.”
There are several new additions this year, including three new games, which go along with the ticket price. All three are Halloween themed games.
The first game is the Zombie Brain Game.
“We have this zombie prop that rotates and moves around and his head is hollow,” Cathers said. “You have to use this launch pad and a mallet and slam down on this board and catapult a brain and try to get it into his head.”
After trying and succeeding and/or failing at that game, one can move onto the Pirate game. This game is a skeleton pirate holding a chalice. One must put a gold coin, which is placed on the end of a pirate sword, and flip it into the chalice.
The third game is a skeleton clown holding a neon colored bowling pin which is a ring toss game – the object of which is to toss the rings onto the bowling pin.
“These are all fun games for all ages – kids and adults alike,” Cathers said. “All ages can play and potentially win.”
As for the haunted house itself, there are three areas to visit – the creepy clown area, the insane asylum and Mad Molly’s Playhouse.
Every year, 217 Terror holds a Family Friendly Night, or rather, afternoon. This year Family Friendly Night will be held on Oct. 24 from 1-4 p.m.
“Family Friendly Night is free for everyone,” Cathers said. “Adults and children alike can come and go through the haunted house on this day. Even adults who don’t have children are welcome to come and go through.”
There will, however, be a donation booth set up to help the Roodhouse Fire Department and their Christmas program which helps provide Christmas presents to local children.
“We partner with the Roodhouse Fire Department and just ask people that come through to make a donation of anything they can and that money is then donated to the fire department,” Cathers said. “Then, 217 Terror matches what we raise in the booth and that helps the fire department with their annual Christmas program that they do for the community. The community, especially the city and the fire department has been very supportive of us, as has the entire county and the surrounding area, and this is just our way of giving back.”
217 Terror is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the month of October. Hours on Friday and Saturday is 7 p.m. till Midnight and on Sunday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Last night will be Halloween night, Oct 31.