This morning a megaphone-equipped truck rolled down my street, the man inside broadcasting unintelligible directions. Did I mention the swirling yellow lights and the siren? Turns out the city is repaving my street and wanted my neighbors to move their cars; however, catapulted from slumber and racing the length of my apartment, I felt certain the apocalypse was nigh. Nighish at the very least.
That’s the sort of person I am. My Significant Other runs ten minutes late? She’s been swept from Lake Shore Drive by a forty-foot wave. The dog sneezes? It’s gotta be leprosy. I can’t remember who wrote Twilight? Brain tumor. (In this case, perhaps a blessing.) In other words, I have no need for roller coasters, recreational drugs or haunted houses. Life is scary enough, thank you very much. But for those of you who’ve never once thought that tiny fork you picked up at an antique store might be haunted, have I got a thrill for you.
Set in quaint Villa Park (I have no idea if Villa Park is quaint), Asylum Xperiment, a Hollywood-style haunted event is right-now-at-this-very-moment setting up shop at The Odeum Expo Center. I spoke with AX’s creators, Dave Link and Mike Skodacek (two guys I can confidently say I have absolutely nothing in common with) about this fearsome annual event.
Our Town What drew you to the haunting industry?
Dave Link Both Mike and I are textbook haunters. We both dreamed of crazy creepy creatures in the night and then created them as front yard haunters. We acted and assisted in many haunts through several decades. We took the financial risk to invest our savings, blood, sweat and tears into a seasonal gamble. Here we are!
OT Dave, how does your background in sculptures and the design industry contribute to making the event singular?
DL I am a technical sculptor and designer. I see and analyze things most people may never observe or comprehend. I thrive on detail, texture and color. So does Asylum. We are one!
OT Mike, I’m told you’re more sinister than Dave. How so?
Mike Skodacek I grew up in a younger generation where the general public wants more gore and creep factor. I've always had a different and twisted way of looking at things.
OT What interests you about real-life mind games and the psychological basis of fear?
MS I want to really scare people...I want scares that people will go home with and think about while they're lying in bed and trying to fall asleep. I enjoy giant monsters and alien-like creatures too, but the things that could really get you in real life and actually happen are what I want to plant in the customer’s head. A good example of this would be the Paranormal Activity movies that keep coming out every October. Simple scares but very effective.
OT This year, the event has been heightened to keep pace with jaded fans. Is bigger always better?
DL We have the opportunity every year to expand into the rest of the 100,000 square feet in the Odeum. We decline, as we are more about creating quality than quantity. Our event is growing size-wise as we feel more comfortable being able to uphold our high quality standard.
OT Your cage maze is no roadside hay bale maze. What gave you the idea to suspend actors from above?
DL We love scares from above. The 50’ ceiling in the Odeum spoke to us one day and said, ”I want an actor to float beneath me” And so it was.
OT How is your runaway elevator attraction accomplished?
DL We have a custom made floating room animated by 4 truck suspension airbags. It is computer programmed to create a light, animation and scent-controlled show to give the illusion of a runaway elevator actually changing floors.
OT Dave, what’s been your proudest AX accomplishment?
DL My proudest accomplishment was actually being at work by noon one day during our 60-day build…seriously. I am proud of our entire Team/AX family—they radiate respect, love and are dedicated to our vision and community.
OT Mike, I hear you act in the scenes.
MS I really don’t act as an actor in my own haunted house anymore. But my favorite memories of acting were always in the process of designing new characters that I could incorporate my friend the chainsaw into. I'd come up with a complete storyline and bio for each character that I built. Again, the characters were [types who] could be walking down the street in your neighborhood...
AX runs Thursdays through Sundays in October. Buy Tickets at http://www.asylumxperiment.com/