A spooky Halloween celebration in Austin

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A creepy man covered in blood, a witch and a lady with a hot pink wig were some of the characters seen walking around Austin Town Hall Park Oct. 25, as part of the Chicago Park District’s Halloween celebration.

Teens and adults helped run a haunted house held in the town hall’s basement that left visitors screaming as the sound of a chainsaw roared every few minutes.

“It’s for the Austin community at large,” said park adviser Tebrena Howard.

Howard, who has been in charge of the event the past three years, said planning usually starts in September.

Last year, more than 300 people showed up; this year more than 400 attended the event at the the park, 5610 W. Lake St., activity instructor Iesha Oliver said.

“We get better and better every year,” Howard said.

The haunted house wasn’t the only feature at last week’s party.

Several inflatables filled the town hall’s first-floor auditorium; there was popcorn and a cotton candy machine; a table with candy-filled bags; and face painting, too. Outside, there was a petting zoo and a pumpkin patch. Later in the evening, a Halloween performance was put on by the Full Effect Entertainment Theatrical Dance Co.

The Austin Town Hall event hasn’t always been so big.

“It started kind of small at first,” said Eric Taylor, an audio visual consultant for the park district who’s worked at the town hall for almost 10 years.

He said in the beginning, people would come to the auditorium and watch a presentation or an event on stage.

Now, children age 7 through teenagers run the haunted house with the help of some adult supervisors. They set up different scenarios and rooms for people to go through.

In the last couple of years, Taylor said they’ve tried to do the unexpected with the goal of scaring people and helping them have fun.

Dondrelle Birghan, a teen volunteer, said this was his second time being a part of the haunted house; he decided to join when a friend suggested the idea.

“It’s fun seeing the reactions when people get scared,” he said.

It’s not just the children who get scared, Dondrelle and Taylor said; adults have also been frightened, even swearing and jumping as they walk through the haunted house.

About 30 people from the Phoenix Military Academy, 145 S Campbell Ave., volunteered at the event, as did about 15 members of local teen clubs.

It’s not too late to celebrate Halloween. Officers from Chicago Police Department District 15 will be distributing candy between 4 and  9 p.m. to youth who visit the station at 5701 W. Madison St. For more information, call 312-743-1495. There’s also a free party from 6 to 9 p.m. in the St. Paul Lutheran School Gymnasium, 846 N. Menard Ave.

Click here to watch a slideshow from the event.



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