WAUKEGAN, Illinois –
Halloween in Waukegan, Illinois is anticipated by the entire town, as every October for the past 8 years, the Graham family has unveiled their haunted house to the neighborhood, with the event drawing thousands of visitors throughout the season.
The event became so popular that for the third year in a row, local police had to set up barricades to keep both automobile and pedestrian traffic moving along at an orderly pace, and the Graham’s started pre-selling tickets to the event to keep track of visitors.
“That’s how we noticed something was off,” said Hank Graham, owner of the Wicked Waukegan Haunted House. “The tickets came up one short when we counted out the receipts at the end of the day. That was the first or second night of the attraction, at the beginning of this month.”
The mystery of the incorrect ticket count was solved late last week when a 6-year-old visitor told his parents he was very frightened of the “old, dead stinky man” on the second level. “I heard the little boy say that,” said Hank, “and I thought – ‘Oh great!’ If kids are getting a scare, well, that’s the whole fun of it. Every year we add new props – we have mummies, skeletons, and mannequins, plus the ol’ peeled grapes as eyeballs in a bowl, strobe lights, fog machines – crowd favorites, I guess you’d call them. Unfortunately, it was not one of our props that had scared the boy.”
That same evening, 31-year-old Susan Johnston, screamed in terror as her children, who she was accompanying through the haunt, accidentally bumped into what they thought was a prop dummy, and discovered it to be an actual dead body.
“I told them to be careful as we went through, but my little Grace, I think she touched him and it knocked him over, and his arm literally ripped right off his body! Blood and other bodily fluids got all over Grace’s jacket and in her hair, and my son Ricky got some sort of slime all over his hand. They were both terrified. It smelled so bad when we first walked in, but we thought it was all just part of the attraction. Both of my children vomited right there on the floor.”
According to police, a 71-year-old man, whose identity has not been released pending notification to the family, had leaned up against a corner of the building after climbing the stairs to the second floor, and had apparently passed away. “We don’t yet know whether he had a heart attack or an existing illness that may have caused his death,” said Officer Allison Garfield, who had been on the scene to direct traffic. “It was mayhem after he was discovered, though. People ran from the building screaming, but not in a good, fun way as you’d expect at a place like this.”
“To think that someone could live all alone in this world in a way that no one would notice you gone for multiple weeks, and he made a trip here all by himself to have some fun…We didn’t notice him ourselves – it’s just awful,” Said Lynn Graham. “We have so many props up there I guess I thought Hank put him up there, and he thought I did.”
The local health department shut down the Halloween exhibit, but authorities did not file charges against the Graham family. “It was just an unfortunate accident,” said Officer Garfield. “These are just some wonderful people who open their home every year for people to have some fun, and this just put a shadow over the whole thing.”
The Grahams have closed their attraction for the remainder of the season, but said they do plan to re-open the haunt next year.