PRINCETON — What began as a fundraiser 10 years ago to help carry the Bureau County Fair through the winter has now transformed into one of the most successful haunted attractions in Bureau County: Nightmare on Fairgrounds Road.
Spearheading the event since its early beginnings is Nightmare on Fairgrounds Road haunt manager Dave Mead. He strives to appeal to families and those who love haunted attractions but are on tight budgets.
“I had no intentions of becoming as involved as I am now. Haunted houses were becoming somewhat popular back then. We never envisioned it would become the event that it is today. We are the number one attraction for the fair,” Mead said. “We want to offer a show that is completely unexpected. A lot of our features and attractions are something you’d expect in larger cities like Chicago or the Quad Cities.
“We’ve been successful because we give the people the most for their money.”
Some of the main attractions include haunted barns, nightmare hotel, nightmare stage, mummies’ eatery and hayrack rides.
Attraction includes Bureau County haunted stories by author
New to this year’s venue is paranormal author and investigator David Youngquist. Mead said this is something that fans of paranormal will not want to miss.
“Youngquist will be doing nightly presentations on local haunted places and real ghosts of Bureau County in the nightmare hotel, which is completely free. This is something you definitely want to take advantage of if you’re not interested in the main haunted attraction,” Mead explained. “It’s more of a festival for Halloween. Anything people are interested in, we try to bring in.”
Youngquist has written two books “Ghosts of the Illinois Canal System” and “Ghosts of Interstate 80.”
Nightmare on the Fairgrounds will be open every Friday and Saturday night in October 7-10 p.m. Admission into the haunted barns will be $8, or a speed pass can be purchased for $10. However, admission is free into the nightmare hotel and the nightmare stage. A monster pass can be purchased for $30, which can be used for unlimited access in 2013.
Mead said to keep things interesting from year to year, his crew really has to play up the special effects, as well as seeking inspiration from current pop culture such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the horror industry.
“We try to attract people who love graphic horror movies, but we also have families. So we need to be a broad range haunted attraction. Most of the volunteers that work within the haunt bring their favorite characters to life, but we also have specific characters we really need like Frankenstein,” Mead explained. “The horror industry changes things, so we need to bring in new characters because of that.”