Totally Triggered at the House of Torment

I’m not easily spooked. I’m afraid of two things: elbow cancer and terminal writer’s block so I want to be really clear about my visit last night to the House of Torment in Morton Grove: that was not me doing all that shrieking. I was NOT afraid.

The nationally celebrated haunted house has returned to the suburbs of Chicago this fall to thrill for a third season. Located at 8240 North Austin Avenue in Morton Grove, Illinois, House of Torment will have two shows in one location for one price. This year’s attractions will offer two new themes: The Swarm and Nightmare High: Fall Harvest, with even more actor assisted scares plus an enhanced state-of-the-art custom sound system bolstering the 10,000-square foot addition from last year.

Behind the jump scares and chainsaws in the House of Torment is a brilliant design scheme based on a succession of phobias. Each section triggers a host of nascent fears that set your skin crawling just long enough to amp your anxiety into the nth degree–then one of the 150 actors they employ sneaks up behind you and breathes down your neck.

Actor at House of Torment Chicago


The Swarm is all about bugs and if you’ve got arachnophobia or whatever phobia is associated with an infestation of giant roaches, then maybe don’t go. That’s not the scariest part of the Swarm, though.

As a bona fide adult type person who’s raised children and been audited by the IRS and had a colonoscopy I can tell you there’s only one thing I’m truly afraid of and that’s having people come over when my house is dirty. There’s a brief series of rooms in The Swarm designed specifically for that. It’s like waking up in the very ickiest episode of Hoarders. Garbage spills out of an open refrigerator in a kitchen piled two-feet deep with rotting food, pizza boxes, dirty dishes–I don’t know why the bulging mound of half empty milk jugs was so . . . I can’t go on. I was literally frozen in place. The tiny person accompanying me who was DEFINITELY NOT MY WIFE WHO IS A DAMN PROFESSIONAL was clinging to my back like a psychotic adjoined twin, beating me and screaming into my ear GET OUT! RUN! AAAAAAHHHHH! DISHES! I couldn’t decide if I should scram or stay and clean up.

As soon as you finally and thank-Godfully exit The Swarm, you’re in line again for another haunted house. Yay, just what you needed!

Nightmare High: Fall Harvest is loaded to the gills with loud bangs, sudden hissing, foghorns, live actors who are chillingly effective, and maybe way too many chainsaw-wielding lunatics. Also, there are two sections in this experience which were . . . I’m not saying I was scared I’m just saying I was disoriented and genuinely concerned.

The Black and White room is ingeniously simple. It triggers a host of fears usually lodged safely in the primitive hind-brain where they never come to play because we don’t normally live in a world of nerve-wracking psychobabble and horror. You will go the wrong way. You will get lost. You will not know which way is the way you just went and you will get anxious and if you don’t already have symmetriphobia (fear of symmetry) and mazephobia (fear of being lost) you’ll entertain them briefly here. And look, pay attention to the deranged psycho who keeps yelling ‘you’re going the wrong way’. It’s not part of the script. You are actually going the wrong way and that weird little door you find is for the crew, not your fat ass. You’ll have to start over again. Idiot.

If you have leukophobia, selaphobia, homichlophobia, or kenophobia the ‘white room’ will ruin you. This is the room you’ll be talking about long after you’re chased out of the attraction by a chainsaw-wielding partially peutrified undead gym teacher. And I’m not saying I was scared. Ha. The very idea! I’m just saying that in this particular section I was suddenly and totally paralyzed. I couldn’t tell up from down, back from front, left from right. The design is pure genius because it delivers all the effects of being in a perfectly and totally and maddeningly pitch black room, except that it’s the exact opposite. It’s the brightest white you’ve ever seen. It could be as big as a football field or as small as a broom closet–you have no idea. And there’s some kind of wound-faced albino homunculus who materializes and dematerializes around you like a goddam spasmodic cartoon.

And though, for legal reasons, I’m compelled to tell you my diminutive companion who was DEFINITELY NOT MY VERY PROFESSIONAL WIFE did not under any circumstances lose control of her bladder even for a second, I am equally compelled to tell you, gentle reader, the “white room” requires extra pants.

Finally, I’d like to say thank you to the talented actress playing ‘Lucky’ the clown. I am thankful my sudden and ENTIRELY INVOLUNTARY efforts to murder you were unsuccessful. You are good at that thing you did that made me try to kill you.

Below is a partial list of the phobias triggered by the House of Torment.

  • Haphephobia – fear of being touched
  • Apotemnophobia – fear of amputees
  • Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
  • Ataxophobia – fear of disorder or untidiness
  • Automysophobia – fear of being dirty.
  • Scotophobia – fear of darkness
  • Selaphobia – fear of light flashes
  • Bacteriophobia – fear of bacteria.
  • Bibliophobia – fear of books.
  • Homichlophobia – fear of fog
  • Bogyphobia – fear of bogies or the bogeyman
  • Carnophobia – fear of meat
  • Catoptrophobia – fear of mirrors
  • Kenophobia – fear of voids or empty spaces
  • Leukophobia – fear of the color white
  • Claustrophobia – fear of confined spaces
  • Scoionophobia – fear of school
  • Cnidophobia – fear of strings
  • Coimetrophobia – fear of cemeteries
  • Coulrophobia – fear of clowns, fear of clowns, fear of clowns, oh my God, fear of clowns.

House of Torment Chicago is open for the Halloween season and other events year-round at 8240 North Austin Avenue, Morton Grove, Illinois 60053, please call 224-888-1031 or visit for more information.






Leave a Reply