BARTONVILLE, Ill. (WMBD) — The Haunted Infirmary and Old State Mine Haunted Trail are mixing history with horror.
Every Friday and Saturday for the entire month of October, you can visit Bartonville and see the Old State Mine Haunted Trail.
“We wanna make sure that when we do our haunted attraction people know, it’s all in fun, it’s all in fear, it’s for people to just come out and have a good time,” said Christina Morris, director of the Haunted Infirmary and Old State Mine.
The trail gives visitors a haunted history lesson filled with wonder and surprises. The biggest challenge this year for Morris and her crew was not keeping folks frightened on the trail, but keeping them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We originally do the Haunted Infirmary. We’re at the Pollak Hospital, located at the Peoria State Hospital, but due to the COVID situation, we couldn’t open the indoor haunted attraction,” Morris said. “We have to have all our employees follow the basic COVID regulations like other places of employment. We have to do temperature checks, we evaluate every situation. we have to make sure if anyone is ill, they have to report it to us, just the same thing any other business would perform.”
Through perseverance and ingenuity, Morris got creative.
“I think when people come in, the most thing they like about our attraction is timed release, which actually played right into our hand for the COVID regulations. See, we have to be kept so far distanced,” Morris said. “So within a month, we created a 1/8 mile of a trail, we themed it out as the Old State Mine.”
“So when we keep our line at 6 feet, we knew we had to keep our attraction far apart as well. Having the trail based we do, the way we theme it out, the way,” Morris added.
Morris said because the property is an industrial park, it gave them a lot of extra space.
“The village of Bartonville has been wonderful to us by allowing us to close down the roads. This allows us to take our Road Safe barrels, donated by Road Safe, and put 6 foot distancing in place. That’s really worked out so well with our customers, we might be implementing that from now on. It lets our customers be here on their own, alone, and not feel like they’re smashed into a crowd,” Morris said.
Morris said there were a slate mine and coal mine on the hilltop where her attraction lays. Her characters help bring it all to life.
“We make up our own story about how doom has infected the area. If you come out to our attraction, you’ll see one-of-a-kind actors, everything, we try to make ourselves as original as possible so that we’re not like anything else you’ll see,” Morris said.
“We base ourselves off the theatrical side of a haunted attraction instead of just people jumping out and screaming at you. We actually have lines and we practicing the same way you would as a play,” Morris said. “That way when you come in, you feel like you’re a part of something than just jump-out scares. We base our themes off history which sets us apart a little bit, but we also add that original flair to it.”
Creeper, the Warden, and many more characters welcome you, socially-distanced of course, through your journey.
Morris said your night of fright and fun will also fund the rich history of the Industrial Park.
“This is a cottage from the Peoria State Hospital, it was built in 1929. We purchased the building last year and have been restoring it. We will be putting the Peoria State Hospital Museum inside of this cottage,” Morris said.
She said the history of the land is very rich, and she’s hoping to help preserve it for years to come.
“We are historically the Peoria State Hospital grounds. We were originally 63 buildings, there’s only 12 that remain. We’ve been working on the hilltop now for 10 years doing Haunts for History. The reason we do that is, the haunted attractions will come in and help us restore and save some of this historic property,” she said.
“It was the number one nursing school for 38 years. The large limestone building was a beautiful structure, it was actually made that way because Dr. Zeller wanted to lure in young women to come work at his institution,” Morris said. “After you were trained here, as early as 1903, a woman could support herself with a job that she would be able to get in the medical industry. That was cutting edge for its time.”
Even though the nursing dorm was torn down years ago, Morris said the haunts they perform don’t deal with doctors or nurses.
“The reason we do not participate in being an asylum during our haunted attraction is because we never want to make fun of what this hilltop actually was. It was the number one institution of the 69 of its 71 years,” Morris said. “It was an amazing place with amazing history. Throughout the rest of the year, we share that with people.”
You can help preserve the area by coming out to the Old State Mine Haunted Trail. It’s $10 to get in, and your donations go towards preserving the buildings in the Industrial Park.
The Old State Mine is open each Friday and Saturday in October from 7:00 p.m. to midnight. Morris did say tickets sell out very fast, some nights even by 8:30 p.m.
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