Visitors to Terror on the Railroad in Union often ask, “Are there any clowns in there?”
This year, the answer is definitely “yes.” The newest attraction, Cirque de Decay, is all about clowns. Evil, bloody, sneaky, caged, haunting, scary clowns.
“I thought it’d be fun to throw this at them,” said organizer Jennifer Landorf as she walked through a large circus tent built at the Illinois Railway Museum, 7000 Olson Road, Union.
Terror on the Railroad has been hosted at the museum for the past seven years as a fundraiser for the organization. Completely created and operated by volunteers, the event drew roughly 5,000 visitors last year.
This year’s Terror on the Railroad is open 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights this month, beginning Oct. 4.
Landorf starts thinking in November about the following year’s attraction.
“I ask people what their biggest fears are and work off of that,” she said.
The No. 1 answer? Clowns.
Landorf had hoped to turn an actual train into a circus train, but one wasn’t available for use at the museum.
So the group rented the tent, and have created a winding path inside.
As in years’ past, the event also includes a stationary, “abandoned” Train of Chills, as well as the “possessed” Screamliner, which takes visitors on a ride.
Tickets cost $13 for the Cirque de Decay and the stationary Train of Chills. To ride the Screamliner, an actual passenger train car from the 1950s, guests are asked to pay an extra $5.
Visitors to the new Cirque de Decay will enter the tent into a waiting area with “twisted” games. For instance, similar to the Grand Prize Game on the classic “The Bozo Show,” they’ll toss doll heads into buckets, Landorf said.
They’ll then wind through a maze of various rooms, such as a “candy-themed” room, a carnival room and others.
“This is what I call claustrophobia,” said Landorf at an area with inflatable lining that puffs up when guests enter.
There’ll be plenty of surprises along the way, she said.
Landorf, who’s favorite movie growing up was Stephen King’s “It,” featuring a sadistic clown, has coordinated the event since its beginning drawing on her love of all things scary.
She’s the mastermind behind the design, while roughly 50 volunteers each night prepare to terrorize guests.
Geared toward ages 13 and older and not recommended for anyone with medical conditions that could harm them if they experience intense fear, loud noises and strobe light areas, there’s a reason “terror” is in the title.
“I’d say it’s pretty scary,” Landorf said.