MELROSE PARK, Ill. (CBS) — Halloween will look a lot different this year around Chicago, as Illinois health officials released guidelines for the holiday.
As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported, the new rules mean haunted houses are getting the news that they should close down.
Every night, a haunted house now set up in Melrose Park is sold out. Right now, multiple haunted house owners are meeting to work out safety details – but state health leaders said there is not a safe way for them to open at all.
Illinois health officials said anything done for Halloween will have to be done at a social distance of 6 feet. Candy will have to be spread on tables for trick-or-treating.
And the ghosts, goblins, and ghouls will have to celebrate Halloween by themselves, because the state said going into a haunted house to see them is not an option.
“The problem is with indoor haunted houses, which tend to be very enclosed; not a lot of open space, and as a result, the viral load can get high very quickly,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday.
Officials made it clear that Phase 4 pandemic reopening guidelines should be closed. But some owners told CBS 2 they see things differently.
The Dungeon of Doom in Zion has been open and operating, after planning a COVID-19-safe debut for months. They require masks or face shields on actors, and ticketing is also different – social distancing and time slots will separate groups.
There are even hard plastic barriers.
In the western suburbs, Aurora’s mayor recently promoted a local haunted house called Basement of the Dead, which also pledged safety.
“We train or actors to still be this creepy character, but to also keep their distance,” Basement of the Dead owner Jason Seneker said at a recent news conference with Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.
CBS 2 emailed the Illinois Department of Public Health for clarification about why haunted houses are not safe. A representative said, “People are prone to screaming while going through a haunted house, which can facilitate the spread of the virus.”
“I encourage people to accept the situation, but try to be creative this holiday season,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
The recommendation now is to stick to open-air festivities such as an outdoor haunted forest. Officials are also urging people to avoid crowded costume parties.
Some of the owners are part of a haunted house association, which was meeting late Wednesday and was expected to put out a news release to tell people they are still going to remain open indoors.
But while some owners said they got clearance to open by local governments, the IDPH said it is still not allowed. Still, owners said they are trying their hardest to keep haunted houses as safe as possible.