The 13th Floor Haunted House brings Torment and Terror to the Windy City!

13th Floor and House of Torment Haunted Houses in Chicago

Road Trip Attraction Interview: Louisville Halloween talks to 13th Floor Entertainment Group’s Chris Stafford about Chicago’s nationally rated 13th Floor Haunted House and House of Torment!

Welcome, foolish mortals, to the first in a new series of interviews and articles that will allow me, The Phantom of the Ville, to stretch out with my bony fingers and cast my fearsome shadow across our River City borders and into regions beyond. There are many nationally recognized and feared haunted attractions within a reasonable drive of our own haunted Ville (visit our Road Trips page), and this week we’re exploring Chicago’s 13th Floor Haunted House and House of Torment in our EXCLUSIVE interview with 13th Floor Entertainment Group’s Chris Stafford!

Louisville Halloween: Tell us a little about the early days of 13th Floor Entertainment and how you got your start in the Halloween/haunted attraction business?

13th Floor's Chris Stafford

Chris Stafford (CS): I started working in a local haunted house when I was fifteen.  I worked there through high school, college and early adulthood.  I had some of the best experiences of my life working there. Interestingly enough, while at school I was a Business and Pre-Med major and at some point the business influence kind of took over and led me in that direction versus medicine.

Is there a singular moment in your childhood that stands out as the moment you knew you loved Halloween/horror/everything spooky?

CS: Really, it was when I went to work at the haunted house when I was a teenager.  I was fifteen and a good friend of mine from high school called me up after school one day and said, “Do you want to go scare some people tonight?” and I was intrigued.  It sounded fun.  So, I went out there with him that night, had a great time and got bit by the bug.  I’ve stuck with it ever since and knew that some day I would be interested in potentially doing it professionally.

Do you remember your first haunted house (as a guest, not as an owner)? Tell us about that experience.

CS: I do.  It was a very classic, vintage and cheesy haunted house in Denver.  It was largely plastic walls, creepy music, strobe lights, extremely dark and I remember being terrified.  A little known secret to this day is – if you want to scare me, then put me in the dark.  I’m way more afraid of what I can’t see than what I can.

Is there a “13th Floor formula” that goes into all your attractions? In other words, are there signature things that your fans recognize that they only find in your attractions?

13th Floor and House of Torment Chicago

CS: I don’t know whether or not our fans recognize our signature “things” but I do know that we tend to take different rooms, scares, environments or concepts that we know are successful at one location and multiply them across all locations.  It seems like people across the country seem to enjoy the same thing.

Tell us about your latest werewolf themed attraction at The 13th Floor Chicago, “Feral Moon.” Vampires were big in the 90’s and zombies have been big for the last 10 years. Do you think werewolves are due for a pop culture comeback?

CS: I don’t know that I know that werewolves are due for a pop culture comeback, but I do know that MTV is running TeenWolf, and I guess that makes it relevant.  Prior to that, there were werewolves heavily involved the Twilight series and I think those are still relevant; they haven’t been gone that long and I think people still look to them.  But, I think overall what we were looking to do with werewolves is bring back some of the more classic Halloween icons and kind of put our twist on them.  We feel like, for a lot of years in this industry, people have been creative in developing these really cool characters, but they’ve kind of diverted from the traditional Halloween characters.  So that was the motivation behind werewolves in the “Feral Moon” attraction.

You also have a House of Torment in Chicago? What’s the biggest difference between your 13th Floor attractions and your House of Torment  attractions?

CS: They each have their own flavor.  What I mean is, 13th Floor started in Denver and the flavor of that attraction is evident in the other ones that have been built across the country.  House of Torment in Chicago was obviously born out of House of Torment in Austin, which is a unique attraction in its own right.  I think each of those locations carry over the flavor from their predecessor, and I think that’s what makes them different.  13th Floor was started in one part of the country, and House of Torment in the other part of the country and now they’re spreading their wings and moving across the country.

Tell us about your “Zombie Apocalypse Live” events? Do you think the “interactive element” is a trend that will be growing bigger in the coming years?

13th Floor and House of Torment Chicago

CS: Sure.  The “Zombie Apocalypse Live” event is probably the most interactive event that we do where you actually interact with the actors by utilizing the tactical laser tag weapons and I think people crave that kind of feedback.  I think people like to be more involved in the action versus a spectator.  If you look at media, it’s happening everywhere, with 360 video and virtual reality.  I definitely think that interactive entertainment is popular now and it’s going to continue to be popular in years to come.

You also have one of your signature Escape Games, “The Great Room Escape,” in Chicago with both Houdini and Zombie themed rooms. Do spooky themes and scare tactics come into play in your Escape Rooms? How has your years of haunt experience helped you become an Escape Room owner?

CS: In regards to “The Great Room Escape” games, Houdini is definitely a more tame attraction and Zombie is more horror themed.  It was kind of just a natural progression for us that if we were going to do an Escape Game we would do something that was horror related because that’s kind of our wheelhouse.  As far as how our years of experience have helped us, obviously we have tons of experience in creating immersive and interactive environments.  I mean that’s what we do; the only thing that had to happen in addition to that was to implement the game play in a more controlled environment as opposed to a walk-through.  So, I absolutely think that haunted house owners/operators have a leg up when it comes to designing the immersive environments that help to make up a really cool Escape Game experience.  I think it’s an exciting opportunity for growth for us.

Your off season haunt event, Valentine X, comes to your Chicago 13th Floor attraction. Do you see the trend of off season events, like Christmas haunts, expanding in the future?

CS: I see the trend of off season events increasing if people commit to it.  What I mean by that is, unlike a lot of businesses, we only have one time a year to market a product, so we learn from what we did one year but we have to wait 12 months to do it again, so we have to stay committed to understanding what the customer wants, understanding what they liked about what we just did and changing things to make the product more attractive the next year.  In addition to that, it’s obviously not just about the attraction, but the marketing behind it and I think that’s something our company does well; continually adjusting how we’re marketing our events, continually trying to focus on the people that are buying tickets to our events, consistently trying to provide the product that they’re interested in and provide it to them at the right time.  So, as far as off season events, I see them growing because we are committed to developing them.

We’d like to send out a thanks to Chris Stafford and Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group for taking the time to chat with us. Learn more about the House of Torment in Chicago and The 13th Floor Haunted House in Chicago on our Chicago Road Trips page. If you have time to make the drive, you won’t want to miss these haunts!

The Phantom of The Ville

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