Vale brings Hollywood terror through

By Web Master

Kimberly Brehm

Staff Writer/Photographer

Imagine having the ability to step back in time and visit some of the most horrific moments in your favorite fright movies. You could be a first-hand witness to the bloody carnage brought forth by serial killers such as Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Imagine visiting the ghastly places found only in your nightmares, but this time you’re awake. If possible, would you dare to go?

That is the question posed by James Vale, a Hollywood Special Effects expert, who has designed a haunted house, located in Wauconda, called “Terror Through Time.” With Vale’s expertise, the house has become a time machine that visits some of the most evil moments in movie history, along with scenes found only in our nightmares..

The public enters a dark hallway filled with eerie sounds and a television screen. Here, the premise of the haunted house is explained to the audience: “The Bartoc Institute has invented the time travel machine in which you are about to enter. Unfortunately, the experiment has gone horribly wrong and you are now about to embark on a journey filled with terror.”

Smoke fills the room as the music swells louder. You are asked to come forward to begin your tour … if you can.

The idea of a story line to explain the scenes of the haunted house was Vale’s. He wanted to present a believable explanation for why visitors of haunted houses move from one scene to another. Vale decided to treat his haunted house as he would an action film where the conflicts keep moving from one scene to the next. But, as Vale points out, “This is better than an action film because this is real. You are actually involved in the action. That cannot happen when you are simply watching a movie.”

Vale has found success in Hollywood where he worked on popular action movies such as “Escape from L.A.” and “Alien Nation.” He decided to return to his hometown of Chicago to build his dream haunted house last year. Unfortunately, Vale admits that he was “not satisfied with last year’s house at all.” He surveyed the people exiting to determine where he went wrong. Vale listened to their suggestions and has implemented many changes in this year’s “Terror Through Time.”

Vale said the most repeated requests were for more special effects, more scenes, and better make-up, video, sound. Vale and his crew listened carefully and began building a new haunted house in December of 1997. Vale believes that it has everything his patrons requested and more.

It would defeat the purpose to give too many details of what you find inside the house. After all, haunted houses work by shock value. Suffice to say, the house’s scenes are both professional and bloodstained. There are no bowls of cold spaghetti being passed off as human intestines or peeled grapes as eyeballs. Instead, Vale’s haunted house is a maze-like house where the action is plentiful and the screams are deafening.

“Terror Through Time” is the largest haunted house in the Midwest. It is 12,000 sq. ft. and employs 60 workers nightly. The house was designed by Vale and nine other core people who have devoted their time, some days from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., to build the haunted house up to their standards and expectations. All are very satisfied with the results of their hard labor. This haunted house, they believe, is worth both the $8 admission and the wait to enter (which can be up to three hours).

When questioned why he devoted so much time to this project, Vale answered “At times I question why I am killing myself for something that will only last a month, but I love to shock people. Most people, deep down, truly love to be scared.” Vale said he is not doing this for profit. He knew when he started that he would be fortunate to break even on this project, as he will need at least 20,000 patrons just to cover his investment. But Vale believes his haunted house is worth all of the money and effort he has put into it. It is his love for his art that keeps him going.

So Vale has issued this challenge: For all the people who love horror movies, or just like to be frightened by ghastly sites, drive out to Wauconda to visit “Terror Through Time.” You won’t be sorry — just scared senseless.