The horror of the absurd

By Casey Toner

Children in masks won’t chase you through dimly-lit corridors to “scare” you.

“I avoid Hollywood monsters and gore and chainsaws,” said Jim Warfield, owner and resident of Mt. Carroll’s Raven’s Grin. “I really try to not copy movie ideas or other haunted attractions’ ideas, but some things are so basic, it can’t be helped.”

Instead, small groups of people will be led around the “Beetlejuice”-like mansion by Warfield (or one of his assistants) for about an hour of bizarre, macabre entertainment. It’s a twisted blend that can surprise, amaze, offend and upset.

For instance, the Grin has a whole room devoted to Nazi babes —female mannequins dressed in the swastika-bearing attire of the Third Reich. Scary? You bet. But this room isn’t a political, social, fascist or racist statement.

It’s quite funny, actually, in the morbid Raven’s Grin way; funny like Warfield’s smashed-up station wagon that rests in pieces following a run-in with a speeding semi-truck. The truck junked his car, and that junk soon became a main attraction in his backyard.

The Raven’s Grin isn’t your typical haunted house. Joe Jenson, owner of Hades Haunted House, walked through the Grin and referred to it as “performance art.”

Warfield seems to have traded in his stash of haunted house clichés for the best, most unique experience $10 can buy. It’s so entertaining, it’s almost frightening.