PORT BYRON, Ill. — For the QC Haunted Forest prep for a big night of scaring starts long before the sun goes down.
Organizer Marquisha Harris preps volunteers for a night of screams. She fills them in on the whole process, handing out jobs for the rest of the night.
“I get all of the spooks together. That's what we call them.”
Only this year the prepping includes a lot more than costumes and masks. Harris explains that everything is sanitized down. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the building, and all workers have to wear a mask.
“Before they get here we sanitize all the masks the clothes are washed after every night and then dried for the next morning.”
Outdoor haunted houses are allowed in Illinois right now but not without certain safety precautions.
One main difference for visitors seeking a scare at QC Haunted Forest is that there is no hay ride this year.
Organizers says it’s too hard to socially distance on the ride. Normally the ride drives them from the building down to the entrance, but this year visitors walk down to the forest instead.
“We'd only be able to put like three people on it so it's not worth it.”
Despite the changes due to the pandemic, it doesn’t seem to be stopping groups from coming out for a good scare.
Teryn Crist brought out a group of girls for the thrills. The girls agreeing, they get sacred, but it’s all in good fun.
“Yeah we get scared.”
Crist saying it’s nice to carry on a yearly tradition and bring a sense of normalcy to life for a couple hours.
“The girls were just looking for some excitement with Halloween coming up they wanted to be scared.”
QC Haunted Forest has the groups spaced out while waiting to enter. They say one to two minutes is plenty of time to give the group headed in time to get ahead.
Groups are also only allowed to go through the forest with people who come in the same car as them to keep up with social distancing protocols.
“Whoever was all in the car together you can go together but we are not mixing groups that meet here.”
Indoor food and bar services are also off limits right now. But the forest does have a food truck on most nights for guests to enjoy food outside.
“You can congregate out here in the cold but we can't have too many people inside.”
Despite the challenges and changes to the year, Harris says it is all worth it to hear the sweet sound of a scare done right.
“My favorite part is standing at the entrance and I hear all the screams throughout different parts of the forest all night.”
The QC Haunted Forest is open through October on Friday’s and Saturday’s from 7pm to 11pm.