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Local News

Divided Joliet council approves prison lease for haunted house

Evil Intentions' haunted house would go in the former women's prison at the old Joliet Correctional Center.
Evil Intentions' haunted house would go in the former women's prison at the old Joliet Correctional Center.

JOLIET – The Joliet City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved a lease with an Elgin company that wants to put a haunted house in the old Joliet Correctional Center after a local group asked for a chance to make a similar proposal.

A group that includes the man who puts on a popular haunted house on Western Avenue each Halloween said they could make a proposal in two weeks if the council held off a vote until its next meeting.

But the City Council voted, 5-4, to award a sublease to Evil Intentions, which runs a haunted house of that name in Elgin.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who broke a tie vote to approve the sublease, commented on the irony of the council getting competing proposals for a prison venture.

“I think this is a curveball,” O’Dekirk said after the local group made its pitch. “Two weeks ago we were being criticized that this is a waste of time. Now, there’s a battle of haunted houses.”

Before the meeting ended, Paul Siegel, who runs Statesville Haunted Prison in Crest Hill, said he, too, would have liked a chance to consider opening a haunted house in the old prison on Collins Street.

“It seems like a lack of transparency,” Siegel told the council. “It seems like a lot going on in a vacuum that nobody knew about.”

Evil Intentions last week announced its plans while city officials only said that they were looking at some form of entertainment venue at the prison. The city in December took out a five-year lease on the prison with the state, allowing Joliet to bring private ventures into the property.

“It kind of blindsided us,” said Jason Seneker of Joliet, who is with a group that operates Basement of the Dead, a haunted house in downtown Aurora. “We didn’t even know this was going to happen.”

Also in that group is Eric Semplinski, who stages the popular haunted house on Western Avenue.

City staff recommended sticking with Evil Intentions, saying the process of taking bids or proposals for the prison likely would lead to nothing opening this year.

Mike Fitzpatrick, owner of Evil Intentions, said his company plans to start with a haunted house, ghost tours and historical tours.

“If things keep going from there,” he said, “it could be a restaurant and hotel.”

Also voting for the Evil Intentions sublease were John Gerl, Terry Morris, Jan Quillman and Bettye Gavin. Voting no were Pat Mudron, Larry Hug, Michael Turk and Don Dickinson.

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