The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Who You Gonna Call?

By Andrew Jenkins in News on Oct 20, 2006 3:22AM

straitjacket.gifSomewhere along the line, sheets with two holes and haunted hayrides lost their fright value. In order to keep up with the changing times, Halloween trends began leading more toward psychiatric ward-themed haunted houses and costumes of straitjacketed serial killers. Sure that kind of stuff can be scary, but this year the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is asking people to tone down the “mentally insane” themes from their Halloween festivities.

NAMI and its team of StigmaBusters scour the country in search of cases where psychotic-themed costumes and haunted houses cross the line and reinforce stereotypes that keep people from seeking help for their real mental disorders. Just last week the Wheaton Jaycees, after being contacted by the DuPage Chapter of NAMI, changed the name of their annual haunted house from “Insanitarium” to a much more appropriate, but not quite as spooky “The Wheaton Jaycees Haunted House.”

NAMI actually archives all of the alerts they receive from various chapters. One of the most notable cases from this year came from an editorial in a Utah newspaper that called for the return of a previously held Halloween event: The Haunted Castle at the Utah State Hospital. Apparently for 26 years the Utah State Hospital hosted a haunted house where actual patients with mental disorders served as the performers. The fundraising event aimed at uniting the patients and staff, according to the hospital’s recreation director, Leland Slaughter (we are not making this up).

While the StigmaBusters don’t sound like they get into the Halloween spirit as much as, say, Dr. Peter Venkman and the Ghostbusters, most companies and organizations will quickly switch the theme of their events once NAMI approaches them. If none of that really matters to you, however, you can check out “The Halls of Madness and Insanity Woods” and “Ashmore Estates Asylum” — two haunted houses listed on

Image via