• Written by Jeff Vorva

OL resident set to open haunted house at old lumber yard

Terror and bloodshed are packingPage-1-2-and-a-half-col-left-photoOak Lawn’s Justin Cerniuk puts the finishing touches on his haunted house, which opens tonight, Thursday at the old Beatty’s Lumber Company site in Oak Lawn. Submitted photos.Page-1-2-and-a-half-col-terror-right-photo their bags and moving from the yard to the lumber yard.
Well, actually a former lumber yard.
Starting tonight, Thursday, Oak Lawn resident Justin Cerniuk debuts his most ambitious Midnight Terror horror show yet.
At 7 p.m., his staff will creak open the doors at the former Beatty Lumber Company property at 95th Street and 52nd Avenue for a sophisticated horror show in Oak Lawn.
Cerniuk is 24 and got his start in the art of trying to scare people around Halloween in 2000, when he just turned 10 and it was a gore-gone conclusion that it would become bigger and better.
He started this project in his own front lawn and from then, with the help of his uncle, Robert Page, moved things into a garage. He started to build props and characters and meshed metal with technology to create his own garage of mayhem.
“When I was little, my uncle used to take me to some really good decorated houses in the area, where I got a lot of ideas,” said Cerniuk in a news release.
Midnight Terror became a weekly staple until 2007, when he joined the Marines and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He returned home in 2011 and the Terror was back in town.
Last year, the yard and garage featured 28 custom animatronics, 12 volunteer actors and eight rooms. He said more than 6,000 people came to get scared at his haunt and he received some donations, some of which went to the Autism Society of Illinois.
Now he is taking his act to the lumber yard and he has the village’s blessing.
Oak Lawn Trustee Tim Desmond and other village officials aided Cerniuk in finding the right available property and Beatty’s, which has been closed since 2010.
Since the closing, village officials have been trying to figure out what to do with that area. Some developers have pitched the idea for a 9-to-13 story office tower. There was talk a senior center could move in there.
For October, it will serve as a haunted house.
“My goal is for everyone to have fun and enjoy a collaborative experience where our scare team and our visitors feed off of each other’s energy and excitement,” said Cerniuk. “I want to bring back this haunted house every year, bigger and better than ever. I envision this as an exclusive Oak Lawn attraction. This is where I started 14 years ago. This is where I have roots, and I want to remain loyal to my home town.”
Tickets can be purchased online at or at the box office on site. Admission per person is $10 but there is a no-wait R.I.P. pass available for $17. Discounts for large groups are also available. The attraction is wheelchair accessible.
The haunted house is open from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight as well at Sunday, Oct. 9, 12, 16, 19, 22, 23, 26, 29 and 30. It is open from 7 to 11 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, Oct. 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1.
Patrons can park for free inside the nearby Metra parking garage at 9525 S. Tulley Ave.
To purchase tickets in advance, get a coupon worth $2 off admission on select dates, or for more information, visit or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Madigan addresses ‘fastest growing problem’

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Attorney General talks about ID theft in Oak Lawn

  For all men and women in the Southwest Suburbs, damaging and potentially devastating identity theft is not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Monday.

  “What I can tell you is this: identity theft not a new problem, but it is one of the fastest growing problems that we’re seeing,” Madigan said to an audience of about 40 civic and elected leaders, law enforcement and other public safety officials, and representatives of financial institutions. The presentation by Madigan and her staff was made at the Oak Lawn Public Library.
  Madigan said that in 2006, she established an identity theft unit, “a group of people who are really experts at how to prevent this, how to help [victims] clean up. So far, we’ve helped over 35,000 people in the state remove over $26 million in fraudulent charges from their credit. So that just gives you a sense of what’s taking place.”
  The attorney general said that some of the increase has been driven by high-profile security breaches at major retailers.
  “There was the Target breach that occurred right around the holiday shopping season, but right after that, it was Michaels, Neiman-Marcus, and then now, seriously, we hear about a new breach every single week,” she added. “Just last week, it was reported in the news that Home Depot finally confirmed that it was 56 million people’s credit card numbers had been [stolen] in the breach they suffered.”
  Madigan offered her four top pieces of advice to reduce the risk of identity theft.
  • Put transaction alerts on credit and debit cards, which will “let you know [via text message] if someone else has used your card,” she said. “Now, I know that can be a little annoying, because in this day and age, many of us are using our credit and debit cards 10 or 12 times a day. But you won’t be annoyed when you’re sitting in your local library and you get a text message that says that someone is at Best Buy, and they just bought a flat-screen TV in your name. What you’ll do is take out your credit card, find the toll-free number on the back, call your credit card company and say, ‘We have a problem here,’” and that way, you’ll be able to resolve that problem quickly.”
  • Read bank account and credit card statements, promptly and line by line, every month—more frequently for those who bank online. “You need to make sure all the charges are accurate and that all the numbers add up,” Madigan told the group. “If there’s a problem, you call that 800 number quickly and get it resolved right away.”
  • Obtain and examine copies of personal credit reports, which is especially important, Madigan said, to detect identity theft that might not otherwise be detected early. “Sometimes you don’t find out that someone has damaged your credit until you yourself go to use it,” she observed. You go to rent an apartment, you go to finance a car purchase, you go to get a mortgage—and you’re either denied because it looks as though you don’t pay your bills, or when they extend you credit, it will be at a higher rate than it should be.” She encouraged everyone to visit online to obtain a free credit report.

Riley’s plans to close after 77 years of trickery

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

  After 77 years, including 40 in Worth and one in Palos Hills, the business commonly known as Riley’s Trick Shop will disappear.

  On Monday, officials from the store posted that the longtime business will close its doors.
  “This is it!’’ the post said. “After 77 years, Riley’s Trick Shop will be closing its doors for the final time. We haven’t set a date yet. That will be determined by how long it takes to sell down our inventory at greatly reduced prices...up to 90 percent off.
  “Since all our children have good jobs and no interest in taking over (we) have decided to move on. We’d like to see what it’s like to have a weekend together and maybe take a trip or two. It’s been a long time.
  “Thanks to everyone for 77 great years. We hope to see you all at least one more time before we head off into our new adventure.’’
  Jim Riley, his son, also named Jim, and wife Judy run the shop, located at 8086 W. 111th St. in Palos Hills.
  Riley’s father opened for business in Chicago in 1937 and moved it to Worth in 1973.
  The new store in Palos Hills was renamed Riley’s Tricks and Gifts and emphasized its selection of birthday and gag gifts. It stopped selling Halloween costumes, according to a Reporter story in April 2013 and the new store was half the size of the old store, which was 5,000 square feet.
  “It’s going to be a lot of work,” Riley said at the time. “We’ve got to move everything into a smaller space and try not to kill each other, because we’re family. It’s not going to be easy.’’

Winter still sticking it to Palos Hills

  • Written by Michael Gilbert



Streets damaged by freezing temps

and snow to be fixed this fall

Last year’s historically cold and snowy winter may be gone, but it certainly isn’t forgotten.
And it may indirectly cause a headache or two in what is being called a “logistical nightmare’’ this fall for people who want to use 112th Place in Palos Hills.
The Palos Hills City Council awarded a contract to D Construction for the 2014 road resurfacing project at last Thursday night’s meeting. The road surfacing is needed because of damage caused by last year’s severe winter weather.
Palos Hills will pay the Coal City-based firm $148,000 to complete the project, but nearly $90,000 of that figure will be spent on crack sealing, which, according to Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley, was needed after the constant freezing and thawing that occurred this past winter.
“[Last winter] you had freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing and that tears the heck out of roads,” Weakley said in an interview following the council meeting. “You go up into northern Wisconsin, North Dakota or Minnesota and typically their road freezes in the winter and thaws in the spring, but here in Illinois, roads go through many freeze and thaw cycles and they do tear the roads up.”
A total of 21 city-owned roads are slated for improvements as part of this year’s project, Alderman Frank Williams said. Crack sealing will occur on 19 of those roads. The other two projects are the reconstruction of 112th Place west of Southwest Highway and the resurfacing of 98th Street from 88th Avenue to 89th Avenue.
The crack sealing is expected to start within the next week while the resurfacing and reconstruction will occur in the next 30 days, Weakley said.
Weakley expected the crack sealing work would cause “relatively no inconvenience” to residents, but that the reconstruction of 112th Place would be a “logistical nightmare” because all of the trucks that use the road. D Construction is required to notify residents in the area when the work is set to take place, Weakley added.
Palos Hills received five bids for the project ranging in price from $148,000 to $189,000, Weakley said. Although the city has never used D Construction before, Weakley said they are respectable firm with a solid background.
“They are qualified IDOT contractors and they are the contractors who are doing the LaGrange Road [widening] in Orland Park,” he said. “They’re a very big company.”


Website revamp coming soon

Alderman Rick Moore told the council and a handful of residents in attendance that the city’s new-look website is scheduled to launch on Wednesday. This will be the first major upgrade to the Palos Hills’ website in more than five years, he said.
“The No. 1 goal for the new site is to improve the navigation for visitors and make it easier to extract the information,” Moore said. “Basically we want it to be a venue for us to get information out to the residents in a quick and efficient way.”
A new feature to the website will be individual pages for each council member to post news and information about the ward they represent, Moore said.  Department heads will also be given the same forum, he said.
The website will continue to offer agendas for upcoming meetings, information on the city’s chipper service and the ability to pay water bills online, Moore said.
The overhaul of the website will be completed entirely in-house, Moore said.  Palos Hills IT Coordinator Bill Kinney and an intern from Moraine Valley Community College have worked since the spring to revamp the site, Moore noted.

“It was very cost efficient the way that we did it,” Moore said.  “The new website is really going to enhance our communications with our constituents and residents of Palos Hills.”


Leaving EP Bethless

  • Written by Bob Rakow

pge-1-3-col-hartBeth Hart bursts out of the Evergreen Park High School banner before Friday’s homecoming game. The school’s superintendent will retire in June. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Longtime super Hart to retire in June

Beth Hart does not know what it’s like to sleep in.

“I’ve just always been an early riser. I get up early,” Hart said Tuesday morning, five hours after rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m.
The superintendent of Evergreen Park High School District 231, Hart recalls sitting alone in her college cafeteria early on Saturday mornings while classmates slept in.
Hart checks her email in the early morning hours—her first task in a typical day filled with myriad responsibilities.
“It’s a 24/7 job,” she said of overseeing the school at 99th Street and Kedzie Avenue.
But come June, Hart will call it career after 35 years in education as both a teacher and administrator.
“It just felt right,” said Hart, 63.
But retirement doesn’t mean Hart will start sleeping until noon.
She plans to teach or use her Spanish-speaking abilities in some capacity. In fact she’s often called on at the high school when Spanish-speaking parents stop to voice a concern.
“I hope that I’ll find something to do,” said Hart, who also plans to spend more time with her young grandchildren, who live in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
Hart, who was honored at halftime of last Friday’s homecoming game, spent her entire career in the Southland after growing up in St. Thomas More parish in Chicago’s south side.
She taught Spanish at Quigley South, Brother Rice, Marist and Bremen high schools over a 16-year-period before becoming an assistant principal at Bremen.
Her path as an administrator ultimately led her to Evergreen Park High School in 2001, where she’s served as both principal and superintendent—a post she was named to in 2008.
“I feel like it went by unbelievably fast,” said Hart, who lives in Chicago’s Morgan Park community.
Hart described Evergreen Park an “unbelievable community” that is home to an “an all-American high school.”
She added that the school’s 850 students represent all aspect of the teen years. The school is home to a wide spectrum of students, including those who have gotten perfect ACT scores to others who excelled in sports or drama.
Hart oversaw renovations to the football field, science labs and theatre during her tenure at the school, but she’s most proud of her ongoing interaction with students.
“The thing I hope I’m known for is being student-centered,” Hart said. “I would describe myself as a democratic leader.”
Leading a small school and having her office in the same building makes that task a little easier, but Hart said that empowering students is a lesson she learned from her days at Queen of Peace High School and throughout her college days.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Mundelein College and did post-graduate work at the University of Illinois and Loyola University. All along she learned that giving students responsibility and a voice was important.
That message was not lost on the School District 231, which has four members who attended the high school. In fact, board president Christopher Trzeciak was a student at the school when Hart was principal.
“Now he’s my boss,” she said.
Hart’s secretary, Sheri Sochacki, said Hart has always promoted teamwork and encouraged staff and faculty to make suggestions.
“I think she has the natural ability to bring people together,” Sochacki said. “She always promotes team effort. I’m definitely going to miss working for Beth.”
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton lauded Hart for her accomplishments at the school.
“Beth has a done a wonderful job,” Sexton said. “She’s been very good to this community. She’s very involved. The school has made a lot of improvements since she’s been there.”
Principal Bill Sanderson calls Hart a mentor.
“She allows you to do your job,” Sanderson said. “She allowed me to put my own personality on the position. I’ll be forever indebted to her.”
Sanderson credited Hart for connecting with students. As principal, she would go through the yearbook to learn students’ names. She also started the senior exit interview as means of getting students’ honest assessment of the school
The district has already taking steps to find Hart’s replacement having hired a search firm that surveyed the community members, parents, faculty and staff before bringing finalists to the school board for consideration.