'Midnight Terror' expands frightful presen

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Anyone wanting to get in the spirit of Halloween and scare up a good time may visit haunted houses in Oak Lawn, Worth, and Orland Park.

In Oak Lawn, the Midnight Terror Haunted House is operating for the second consecutive year in the former Beatty Lumber property at 9531 S. 52nd Ave., but it has tripled in size over last year, when 9,000 people came through.

The 4,000-square-foot property has been turned into two haunted houses — the Factory of Malum and Blackwoods Hospital — and more than 30 rooms, as well as an outdoor “chainsaw alley” maze. In the Factory of Malum, a demonic creature who oversees a labyrinth of rooms and corridors filled with phobia-related things such as insects, snakes, rats, living dolls, electrical hazards, fire-scorched clowns, pitch-black passages, and claustrophobia-inducing narrow hallways that visitors find their way through as fiendish factory workers shriek, stalk and surprise at every turn.

After getting through that, the next task is to the adjacent Blackwood Hospital, where the hospital beds, surgical tables, and padded cells are occupied by mangled, possessed, and deranged factory employees under the care of the sadistic Dr. Blackwood and gnarly nurses.

The gory attraction was dreamed up by creator Justin Cerniuk, 26, an Oak Lawn native who runs Midnight Terror with his uncle Robert W. Page, and friends Maciej Kulawiak and Mark Krupa.

“We moved it here because it outgrew my driveway (in the 9700 block of Massasoit Avenue),” said Cerniuk, who had been creating Halloween displays there with his uncle since he was 10.

“The last year we had it in the driveway, we had 5,000 people come through,” he said. Last year, 9,000 people visited the haunted house at Beatty Lumber, and more are expected to see the expanded operation this year. More than 70 actors are involved this year, up from 20 last year.

“The ideas just come from my imagination, and I bring them to my partners,” said Cerniuk, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’ve always been interested in Halloween and haunted houses. It became a hobby and then took over my life,” he said with a smile.

He said his “regular job” is a nightclub photographer, but he and his partners spend at least six months working on their haunted houses. They now have professional set designers, acting coaches and makeup artists, and a new LED lighting system and improved sound system, and CGI effects, including monitors displaying monstrous footage.

The wheelchair-accessible attraction, which opened Oct. 1, will run from: 7-10 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays, with the final day of operation being Nov. 1; and from 7-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Halloween.

Regular admission is $18 person, but various discounts are available. VIP passes are $25. Discounts for large groups are also available

During Family Day, from 3 to 6 p.m. on Halloween, children up to age 12 may go through for free, with the lights on, and trick-or-treat with the actors. During this three-hour period, families can also register for the 2016 Westside Baseball season or for a local Boy Scout troop

Free parking is available in the nearby Metra parking garage at 9525 S. Tulley Ave. Tickets, discount coupons, and more information may be obtained online at or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Other local Halloween attractions include Haunted Woods “Dark in the Park,” sponsored by the Orland Park Lions Club at 14800 S. Ravinia Ave.

The event will be open from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10, 16 and 17, and 23 and 24. The last tickets will be sold at 10 p.m. General admission is $12 and VIP $17. A $2 discount is available with a donation of a perishable non-expired food item.

The Trick-or-Treat trail for ages 8 and under, for $3 per child, will be open from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.

Tickets and more information may be obtained at

In Worth, the Park District is hosting Nightmare on the Terrace Haunted House from 6 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 9-11, 16-18, and 23-25, in the Terrace Center, 11500 S. Beloit Ave.

Admission is $8 for the haunted house, which is recommended for ages 8 and up.

A Teens’ Terror at the Terrace, will also be open from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. Admission is $5 with student ID.

         More information may be obtained by calling the Worth Park District at (708) 448-7080.

Eye spy: Oak Lawn mayor calls out blogger for wearing spyglasses to event

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Just when you think Oak Lawn board meetings couldn't get any crazier...


This is a story straight from the annals of Hal Lipset. Or Mad magazine's Spy vs. Spy.


Lipset was a storied San Francisco sleuth who “helped elevate, or rather reduce, electronic surveillance to a miniature art,” The New York Times wrote in his 1997 obituary.


He was best known as the man who put a bug in a martini olive, The Times reported.


That brings us to Oak Lawn, where some subterfuge and skulduggery could be afoot.


Brian Schaeflein is not a private investigator, but at Tuesday's board meeting, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury has accused him of wearing glasses equipped with a hidden camera at last week’s 911 emergency dispatch center open house.


Schaeflein is a writer for an anonymously-owned blog that covers the village and has been highly critical of Bury’s administration.


He attended Tuesday’s village board and criticized Bury for blocking freedom of information requests he has submitted via the village website.


He also upbraided the mayor for using her personal blog to attack him.


“This is really unbelievable, mayor,” said Schaeflein, who threatened to sue the village if it continues to deny him information granted to reporters.


“This is a serious matter,” he said, adding that the village does not have the right to “pick and choose” the outlets than can submit FOIA requests.


Schaeflein did submit a FOIA request by hand to Village Clerk Jane Quinlan after Tuesday’s meeting.


By the way, Schaeflein denied wearing spyglasses to the Jan. 7 open house, but Bury insisted that the glasses looked much different than the ones he wore at Tuesday’s meeting.


“The temple was about three times the size,” Bury said. “They are not the same glasses. I’m an optometrist, and I know a thing or two about glasses.”


Cameras were not allowed inside the dispatch center during last week’s tour. Bury said Schaeflein compromised the safety of the people the center serves by violating the rule.


A handout that included a photo of Schaeflein sitting in the village board chambers on the night of the tour was available at Tuesday’s meeting.


The handout accused Schaeflein of wearing the spyglasses and not taking any notes during the open house presentation. He was not confronted about the glasses on the night of the tour, Bury said.


The mayor would not confirm that she directed emails from Schaeflein or the blog he works for to be blocked, but added “I have no problem with it being shut down.”


“I can’t tell you if he’s on the list. I suspect he probably is,” Village Manager Larry Deetjen said.


Deetjen said the village adds will block an email address if it receives complaints from village employees or officials about messages from that address.




Accident claims life of 'phenomenal' and 'exceptional' artist

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Anna Kreja’s artistic talents were apparent from her very first class at Mother McAuley High School.


“Her work was phenomenal from the get-go. She was really passionate about it,” said Kathleen Gordon Davis, chairman of the visual arts and technology department at the high school.


In fact, Gordon Davis said Kreja was one of the most talented and creative artists that she has encountered during her 29 years at the school.


“She was really exceptional,” Gordon Davis said.


Kreja was enrolled in integrated biology and art as a freshman, a course that introduces students to basic drawing techniques and composition skills along with the laboratory biology curriculum.

But the class was just beginning of her artistic journey at Mother McAuley.

She also took part in painting, art history, studio art and AP studio art classes. The portfolio she created in the advanced class won a Scholastic Art Silver Key Award.

Kreja, 19, of Oak Lawn, was struck by a car last Wednesday at about 1:30 p.m. near 110th Street and Cicero Avenue, police said.

She was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn where died a short time later, police said.

A 2013 Mother McAuley graduate, Ms. Kreja was crossing Cicero Avenue after getting off a bus when she was hit a car driven by a 53-year-old woman, police said. The driver was not cited, they said.

Ms. Kreja was coming home from classes at the Academy of Art, where she was a sophomore, and preparing to walk to her apartment on Keating Avenue where she lived with her mother, Karen, when she was hit.


Rich Kryczka, an instructor at the American Academy of Art, recalled Ms. Kreja as a quiet girl who thoroughly enjoyed her classes.


“Being at school is where she wanted to be. It was all in her smile,” said Kryczka, the chairman of the illustration department at the American Academy of Art.


“It’s sad. She was a really good kid,” said Kryczka, who taught an illustration class in which Ms. Kreja was enrolled.


He described Ms. Kreja as a soft-spoken individual who preferred to listen.


“She was a thinker,” he said.


Ms. Kreja had ambitions to be a professional illustrator and write children’s books, Kryczka said.


Duncan Webb, a dean at the American Academy of Art, said Kreja was “a conscientious and serious student.”


“She had a lifelong commitment to her art, and she was determined to be a successful professional artist,” Webb said. “At our institution, we have a family environment, and I can tell you students, faculty and staff are feeling loss. It looked like she had a bright successful future.”


Gordon Davis owns two of Ms. Kreja’s works, one that is displayed in her classroom at the school. She said Ms. Kreja had innate creativity, which is difficult to teach.


“It’s heartbreaking,” Gordon Davis said. “I think she was proud of her work but she didn’t have to toot her own horn.”


In addition to her mother, Ms. Kreja is survived by her father, Jack, and several aunts and uncles.


Visitation was at Hickey Memorial Chapel in Midlothian. A funeral Mass was held Wednesday at St. Christopher Church followed by interment at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice.

Warm someone’s day during this cold spell with donations to shelters

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The young girl’s words were prophetic; I just wasn’t paying much attention at the time.


The time was nearly 20 years ago when my wife, Annette, and I were taking a look at what would become our first house.


As we toured the basement, one of the owner’s two young daughters told me, “This is where we spend most of our time because it’s coolest in the summer and warmest in the winter.”


It was a telling remark, but, as I said, I wasn’t paying too much attention. Instead, I was wrapped up in the overall appearance of the Oak Lawn home: brick, three bedrooms, two bath, full basement with a ton of potential, nice backyard, two–car garage.


And, most importantly, it was in our price range. Six thousand dollars was all that stood between the initial asking and offering prices. We met in the middle and closed the deal around this time of year. We rented to the owner until spring so she could finish student teaching and we could honor our apartment lease.


We’ve done a lot of work to the house over the years, and I can’t imagine moving, but as I write this column from my home—in the midst of the year’s first cold snap—I sure am cold.


It’s nothing new. Happens any time the temperatures sink into the single digits. The reason is simple: the house is poorly insulated. I know this because when our bathrooms were remodeled, I got a first-hand look at what passed for “insulation” in the late 1940s, the era when my home was built.


Newspaper. Lots and lots of newspaper. Today, every new home is protected from the cold with thick layers of fiberglass insulation. It’s tough to imagine that builders once stuffed newspaper between the studs.


Over the years, we’ve installed a new boiler (we have hot water heat) and replaced the doors and windows, but the house remains less than toasty. I can still hear my father mumble, “It’s chilly in here” during time he lived with us.


The ultimate solution, I suppose, is to have insulation blown into the walls, but that seems expensive. And once the winter’s frigid weather passes, we sort of forget the fact that you could hang meat in our home.


It’s like anything else that’s not a life-threatening problem. You make the best of it. We plug in a space heater, add a blanket to the bed, keep out of the coldest parts of the house and try to be grateful for what we have.


That’s what I’ve been thinking about the past few days as I curse my drafty old house, to borrow a line from Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.’’


Cold or not, I do have a home to live in, two cars parked at the curb, a fridge full of food and a closet full of clothes. I go to work every day and even enjoy what I do for a living. No one in my immediate family suffers from serious illness. That’s plenty to help me realize that a cold house in not the end of the world.


After all, some folks live in unheated homes, dependent on space heaters, loads of blankets and winter clothing to get them through the night. Others don’t have a home and must live in their cars or make their way on the streets, risking frostbite or worse when the brutal Chicago winter kicks in.


PADS and other homeless shelters in our area do their best to help. Together We Cope, an excellent social service agency in Tinley Park, also serves in endless ways, including a foot pantry, financial assistance, clothing, back-to-school assistance and the adopt-a-child holiday program.


But what more could you and I be doing? Now’s the real time to ask. The fashionable time for these stories to appear is during the holidays, as various agencies, churches and community organizations strive to help the needy with meals, Christmas presents and other necessities.


But the need didn’t go away the day you took down your Christmas tree. People are still without work, struggling to make ends meet, in danger of losing their homes and so on.


It’s not that hard to lend a hand. There are plenty of food pantries in our area, including one run by the Evergreen Park, which provided Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to more than 160 families in the community. Call the pantry at 708-422-8776 for information of how to help.

In neighboring Oak Lawn, Pilgrim Faith Church runs a food pantry that serves Oak Lawn, Hometown, Worth, Burbank, Chicago Ridge and Alsip. Check out all the details about the pantry at


South Suburban PADS is always in need of volunteers and donations. Plenty of information can be found at


There are plenty of other food pantries, social service agencies as well as churches and community organizations that pitch in to help the needy. Catholic Charities and Red Cross come to mind. Pick one. Find a way to help. Make it a 2015 goal. You’ll be glad that you did.

The more the merrier for Streit

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Four years ago, Oak Lawn Trustee Bob Streit’s opponent was thrown off the ballot for nominating petition irregularities.


The challenger, Dan Sodaro, a newcomer to village politics, subsequently conducted a write-in campaign and came within 11 votes of defeating Streit.


Today, Sodaro is a member of the Ridgeland School District 122 school board, the same position he held when challenged Streit in 2011.


Streit, meanwhile, is seeking re-election to his sixth term on the village board. This time he’s in a three-way race facing challengers Scott Hollis and J. John “J.J.” Zurek.


Certainly, a three-way race benefits the Streit, who likely wants to avoid a head-to-head matchup with Hollis.


The question is: who is J. John “J.J.” Zurek, and is his candidacy legitimate or did he enter the race to benefit Streit?


Hollis’ supporters would like nothing more than to end Streit’s 20-year tenure on the board. He too is a relative newcomer to Oak Lawn, having moved to the village a few years ago.


But he’s already released campaign literature critical of Streit that signals that a real battle is ahead in District 3.


Streit has positioned himself as a staunch opponent of Mayor Sandra Bury, and has used the village’s decision to outsource the 911 dispatching center as his rallying cry.


Steve Loulouis indicated a few weeks ago that he planned to run in District 3, but apparently changed his mind and did not submit petitions by Monday night’s deadline.


Loulouis ran unsuccessfully for 3rd District trustee several years ago, losing a four-way race to Streit.


Oak Lawn’s 1st District will see a rematch of the 2013 race, in which Trustee Tim Desmond defeated then-incumbent Cindy Trautsch.


Trautsch was appointed to the board when Jerry Hurckes stepped down. She ran with former Mayor Dave Heilmann’s support in 2013.


Trautsch has kept her hand in village politics since her defeat, filing a compliant that Desmond failed to file the required paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections before running for office.


In the 5th District, the battle to replace Trustee Carol Quinlan will feature Dan Johnson, president of the Oak Lawn VFW, and Bud Stalker, who is endorsed by Quinlan. Meanwhile, Paul Vail, who announced his candidacy several months ago, did not file petitions.


Currently, Mayor Sandra Bury enjoys a 4-2 majority on the board with Streit and Quinlan typically opposing her.


Victories by Streit, Stalker and Trautsch would be necessary to create an evenly divided board and force Bury to break 3-3 votes on some occasions.


The races in the other towns covered by the Reporter also are set.


In Evergreen Park, incumbents Mary Keane, Mark Marzullo and Jim McQuillan are running for re-election to the six-member village board. They will be joined on the ballot by challenger Christopher Trzeciak, president of the Evergreen Park High School District 231 school board.


In Chicago Ridge, incumbents both Jack Lind and Dan Badon have submitted nominating petitions.


Challengers Fran Coglianese, a long-time clerical employee at the Chicago Ridge Village Hall; Bill McFarland, a paid-on-call firefighter and a member of the Our Lady of the Ridge school board; and Don Pratl, a former trustee and member of the School District 218 board, also have filed petitions to run election. Three seats are up for election.


In Palos Hills, there are contested races for alderman in two of the city’s five wards.


Mike Lebarre and Sonia Khalil are running for the 3rd Ward seat vacated by Ald. Bill Hansen. Meanwhile, in the 5th Ward, Dawn Nowak is challenging incumbent Ald. Frank Williams. Additionally, incumbents Marty Keefisch (1st), Pauline Stratton (2nd) and Joseph Marrotta (4th) have turned in their petitions and appear to be running unopposed.


In Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley, City Clerk D’Lorah Catizone and Treasurer Dan Schramm are running unopposed.


Additionally, Joe Mancuso has filed to run for alderman in the 2nd Ward against Ald. John Szeszycki. In the 4th Ward, Colleen Kelly, a member of the Lyons Township Town Board, will challenge Ald. Scott Zimmerman.


Meanwhile, Ald. Mike McHugh (1st) and Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd) will run unopposed for another term on the city council.


In Worth, trustees Mary Rhein, Pete Kats and Warren Soldan along with challengers Bruce LeBeau and Kevin Ryan have submitted petitions.