The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on January 25, 1976 · Page 2
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 2

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Bloomington, Illinois
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Sunday, January 25, 1976
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Page 2
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Pantagraph A-2 Bloomington-Normal, III. Sun., Jan. 25, 197 His mission: Keep 'em frightened By Dick Streckfuss Pantagraph city editor There is little in the background of Thomas Hilligoss that sets him apart. At Galesburg High School he was interested in girls and football. At the University of Illinois he majored in engineering until losing an encounter with chemistry. After that, he majored, as he says, "in fraternity life." He didn't graduate, there being no degree granted in that field. Sans degree, he went into retailing on Chicago"s State Street, met and married a Bloom ington woman and came to the Twin Cities. He spent seven years as advertising manager for Bloomington Federal Savings & Loan Association and then joined a small advertising firm. He made a name for himself in Jaycee activities, with stints as chapter president and as state vice president. All of this could be classified Ameri-canus Typicus. But somewhere, something got off track, leading Hilligoss to little-visited byways. Now he's in Florida. He's not there to enjoy the sun. He's cutting holes in the sides of semi-trailers and worrying about the health of a California spider maker. He's learned how to make a 12-foot shark, and he's enticed people to give up the comforts of home and spend their time painting pieces of plywood black-pay to come later. Haunted What Hilligoss is doing is making a haunted house to show at fairs. It's not your common, small haunted house, but a monstrous one that will take 25 persons to operate. "Bringing show business back to the midway" is the way it's put by Hilligoss, whose knowledge of the carnival dates back less than two months. It was then when he conceived of the traveling haunted house. The conception was a case of one thing leading to another. Because Hilligoss was active in Jaycees and because the Twin City chapter operates an elaborate and successful haunted house at Halloween, it is obvious how he was introduced to the subject obvious, but incorrect. Although active in other Jaycee endeavors, he'd never worked at the haunted house. Harrison to head Eureka credit union Ernest Harrison Jr. was elected president of the Eureka Company Federal Credit Union at the annual meeting Wednesday. Other officers elected were John Stuckel, vice president; Bill Blandford, treasurer, and Rosemary Lawson, secretary. Slyvia Ford was reappointed office manager. The directors declared a 6 per cent annual dividend for the quarter ending Dec. 31. The Daily Pantagraph Reg. U.S. Pal. Off. Telephone All Departments, 829-9411 Published daily and Sunday by Evergreen Communications, Inc., 301 W. Washington St., Bloomington, Illinois 61701. TERMS OF SUBSCRIPTION By Carrier: $1.00 a week. By Motor Routt: S1.0S a week. By Mail: Inside Illinois, Daily and Sunday: Year $32.50; 6 mo, $18.75; 1 mo., $3.85; daily only: Year $29.50; & mo., $17.25; 1 mo., $3 60. Outside Illinois sold only as Daily and Sunday combination: Year $42.00 ; 6 mo., $25.50; 1 mo., $4.85. Mail subscriptions to members of Armed Forces in Illinois: Year $27.50; 3 mo., $8.15. Outside Illinois: Year $35.00 ; 3 mo., $10.25. Sunday only mail subscriptions in Illinois: Year $23.00; 1 mo., $3.00. Out-Side Illinois: Year $28.00; 1 mo., $3.50. (No mail subscriptions taken where there is carrier or motor route service.) Second class postage paid at Bloomington, Illinois. "Ironic," he said. His role as a haunted-house man really was cast 200 years ago at Lexington and Concord. It was, in other words, the bicentennial that got him into the business. His transformation went something like this: Hilligoss learned, though his Jaycee contacts, that a firm was going to market a bicentennial coloring book through the Jaycee chapters. Hilligoss liked the idea. But it was already spoken for. Hilligoss, knowing how many Jaycee chapters ran haunted houses, thought of a haunted-house coloring book to go with those projects. He designed it; Ralston Scott Jones, a Twin City artist, drew it; Pantagraph Printing and Stationery Co. printed it; Hilligoss sold it and sold it. Jaycees bought more than a quarter of a million of them. Convention booth As part of his sales campaign, Hilligoss set up a booth at the Jaycee national convention last June in Florida. That gave him a taste of display. He also stopped by Walt Disney World on his way home and looked at a $3'2-million haunted mansion. Flashy, but not scary, was his analysis. He also spotted some frightening-looking monster masks. He arranged with the masks' manufacturer to sell them to Jaycees for their haunted houses. He began conducting seminars at Jaycee meetings on haunted-house operation for fun and profit. He added lighting effects and costumes and such things as cobweb-making machines to his sales list. When all was said and done this fall, Hilligoss and his haunted-house company had done business with 700 Jaycee chapters, leaving 6,300 chapters as prospects in future years. There were other elements, too, leading up to the carnival venture. The main one was that Hilligoss along with a Jaycee-turned-partner named Jerry Coleman of Mundelein, and a cine photographer traveled to 35 Jaycee-ope rated haunted houses just before Halloween, looking and learning. Hilligoss came back feeling somewhat an expert in the field. He'll use the film thus created in selling more coloring books and haunted-house devices to Jaycee chapters next year. Sales tool It was in the vein of a sales tool that Hilligoss first toyed with the idea of a large haunted house. The little &-by-8-foot booth he'd lugged to the last Jaycee national convention no longer suited him. So in the end, what he is creating is a 36-by-48-foot haunted house, populated by the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, a 20-foot hissing snake, a werewolf, a giant spider, Frankenstein and his monster, more bats, and last but not least a giant shark that leaps from the water at the hapless spectators, completing the job of destroying their nerves. There also are some assorted helpless women, some bubbling acid and a lot of strobe lights, not to mention music for each and every scene. In short, it's a bit ornate to use as a device for selling coloring books. That's why Hilligoss is taking to the fair circuit. He'll pay a percentage of his take to carnival owners for the right to set up on midways. The carnival idea was late in arriving, and Hilligoss and partner Coleman had SundayTonday, Tui day MERRY POPPIN' ' POPCORN 151 20 Ox. Box " SLICED 0rR.9.,.49.,Lb. HAM H2L. BATH OurR.g.,.,7 TOWELS PUSH O-rR.g.588. CLOTHS H (0) $ H CANDY BARS Our Reg. 15 DECORATIVE THROW PILLOWS Our Reg. 2.47 57 been pushing deadlines and entering fields theretofore unknown to them for the last two months. Working in the garage area of the former Five Star Truck Stop at U.S. 66 and Mercer Avenue, the two along with Tom's brother, Larry, who is a pipeline welder, and assorted other workers and near-volunteers whipped together two 20-foot towers that bolt up and down, and cut and hacked at a pair of semitrailers, partially converting them to provide the walk-through portion of the attraction and to carry the towers and other pieces from fair to fair. Homemade jaws They also managed to make a large fiber glass shark. They tied this to the top of their camper bus, put the two semi-trailers on a railroad flatcar and set off about 1C days ago for West Palm Beach, site ol the South Florida Fair and Exposition. There, four carpenters and four electricians have been put to work, Coleman said, and he and Hilligoss also devised a way to make their 20-foot snake (a drier duct covered with snake-skin material) and 4-foot tarantula (board, pillows, fluffy black cloth and wire for legs ) . The snake -spider project was necessary because the man who was to make them became ill and couldn't deliver. They also have hired 30 "actors" to play the various brief scenes over and over and over again. Perhaps 300 times a day, Count Dracula will burst through the french doors and sink his latex fangs into the neck of a recumbent female. Perhaps as often, Frankenstein's monster will throw off his straps, rise from his table and throttle his creator, then lunge at the audience. Fair open Customers will wind their way in darkness through the haunted house, going from one playlet-in-horror to another. Lights will flash on to give the actors their cues to commence. Hilligoss thinks the show will leave customers limp. And getting the show together is leaving Hilligoss a little limp himself. The South Florida Fair opened Thursday night. As of Wednesday, the still-to-be-worked-on semi-trailers were still somewhere on their railroad flatcar, en route but not in place. Hilligoss and crew had assumed the trailers would be in place by Friday, and the crew had been working by plans on the various sets. Once the trailers arrive, he said, it simply will be a matter of putting them in. place. And doing a little painting black, of course. And rigging the shark to jump out of the water. Presuming that the doors open at the South Florida Fair and that customed flock through as they hope, Hilligoss an Coleman will then move on to a fair Orlando and to a fair in Miami be for putting the trailers back on the train fo a return to the north. After that, it depends on how man people have paid their dollar to b lunged at by Frankestein's monster an snapped at by a shark.' iy? , ' - f 4 J J X In n 1 .... m ..xA...,i,t,.... . Thomas Hilligoss majored in "fraternity y I life" in college, then went on it later life I rOfDSrOrT)6Cf to live a nomad's existence as owner of a haunted house on wheels. The Frank enstein monster mask he holds is bo ' one of several props he uses to frighted his customers. Another is a huge shark (Pantagraph photo) 'It's scary,' says creator of mobile haunted house Like a Johnny Appleseed gone bad, Thomas Hilligoss hopes to spread terror across the land. He makes no deeply philosophical statement about the relationship of man and terror, except to observe that it is one cultivated by man himself. For instance, he cites a partial survey he conducted in Bloomington stores during the Christmas season. The stores displayed 41 monster-related toys, he said. He cites the lines that wait in front of theaters where such films as "Jaws" and "The Exorcist" are playing. He cites the continued popularity of Dracula and Frankenstein. He cites the fact that 700 Jaycee chapters, at least, are running haunted houses as money-raisers at Halloween. "Next year," he said, "I'd like to see over half the chapters into haunted houses." Because there are 7.000 chapters in the country, that would be a lot of terror scattered about the land. And Hilligoss thinks that will fill some sort of need, or why would people spend their time and money to experience it? That's why he thinks his newly built haunted house is, in essence, better than the haunted mansion at Walt Disney World. "I was impressed by the fact they spent $3' 2 million and didn't scare anybody," he said. "It was built to dazzle you with special effects and illusions." Hilligoss didn't spend $3.5 million on his efforts. Its special effects are created by human actors, not by automation. 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