Clowns! Just say that word, and half the population is already terrified. So it’s no wonder that creepy clowns have been a mainstay of the haunt world for so long. But because scary clowns are such a popular and longstanding theme, haunted attractions have to work hard to figure out a new way to use them and avoid the standard carnival and circus tropes. Fortunately, the team behind Intruder Escape Rooms has devised innovative and unique twists that will exploit your coulrophobia in the brand new attraction: Clown Academy.

Clown Academy is located in an unassuming storefront in Arlington Heights; in fact, it’s the same location that housed the amazing “Shook!” presented by Murder House Productions last spring. As we waited our turn to enter the haunt, a fun and talented magician provided entertainment for those of us in the queue. But the wait wasn’t long, and we were soon on our way to explore what’s described as an “abandoned school for clowns.” Of course, the school isn’t actually abandoned but is staffed by demented and seriously creepy clowns in each every and room.

The entire experience has a very cohesive storyline that runs throughout. There are no clowns chasing you with chainsaws here. Instead, each room advances the plotline in which you’re a clown recruit learning your clown lessons and ultimately applying for membership in the academy. As such, getting through the attraction requires you to be an active participant in each scene. The uniqueness of Clown Academy is its incorporation of escape room–like tasks that must be completed to open doors or proceed through a scene. But don’t worry…the tasks are pretty simple, and you don’t need to be worried about getting stuck too long. There are a couple of “gross out” scenes, but a lot of care was taken to make these sequences look gross while being perfectly sanitary.

Each room was very impressively detailed. There were many gags and details to take in, but the lighting was also dim enough to make it suspenseful and scary. The clowns themselves are uniquely styled with masks and costumes not typically seen in your standard “crazy clown” haunt. We were creeped out enough that they got a few screams from us as we made our way through the rooms, but we also found the interactive elements to be a funny counterpoint.

Overall, Clown Academy is a solid attraction that is definitely worth putting on your list this season. It’s a unique, interactive, and intimate experience that avoids the conga lines of the big haunts while delivering a new take on the clown theme. With tickets being $25 and the haunt taking about 15 minutes to go through, it might be considered a somewhat pricey attraction. However, the interactivity and the fact that you’ll be alone in the haunt with only your party help to justify the cost.


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Clown Academy is open now through Halloween. Tickets are timed and start at $25.