A fixture of the Hillsboro Halloween scene is going to have to wait one more year to make its triumphant return.
The Jeffers family has been scaring the daylights out of their community for ten years with the free Hell’s Burrow Haunt and anticipation was high for this year’s project, The Substation, located in Adam and Amy Jeffers’ back yard on Welch Street.
Then the Illinois Department of Labor stepped in.
“(We) were told we needed to have an inspection, permit of operations, liability insurance and background checks for all of our volunteers…most of which needed to be done 30 days prior to opening night,” Adam Jeffers said on the Hell’s Burrow Haunt Facebook page.
“We explained that our little haunt is not a business and that it is open air to not be considered an ‘enclosed structure’ per the state code for haunted houses. We explained it is just a free walk-through for the community. We explained that our actors are family and friends. We explained that we are safety certified. We explained that our haunt has been on-going for the past ten years and we’ve never had any issues. We explained that it is in our yard.”
Despite all of the explanations, the Illinois Department of Labor’s legal team didn’t budge and still deemed the haunt as an “enclosed structure” and required the Jeffers to meet all the qualifications within a week. The penalty if the family ran the free attraction anyway? Criminal charges and fines that could reach up to $20,000.
“Our family feels exceptionally disheartened and frustrated at the entire situation,” Jeffers said. “Our goal is to re-evaluate how we put on a good show for you all while abiding by these standards the Department of Labor determined we, a family on our private property, now fall under alongside the professional haunted houses. That is our plan for the next year.”
While the haunt won’t be up and going this year, fans of Hell’s Burrow still got a taste of what could have been at Old Settlers, where their float was one of the show stoppers, and at the recent Imagine Hillsboro Fall Market, where the Jeffers and friends ran an escape room modeled after The Substation.
The Hell’s Burrow crew is also helping out with Bike Hillsboro Night Ride, a four-mile bike ride that starts at the Hillsboro Presbyterian Church and passes through two cemeteries and past several Hillsboro landmarks. More information is at www.facebook.com/BikeHillsboro.
And don’t worry, Hillsboro will be back to its Hell’s Burrow roots in no time if the Jeffers have any say.
“We love Hillsboro and we love bringing free fun to everyone. We love pushing children to be brave and conquer their fears,” Jeffers said. “We love our haunt, how it brings us together as a family, and how it positively affects the community.”
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