McHenry Jaycees look for new haunted house because of safety concerns at Knox Park Barn

McHENRY – The McHenry Area Jaycees need help raising money for its annual haunted house after safety concerns are moving it out of Knox Park Barn.

The haunted house has been providing scares to local residents in Knox Park Barn for 31 years. The city owns Knox Park Barn, and the haunted house was the only event held at the property each year.

“Due to safety concerns with us not having a sprinkler in the barn, the city has decided that we have to relocate our haunted house,” said Jessica Hileman, Jaycees' internal vice president.

Hileman said the haunted house has run without a sprinkler for the past 31 years, and it has been something the Jaycees have been looking into adding for a while.

“But unfortunately we cannot afford to put one in it,” Hileman said.

Ross Polerecky, director of community development, said the city of McHenry has done everything it could to make it as safe as possible over the years.

"The fire department played a huge role," Polerecky said. "There's a fire alarm in there, a direct line to the dispatch center and the fire department did do training with them, such as fire extinguisher training and emergency exit training."

However, Polerecky said the city came to the conclusion that they wanted to protect the best interests of residents and people who come to the haunted house.

"During the review of our codes – and we update our codes every three years – it was brought to our attention that the state fire marshal's office requires sprinklers in a facility that's used for a haunted house," Polerecky said. "So, therefore, we had to make the decision that, unfortunately, they can't use the facility because it still didn't have any sprinklers."

Polerecky said the city is working with the Jaycees to help them find a new venue.

The McHenry Area Jaycees are a nonprofit that provides the community with free events that the profit from the haunted house helps pay for. Hileman said the community’s donations will go toward a down payment once the Jaycees find a place.

“Because we are a non-for-profit organization, our income is very limited,” Hileman said

Hileman said the haunted house has raised an average of $14,000 to $20,000 each year in the past decade, and is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

“It actually helps fund all of our other projects we do [such as] Jaycee Day, the fishing derby and the Easter egg hunt,” Hileman said.

Anyone who wants to donate toward the haunted house can do so by going to All donation amounts are appreciated.

More information about the McHenry Area Jaycees can be found at its Facebook page,, or by contacting the nonprofit at

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.