Elgin survives zombie apocalypse, Svengoolie, during Nightmare fest

By Karie Angell Luc for Chronicle Media


An estimated crowd of 12,000 — both undead and living — descended on downtown Elgin for last Saturday’s annual Nightmare on Chicago Street party.

Waiting in line for the event to open, is, on right, Rachel Alonso of South Elgin. “Zombies like to eat brains,” she said during Elgin’s Nightmare on Chicago Street on Oct. 20. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

Folks at the sellout party could confront or become zombies on the event’s eighth anniversary while Elgin’s Zombie Defense Initiative (ZDI) kept order on the streets and humans safe.

“That’s half the fun, being the zombies (and) be out chasing people around,” said Krisilee Murphy, executive director of the Elgin Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A portioned area in the downtown historic district east of the Fox River was a party zone, but also a designated safe zone where citizens could find respite from becoming Zombie Apocalypse-infected victims.

“Nightmare on Chicago Street is the City of Elgin’s premiere event,” said Molly Center, communications specialist for the City of Elgin. “It is, as we claim, the biggest Halloween party in the Midwest. It’s really a cool way to bring so many elements of the community together to celebrate a really fun holiday,” Center said.”It’s the best Halloween party in the USA,” said Lisa Golbeck of Elgin, a costumed attendee.

The rain-free, five-hour event began at 6 p.m. Box office tickets were $15.

Teenage Mutant Zombies on a bus. Images from Elgin’s Nightmare on Chicago Street on Oct. 20. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

“This is a safe zone, so we try to keep them locked into the area so that everyone can still have fun,” Murphy said.

The evening was geared for people 17 and older but families with small children were seen in the audience.

Wendy Rodriguez, a medical receptionist from Elgin, joined the undead and was costumed as a zombie wannabe Homecoming queen.

Whatever their status, she reminded all patients to get their annual flu shot.  That way, she said, healthy people could stand a chance at not becoming clinically undead.

How did Rodriguez get her eyes (contact lenses) to appear so pale blue?

“I had to kill myself and then I rose up from the dead and that’s how you got your eyes,” said Rodriguez, whose makeup artist spent two hours on the look.

Wendy Rodriguez, a medical receptionist from Elgin, who is currently undead as a zombie and Zombie Homecoming Queen candidate, wants to remind all patients to get the annual flu shot. That way, she says, you won’t be clinically undead. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

The event paid for itself, Murphy said.

“We are bringing people to the downtown but we’re also bringing people to the hotels,” Murphy said. “We know, for sure, that we have over 40 hotel rooms booked.An estimated 400 volunteers assisted, including local high school students who were zombies or helped with preparations, such as stuffing body bags.

“This event could not be what it is without all of those volunteers who help us tirelessly,” Murphy said.

Local businesses were boarded up and toilet paper cores were seen on sidewalks. Toilet paper was strewn in trees along parkways.

The paper was damp from brief and gusty snow showers on Saturday mid afternoon but later the white stuff dried out along branches due to wind. Frosty temperatures ranged in the upper 30 to low 40 degree range.

Many of the businesses were open for the event. Folks warmed up indoors, some buying spiked gelatin shots.

Jesus Aguirre of Palatine, owner/manager of Cafe Revive, 51 S. Grove Ave., was open for coffee and snacks during the day for event set up.

“Cafe Revive is glad to be a part of this wonderful event, “ Aguirre said. “We know that this event attracts thousands of people from all over the country and we think that it’s important to support small businesses which are so vital to the health of the downtown.”

Rich Koz of Chicago, also known as Svengoolie of Berwyn, poses with City of Elgin police personnel. during Elgin’s Nightmare on Chicago Street on Oct. 20. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

Svengoolie, star of the MeTV show “Svengoolie,” presided over the Zombie Homecoming queen competition and autographed for fans one hour before appearing on the main stage.

Also known as Rich Koz, his character is famous for being the coffin-entombed gent from Berwyn.

“I live in Berwyn and that’s Svengoolie’s town,” said a masked Kathy Tropper, a fan.Svengoolie performed the “Svengoolie Stomp,” a song by Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, a Svengoolie fan.

Cannon, who also signed autographs and appeared on stage with Svengoolie, is renowned for early pop hits such as “Tallahassee Lassie” and “Palisades Park.”Svengoolie was accompanied by police escort during transition periods through the crowd.

“I’m always happy to come here, this is always one of my favorite events of the entire year,” Koz said, shortly before Svengoolie’s autograph session in the lobby of the Peter Burritt Building on Grove Avenue.

A view of the midway during Elgin’s Nightmare on Chicago Street on Oct. 20. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

“It’s just amazing to me, it’s so nice, I don’t think I’d be where I am without the support of all of these people who, you know, come out to see me and who have been so nice to support me all of these years,” he said.


“Next year will be 40 years since I first started dressing like this,” he added. “I never thought that 40 years later, I’d still be doing this. But it means a lot to me that what I do means a lot to them.”




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— Elgin survives zombie apocalypse, Svengoolie, during Nightmare  fest—