Magician strives to give you chills

If the ghosts and ghouls had you less than fooled at last Halloween’s haunted houses, one Evanston haunt hopes to prove that fear is more than an illusion.

Nothing jumps out in the Haunting History tour at the Charles Gates Dawes House, 225 Greenwood St. There are no ax-wielding men in masks or bodiless hands grasping from dark corners. There are few audible gasps or screams — but there is a chill. Though it is surprisingly warm in the drafty old mansion, a chill is running up and down my spine, letting me know that someone — or something — is there.

Which is exactly how magician David Parr, the tour’s creator and host, wants the audience to feel. “Shock scares are over and done quickly,” Parr says of traditional haunted houses. “It is the eerie feeling, the feeling of something you can’t see, that goes with you.”

Throughout the tour Parr uses the natural “shadowy corridors,” dim lighting and “presence of history” in the house to create a perfect atmosphere for his mind games.

Mind games that get increasingly intense as the tour winds through the house. In each room the group is presented with a theme — death by poison, premature burial, fortune tellers and contact with the spirit world are a few. Though the magic used by Parr is not exactly David Copperfield quality, the stories that accompany the tricks are the real treat.

“Our imagination is far scarier than a man in a hockey mask,” Parr says. “When things you can’t identify get put into your head, your imagination fills in the gaps.”

The stories and special effects get significantly scarier as the hour-long tour progresses. Though many audience members clearly are skeptical at the beginning of the tour, rolling eyes soon turn to darting glances and a visible reluctance to be the first one in, or out of a room.

“Most people have fun, but some really get creeped out by it,” Parr says. “They are going to leave here thinking about it, it stays with them.”

Haunted History runs through Oct. 31 at the Charles Gates Dawes House. Shows are at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $20. For information or tickets call (847) 475-3410. No one under 17.

–Erin Gulden