Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Monsters in Training

A purple fairy was riding the Purple Line Saturday night. Costumed adults and children boarded the El Halloween weekend destined for parties, shows or sometimes just the El. The trains flashed images of a Care Bear, the Burger King and various historic wenches as they passed through stations. Catcalls echoed across the tracks from platform to platform. And Santa Claus told the Easter Bunny he didn’t exist.

“It’s like a circus,” said passenger Jeff Stur, 25, bedecked in a purple and leopard print pimp outfit with glittering bling. “It’s more of an adult Halloween.”

But children took to public transportation in costume earlier in the day for more subdued entertainment. The Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Chicago Office of Tourism sponsored the Haunted El, a theater production aboard El cars traveling the Loop.

Families picked up tickets at the Chicago Cultural Center and then waited on the Randolph/Wabash platform, glancing down the tracks in anticipation of their ride. Then a row of cars marked “Not in Service” and decorated to look old and eerie slid around the corner and into view.

“The first thing you hear is the screech and screams of children as they get off,” said Daniel Kerr-Hobert, as he directed participants waiting for the show.

And scream they did – as instructed by Quest Theatre Ensemble members for the purpose of scaring the young Spider-men, NASCAR drivers and princesses standing by for the next ride.

The theater group performed a puppet show version of Maurice Sendak’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.”

“It’s as good as the movies,” 7-year-old Chicagoan David Baptista said.

A light blue river made of cloth unfolded across the length of each car as the story’s main character Max sailed to the land of the wild things and the life-size Max puppet made of foam strutted up and down the aisle. Quest’s show also included songs and a chance for the children to use the puppets.

Glen Ellyn, Ill., resident Paul Clinker said he appreciated that Chicago offers affordable, or in this case free, holiday events. And this year’s production was even better than in 2004 because his son used to read “Where the Wild Things Are” almost every night, he said.

Clinker’s son Cale dressed as the Incredible Hulk and said his favorite parts of the performance were the river and the “rumpus” when the wild things danced.

And like Max’s brief trip to the wild side, the residents of the Chicago area traveled by El away from the world of everyday life for a temporary adventure with the undead, superheroes and storybook characters. There were plenty of wild things using public transportation Halloween weekend.

Jared Arter, an 18-year-old Loyola University Chicago student dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl, said a lady tried to look up his skirt on the bus.

“The later in the night, the crazier it gets,” said Robert Groszek, 30, dressed up as a wolf with his wife Jennifer, 28, as Little Red Riding Hood. “It’s nice to be with people who like to have a good time and enjoy life.”

Despite the implications of beer cases accompanied by people dressed as beer kegs, bottles and cans, El passengers said the fun wasn’t just drunken craziness but the same spirit of Halloween enjoyed by the children riding the Haunted El.

A crowded Red Line car turned into a game of Where’s Waldo? when a man dressed as Waldo joined the throng. And giggles broke out when a second Waldo climbed aboard and passengers began to debate which was the real Waldo and which was the decoy.

“It’s kind of fun to have everyone staring at you and considering taking a picture of you,” said Loyola student Andy Dost, 19, the second Waldo.

“It’s fun to know everybody’s getting kick out of it,” Andrea Jozuiak said. “A couple of years ago I was a dwarf with a fake accent and everything. People avoided me like I was insane.”

Columbus, Ohio, resident Rachel Kret, 28, wearing a sombrero, poncho and mustache, with a cigar in hand, said what made dressing up in Chicago fun is people’s willingness to go out in public and the acceptance of other El riders.

“It’s cool in Chicago because everybody’s doing it,” she said. “More people talk to you. They’re more friendly.”

Most of the people riding the El were dressed in street clothes, but Reid Kendall, 22, said they enjoyed the Halloween spirit too.

“It’s interesting each year,” he said. “It makes (the El ride) go faster.”

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at

[email protected].

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Monsters in Training