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Interview: Ghost tour with 'A Haunted House 2' stars proves to be spirited time

Luis Gomez

About Last Night

7:34 AM CDT, April 14, 2014

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Ghost tours are supposed to be scary. Like a good horror movie, they should keep you slightly on edge and give you chills down your back. The stories about the supernatural occurrences that may or may not have taken place should keep you up at night and make you contemplate sleeping with the lights on.

This, however, wasn’t one of those ghost tours.

Marlon Wayans, Gabriel Iglesias and Affion Crockett visited the 122-year-old granite building that is home to Castle nightclub (formerly Excalibur) earlier this month for a private daytime ghost tour that produced more laughs than goose bumps. Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tours founder Ursula Bielski served as the guide but rarely could finish a story without one of the men cracking a joke — not that I’m complaining. What’s the point of taking a ghost tour with three comedians if they’re just going to keep quiet?

“This is actually known as one of the most haunted structures in Chicago,” Bielski said of the church like Castle during her intro before getting cut off for the first of many times.

“So we turned it into a bar,” Wayans said in an interior designer voice.

The three comedians can be seen beginning Friday in “A Haunted House 2,” the sequel to 2013’s “A Haunted House.” Protagonist Malcolm Johnson (played by Wayans) was terrorized by a possessed girlfriend in the first film but has since moved on in the sequel and is dating a mother of two (played by Jaime Pressly). The hauntings continue when they move in together, only this time it’s the kids who are doing much of the spooking.

Wayans co-wrote and co-produced the comedy, as he did with the original. The first movie made nearly $60 million worldwide on a $2.5 million budget, according to boxofficemojo.com. Wayans also co-wrote the first two “Scary Movie” films with his brother Shawn Wayans, among others, before they parted ways, to put it nicely, with the franchise.

“To me, the reward is that I hopefully made my audience laugh and that I’m able to make another movie,” Marlon Wayans said of the original “Haunted House.” “I got the reward the night that I went to the first screening and saw all those people laughing. From there, I didn’t care about the acclaim. For me, it was successful because I did a movie for no budget, and it did well. It’s not like, ‘Ha, yeah, in your face.’ Yeah, it felt a little good that ‘Scary Movie 5’ bombed, but that was just a quiet personal thing that me and God had discussed.”

The ghost tour began with a story about an early Chicago settler or trader whose spirit is said to walk up and down the main floor’s staircase at Castle, which prompted Crockett to question how exactly this ghost walks and then to impersonate a peg leg limp down the stairs. Before continuing the tour in the downstairs area, Wayans shamelessly headed to the bar and poured himself a drink.

“I figure if we’re going to see ghosts, I might as well have me a nice little drink,” Wayans said, glass in hand. “Keep me calm.”

Once everyone was downstairs, Bielski said she had one of her earliest ghost encounters in the women’s restroom and then walked into that restroom. The trio followed after some brief confusion.

“When I had just turned 21 years old ...” Bielski said in the dimly lit bathroom.

“I threw up right here in this sink — I was drunk off my mind,” Wayans said, impersonating Bielski and then pointing in all directions. “I threw up there. We threw up there. Oh my God. I (went to the bathroom on) the floor right there.”

Bielski — a good sport with a sense of humor — continued. She said she was washing her hands and adjusting her makeup in the bathroom during a night out with friends at the club (then called Limelight) when suddenly she felt fingers running through the back of her hair.

“That’s my move,” Wayans said. “You know what time that was.”

Noticeably silent was Iglesias — so much so that Wayans said, “Gabe is quiet. Like, ‘I respect the dead.’ ” Iglesias admitted after the tour that his mom believed in the supernatural but he had never had an encounter. Crockett said he never had an encounter either, but that didn’t keep him from believing.

“I’ve never had a paranormal experience, but I believe that they are real and they do exist,” Crockett said in a rare moment of seriousness. “I feel like the human race is pretty arrogant when it comes to aliens or — anything we can’t see, we don’t believe in. But I believe there’s a whole lot of scary things out there.”

The tour moved from the downstairs to the second floor, much to the chagrin of Iglesias, who said he was more scared of walking stairs than ghosts. Bielski introduced the second floor as the Dome Room and said employees have found broken glasses and liquor missing there in the morning.

“That’s the janitor,” said Iglesias, joining in on the zingers.

“A Haunted House 2” is Iglesias’ first non animated film role since he played a drug-dealing strip club DJ in 2012’s “Magic Mike.” And like “Magic Mike,” the movie features plenty of skin. Wayans’ rear end is on full display — as it often is in his movies — during a sweaty sex scene with a doll that later becomes a stalker.

“There’s definitely more naked in this movie than ‘Magic Mike,’ ” Iglesias said. “I thought I’d seen it all with Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey and being in the backstage area, but I definitely saw a lot more of Marlon than I did of them. You must wax. You’re shiny and smooth everywhere.”

Bielski wrapped up the tour with a story of a little blond girl who has been spotted in the Dome Room, believed by some to be an evil demonic presence. The questions then began. Iglesias raised an index finger to ask if any ghost hunters have brought in devices to test the venue’s energy. (Bielski said many have.) Crockett asked if there is any part of the club that isn’t haunted, or as he called it, “a Jesus V.I.P section.” (Bielski said there isn’t.) Curious, I asked Crockett what a Jesus V.I.P. section might be like.

“Jesus buys bottles of water and then turns them into Ciroc,” Wayans joked.

“And it smells much better than the rest of the place,” Crockett said.

“It smells crazy in here,” Wayans said. “It smells like spirits.”

Both “Haunted House” films have a crass, slapstick tone with moments of bathroom humor — things not usually well received well by critics. The first film earned an extremely low 10 percent rating from critics on rottentomatoes.com. Yet, none of that mattered to the audience Wayans is targeting, judging by the box office results and the non stop laughter at the sequel’s sneak preview at the AMC River East 21 movie theater.

“Their job is to critique,” Wayans said of critics. “I think comedy is the one genre that’s subjective. What some may find not funny, others may find hilarious. I don’t know if that’s my audience. I know my audience is a young, urban, diverse demographic. It’s hard for people with (a) master’s in English to go, ‘You know, that fart joke was brilliant. That’s scatological humor.’ ”

The trio made their way to the main level and stood alongside a vintage rectangular mirror near the entrance to pose for photos. Wayans leaned against the wall casually until he heard female giggles near the mirror. His head turned toward the laughter, which turned out to be a woman with bleached bright pink hair (presumably a Castle employee) trying to walk by Iglesias.

“I thought that was the little girl,” Wayans said, shaking his head. “I was about to say, ‘I’ll (mess) this (ghost) up. I’ll (mess) this ghost up.’”

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

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