I refer not to my actual domicile (it damn well better not be haunted; I’m still paying on it), but to the various spook houses, mazes of terror, etcetera, that crop up during October.
I enjoy going to them, but . . . they don’t scare me. Not trying to sound fake-brave here, all James Frey and whatnot, but they seriously don’t. I don’t understand how someone like my friend Flo, an otherwise rational adult human being, can turn into a terror-stricken 6-year-old upon entering a spook house that, 11 months out of the year, stores plywood and props for the same spook house.
Flashback: two years ago, the Haunted Hotel in Beaumont, Texas (not an actual hotel, just a large prefabricated building).
Flo, screaming at the back of my head: “MOVE FASTER OH MY GOD WHY ARE YOU SLOW?!?!? MOVE WHITE GIRL MOVE MOVE FUCKING MOVE!!!”
Me, upon having Flo shove me out of her way and into the path of a fake-blood-drenched dude in overalls wielding a running chainsaw, sans the chain part, so that she and my dear future ex-husband may reach the exit a few seconds sooner: “You two know I have the car keys, right?”
They didn’t hear me. When I sauntered outside a minute later, they were huddled near the ticket stand like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo. I didn’t get it. What was the big deal? Inside, it was all a bunch of teenagers in costumes they’d bought from Walmart or the Spirit Halloween store across town. It wasn’t as if we’d Twilight Zoned inside an actual horror movie, where all the blood and chainsaws were real.
I sound like a killjoy. I’m not. I enjoy going to them, seeing all the props, and I love how people can create stuff like that just to entertain other people (yeah, I know, they make money too, don’t burst my bubble). It makes me feel better about the world at large. We can’t be that bad as a species if we take all that time and effort just to give other people, mostly strangers we’ll never meet again, a fun time and a good scare.
I just don’t get to enjoy the good scare part. I need to work on suspending my disbelief, I suppose.
So, here’s my idea for a haunted house, if I ever have the opportunity to create one. (And anyone reading this, who creates spook houses, feel free to take this idea. I am generous.)
It would be pretty much a basic spook house, but maybe without relying on plastic mannequins with zombie masks and cheap props bought at Walmart. (What’s wrong with putting a little time and effort into your fright stuff? You have eleven months. Show some craftsmanship, a little pride. Hire people and apply real makeup on them. Don’t let them get away with a rubber Freddy Krueger mask. You think those zombies on The Walking Dead wear masks? Hell no, that’s makeup, bitch. Sorry. Been watching Breaking Bad. Got a little carried away. If you can’t hire people, hit the high school drama clubs and community theaters. Guarantee you, you’ll have some willing volunteers. Plus, they may know stuff about makeup and lighting and set design. Use them.)
Right. So, the basic spook house. But at the entrance to the house, there would be one person, man or woman–let’s say man, for example–who is on his cell phone. He’s waiting for his friends, but they’re not going to make it. What the hell?! He’s already purchased his ticket. What shall he do?
He shall be asked by the ticket-taker near the house’s entrance if he’d like to tag along with a group ready to go in. No one enters a spook house alone. That is sad. Our lone man tags along with the group. He’s at the end. The group enters the house, and perhaps halfway through, a performer grabs the lone man. Hey, that’s not supposed to happen! There’s a no-touch policy! Our man yells for help, screams, whatever it takes to get the attention of his group.
Finally, our man gets away, but he’s holding his stomach. The group may express concern. It’s nothing, he’ll say. Let’s get out of here. He’ll report the performer to the manager once they exit.
Onward they press. The man is still holding his stomach.
Then, a few feet from the exit, he pitches forward, bumping the person ahead of him. He rolls on his back. The group is stunned to see that he has a gaping wound in his abdomen. There are exposed intestines.
Then, from behind a hidden panel, emerges the performer who grabbed him earlier–who in fact stabbed him–and the performer is holding a sharp knife coated with blood . . .
All right, it sounds kinda cheesy. And it would take some test runs to get just right. There are a lot of variables to work out. But I think it’s a cool idea, sticking a spook house performer with a group and having this sort of subplot going on amidst the plastic skeletons.
Wait. Plastic skeletons? Scratch that. I’d have real ones.