Is Halloween over yet?
I don’t do scary.
Sadly for me, this time of year brings out the scary.
Video feeds are full of individuals pranking people with chainsaws or, worse, sneaking up on them in clown suits. Just a glimpse of the videos makes my heart race. I hate being scared and fail to see the fun in it.
As a little kid, I was highly conflicted on Halloween. I really liked candy, but I really hated having to get past ghouls and goblins to get it.
Worse than facing creepy costumes head on was the constant paranoia of sneak attacks. To this day, you sneak up behind me and one of the following will happen:
A) I fall screaming to the ground.
B) I strike you in a delicate area with a pointy elbow.
C) I mess my pants.
D) I do all of the above.
When I was about 10 years old, I was visiting a family friend the weekend before All Hallows Eve. They thought it would be fun for their daughter and me to go through the haunted house next to Knott’s Berry Farm. She was several years younger but about five inches taller, so I put her in front. I own my cowardice.
The first part of the house was more like a twisted fun house with wonky mirrors and slanting floors. My fight or flight was at Defcon One, but I was able to hold the panic at bay, for now. Around a corner suddenly the lights dimmed, creepy whispers wafted in and bodies moved in the shadows. As we pressed on, I squeezed myself between my friend and the wall. The next few rooms were a bit wider, and I ran from entrance to exit of each room, head down, as fast as my size-three feet would go.
And then I literally ran into the end of the line. I apologized to the grownup whose backside I had become a tad too familiar with and took a step back. My friend was now behind me as we waited in a skinny dark hallway that echoed with groans and shrieks.
I couldn’t see what was happening ahead, but I could feel anxiety building within me. When would this nightmare end? I just wanted out.
As the line slowly moved forward, I finally caught a glimpse of the holdup. The hallway narrowed even more, forcing us to walk single-file, and there was a barred opening on the right. The first time I saw the animalistic hand swipe out from the bars, my heart stopped. I didn’t know any swear words then, but pre-teen expletives were swirling in my brain.
If the only way out was to get by some mad, giant ape, I may just be in this creepy house forever. I managed to slip my friend ahead of me. There were still several people in front of us, and I studied the hand and tried to find a pattern. Between the pounding fear in my head and screaming adults, it was nearly impossible. Finally, a faint pattern appeared, it seemed like the hand reached out about every five seconds. I still wasn’t sure if the hand was mechanical or human, both were terrifying, one was consistent.
It appeared to wait or reset after each person crossed, so my plan was to pretty much run right after my friend, and not give the robot or ape-man time to react. My friend crossed and I took off on a dead sprint. I was nearly halfway across when I caught a glimpse of the hand just before it caught – yes, caught – hold of me. I screamed, and it screamed.
I found myself tumbling forward onto my hands and one knee as my right leg was swept away. Like car tires struggling for traction on an icy road my hands and foot were trying to find any sort of grip. Eventually, my right foot engaged the floor and I was off and out the door.
My worst fears had been realized.
My friend and her dad were talking and laughing as I joined them, unaware of the terror I had just experienced. Dazed and confused, I stumbled with them into the restaurant for chicken dinner. Everyone placed their dinner orders. Still shaken, I nodded and fumbled through mine.
Once we ordered I excused myself to the restroom. The palms of my hands were scraped and bruised and there was a gaping gash on the top of my left knee. I cleaned up the best I could and headed back to the table.
When the family asked about my bruises and cuts, I told them what happened, and they thought it was a great story. “A great story?” I wondered how was nearly dying in a haunted house a “great story?” They didn’t see things as scary. They didn’t get my fear. They didn’t get my pain. But then and there I decided – I don’t do scary.
As an adult, I still avoid haunted houses. I don’t have the same fears I carried as a child, but I have the same aversion to sudden shocks. If I’m going to pay to be chased by zombies, then I’m going to find a haunted house that comes with a paintball gun so I have a fighting chance.