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Poll: Have You Ever Been to a Haunted House?

I’m talking about commercial haunted houses, here, not like the ones on Ghost Hunters, where they miraculously enjoy improbable success rates as they search for specters.

I mean the kind of haunted house where you pay a fee and then walk through some warehouse where things jump out at you and chainsaws whir somewhere in the distance.

I’ve only been to a couple.  I grew up in Spring Creek, Nevada, and our haunted house was in a big building called The Horse Palace.  If ever a place was palatial and equestrian, this was it.  Meaning, it had lots of bleachers and a spot for horses to prance in.  This is where you went for rodeos, and also where I experienced the very mild terrors of my first haunted house.

I remember sitting in a dark room after entering while a tall skeleton in a top hat commanded me (and a couple of my friends) to stare into a tall mirror.

Little by little, an image appeared in the glass.  It was…a ghost!  A ghost in a wedding dress with a bloody mouth!  Oh no!  But then, even worse, once we could see all the details, the ghost leaped out of the mirror, clutched at us, and screamed!  We yelled a little bit, but she didn’t touch us.  As soon as we left that room my friend said, “Hey, I think that was ______ (insert neighbor’s name.  It was indeed she, and during the colder months she was fond of wearing sweaters with geese on them.)

We trotted around like horses and pretended we were skeletal ponies, neighing the neighs of the damned.

The rest of it was kind of boring.  We ran around on some bleachers while unholy beings–many of my schoolmates among them–howled and groaned beneath our feet.  Sure enough, someone with a chainsaw showed up, ran toward us, menaced us as well as he was able with a saw that had no chain on it, then ran away into the night.  There were wet, sloppy chewing sounds in the distance, and the whole thing was heavy on cackling.

Later I’d go to a haunted house in Salt Lake.  I know what you’re thinking, no haunted house could possibly measure up to something held in The Horse Palace, but wait a second.  It was more of the same, but on a bigger, more polished scale.  And it was way more expensive.

People in costumes ran up and yelled in my ear.  They rattled chains.  They welcomed me to hell and displayed stumps where their limbs had been amputated by primitive means, I imagine.

I (and a couple of friends) jumped when I was supposed to jump, I ran when I was supposed to run, but I got tired of it all quickly.  But then, about 17 years had passed between haunted houses, so I didn’t worry too much about it and tried to be a good sport.

Over to you.  Have you ever been to a haunted house?  Did you enjoy it?  Have you ever worked at one?  If you have partaken of these ghastly adventures, what was the most memorable thing you saw?

 photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sticviews/

Up tomorrow: Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, so come on back.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amy September 26, 2012, 6:30 pm

    I have been to many haunted houses both commercial & “real.” I have loved them since I was 6. I usually scare the people working more than they scare me. I give tips to actors & owners and will email back & forth to try to help them do better. I love ghost stories too.

  • Heather September 26, 2012, 6:31 pm

    Oooo, I LOVE haunted houses! Until this year, I was an annual participant/money-person for the Haunted House for the Class of 2013. The first year we did it was the best–I made a 6th grader pee his pants, and it was great! I was an active part of the show the first year, playing a vampire. I was involved in several during my college years, and my favorites have got to be haunted trails. THOSE are BRILLIANT, because you’re outside, and if all the elements are right–chlly weather, slightly damp, SOME leaves down but not all, especially in the more remote portions of West Virginia, haunted trails are fun–for both spectators AND participants! It’s part of why I LOVE this time of year.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 26, 2012, 8:27 pm

      Where did you go to college? Are you one of those Hamburger U folks?

      • Heather September 27, 2012, 8:52 am

        Went to Fairmont State in WV. We also used to do a haunted house here at the high school, but we can’t this year due to the state fire marshall threatening to pop in on us. He hates us.

  • Avil Beckford September 27, 2012, 6:12 am

    In Jamaica where I was born and grew up they had the story about Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rosehall who was believed to have killed her three husbands in the 1800s. The people who work at Rosehall, which is now a tourist attraction, claim that it is haunted. I visited years ago for a school trip but didn`t hear or see any ghosts. This is a different kind of haunted house, no one tries to scare you, but you hope to have a ghostly encounter with Annie while you tour her home, and it is a paid tour.

    Avil

  • Michelle September 27, 2012, 8:16 am

    I love haunted houses! There’s two types really: the ones that are kind of cheesy, and the ones that invest time and money into actors and props that can actually get you to jump. Both have their merits. The key to any haunted house is not to be passive and expect to be scared. You’ve got to play along, imagine that these things really are scary. It’s like playing pretend as a kid. You’ve got to want to be scared.

    We’ve got The Haunted Train around here, which is a couple boxcars on an old bit of railroad. The first one is a lot like a curiousity museum, almost like the one at the beginning of House of 1000 Corpses. It’s just stuffed with, well, stuff, behind plexiglass. Some of it’s interactive, if you press the right key on a keyboard, something inside will move. They’ve got the rest set up like a typical haunted house, but all the things they have are the real attraction.

    My favorite haunted house of all time is the Niles Haunted House in Michigan. They make it huge so you don’t go the same way twice. In high school, our group of friends would go every year. No one wanted to be in the front of the group or the very back (many times it was single file through some of the rooms) because you were most likely to get jumped at or snuck up on, but those were my favorites. I’d be in the front the first time, and in the back the second time.

    One time we went, it was our second trip through, and I was in the back. We got to a part that we had been through the previous trip, a room with picture frames and the people in the pictures jumped out at you. My friend at the front of the line remembered this room, so she took off running through it, and the rest of us followed. What we forgot was that there was a sharp turn at the end. So she ran into the wall, and the rest of us piled on top of her just like in a cartoon.

    Obviously, I’ve got tons of great memories going to haunted houses with friends.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 27, 2012, 10:16 am

      In Gettysburg there were lots of candlelit ghost tours. That is something I think I’d actually love.

      What did you think of House of 1000 Corpses?

      • Michelle September 27, 2012, 10:20 am

        I haven’t been on any ghost tours, but I’ve seen them at a few places and really want to go on one.

        House of 1000 Corpses is pretty messed up. It was entertaining even if it’s not in any of my favorites lists. But I prefer supernatural horror.

  • Jacque September 27, 2012, 10:00 am

    I’m in Utah and I recommend that you go to the one out in the old mental hospital in Tooele. It has consistently been the best one for the last few years. It has that creepy institutional smell and aura to back up anything the actors and designers create. And you KNOW people died in the building…

    • Josh Hanagarne September 27, 2012, 10:15 am

      Thanks Jacque. I haven’t even heard of that one.

  • Spencer September 27, 2012, 2:14 pm

    I went to several “haunted” houses and forests and factories and cornfields and pumpkin patches in college. It was prudish co-ed hand-holding gold. The most memorable experience was also down in Salt Lake, where I had gone for the weekend with some roommates. Early in the tour, there was a room with two young blonde teenage “vampires” in short and frilly white nightgowns. One of them came right up to me, put her hand on my shoulder, bit me (not gently) on the neck and whispered “This is SO lame; get me out of here.” To this day, I really wish I would have.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 27, 2012, 3:48 pm

      That’s hilarious. I wish you would have too.

      • Spencer September 27, 2012, 4:35 pm

        They have all manner of abandoned/haunted factories and mills and stuff with howling wolf and blood-curdling scream soundtracks here in downtown Kansas City. If any WSL followers are in KC in the next weeks and months, it’s my treat!

  • Boris Bachmann September 28, 2012, 9:23 am

    I want to go to this haunted house in Japan – listed as the longest and scariest in the world by Guinness Book of World Records. It’s in Japanese, but you’ll get the idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNNlMZgqcPU