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