I take Halloween seriously. That’s why I went to a professional haunted house on the night of a full moon. Also my wife drove because it was a pretty good distance, in Madison, Tennessee, which is north of Nashville and she was concerned I’d get lost and end up in Madison, Wisconsin, which is entirely possible. She also waited in the car with a stack of books and her knitting because haunted houses aren’t really her thing. Her reasons for marrying a guy with a fairly dark and twisted imagination whose favorite holiday is Halloween may have something to do with the saying that opposites attract, but that’s another story.
When I was a kid I loved haunted houses, although the only ones I knew were amateur productions put on by Boy Scout troops and church youth groups. My first acting gig was for one. My parents recorded about ten minutes of me screaming “Help me! Help me!” The tape player was then put on top of a refrigerator to give people the idea that there was a small child trapped inside. The scariest thing about that might be that parents would record the mock-suffocation of one of their own, but I really got into it and still smile whenever I see an old refrigerator.
In my adolescence I’d also be a live performer in amateur haunted houses, one year as a demonic spider creature in a web-filled lair, the next year as a mad scientist in a room full of beakers, test tubes, and approximately five tons of dry ice. I didn’t care that it was a lot of work and lost money, but I was the only one. My church youth group never put on another haunted house.
Professional haunted houses have been around for a while in various locations–Nashville Nightmare has been putting on exhibits for six years now–and I’ve always been intrigued but this was my first time to go to one. I had no idea what to expect. Well, from my amateur days I did expect that I’d be part of a group that would walk through a series of rooms with horrific scenes and the occasional costumed character who’d jump out at me. And I was right, but there was so much more. There was a maze built out of hanging sheets where an evil clown jumped out at people trying to find their way out. There were costumed characters wandering around. There were small children although no refrigerators. There was a gift shop.
I went through all four exhibits—starting with Horror High where I was joined by a guy and his young son. The guy was a haunted house veteran. It was his son’s first time. We got separated in the dark tunnels of Industrial Undead, but they seemed to be having fun.
As I meandered through a bloody Snow White asked me, “Do you have an apple for the queen? No? Then perhaps your heart.”
It was tempting but my heart belongs to another, back in the car. And I think the queen and I share too much to be a good match. You know the old saying: opposites attract.
Although it’s nice to have friends who also take Halloween seriously.