Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Haunted House

When I was a little girl, I was scared of everything. I would lie awake at night and wonder when The Things in the closet and under the bed would come out. I knew they always waited until I was asleep, and if Mom or Dad came in, they would cleverly disappear into another dimension, but they were there: No doubt about it.

Halloween was always an especially trying holiday because of my ability to scare easily. I loved the excitement, however, which was always mixed with a tiny bit of terror, too. My grandmother was a sewing genius, and every year she would sew us children costumes that would regularly win Halloween contests. One year I wore a gorgeous yellow ballroom gown from the late 1800s that would rival any professional Hollywood production. Of course I won that year: It would have been hard for the judges to give out first place to anyone else. I stood out in a sea of cheap, store-bought costumes.

One Halloween, this same grandma decided to take my little brother and I to the mall on some errand or other. In the middle of the mall, in front of a large department store, a haunted house had been set up. It was still early in the morning, and there were very few people in the mall, so there were no customers, no lines, and all was still except for the gruesome ticket-taker.

"A haunted house!" said my grandmother, clearly delighted. "You kids should go!"

My brother was two years younger than I, and just as much of a scaredy-cat as I. We both shook our head violently, but Grandma persisted in insisting that we should enjoy the 'delights' of the season. How we ended up getting bullied into it, I'll never know, but suddenly we found ourselves enterering the dreaded haunted house without Grandma, cautiously looking about at the entrance and slowly tiptoeing in.

My memory dims as to what we saw there, but I'm certain that it really didn't amount to much, according to modern-day standards. We probably had the usual things popping out at us, and saw the ordinary vampires and ghouls. But what made it especially unnerving is that we were the ONLY people in the entire haunted house, and we'd never been in one before, and we didn't have an adult with us.

About halfway through, completely terrified and with the dreadful belief that we were never going to get out, my brother and I finally decided we would crash down an entire wall to get out (like something out of Scooby Doo). We kept thrusting ourselves repeatedly and futilely against this one plywood wall, amidst screams and flashing lights, until I was tapped on the shoulder.

I turned and saw a mummy looming over us. I screeched as well as Jamie Lee Curtis could ever hope to screech, and the mummy motioned placatingly toward the exit. You could tell it felt keenly sorry for the two trembling, bewildered children that kept trying to claw their way out. I'm sure the actor underneath the rags was wondering if we were residents of a local asylum out on day passes.

We bolted for the exit and ran so fast that once we were out we couldn't stop the momentum. We fell and skidded across the marble tiles, tangled up together, arms and legs flailing as we sailed along. A baseball player sliding for home couldn't have done any better. Our long skid ended at the feet of our grandmother, who was laughing so hard she could barely stand up.

I've often wondered if anyone else has ever seen such a neurotic reaction and if so, how it was handled.

I recently took my son to ZooBoo, the Lowry Park Zoo haunted house extravaganza. We went through some pretty lame haunted houses, with an exit halfway through so that children who are easily scared could quit the show. What a great idea! Of course we didn't need it: My son sauntered through with calm amiability.

I look back with fondness on my wonderful, crazy grandmother who is the Patron Saint of Halloween and April Fool's Day. She added humor and adventure to our lives. Now that I recall my first Haunted House, I admit we must have been quite a comical sight... but it took me years to see the humor in the situation.

I wonder if the mummy ever fully recovered.


The Lazy Iguana said...

The best part of this story was your grandmother laughing at the whole thing. Classic.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, she was a joy! :D

Saur♥Kraut said...

...nuttier than an Almond Joy bar, but fun nonetheless...

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I spent years lying precisely in the middle of the bed, knowing full well that if any part of me extended past the edge of the bed, the critters under the bed would immediately snack on those parts. On the other hand, commercial haunted houses never bothered me. I knew they were fake. There were a couple of houses in the neighborhood that gave me the willies, all the time, not on Halloween.

Bryan said...

Now you've gone and scared me!

I've got a REAL HAUNTED HOUSE story, which I believe you've read before. And I also remember - I think it was last Halloween - that you also had a genuine scary story that you posted on your blog.