It’s that time of year when signs for ‘haunted houses’ and ‘haunted trails’ start popping up all over the place. There are dozens of these things nowadays. There were a lot fewer options in the haunted house/trail department when I was a kid, but I think there is a quality over quantity argument to be made as well.
Maybe I’ve just had the wrong haunted house experiences of late, but in recent years the few haunted houses and haunted trails I have been to have been sorely lacking. It seems like the majority of these things consist of nothing more than people in masks jumping out from behind obstacles and yelling at you. Furthermore, it seems like this is all arbitrary, with no theme (other than jumping out from behind things) tying anything together.
When I was younger, I can remember the best haunted houses being more theatrical than this. There were rooms with themes, and the people in masks had dialogue and acted out scenes. There was a tour guide who set the stage with a spooky narrative. A lot of the time there were people jumping out from behind things as well, but at least there was some kind of story behind the jumping.
When I was in Junior High, I went to the best haunted house I have ever been through. It was called “The House of Michael Myers.” It was based on the “Halloween” movies, obviously (not Shrek or Wayne’s World). This particular haunted house was rather unique, because it was set up in an old abandoned house that use to sit along the main street of my home town. This was perfect, because anyone who lived there already considered this house to be haunted. The tour guide was “Dr. Loomis,” and he set the stage before the tour by reciting creepy dialogue from the movie: “I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes.”
It was terrifying.
The tour itself consisted mainly of our group being placed in a scene – a girl is babysitting some children watching a movie with some popcorn or talking to a friend on the phone when it suddenly goes dead – and then Michael Myers busting in wielding a butcher knife as we ran to the next room. The tour ended with the group descending a flight of stairs that led to a small foyer, near the exit (which happened to be the same door the tour started at). At this point Michael Myers comes down a hallway, and after a few moments of trying to reason with him Dr. Loomis fires a cap gun at him several times before opening the door and imploring everyone to flee.
One time when I went on this tour – I must have went through this house a dozen times – I was with my friend Marky. Marky was tall and stout; you might say he was portly, meaning he was fat. He was a big kid, that’s what I’m getting at. Emotions were still running pretty high when we reached the bottom of that stairwell, and freedom was right behind that door – which was right behind Dr. Loomis. Marky wasn’t much of a gambling man, so when he saw ole’ Michael Myers coming down that hallway he wasn’t interested in taking any chances with Dr. Loomis and his questionable sidearm, no sir. Marky shoved poor Loomis straight at Michael mid-monologue and frantically threw open the door, freeing our tour group in a hysteric stampede. And even though Michael Meyers dropped his butcher knife so he could help keep a staggering Dr. Loomis from crashing headlong into the floor (what a nice guy after all!) the whole experience was still scary as hell.