A Haunted House? No, Just Kind of Unsettling.

by Steven Smith

posted 10.25.04


Seasonal haunted houses always promise an experience that delivers unabated terror. I’ve yet to encounter one that actually delivers on this promise. The problem lies in the tired conventions of fake blood, flat homicidal archetypes and some guy waiting in a dark corner to surprise you when your back is turned. Fed up with these poor excuses for fright-tainment (that’s “fright” and “entertainment” combined into a single, more creeptastic (!!!) word), I’ve devised a haunted house experience of my own that’s sure to shake you to your core and leave a lasting impression that will linger well past Christmas.

You and a group of friends pile into the building and fork over the money for admission. Once the tickets have been doled out, you head for the…

Petter Ass Room. An overweight, disheveled man is sitting on a park bench with a bag of candy at his side. One by one, he unwraps each piece of candy and hands it to a small child sitting next to him. He just keeps feeding the kid candy and smiling to himself while he pats the boy on the knee. You make your way to the…

Free Clinic Room, where a man sits with his girlfriend in the lobby. A home pregnancy test, with its lingering scent of urine and positive result, are crammed into his pocket. He tries to keep the conversation light but she’s unresponsive. He avoids eye contact so she doesn’t mistake his face for empathy and a desire to keep the baby. Eventually the nurse calls her back into an examination room. She wraps her arms around him and he stiffens up, patting her on the back in a platonic way. Once she’s gone he leaves the clinic. You follow him out the door and find yourself in the…

Truth Will Set You Free Room. An army drill sergeant holding a pistol in his hand stands in front of a crowd of children all under the age of ten. Along the back wall are several actors dressed up as mythical holiday figures (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, et al). The drill sergeant moves down the line of characters one by one, announcing to the children that the character in question isn’t real, before putting a bullet in the character’s head. Snot and tears stream down the children’s collective faces as they clutch at your legs, begging you to tell them it isn’t true. You push them away and run for the exit. Immediately you’re struck by the relative calm of the…

Cabo and Hobo Room. The back wall of the room serves as a screen for a video projection of Spring Break frivolity. Young, near-naked co-eds fuck and suck their way through a weekend in Cabo San Lucas. They drop wads of their parents’ cash on sky high bar tabs and expensive hotel rooms that play host to hedonistic orgies. Inside the room, a real life homeless man freezes to death. You cover your mouth with a kerchief to fight back the smell of gangrene and squeeze your way into the…

Schlock Culture Room. The room is cramped. You’re sandwiched between scantily costumed acrobats and contortionists from various Cirque du Soleil touring companies. They’ve all paid to see a Maroon 5 concert on a nearby stage. The cast of Varsity Blues accompanies the band on backup vocals. Nearby, the anchors of Fox News take turns spanking Ashlee Simpson’s bare bottom. Simpson hisses at you as you exit and the sound of Bill O’Reilly squealing, “Soooo-WEE, Soooo-WEE” rings in your ears as you step into the…

Nocturnal Tinkle Room. A small child at a sleepover lingers in his sleeping bag as his friends wake up and leave the room. He can smell the aroma of waffles drifting in from the kitchen and feels betrayed by the laughing of his friends and the sweet sounds of Saturday morning cartoons. As the boys in the other room call after him, telling him he’s missing out on breakfast, the smell of waffles is overpowered by the stench of stale piss. The boy wet himself during the night and he forgot to bring a change of clothes with him. You leave him to his fate and are surprised when you step into the…

Domestic Dispute Room. The same boy from the sleepover lies in his bed in the dark. He pulls the blanket over his head in an attempt to drown out the sounds of his parents arguing in the other room. He hears his father hit his mother and a feeling of helplessness washes over him. Moments later, the front door slams followed by the sound of the family station wagon starting up and pulling out of the driveway. The boy watches through his bedroom window as his mother drives away, leaving him behind. Hours pass before he realizes she isn’t coming back for him. You tip toe towards the door and enter the…

Emasculation Room. A skinny, underdeveloped boy sits on the bleachers during PE, reading Cryptonomicon. Another boy, more of a man really, approaches, flanked on either side by friends. He asks the skinny kid what he’s reading for and he calls him a fag. The kid tries to ignore them but the big guy knocks the book from his hands and pushes him to the ground. From this vantage point on the ground, he can see the beautiful golden-haired girl who he’s been tutoring in French for the past three months, his infatuation with her growing stronger each day. He thought she was different, that she wasn’t like everyone else. But there she is, pointing in his direction and laughing with her friends, shortly before his tormentor’s fist connects with the bridge of his nose and everything goes black. In the darkness, you’re able to find a place to sit down. When the lights come up again you are seated in the…

Passion and the Flock Room. You’re in a packed movie theater. The assembled audience, instead of just watching the movie, is experiencing it on a deeply emotional level, as though they’re caught up in some sort of rapture. Several attendants stand up and wave their hands in the air. Others stay seated and quake, shaken by some unseen force. As the movie comes to a close, a cacophony of HALLELUJAHs and AMENs fill the air. The words “A Mel Gibson film” fill the screen as the person seated to your right turns to you and says, “Now let’s go git us some Jews…” You excuse yourself and make haste for the…

Russian Roulette Room. One by one, each member of your party is made to sit down at a small table and play Russian roulette with three North Vietnamese. By the time your turn comes around, your friends lie in a bloodied heap in the corner. You’re handed a revolver and you blubber out a protest, unable to form all the words in your mouth. They shriek at you in unintelligible Vietnamese and force the pistol into your hand. You slowly squeeze the trigger as tears roll down your face, which has become a twisted mask of horror and misery. The chamber spins, the hammer comes down and the sound of the gun going off fills your ears.

Suddenly, the lights come up and you are escorted out of the building. The organizers of the haunted house place you in a cab since you’re in no condition to drive home. You vomit over and over again in the foot well of the cab until the driver throws you out and leaves you stranded on an unfamiliar street. You stumble home, peel off your clothes and climb into the shower, where you stay for the next 17 hours, rubbing your skin raw and mumbling the words, “I’ll never be clean.”

SPOO-KAY!

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