Friday, October 18, 2013

Too Old for Halloween? Try Tripping Through a Haunted House

by Sara N.

Here's a sad truth: Halloween just isn't as fun for adults as it is for kids. I mean, you can't trick or treat as a grownup; the neighbors tend to frown on it. Nor can you eat your weight in leftover candy without feeling guilty. After a certain age, going to rowdy costume parties to see how much alcohol you can put away without smearing your sexy cat makeup just loses its appeal.

Sure, Halloween decorations are fun (and boy, have we had some good ideas for you over the years), and maybe you work someplace where costumes are smiled upon. You can carve pumpkins and watch scary movies and read scary books, and those are all great. If you've got kids, it's fun to dress them up and take them door to door — plus, you can swipe their candy when they're not looking — but the joy is peripheral, not firsthand. So how can you get back that gleeful Halloween hedonism you enjoyed as a kid?

This year, I tried to recapture past Halloween glory. While visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Salt Lake City, I found myself joining a massive line to walk through an elaborate haunted house.

Prior to last weekend, I couldn't tell you the last time I visited a haunted house. And oh, this one — Nightmare on 13th — promised to be a doozy: It had multiple levels and three different themes; elaborate props, costumes and sets; costumed actors interacting with the crowd; and real, genuine, jump-out-at-you-and-make-you-scream scares.

As I stood in line, I realized that my sis, BIL and I were bringing the average age of the line up by about 15 years. Apparently even haunted houses are the domain of youth, particularly teenagers looking for a reason to squeal and clutch at their friends or main squeeze. No matter. We persevered through the snaking line and into the area with introductory videos to set up the main tableaus. In one, a demon erupts from a pumpkin patch and starts murdering members of a simple farm family. Another explores 13 common fears, from snakes to heights to claustrophobia to hell. In the final one, a toxic leak makes for a frightening journey along an abandoned chemical plant.

I'm here to tell you, this haunted house does what it promises to do. The murky dark where anything can (and does) lurk, the crazy elaborate props and costumes, and the human and animatronic creatures that lunge at you all create a truly scary atmosphere. Even little details like the pumped-in smell of rot and the springy moss-like substance covering the ground in the pumpkin patch add to the authenticity. The three of us were having a great time screaming like school kids and jumping at the things that jumped at us out of the black depths of the haunted house.

Until. Until we came to the tableau about coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. We had to enter a nightmare maze, with confusing passages, flickering strobe lights, and killer clowns lurking around each corner. I got separated from my group and pushed through a partition, only to come face to face with an evil soulless clown, who leaned in close and cackled at me, "Are you lost, ma'am?"

EXCUSE ME? Did the killer clown just call me MA'AM? THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. Being ma'am-ed by a haunted house actor was by far the most terrifying and stomach-clenching thing to happen to me in that godforsaken house. On the one hand, it had the result that most haunted houses hope to evoke: It left me shaken, dispirited, and questioning my place in the universe. On the other hand, it made me realize that this is yet another Halloween tradition that I may be too old for.

Alas. I suppose I'll just have to console myself with pre-leftover Halloween candy.

Click here for more information about Nightmare on 13th, which really is an awesome scary time.
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  1. A freaking clown called you "Ma'am"?!? I would have run screaming. Or used the elbows of death. Or both.

  2. hehehe... elbows of death. and why is this a thing, that haunted houses now separate you from your groups? your safety in numbers group? not cool.

  3. hahahahaahahahahaha....loved this