Imagine Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin (which always makes me cry a little), or Winnie the Pooh going trick-or-treating with Piglet. Our Halloweens have always been filled with candy treats, cute costumes, apple-bobbing, pumpkin carving, etc. (And occasionally, my wife convinces me to allow our three daughters to join in.) Besides, at my age, I considered myself beyond being scared by “things that go bump in the night” — unless it’s our dog nocturnally dispensing Tootsie-Rolls on the living room carpet.
Recently, though, my eldest child took advantage of my inability to say “no” to anything that isn’t illegal, immoral or beyond our maximum home equity line of credit, and requested that I take her to a local “haunted” house.
The first truly frightening aspect of this haunted house was its location — in the country — where there promised to be lots of dirt and a lack of proper restroom facilities. Once we managed to find the entrance without hearing a single rendition of “Dueling Banjos,” we were confronted with the second scare of the night — parking. The parking system consisted of a pasture and a couple of burly teenagers with flashlights, John Deere caps and enough snuff lodged behind their lower lips to start their own earthworm farms. After I was directed to squeeze my vehicle between a wannabe monster truck and a vintage Capris that had a sparkling primer finish, my daughter and I found our way to the ticket booth.
Purchasing tickets was the next terrifying component of the haunted house. With trembling fingers, I found myself forking over $20 apiece for the privilege of being startled repeatedly by some guy wearing a pillowcase over his head. I actually had to stifle a slight scream when I saw that I would have to pay $30 for a VIP ticket and be first in line at each of the haunted venues. Naturally, I fled in horror.
The first venue we experienced was The Haunted Cemetery. The ticket puncher at the gate recited the rules in the disturbing voice of a persistent telemarketer: “No running, no touching the actors, no profanity, and no touching the props.”
“Darn!” I thought, “I was really looking forward to giving everyone in costume a chest bump.” As we crept through the path of the pre-built graveyard, I was impressed with the sets that had been artfully constructed. There were aged tombstones, a crumbling mausoleum and, if I remember correctly, even a well-dressed funeral director quoting exorbitant service prices. My daughter proceeded to ask each of the actors to be her best friend and told one that he had bad breath. (I need to get her out more.)
The second venue we visited was The Haunted Manor. Again, I was impressed with the set. There were several gruesomely decorated chambers (in circa 1990s Martha Stewart) and more than one floor in the house to navigate. One room was manned by an imposing woman with a bloody meat cleaver screaming at us to get out of her kitchen as she chopped up something grotesque — like celery. As we exited the kitchen and walked down a long, narrow hallway, I could hear her waddling close behind me. I glanced back a couple of times, and she was still there – leering at me, like she wanted me to take her out to Olive Garden. I almost told her that I was married and the whole zombie scullery maid look just wasn’t my taste, but I decided to do the chivalrous thing — push my daughter aside and run.
After The Haunted Manor, we mercifully found the final haunted venue, The Haunted Carnival. When we entered, I saw what all of the buzz was about — scary clowns. I’ve been dealing with scary clowns all of my life: Bozo, Ronald McDonald, the last four presidential administrations and every adolescent male I had in my English class when I taught junior high. Nowadays, seeing a creepy clown just makes me hungry for a large order of fries and gives me the urge to grade a poorly written essay.
Despite my cynical attitude toward the haunted house, my daughter seemed to have a good time, and that was the whole point. She even slept in her own room all night, which made me sort of sad. I guess my girl is growing up. Pretty soon, she may not be interested in the fun of Halloween at all, which means that, once again, I’ll be the only one bobbing for apples in my Winnie the Pooh costume.
Oh, well, there’s always Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin. Somebody pass the Kleenex.
— Jason Graves
Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of Longview, Texas, and a Texas A&M Aggie. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective in his blog. Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible.