Friday, October 21, 2011

Reflections on Haunting

Well, it's that time of the year again; Carol and I (joined this year for the first time by our daughter Rhiannon) let ourselves get made up to look like hideous, stomach-churning dead folk and then proceed to scare the living crap out of paying customers at our local favorite haunted attraction.

Sometimes, there are lulls in the crowds, most often during the early part of the haunt season. During such times, my mind wanders (as it tends to do a lot anyway) and sometimes I ponder the whole haunt experience. Here are some random observations/rants/introspections/etc that I've accumulated thus far this season:

There is something viscerally powerful about instilling fear in others. Frankly, it's a delightful feeling, and quite addicting. When you hear a fresh group of victims approaching your area, your heart races, muscles tighten, and eyes gleam with predatory anticipation, as you're poised to strike. And when they reach your area, you

The best people to scare in terms of satisfaction? Teenaged girls. Holy crap can they scream. One shrieked so loud after I scared her that my left ear actually throbbed and rang for about five minutes afterwards. This is actually a sort of compliment. A deafening compliment, but a compliment nonetheless.

My "spot" happens to be right at the end of the first haunted attraction (there's a total of three of them), so I get the chance to really give people a powerful last impression. I like that.

Favorite tactic: cock an ear towards the departing customers, listen for one saying "aw, that wasn't scary!", slip out, ninja-like, out of my spot, follow right behind them, then at the right moment: "WAAAAAAGHGHGHHH!" Yeah, try THAT on for size, Mr/Ms "I'm not scared!".

Since my 60lb. weight loss I've discovered that, when you get right down to it, I'm rather wiry. So yes, I do feel like a 52 year old ninja when I sneak up on unwary customers.

The other classic targets are the people who leave the haunted house and go "Whew! We made it! That's over!" Then, just like those bogus endings tacked on to the majority of modern horror movies, the monster (read: ME) suddenly appears in their midst, going "BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!", and that's when the shrieking, crying, and swearing starts.

What's with people who go through haunted houses with this look of bored disdain? Look, we all know that haunted houses are fake. It's a form of entertainment; dare I say, it's interactive theater? It's a goof, a joke, and we all know it and are all in on it. You can either act like you're too cool or hip to be scared, or you can get into it like we do, play along, enjoy the ride, and share the joke with us. You paid your admission, you might as well suspend that disbelief for about twenty minutes and just enjoy it. We're not impressed with your so-called bravery. We are impressed by your willingness to get into the spirit of things. It's your call. We're good either way. Either way, we still have your money.

And speaking of which, that's another thing that cracks me up. Some of these people who look at you and openly sneer, saying things like "whatever", or "really?", or "yeah, ok loser". Hey guess what!? You and your two fellow terminally hip poser buddies just smacked down $60 to sneer at some people. Who's the real loser, pal? That 60 bucks may have a slight odor of vinegar and water (think about it), but it's still legal tender for all debts, public and private.

The later the haunted attraction is open, the more likely you'll get drunk and/or stoned people. I mean, the kind of drunk people that you better not light a match within four feet of them or they'll go all Hindenburg on you. That's why I prefer the crowds to be huge from the git-go, then peter out as it gets late.

Dear young parent: you are going through a scary haunted house with a screaming two-year old in your arms. Really? What is wrong with you?

Dear girl in her late teens: why do you have a Monster-Be-Nice flashlight? You're not a child. Sheesh.

For those not in the know, a Monster-Be-Nice flashlight is something that a parent can request for their child. The light is held up by the child during the sojourn into the haunt, and it's a signal for there to be less jump-scares and screams by the actors. Yes, I've seen teenaged girls carrying them. Hell, I've seen a small handful of adults carrying them. Really? That's like going to an expensive, exotic restaurant and ordering a burger and fries.

I really get a kick out of the teenaged guys who go into the haunts with their rapper poses, backward turned baseball caps and defiant sneers, only to shriek like a rabbit when confronted with a scare, and end up hiding behind their girlfriends. Yo.

Another fun group are the guys who don't act tough, but sure look it. Guys who looks like they could be NFL linebackers. Then you do your scary routine and they shriek and flail their arms in panic. Priceless!

As a haunter, we've been told to never break character, no matter what people say to us. This is awesome advice. You always get people who try to sass you, provoke you, or make wisecracks. Sad part is, these people make wisecracks in such a way that they believe they're the first ones who've ever made those remarks. Best to not succumb to temptation no matter how good the opportunity.

The wise-crackers I find particularly annoying are the teenaged girls or the drunken older women who come right up to my face and say stuff like "You're cute!" or "When do you get off?" I have some choice bazinga responses in mind, but again, you don't want to break character, so I simply stare right through them and move on.

Of course, I react the same even to real compliments like "THAT is amazing makeup!" or "Well done, you really got me that time!". Same reaction. Unchanging blank stare and scowl.

OK, so I admit it. This year, I broke character once. I had one of those "That wasn't scary" cases who I followed out of the house and proceeded to scare about ten years off her life. Then, as she and her group snaked their way through the sideshow and towards the Clown House, I got her again! As I walked away, I smirked in her general direction and held up two fingers, as in "Gotcha twice!" It helped that her friends were cheering me and giving me the thumbs-up.

Speaking of scaring people in a group, I noticed that a lot of people who happen to see their friend getting snuck up on have one of two reactions: either they say something like "Holy crap, Bob! Watch out behind you!" or they grin in evil anticipation and sit back to watch the show. The latter are way more fun, in my opinion. Clearly they're getting into it.

Well, that's enough for now. Barring any unusual incident between now and the end of the season, this should cover it nicely.


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