“What are you doing here?” The menace in their voice was unmistakable.

Reflection on my life’s choices has become an almost daily event—as a result of this blog. As I think about my silly adventures and events, I consider what it was that brought me to those points, and how they worked out. After all, if I would like these stories to be entertaining to more than just me I would like them to be. Wait… That needs to be reworded. I find my stories entertaining. This is why I think about what I’ve done, survived, whatever, and how to phrase it all so that you—dear reader—might feel the same.

It was near Halloween and my father had decided to take Erich and me on a four-hour—round trip—drive to what was then the 49th Street Galleria, in Murray, to a haunted house. To this day I do not recall why he would be willing to do such a thing for something like that. I never really thought to ask him about it, and now I can’t because he’s dead. So…

Upon our arrival, I was amazed at the size of the place. This was back in the heyday of arcades and shopping malls. There were all kinds of attractions to keep my eyes occupied while we waited in the line that went for miles and miles. It was kinda like that scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie, and his brother Randy, stand in the line to meet Santa Claus only to find out that they are at the wrong end and the other is not even within their sight. Yeah, we had that too. After working past crowds of people, the three of us found the doors to the spook house, only to find that we had been walking alongside the line for the last ten minutes—just call me Ralphie.

Now that we knew where the line was beginning, we could find the end. So, we retraced our steps. Meanwhile, the line had grown—exponentially. It had even been redirected up a flight of stairs to allow the other patrons to do their regularly patrony stuff, with minimal interference from the would-be Halloween traumatized. The facility’s attempt to control the populace would make a Disneyland attendant proud.

“I’ll wait right here.” My father pointed to a bench and sat down.

“You’re not coming with us?” I was too confused by everything to do much more than stand there slack-jawed.

“I didn’t come for me. I’m good just watching the crowd.” He was always like that. He could sit and people-watch for hours. “Don’t worry. I’ll find you at the end.”

With that, it was up to Erich and me to find the end of the line and wait to be traumatized. Er, terrorized (same difference). Navigating our way to the end of the line almost got us lost. Eventually (maybe 30 minutes later), we passed back by my father’s sitting spot. We were never going to make it to the terror. To make things worse, the best view of anything we had was of a sweet’s shop. The two of us didn’t have any money, and yet there it was flaunting and taunting its wares at us. It was in the open doorway of that store, on the lowest shelf of the centered pedestal, was the first time I saw bubble gum cigars.

After not moving for a time, my father took a little pity on us and gave us a few dollars to buy some candy. Erich and I each took turns in both the haunted house line and the candy store line. It helped.

Eventually, eternity ended and we made it to the opening of the Haunted House. The noises coming from inside were already enough to send chills down my spine. The fact that the screams of real terror from the patrons touring said haunted house were louder than the recorded spooky noises only made me want to wet myself then and there. Maybe I would wait until we were in the dark and creepy inside, that way, nobody would see. I figured I would just play that bit by ear. You know, see how much I needed to cry versus wanting to wet myself. Priorities.

The hosts of the Haunted House made a count and ushered in a group of bodies from the line. Finally, inside…

The darkness enveloped us instantly. There was a chill in the air. Some lights flickered. Night vision was none existent right then. We were subject to our handler’s whims for our safety. We volunteered for this?!! Erich and I stuck close together—as we were not part of the group we were with, in that they were not our friends. Most of the group… Okay, ALL of our group participants were not only older than us, but they were also much taller than us.

It was difficult to see and hear our instructions. What I could hear was something about not wandering off or else you’d be dead. That was enough for me. Don’t lose the group: check!

Our mob was corralled from a dark and windy passageway into more dark… Great, now what…?

Suddenly lights flash! Fog is dripping from openings in the black ceiling. A crazed scientist is yelling at us. Electricity is pulsing from something I had only seen in black-and-white horror movies. Girls in our group are grabbing their boyfriend’s arms. The boyfriends are grabbing their boy friend’s arms. Erich and I are shuffled to the back of the group by Chance. Or maybe his name was Charlie? Regardless the two of us were now at a point where we couldn’t see and really couldn’t hear. Well, we did hear the chainsaw.


This was followed by the saw teeth of that machine tearing through the wall, which was then shattered open to allow the hockey mask-wearing maniac to enter the room and begin his slaughtering of us all. The chainsaw’s exhaust smoke sputtered out and mixed with the fog. This had to be real, the man in the mask was wearing overalls and had decided to accent his look with human blood. This must have been a last-minute decision—as it was still dripping from his limbs and running down the front of his overalls!

As any good party guest would do when confronted with a party crasher of this nature, everyone screamed, huddled even closer together, and then backed up. I think one of the teen girls even fainted, but, since she was pressed into the center of the mob, she was carried along with them. Unfortunately for me, I was—as you may recall—at the back of the group. And, as such, was quickly knocked down, kicked repeatedly backward as the group shuffled their feet (and themselves) away from the chainsaw maniac, knocked under something that separated me from the group, and left alone. In the dark. Alone. In the dark. Alone.

I know what I wrote.

All alone, and in the dark, I only figuratively saw a few options ahead of me (night vision gone—remember). One: Stay where I was and wait for my group to find me. Supposedly, you should do that when you’re lost in the woods. This was not the woods, regardless of what a man holding an operating chainsaw might indicate. Also, I could no longer hear the screams of my group so either they had left me far behind, or they were all dead. Thank you, Mr. Chainsaw-guy.

B: I could wait until my eyesight returned and simply walk out. Assuming I could find a door. Given the recent ocular trauma I had received, my eyes were only seeing black. And, yes, they were open.

And Lastly: I could try to feel my way out. How hard could that be, really?

It was hard. Really, really. Hard. Like, not burning yourself by swimming in molten lava would have been easier. Seriously.

I stretched out my hands to attempt to find anything. Within arms reach: Nothing. As I began to step about my immediate area, I bumped into a table. On said table were all manner of things I couldn’t identify by touch. Some heavy. Some flexible like cloth. Some rubbery… and flesh textured?!?!! Oh, hey… A knife. Good. I can use this to fight my way out if needed.

A powerful hand seized my left, upper arm, “What’re you doing here?” The voice was intense and whispered. Almost as if they didn’t want anyone to know they had found a victim all for themselves. Some people (and monsters) just can’t share. This whole encounter startled me so badly that I accidentally dropped the knife. I knew it was real, the sound of metal hitting concrete was unmistakable. Now I’m dead.

“Did you hear me? What are you doing here?” My eyesight was beginning to adjust as I could barely make out the massive cloaked figure that held me firm. Their face was inches from mine, and yet I could not see any details. Given how big they were bent over, I was mortified to discover their true height if they ever stood up. Monsters are so real. “Come with me.” And with that, I was forcibly dragged along.

I tried to plead my case. Let them know what had happened. How I had been knocked down and kicked about. No response. We hadn’t gotten far when I heard someone calling my name. The Monk-monster, still holding me firm in their grip, spun around, “Who’s there? Show yourself?”

Show yourself? Show yourself? We’re in pitch-black and you want them to show themselves? If I hadn’t been so petrified with fear I would have laughed out loud. Or peed myself—which was still an option. This whole endeavor was pretty scary.

Turns out, it was Erich. Once he noticed I was missing, he had ducked under some of the heavy sheets of black plastic that were being used as walls and came looking for me. Fine. Now the Monk-monster would be eating us both for supper. Whatever.

“Are you two brats trying to ruin this or something?” It wasn’t a Monk-monster. It was one of the spook-house employees. They thought we were trying to vandalize or do something stupid to ruin the experience for others. Despite our vehement protests to the contrary, she did not believe us. Yes, the Monk-monster was a girl. A girl with serious anger-strength. Her grip on us was like a locked metal clamp. She was not letting us go. Maybe she really was a monster…?

Looking back on it—from an adult perspective—I don’t know as I would have believed me either. Even if I had been telling the truth. Which I was.

Regardless, Monk-monster-girl lead us to the end of the Haunted House, shoved us out the exit door, and sent us on our way. We never got to go back and see from the beginning to the end. Oh well.

As promised, my father was right there at the exit waiting. He asked how it was. We told him our story. He said, “Too bad.” and the three of us walked through the first set of doors that lead to the outside so we could begin the drive home.

In large shopping centers and office buildings, there are often two sets of doors. One for the outside to get in, an open area, and then a set of doors to let insiders get out. As the three of us walked through the first set toward freedom, we noticed that the Haunted House had decorated this open area as well. The overhead lights were off, but the light from inside—where the stores were—illuminated just enough so that we could see part of a house with a picket fence and some shrubs. A little out of place, but, what did I know?

Off to our right, a car engine revved. Its headlights were upon us. Suddenly, terrifyingly, the car lurched forward, crashing right through the picket fence. It was going to smash us into the wall to our left. Then at the last possible second, it stopped, backed up, off went its headlights, the fence righted itself, and all was back to as it was.

As the car backed away, my father read the license plate of the red ‘58 Plymouth Furry: California, CQB 241.

That was the best, and worst, haunted house I have ever been to.

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