My favorite time of the year just so happens to be the month of October, but not for the more obvious reasons. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the changing of the seasons, watching the leaves changing colors, and then falling from their trees.
I'm more excited that Halloween is around the corner, and that means 'tis the season for haunted house events.
I wanted to share some of my experiences in both working at a haunted house and being a paying consumer.
There are many types of haunted houses (haunted attractions), ranging from different themes such as pirates to the traditional Universal Monsters; there are also haunted houses where you are led through by an attendant, or there are the maze-style haunted attractions where you have no clue which way is the right way to go through to complete it.
The maze attractions tend to be more fun; getting lost within and not knowing which way to go adds to the adrenaline rush — especially when an actor jumps out at you, screaming incoherently, with his/her hands grabbing at you from a short distance. If you do get to the point to where you get hopelessly lost, usually the actors have two-way radios to have someone on staff to come help guide you out of the pickle you're in.
The non-maze style, where an attendant guides you through the haunted house, is typically dressed for the theme of the haunted house; sometimes they are given a script for scenes they lead you in, which may include an awful pun. An example of this was a guy with a fake ax in the head: "Ma'am, do you happen to have any aspirin? I have a splitting headache."
When you get to the scenes, sometimes there might be someone lurking behind you or on the side of you, or depending on the hallway, in front of you just waiting for you to get nearer.
Just like plays, movies and television shows, there are bloopers and blunders. Things can happen, and will happen. Sometimes it benefits the customers, sometimes it benefits the actors, and sometimes Murphy's law kicks in and no one benefits from the blunder.
An example of a blunder that nobody benefited from: When I was working at Haunted Hutchins, for what I think was their first year, I was the Grim Reaper. I was helping the mad scientist and the witch keep Frankenstein from chasing people. As I was checking out for the night, with a sore throat due to screaming at customers, I saw the strobes of the fire alarm activate, along with a voice evacuation message, coming from the fire alarms.
The fire alarm system was activated by the fog machines, so naturally both the customers and actors had to evacuate the building. About 10 to 15 minutes after the alarms were activated, they were shut off. It was then that my ride came and picked me up.
My favorite blooper, though, was the next year, when the team had set up cardboard boxes alongside a wall in the exit hallway. Now, the gimmick of this set-up was that one of the boxes was labeled "monster," but the lights were dimmed in the hallway, and the hallway was set up to look like it was after the actual haunt. Someone from the production crew was in the box labeled "monster," and jumped out of the box when someone from the production crew greeted the customers with, "Have a happy Halloween!"
Now, this is where things got funny. One of the production crew insisted he could do a better job at scaring people than his friend. The exit hallway is filled with about five production crew members, including the monster, and an attendant of Hutchins Street Square, along with myself.
"Have a happy Halloween!"
The production crew member jumped out of the box. Well, he attempted to jump out of the box, but somehow ended up knocking himself back into the box, then tipping over and pinning an 8-year-old boy to the wall.
Don't worry, the boy wasn't hurt.
Our facial muscles were hurting, though, from laughing hard for a good 10 minutes at the blunder of "Mr. I Can Do This Better." I was sitting on the stairs, holding the railing for dear life, tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. Oh, how painfully funny it was to see it happen.
Sometimes you don't know what you're in for when you pay to enter a haunted attraction, but that's what makes it so fun. I must say, though, if you do have heart problems or you are pregnant, it is not advisable to go through, because some of these attractions are meant to be terrifying. However, if you have no medical issues, feel free to enjoy being scared.
Kenneth Huntley is a writer, and an on-and-off actor for haunted houses. If you would like to write to him, send an email to email@example.com.