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Of Haunted Houses

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Halloween is without question my favorite time of year. I’ve even had friends call me “Mr. Halloween.” The John Carpenter classic is one of my favorite films, I love the colors of autumn, I love the cool weather, and, I love to be scared. Close friends know the music I am most interested is often dissonant and harsh, “axe murderer music”, by the likes of Innis Xenakis, Kryzstof Penderecki, Bernard Herrmann, etc. There’s something about the immediate involvement of being terrified out of your wits, while knowing in the back of your mind you’re still safe, and laughing later for hours on end. And there’s no better way to be scared, than visiting a haunted house.


The first haunted house I ever went to was in Nevada, the outskirts of Reno somewhere, well over a quarter century ago. I was probably too young to be going to such places, but some friends of mine and I got a ride, and headed there. I had no idea what to expect, only that it would be scary fun. My memory gets hazy as the years go on, but some parts remain indelibly stamped into my mind. The night seemed to be moonless, and the road heading to the house dark, with no streetlights. We knew we were close when we could see the lights from cars in the distance, and upon parking in the dirt parking lot, we saw it. But it looked nothing like an old castle or Victorian, more of an old, large farm house, with peeling faded paint, and a few bring lights barely illuminating it. Was this it? It had to be. 


We piled out of the car, giggling with anticipation, and a weak attempt to mask our fear. After paying a guy standing out front we soon entered.


In the opening there was a large vestibule, where a guide told us the tale of the old owner of the house, and the creepy history. A bubbling fountain and spider webs decorated the room. We were told to follow him for safe passage through the house.


As you can imagine, once we got into the house our guide disappeared, and we were fairly quickly lost and on our own to find our way through. But around every twist and turn there were ghouls, ghosts and zombies to scare us.


Many of the details escape me, all these years later, but a few stand out. First, this was from another time, and back then the actors playing the scary roles were allowed to grab you, push you, pull you. Not to the point of any harm, but it certainly made for a lively scare. I also recall looking down one “wrong turn” hallway and seeing an increasingly narrow hallway dimly lit with yellow lights, and around the far corner came a mummy, walking towards us. There was no way past him, so we turned back. We found our way to the back of the house, where we were reunited with our guide, who shoved us through one last door, “now for the most terrifying scare of all!” where he pushed us past a curtain, and we fell on top of each other out the building onto a large pad, ending our tour.


Happy Halloween everyone!

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