Here at Casa de Southard (or something like that), I’m currentlyÂ bogged downÂ in a rewriteÂ of a novel I must finish by the end of the month.Â Maybe that sounds easy to you.Â Well, it’s not.Â Trust me.Â If I could kick myself in the crotch, I would.Â It would take away some of the pain.
Or I could just write a blog entry about experiencing my first haunted house.
Now, before anybody gets some idea that I think I’ve lived in actual factual haunted buildings, let me clarify.Â I’m talking about those haunted houses that spring up around Halloween.Â Some places call them Haunts, and others call them Haunted Attractions.Â I call them Haunted Houses because in my hometown of Aurora, Indiana there was only one place to go… the Jaycees Haunted House.
For many years, the local Jaycees put on a haunted house in what I’m told was an abandoned school behind the fire station off of Conwell Street in Aurora.Â The building–just a few blocks away from the Aurora Casket Company, I might add–looked like it should be haunted.Â Made out of brick that had turned black over the years and featuring more broken windows that you’ve ever seen, the place was a massive monument to creepiness.Â Years before I’d ever attended the haunted house, I was terrified of the place.Â I don’t know if it’s still standing, but I’d probably be scared of it today.
So when I was seven, my brother MattÂ and I convinced our parents to take us to the haunted house.Â I know now this was probably a little early for me.Â Years later, I can only remember three things about the place: the line, the first room, and squeezing my eyes shut during the final maze.Â Everything in the middle is a blur, and that’s largely because the first room was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.Â To this day, I still hold it as the gold standard of haunted attractions.
And here’s what happened…
I don’t recall how many people were in our group, but I know they led us into the basement, where the show began.Â We walked into a funeral parlor, where a body lay in a casket and a priest delivered a eulogy.Â A group of mourners sat in chairs in front of the casket.Â The entire scene was created in great detail.
My eyes zoomed in on the body in the casket.Â I knew, just frickin’ knew, that thing was going to get up and attack.Â Well, no way in hell was I gonna let such a cheap scare get me.Â So I watched and I waited.Â And waited.Â The funeral service continued, and the suspense grew, and I just knew everybody else was watching the body just like me, waiting for it to attack.
But then the left hand wall blew open.Â Nobody had seen the hidden door, but when the strobe lights hit and the shrieking woman with the scraggly black hair and blood-covered face leaped out, we sure as hell noticed.Â To this day, I don’t know when they snuck somebody into our tour group, but the shrieking woman grabbed this girl and dragged her back into the doorway.Â The girl’s screams arced higher than the monster’s.
Then the lights went out, and everything went instantly silent.
I have no idea how we left the room, no idea when the tour guide ushered us into the next portion of the house.Â All I know is I was terrified beyond belief for the next few hours.Â Almost 25 years later, I still haven’t seen aÂ more effectiveÂ use of misdirection.
I wonder if I ever will.
So tell me your haunted house stories.Â What have you found effective?Â What were your favorites?Â Spill!