Ain't No Haint* Gonna Run Me Off**

I passed a sign today, as I was coming home.


it said.

And I had a momentary flutter of fear, driving past that sign, because it reminded me that Halloween is upon us, and THAT reminded me that I am a giant chicken-girl who is afraid of everything.

I've never been a fan of haunted houses. They've always been both appealing and revolting to me. Appealing, in that they represent adrenaline-packed moments of fun. Revolting, in that I always feel like I want to pee my pants afterwards.

Almost ten years ago, I went through a haunted house in The Metropolis with a large group of friends. It was run by a radio station, and it was supposed to be super-scary and have lots of special effects. I wasn't really into it, but those were the days when I let myself be talked into things a lot.

And here's the thing about haunted houses: I always manage to psych myself out, like, HOURS before I ever walk into the front doors. My imagination outdoes itself in providing me with potential scenarios involving knife-wielding asylum escapees. Visions of guts and arteries and giant gaping holes dance in my head, and I manage to make my own self feel woozy JUST BY THINKING. So by the time I actually go IN the haunted house, I am just about at that place where, on tv, people have to slap you in order to stop your screaming. And that may sound all well and good in theory, but the reality is quite a different thing. (Also, I hate it when people slap me.)

So while we were waiting in line at this particular HH, someone around us mentioned that there had, at one time, been a lawsuit against the operators of this HH, and that none of the people who were running around pretending to be ghosties and goblins and bumping you in the night were allowed to touch the people who went through. "Awesome!" I thought, because I don't like it when NORMAL people touch me; you can imagine how I'd feel if some overgrown jackass with ketchup and jelly smeared on his overalls snuck up on me. And I carried that thought through the line with me, like Linus with his security blanket.

My mind worked furiously as we got closer to the entrance, and by the time I turned over my ticket, I'd mocked up an entire speech about how my right to privacy had been violated, and how I'd been emotionally damaged, and how YOU OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED, ending with a very dramatic, "You'll be hearing from my lawyer!" This was, of course, JUST IN CASE. I like to be prepared.

Finally, my group reached the door, and in we went. I was grasping hands and staying right in the middle of the pack, and my eyes were everywhere, searching out emergency exits and danger and also Freddy Krueger's fingernails. We walked through, guided by ... a guide, and every so often someone would jump out at us and we'd all scream and I'd pass out a little bit and we'd move on, until finally we heard the distant whine of a chainsaw and somebody chased us out onto the sidewalk while threatening to chop us into pieces.

My friends began to laugh and talk and tease and talk about how fun it all was, and I smiled and stayed quiet and tried not to wet myself in public.


In the years since then, I've gotten more outspoken, and more stubborn, and more willing to throw a tantrum in front of people, so I've only gone through two more haunted houses.

The first was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. My friend V and I went on a short vacation there, and there was a haunted house on the main street. According to the signs at the entrance, it used to be a funeral home, and people disappeared there under mysterious circumstances, and blahblahscaryblah. I, feeling that I had grown and matured since my last haunted house, was positive that I could remain calm and that I would remember, as I walked through the halls, that it was all make-believe.

Our guide lined up our group of eight and told us to hold onto the shoulder of the person in front of us. V and I were at the back of the group, and under no circumstances was I going to be last in line; I've seen enough scary movies and also Wild Kingdom to know what happens to those at the end of the herd. So I moved in front of V and held onto some stranger lady's shoulder. Maybe held ontoisn't the right term; dislocated would probably be closer to the truth. I was white-knuckling her, that's for sure. I reached behind me and grabbed onto V's other hand; she's probably regaining feeling in it right about ... now.

I don't remember much about that HH; I'm sure I was scared out of my mind, and I'm sure I had memorized a draft of my "I'm Suing You!" speech, and I'm sure I went to the bathroom seconds after the Chainsaw Guy chased us out (because they always end with the chainsaw; have you noticed?).

What I DO remember is that the stranger lady in front of me turned around at one point and said, "Uh ... you're a little close there," and it wasn't until then that I realized that I was right up ON her. It's good that I hadn't eaten at the Olive Garden that day.

The other HH I went through was in London, at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. I don't why I decided I could go through there. Stupidity, probably. But, down in the basement, they were having this thing where you could go through a live-action wax museum (or something). Basically, it was made up to look like a Victorian-era insane asylum. You'd go through in groups of five and be harrassed by crazy people.

I guess I thought that British people would be more genteel with their haunted houses. Like an actor would be all, "Pardon me, luv, would you care for a bit of a fright?" or whatnot, and then I could be like, "Erm ... no thanks," and that would be that.

But it turns out that British haunted houses are the same as American ones, in that they just jump out at you without a by-your-leave and then chase you out with a chainsaw.

My group of five consisted of two tiny Indian women dressed in saris, me, and then two other women (I don't know where they were from). I was, as I always am, right in the middle of the pack. But since everyone in my group was a stranger to me, I didn't have anyone's hand to mangle hold. So instead, I just sort of folded into myself, trying to make myself as small as possible, and held my own hands. I probably looked like I was praying, and maybe I was ("Please God, don't let me die in a wax museum because people would think I was an exhibit and then I would be here forever but if I have to drop dead could it please be near Elvis and not freaking POSH SPICE.").

The Indian women would tentatively peek around each corner, then book it off to the next corner, sort of like when Bugs Bunny tiptoes from tree to tree when he's escaping from Elmer Fudd. I, on the other hand, was all eyes and ears, and my being American would not stop me from whipping out my now-patented speech about personal liberties and mental anguish and I'LL SEE YOU IN COURT.

Well, I got through the asylum without incident, on account of I was RIGHT UP ON those Indian women, no doubt breaking all sorts of cultural taboos with them. Which is odd because, normally, I have a personal space requirement of approximately twenty feet on every side; I guess the thought of being chased by a chainsaw nullifies all my societal expectations.


These are all the things I thought of, when I saw that sign tonight. And even though I know without a doubt that I am NOT going to visit any haunted houses this season, a teeny tiny little part of me began to put together a legal brief: Mei Flower vs. Randomville Haunted House.

You know. Just in case.

*Haint is a regional pronunciation of haunt, used, in this case, as a noun meaning ghost. We speak a different language down here.
**Actually, that's a lie. Even the mention of a haint could run me off. I don't mess around with the spirit world.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Mei, as always, you're delightful! :)


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