I have weird friends. Friends who begged, cajoled, threatened and mocked me about accompanying them to a haunted house (despite my abject horror of…well, horror), When they started offering up bribes, though, I gave up the ghost. I agreed to go with them, knowing I might never sleep again.
On the date we chose for our excursion, it was a dark and stormy night. Naturally. A full moon made an appearance from behind the clouds. I was not in charge of selecting which haunted abode we would visit and when we arrived on the scene, I discovered this was not your run-of-the-mill haunted house. It was the Basement of the Dead.
Nothing good happens in a basement.
Dressed in comfortable clothing and running shoes, I tucked a flashlight, matches and a silver cross into my pockets. I also wrapped a clove of garlic in a square of aluminum foil and sealed it into a zip-lock bag. You can’t be too careful.
When I noticed a few elementary school age children in line, I felt better. How bad could it be?
Zombies, Chainsaws and a Snidely Whiplash Mustache
The ticket taker reminded us that once inside the Basement of Dead, we were on our own. We were lone wolves and we would be wise to trust no one. I believe at that point he twirled his Snidely Whiplash mustache and I immediately started sizing up the people around me, looking for the best human shield. It was too late to back out. The admission fee was non-refundable.
While we waited to enter the basement, two zombies with chainsaws chased a couple of cocky teenaged boys through the yard. A bloody creature on stilts, who moved faster than I do in running shoes, terrorized a group of girls.
Let the screaming begin.
Finally, it was our turn to enter. We stepped into the house and began our descent down creaky, wooden stairs and into the Basement of the Dead.
(Cue organ music.)
This was a time to remember a key lesson from kindergarten—hold hands and stick together. Lone wolf or not.
As we made our way through the basement, we entered a round room with mirrors covering the walls. We’d been advised not to look into mirrors because they are gateways to another world. Vanity tempts most to look, but I had no problem obeying those rules. I’ve been avoiding mirrors for decades.
The basement hall of mirrors led into a dark room that was at least 10 degrees colder than the mirror room. It was a cross between an old-fashioned hospital or morgue, and equipped with every medical torture device imaginable. Plus creepy creatures to operate them. More screaming.
From the hospital, we entered a maze filled with animatronics that flew out at us, complete with startling noises and the occasional blinding light. We stayed the course, maneuvering through giant spiders the size of pumpkins. While I had become somewhat desensitized to the screaming, it didn’t mean I wasn’t looking for an escape route. Turning back wasn’t much of an option. People behind us seemed to be moving as a single herd and clawing my way through the mass of terrified visitors was scarier than finishing the journey.
The young children of misguided parents, who thought a visit to a place called Basement of Death was a good idea, started crying. Did I say crying? They were screeching like screech owls. I knew how they felt.
The haunted basement hires actors to portray bloodless zombies who have suffered a grizzly death and now wander the earth wielding axes and seeking revenge. Other actors dress as ghosts, goblins and ghouls. I’m not sure the difference between goblins and ghouls, but now was not the time to pull out my smart phone and look it up. The only thing that would make the Basement of Death worse was if there were marionettes, which are second only to clowns on my list of scary creatures.
As we reached the end of the basement maze, I relaxed a little. I thought we had made it to the end of the journey.
I thought wrong.
Send in the Clowns
We were propelled toward a second house and handed blacklight flashlights, which would allow us to experience even more terror, but in 3-D. When I say terror, I mean it. This house was the home of evil clowns. Lots and lots of clowns. The live ones managed to stay motionless so we couldn’t tell which ones were props in make-up and which ones were alive until it was too late. They quietly followed us, waiting to sneak up and shorten our lifespan.
The entire event took less than 30 minutes that I’ll never get back. As soon as I got home, I turned on all the lights, and left them on for two weeks. I tuned television to Seventies’ sitcoms because if mysterious noises started coming from my basement, I wanted to be able to ignore them. I like living in denial. It’s a happy place.
No more haunted houses for me. I'm saving my money for therapy.
Filed under: Chicago