I love halloween. I love haunted houses. A few years ago, when my friend X graciously blessed me with two tickets to a " private haunted house" I was both thrilled and terrified. In order to gain entry, two forms of ID were needed, I had to sign a legal waiver, I had to sign a note saying that I would hold the owners and everyone else involved blameless if something happened to me. I had to sign a third waiver stating that I was emotionally and physically healthy enough to go in. Strangely enough, the part that scared me the most was the way the doorman methodically went through my pockets, scouring for recording devices- these were also not allowed. No cameras, no recording devices- and anyway, they told us that we would likely get " wet". I couldn't bring a purse. I couldn't bring any guests " openly associated with the entertainment industry" unless these individuals were cleared by " guest management" first. The secrecy surrounding the event deepened my curiosity, but it also increased my anxiety. For some reason, my mind immediately played out many "worst-case scenarios"... I was going with someone I trusted deeply though... a man, that I considered to be my world. I felt safe with him.
The event was away from public-access roads. It took us about 3 hours to drive, and we had difficulty finding it. We got lost a few times, but eventually figured out that we needed to take what looked like an unmarked road, largely hidden by shrubbery and trees. We drove down the winding road, which was eerily steep on the right side and encountered an iron gate and three hooded attendants. Two of them were wearing purple robes, but the smallest wore a black robe. For some reason he/she reminded me of a gnome. The masked/hooded individuals asked for our two forms of ID. Because my ID was "out of state", they asked me a few questions about the host and about myself. How did I manage to afford the ticket? A trick question because all tickets are gifted. Who was the mascot of the first University I attended? The man in the black robe checked my answers on a nearby laptop. Was I squeamish? Did my boyfriend and I intend to get married? He laughed at that one and looked over at me. I shrugged. My ID was held up immediately next to my face, as all three men nodded in agreement. My boyfriend was grilled as well, but I think they were a bit easier on him. He made a few jokes, and they laughed. They knew him already from other parties. Eventually they asked him if business was going well, and he smiled the same crass smile he always uses when someone asks him about money. He casually gave them the password, and we continued up the drive. Even though we are no longer together, X and I have remained friends...and I can tell you that he is the cheapest person I have ever met. I love him, but he is CHEAP.
X was proud of his abilities to secure these tickets. The black iron gate opened and we continued up the drive. Unbelievably enough there was a second check-stop with four individuals this time. There was no gate at this stop, but instead a mat spread across the driveway. As we pulled to a stop, one of the individuals pulled out a walkie-talkie and radioed in my boyfriend's license plate number. My boyfriend commented " I wonder what they would do if it were a rental? Shmucks." He pulled to a stop. For the first time, I noticed that my boyfriend looked short behind the wheel. I wondered silently if he would be able to protect us if we ran into any real danger. My boyfriend and the men talked a little while, but this time my eyes were on the forest that was now enveloping the car. I thought I saw a bonfire in the distance, but I couldn't be sure.
After some time, we pulled forward again. My lover assured me that his friend, the host, enjoyed doing things like this for show. " Imagine if we were running late?" He snapped.
We reached the mansion about 20 minutes later. I will leave out physical description of the place, so that you won't be able to identify it. Suffice it to say that the place was huge, but also monstrous and vile. I don't know how much was done for the event, and how much of it was just the way the place normally looked.
The first part of the night was all about champagne and food. Attendants served sushi on large plates that were shaped like the silhouette of a black cat. Each tray had one jack-o-latern candle in the middle. There was also a buffet of corn dogs, hot cider, candied apples. My favorite part of the buffet was the punch bowl... the punch bowl had an inside layer and an outside layer. The outside layer was an aquarium, and it had all kinds of fish in it. I thought the punch bowl was beautiful. The food was so pretty to look at. They had traditional smores, each stacked like an individual pyramid. There were also very "exotic" foods...most of the likes I had never seen before. Of course, there was also an open bar. The ballroom was unbelievably beautiful, and we looked a bit strange in it because most of us were wearing old jeans and t-shirts. After about 45 minutes of schmoozing, I met a lady who was just as unnerved as I was. Her boyfriend had dragged her along too. " All of this silly XXXX stuff," she smiled, " but you know how men and their toys can be."
My new friend and I (for the purposes of this blog I will call her Lisa) gravitated over near a giant jack-o-latern. She had a soft southern accent, and for some reason this made me feel safer. " Daniel told me that the men were disappointed in things last year, so they promised to kick it up a notch this year." She laughed, although I didn't know what was so funny. We were interrupted by a loud boom. The entire room went black. " Would everyone please make their way to the theatre!" a strong male voice commanded. " Where is the theatre?" I asked. " I don't know, just follow the crowd".
The crowd funneled into a small area that also looked more like a ballroom than a theatre. I sat next to Lisa, and my boyfriend sat with her man, both of them with drinks in hand. I grabbed Lisa's hand " Is it really scary?" I asked. " I don't know, every year they change it." She replied. The show began.
The show was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was just a really weird hodgepodge of perverted musicals with vampires and monsters thrown into the mix. My favorite part was a parody of the children's show Barney. " I love you...You love me"...and then Barney turned evil and ate all the children in one bite. He farted out bloody clothes from a mechanical anus at his other end. The guests sitting on that side were soaked with fake blood. I was so happy we were sitting on the other side.
Then an announcer began to speak....
" We now give you the tragic story of Hansel and Gretyl"... he started laughing like a maniac. A few actors did a short skit about the ill-fated children and I started to feel sleepy and bored.
After Hansel and Gretyl were eaten, a large projector came down from the ceiling.
The screen came on and the words appeared, " You didn't think it would be THAT easy did you?"
The short film that followed was just plain crazy. I'll leave it at that.
We were then shepherded onto flatbeds and taken down to the location of the great scare.
The haunted house was incredible...but I also felt it was a bit dangerous. It's not something I would ever do again...but after experiencing it, I understand why this event isn't open to the general public. There are floors that literally slide out from under you. The first time I landed in a giant ball-pit...the second time I landed in a pool. The material is highly offensive...and something in that is really liberating. At the end, everyone came out unharmed- just unnerved. The scariest part for me was having to crawl through a door in the floor through a hollow casket. I also was not particularly fond of a part called " fear of drowning." For what was done though, it seemed that every precaution had been taken to keep guests safe. I loved a part which took you down a long corridor so dark you couldn't even see your hands in front of your face. People started falling through holes in the floor. I was one of the lucky ones! I made it through by simply edging along! Even when I heard the terrifying roar of chain saws behind me, I didn't run. I slowly felt my way through the corridor. The people who didn't make it fell into Jello and had to start over.
The live actors were excellent, but they freaked me out. The common haunted house rule of " don't touch the actors and they won't touch you" didn't apply there. Actors would appear out of nowhere and completely soak you with buckets of slime and fake blood. Another neat part was a staircase that somehow instantly turned into a slide....but I must say that the fact that everything was padded around it kind of made me suspicious from the get-go. At first the constant surprises startled me, but after a while I acclimated and started trying to predict what grisly thing would happen next. The strange thing was that my boyfriend actually seemed genuinely frightened. At one point, the haunted house let us out into a another room that was totally dark. I was holding my boyfriend's hand, and a man up ahead of us said " How the heck do you get out of here?" The sound of chainsaws closed in all around where his voice was. I yanked my boyfriend's neck down and whispered into his ear, " stay quiet, they're relying on sound to find people" and SURE ENOUGH the sound of chainsaws closed in on the next person to make noise. Each time the chainsaws started, you'd get splashed with something wet...and that part made it really scary. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't real. My poor friend Lisa was absolutely terrified. The more she screamed, the more they targeted her.
At one point we came to two doors, and a masked man asked us if we wanted to take a shortcut. Lisa nodded yes desperately. The man pulled a glass out of a black box and informed us that in order to take the short cut one of us would have to drink a smoothie made from G-d only knows what. For some reason everyone looked at me. "Heellll no" I answered.
All in all, it was a great life-experience. I learned recently, that people have paid in excess of 1,000 bucks to get into this affair...but tickets can only be gifted :) You have to know someone who knows someone....
There are other private haunted houses, but I think they all aspire to mimic the one I went to. I had the time of my life.