A lot of people may not be comfortable with Halloween activities this year because of the pandemic. It’s a shame really, because we all have masks now.
But any other year, normally sane people would be putting on costumes, buying candy for trick-or-treaters and heading off to haunted houses. Not me. I dress as an eccentric middle-aged woman on Halloween, same as I do every other holiday.
I do load up on candy, but it’s not for the trick-or-treaters. We don’t get that many where I live. Maybe my costume scares them away.
And I’ll never go to another haunted house, even if they leave the lights on for me—especially this year. This Halloween is already plenty scary, and not just because of the pandemic. It’s no coincidence that Halloween comes just before the scariest day of the year: Election Day.
Anyway, I don’t need skeletons popping out of the dark to startle me. I jump when someone honks at me at a stoplight, especially if I’ve dozed off.
Some people call me jumpy, but I prefer to say I have well-developed reflexes. People who go through haunted houses without jumping obviously have sluggish reflexes and probably shouldn’t operate motorized vehicles.
I don’t need zombies coming at me to scare me either. I’m terrified when a spider crawls out of my cupboard. Or when my grocery store moves everything around. Or when a computer person tells me it’s time to update my software. I saw a “beware the dog” sign on an open gate today and my heart rate still hasn’t come down.
Knowing this about me, you may be surprised to learn that I’ve not only been to haunted houses, it was once my job to persuade other unsuspecting souls to attend them. For many years, I was the public relations person for a non-profit that hosted an annual free haunted house for the public. A vegetarian probably wouldn’t make the best spokesperson for cattle producers. A Prius owner might have a hard time selling Humvees. And chickens probably shouldn’t promote haunted houses. I don’t mean actual chickens. They can promote whatever they want. I mean fraidy-cat chickens like me.
But that’s what I did. Then all the while I was telling people how terrific our haunted house was, I was thinking, “There’s no such thing as a terrific haunted house.” In the public relations business, this is called “lying.”
But I was being honest when I told them that I’d once gone to the haunted house and it scared me so much that I’d never been back.
I’d actually gone twice, but one of those times they had left the lights on, so I’m not sure that counts. It was the morning after the haunted house, and I had to walk across the street to the building where it was, by then, being dismantled. Along the way I met up with a friend who hadn’t heard about the haunted house. I realize that doesn’t speak well for my skills as a promoter.
I was unaware that she was unaware, so I failed to warn her about what we might see when we entered the building. And what we saw was blood everywhere. And she didn’t stick around long enough to find out it was fake.
Unlike my now former friend, I was unfazed by the haunted house in broad daylight. It wasn’t my blood we were looking at.
The other time I attended the haunted house, it was the morning before it opened. A handful of employees were invited to “test” it, and this time the lights were off. I worked for a company made up of compassionate people who served others. It was the organizer’s first attempt at a haunted house. How bad could it be? I’ll tell you. It was torture. I hated it. I thought it would never end, which is, I suppose, a resounding endorsement of a haunted house.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)