Today’s Halloween Countdown topic? Haunted Houses.
Not the “real” sort of Haunted Houses – the staged type. Not that I’m not intrigued by the real deal – I am – but over the years I’ve enjoyed some replicas.
The first haunted house I remember from my early childhood was the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World. While it has changed over the years, some of my favorite elements remain: The ballroom scene where holographic ghost-dancers in a variety of old-fashioned clothing dance around while another ghost plays the pipe organ, and two ghosts hold a duel; the seance, ghosts popping up from behind gravestones, the hitchhiking ghosts, and for me, the part that left the biggest impression in my four year old brain:
I thought the voice was saying, “Mary Beth!” my sister’s name. Somehow, if the ghost knew my sister’s name, that made it more real.
We went to a county fair when I was about seven or eight, and it had a walk-through haunted house. I swear the entire thing was just dark tunnels, because the actors who were supposed to scare us did very little. I felt ripped off.
In college, I did visit some fraternity’s “Haunted Row.” Meh. The creepiest part of that haunted house was the frat boys trying to cop a feel as girls walked through.
Another year, a friend and I attempted to visit a charitable Haunted Trail. We wound up volunteering. Amy got to be a ghoul, I directed traffic, but I got to walk through the trail at the end of the night. It was a good time.
I visited a Halloween Haunted House in Atlanta one year. I think it was sponsored by the radio station 99X, and it was staged in an abandoned hospital. It was very much movie-themed, and it was creepy, but I’ve seen better since.
My kids aren’t squeamish about haunted houses. My daughter LAUGHED through the whole Disney ride as a three year old. My youngest kid likes to try to scare the people who are supposed to scare him. Sometimes he succeeds.
We went on the old Adventureland Haunted House – with it’s scary mold and creepy wads of gum sadly stuck to the entrance door, as echoes of the sometimes functioning puking hillbilly man rang in the background. It has since been converted to the “Ghost House.” Not really an improvement.
Coney Island has its own creepy “Spookarama:”
When my kids were a little older (and by older, I mean 3, 6, and 7) I took them to the Bayville Scream Park in Bayville, New York. It was fun. We went to a few of the different Haunted Houses, but I think we skipped the one that was deemed inappropriate for kids their age. It was a year when we skipped trick-or-treating, due to food allergy issues.
The next year, when I tried to go back, I managed to get lost just enough to stumble upon the Bayville Haunted Firehouse. I am very sad to see that Sandy took the house out, because while the trip to the Valley Stream Haunted Firehouse was fun (except the big ol’ baby of a teenage neighbor we took with us, who freaked out and wouldn’t go in!)
The Bayville Firehouse was the best of the best. We’ve since been to Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure, which was kind of cool, but my opinion remains the same: Bayville Firehouse was the quintessential haunted house.
What made it so special? It was a complete sensory experience that touched on every possible phobia. The beginning involved getting into an “elevator” that shook from side to side, causing a sense of disorientation. As you walked through some of the halls, claustrophobia set in as the ground went up and the roof came down. There was lots of fog, the place smelled musty, it was chilly, and there were things that felt WET that dangled from the roof in places.
You would walk by what appeared to be a creepy clown decoration, only to realize a moment later that it was standing right behind you, looking over your shoulder.
I’m hoping to find a creepy haunted house to visit with the kids this year. Especially since the Drama Department is NOT having a Halloween Performance to match last year’s production of “Night of the Living Dead.”
Do you have a favorite “Haunted House” experience?