My haunt of choice last night was Fright Town, in the basement of the Memorial Coliseum. It’s $20 admission, $35 for “Speed Demon” cut-to-the-front-of-the-line privileges. It helped that I had a $5 off coupon; that and experienced haunt person elionwyr exhorting me to GO TO A HAUNT, HOW COULD YOU NOT GO TO A HAUNT?! So I had motivation. And time. And the means to get a bus up to Memorial Coliseum.
There are three haunts at Fright Town: one a museum about freaks, bugs and clowns; one in an abandoned manor house; and one in an abandoned service station. (I entered, passed a decaying counter, and immediately said “You can’t get good service here!”) The wide-open common area between the three haunts’ entrances wasn’t too crowded yet, as it was early. Skeletons hung from the ceiling. Actors in costume wandered. One man with pads on his knees would fling himself to the floor and slide, pulling himself with his hands, towards people. They’d scatter. He could get good speed. I was impressed.
Baron Von Goolo, proprietor of one of the three Fright Town haunts, was there, too, looking spiffy in a suit with tails. I told him, “The power of Mike Russell compelled me to come! You’ll be glad to know!” He laughed. (Mike did a Culture Pulp strip about the Baron’s haunts. Baron Von Goolo still links people to it.)
I kind of don’t want to give too many details of what’s in each haunt. The point is to discover those details. Suddenly. Disturbingly. I was paying my best attention to the details; I even worried I’d be too observant and ruin some effect. I want to see everything. And some things that really scare and/or creep out people, don’t bother me at all. Bats? Spiders? I like them. But I never ruined anything. Or knocked anything over, thank goodness. And one moment that gave me pause was the one short section of hallway in one haunt that was utterly pitch black. “Oh, Christ,” I said. I pushed myself through. And other times, I jumped and got startled and did the other acts that make the haunters happy.
I got into the spirit of performance as much as Non-Actor Me could, including outside the actual haunts; when I found the entrance to the haunt’s restrooms on the edge of the common area, I said, in a bad Lugosi imitation, “Because nothing’s scarier than the restroom!” A pale, too-wide-smiling guy wandered around one haunt in an untied straitjacket. I said, to him and others watching him, “Um, aren’t those usually tied?” Leaving my first haunt of the three, I pulled myself along the wall of the common area, looking lost. Then, once I was clear, I laughed. I’d enjoyed it. I enjoyed all three haunts.
Was kind of second-guessing myself at times, though: I didn’t want to cross the line between interacting with the actors and causing them to blow their lines or go out of character. It was easier not to do that in the funnier parts of the haunt. Like the mutant baby maternity ward. A busty nurse was carrying a deformed baby behind glass, next to bassinets of other mutant babies. I pointed to one and said, loud enough for the nurse to hear, “That’s mine! Oh, he’s the cutest little Shuggoth!” She smiled and gave me a thumbs-up.
(By the way, one of the things on my mind last night? The mutant killer baby from Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive! So I was in the spirit that way, too.)
Glad I went, I am, I am.
Now! A question to my friends with haunt experience, both attending them and working at them: how much and what kind of interaction do you like with the civilians? Tell me more of the world of haunts! (Later-ly edited: elionwyr posted the questions to her journal. And answered and got other answers from other people.)