I know I’ve already written a post defending real trick-or-treat-ing with candy. I fully support trick-or-treat-ing and especially candy. I like to carve pumpkins. I enjoy eating toasted pumpkin seeds. I even like to see kids in costumes and have enjoyed wearing costumes as an adult. But I’ve realized, in looking back on my memories of Halloween, that I don’t really “do” scary. And scary is a big part of Halloween.
I think my first bad, “scary” memory is getting trapped in a haunted house ride as a second grader. The ride was at a little rinkydink amusement park next to the Little Rock Zoo, famous for it’s Boo at the Zoo events, and I was in the haunted house with my friend. Apparently a rider before us had lost his hat in the course of the ride. Our little car rolled over the hat, and we became stuck. What had been up until that point only sort of scary got scarier and scarier as we sat next to a glowing skeleton in the dark, screaming “HELP!” and trying to be heard by the ride operator over the creepy soundtrack. The operator soon realized we were stuck and got the lights on and us out pretty quickly, but the trauma lasted in bad dreams for a while after.
Another Halloween soon after that, my dad, really a 10 year old boy in an adult body, threw one of his epic Halloween parties for us and our friends. Our entire house was decorated, fake graves in the front yard, stuffed zombies in scary masks, kitchen outfitted as a witches lair with a cauldron of dry ice and my dad’s bug collection on display. In the basement which in later years would become my bedroom, he set up an obstacle course, with the piece de resistance being my aunt in a gorilla suit to scare the living daylights out of it. I don’t have a lot of memories of the actual event, but I’m pretty sure the gorilla inspired tears and screaming and left me scared to go into the basement alone for years.
Another year, I decided to brave a haunted house with my sister and some friends, a decision that probably took a lot of courage considering the first haunted house story I mentioned. I was already pretty scared going in, and it would only get worse. In the first “room” a coffin sat on a table. I thought myself wise, expecting someone to pop out of the coffin, but instead, a man dressed as a vampire sprung from underneath the cloth-covered table and grabbed at our ankles as we tried to get past, screaming. In the next room, it was pitch black, with strange webbing we had to feel our way through, while eerily-glowing zombies reached out to grab us. I barely made it into the third room when I heard the sound of chainsaws and screaming, which immediately proved too much for me to handle. I started crying and tried to turn back, against the current of haunted-house goers, knowing I would have to face the gauntlet of zombies and the guy under the coffin all over again. When the zombies tried to grab me, I punched them. When the man under the coffin reached for my ankles, I kicked him. I ran for my life and waited outside, crying and panting, for my sister and friends to join me. Apparently they had enough shortly after and soon made their way out to me without finishing the haunted house. I guess in retrospect I should feel sorry for the haunted house workers I punched and kicked, but why would they grab at a crying kid who was running like a bat out of hell?
The only haunted house I’ve been able to handle since then is Disney World’s Haunted Mansion, and I even got hysterical in there once when our car stopped for an unusually long time. I can ride it now as an adult, but still have to close my eyes for some parts. I know better than to even watch scary movies, as any and all depiction of gore will revisit me in my dreams for weeks afterward. Sometimes just seeing trailers is enough to trigger nightmares. So tomorrow night, I’ll lock my dogs in a bedroom so they don’t completely spaz out every time the doorbell rings or knock down any trick-or-treat-ers, and I’ll pass out candy (I got some good stuff!) to any kids who come our way. I just hope none of them have costumes that look too scary, or I won’t be able to sleep!