Haunted House Attractions: To Go or Not to Go?
When I was really little, the annual trip to the local haunted house attraction, put on by a nearby Montessori school, was at the top of my must-do list. I would get myself in the mood for the big event by watching The Worst Witch for the zillionth time, anxiously awaiting the most amazing musical sequence ever captured on film (clearly this was before Tim Curry went on to terrorize the better part of my childhood with his role as Pennywise in It) and plotting that year’s elaborate Halloween costume (I always strived to look authentic, whether it meant I walked around all night with itchy straw stuffed underneath my clothes when I went as a scarecrow, or painted my entire body yellow to go as Bart Simpson). Side note: I think that this longstanding dedication to the art of the creative Halloween costume is what has made me so hostile towards the lazy costumes that I have seen New Yorkers send their kids out to trick-or-treat in since I moved here six years ago. I can promise you this: you wouldn’t have caught me dead in a plastic Duane Reade mask and getup.
When I finally got to go to the haunted house, I was a ball of excited energy; I turned each corner in nervous anticipation, screaming at each creature that popped out at me, and laughing when I realized it was usually something silly, like a character from the Muppets. I would talk all the way home about how CRAZY it was that Animal knew my name, because how scary was THAT? As you can imagine, I was devastated when I learned a few years later that Animal only knew my name because he was played by none other than my next-door neighbor. Bummer.
Junior high and high school meant planning trips to scarier haunted houses and hayrides. We’d pretend we weren’t afraid as the bloodied and fanged creatures chased us through the attraction; we were giggling throughout and yet were secretly relieved when it was over. I haven’t been to many haunted houses since those days, and I don’t really have a desire to ever go back again – I guess I’ve outgrown them, just like I outgrew the preschool version so many years ago. Being in New York doesn’t hurt either; with haunted houses costing upwards of $30 for admission, it’s an easy decision to make.
I know we don’t typically talk about manufactured haunted houses here on The Occult Section (unless Laura’s hilarious posts about all of the pseudo-celebrities who think their houses are “haunted” counts) but with Halloween around the corner, there have naturally been more and more haunted house stories popping up in the news. Take this one, for example, published last week in the Sandusky Register, where mental health advocates are taking issue with the portrayal of the mentally ill at Cedar Point’s Halloween attractions. While I think perhaps it’s a bit unfair to single out Cedar Point, when practically every haunted house I’ve ever been to has featured some variation of a mentally ill character, there are some valid points being made and it’s an interesting discussion.
I know some would make the argument that they’re harmless fun, and others would say that I’m being hypocritical by calling haunted houses a waste of money, when I’m promoting ghost tours, etc. that also cost money, but for me, I just don’t enjoy haunted houses like I used to. I’d much rather go investigate the real thing, and stick to visiting pumpkin patches, seeing a scary movie or taking a historical ghost tour when I’m looking for Halloween entertainment. What about you? Will you be going to any haunted houses this Halloween season?