A man not more than five feet away from me and dressed in tattered clothes revved the chainsaw he was holding and waved it menacingly over his head. A girl, probably about 15 years old, screamed and frantically groped her way along the wall to our right looking for a way out of the cramped, dimly lit room.
A few moments later, in an even darker room, someone stood in a corner with what appeared to be a sharp knife with what appeared to be blood on it, standing next to what appeared to be headless body.
And so it went for the rest of the night at one of the haunted houses on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. All in all it was an amusing, if not frightening, way to spend an hour one October evening.
But standing amidst a herd of kids dressed in hoodies and shorts, giggling from the fright they just survived, it dawned on me: nothing scares me the way it used to.
I miss those days, occasions when the unknown jumped out from the dark, screamed boo and filled me with 10,000 miligrams of adrenalin. I can’t recall the last time I received a good scare from a book or a movie. Was it “The Shining”? “Silence of The Lambs”? “Friday the 210th”?
I don’t know which corner I turned that led me down this path. At what age did I stop believing in ghosts and ghoulies and things that rise from the grave?
I started thinking about what scares me now. Then I wondered if maybe there was a way to create a scare house for adults. What would that look like?
Would you walk into an anteroom where you pick up a ringing phone, only to hear a voicemail from your doctor’s office telling you to call them immediately? (Of course when you do call back you don’t make contact with anyone and instead get sucked into the maddening maze of phone tag.)
From there would you find yourself in the office of horrors, seated in front of a desk with a nameplate that reads: M. Smith. Below that: IRS Agent?
The agent, of course, never arrives but after an hour of waiting a man in a suit enters and tellls you he is with the district attorney’s office and he escorts you down a long corridor without saying a word.
Finally you arrive at two unmarked doors and he tells you to pick one. He won’t tell you what’s on the other side and instead only offers that “You will have to live with the decision you make. There is no going back.”
On second thought, I don’t know how marketable a scare house for grownups would be.
Part of the appeal of maniacs with knives and chainsaws is they’re not real. You experience them in the confines of a controlled environment, knowing that within those walls nothing bad can happen to you.
In the real world, well, that’s another story. We don’t have as much control as we’d like. Scary.