Some Background:
My birthday is October 13th. (In my opinion, fall is the best season of the year to have a birthday.) Growing up, my parents always let me have a slumber party for my birthday which consisted of a bonfire, cozy sweatshirts, boys sneaking over and those hideous afghan blankets that your grandma made. All of which came later in the evening after my dad had hauled me and a van full of my girlfriends all over the state of Ohio to some of the coolest (and corniest) haunted houses in our lovely Halloween-obsessed state.

Then I turned 16 and shit got serious. I scoured the interwebs for weeks looking for the goriest haunts and creepiest country roads to drive down to find them! Then, like a champ, Dad handed over the keys to the Chrysler Lebaron and waved good-bye as we embarked on our first solo haunted-housing birthday adventure. He even seemed a little sad that he wouldn’t be chauffeuring us around for the first time in many years…

I have never been so lost in my life… literally… we had no idea where we were at any point on that trip. (Reminder: This was before GPS and before I had a cell phone!) We ended up pulling over at least 10 times at dirty gas stations in dirty towns to use dirty payphones to call dear ol’ dad to give us directions. Dad was the first version of MapQuest, I’m sure of it!

When we’d eventually find the haunts, like clockwork at each location, we’d all roll out and stand in a group giggling and doing the best to scare the shit out of ourselves while attempting to hype ourselves up for what we hoped would be the “BEST ONE YET!!” Girls met boys working the haunts, girls humiliated boys working the haunts. We’d wait for hours in lines. We gossiped, sang, cried, screamed, got rained on, sweat, bled (long story), watched a million awful B horror flicks… all while waiting in lines! We were some dedicated kids!

To this day, I will run into girls that tagged along for a few of those birthday parties and usually that’s one of the first things they bring up… “Remember your birthday that one year, when….”

Why haunted houses? Well, when I was a little kid, a tiny po-dunk town not far from my house had converted an old slaughter house into a haunt, which was scary as hell in its own right! The local fire department ran it and worked as the stars of the haunt to raise money for their precinct. It was amazing… The setting was perfect, the creepy dilapidated building on the edge of town, the smell of dusty hay combined with the decaying leaves that littered the floor in every room… It was what nightmares are made of!

People came from all over Ohio to go to this place! Columbus’ beloved WNCI rated it the #1 haunt in Ohio for years! Lines wrapped around the building into the parking lot, people waited HOURS to get in! My sister’s friend Pete cried after being confronted by Freddy Krueger… my mom climbed up my dad’s back after being followed, unbeknownst to her, down dark narrow halls… And once, a 7 or 8 year old me ran away at the exit, having been startled by the grand Leatherface finale. My mom & sisters ran the right way to the car, while I ran the wrong way into the field beside the building into weeds and burr bushes that stretched up & over my head. Needless to say, Leatherface had to come rescue me from my predicament… while my mom & sisters sat shrieking in the car with the doors locked.

Not long after that wonderful experience, they said they were skipping a season, then the next…then the next… My beloved spook-house never re-opened. Why, you ask? Who knows. Everyone seemed to think the building was beginning to be a safety hazard. Neighborhood kids were really hard on it in the off season & the bitter Ohio winters weren’t forgiving on its wooden bones… with broken windows, a leaky roof & virtually non existent exterior doors, it’s amazing it stood as long as it did. Then finally when I was in middle school in the late 90’s, some asshole kid (who shall remain nameless) caught those dusty hay bales on fire with a lit cigarette and it burned to the ground.

Sigh. All good things must come to an end, I suppose.

So I’ll ask: Who doesn’t like to be scared stiff & experience that burst of adrenaline and fear thinking OMG! I AM GOING TO DIE! and then the immediate relief knowing that you can walk to your car and smoke a cigarette and shake out your pants!? PLUS!  It’s usually a damn good road trip. I always throw together a mixed CD of seasonally appropriate songs. I probably have 10 different Halloween Party/Road Trip CDs with tunes like Werewolves of London, Thriller, The Time Warp and a slew of other songs from bands like Misfits and Type O Negative that just ooze the creeper vibe.

I always attempt to pull in a new person to try to join in on the fun. Most of the time people think I’m just special and can’t understand why I go to such great lengths to go to these things. Honestly, I just associate it with all of the fun times I’ve had over the years, and even some recently!

Besides, who doesn’t like a nice walk down Elm Street Memory Lane?!

Englund as Freddy Krueger
Englund as Freddy Krueger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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