Scare Me Please, I've Paid for It

Halloween is over and it just occurred to me that we didn’t make a trip to a haunted house, haunted forest walk, haunted hayride, or haunted anything for that matter. Whassup with that? Going to a haunted something is part of having teen-agers. God, I hope my kids didn’t turn 20 when I wasn’t looking last summer.

The haunted things are the biggest rip-offs since charging $10 for a Polaroid picture with Santa. I have driven my kids and a van load of their friends 50 miles to stand in line for two hours to spend $15 a pop for an 8-minute walk through a small grouping of trees and have someone with a fake chainsaw chase you to the Exit sign.

The whole two hours in line, I’m doing the math in my head: If each of these people is paying $15 and there are 20, 40 . . .120 people in line here right now and this is one of four weekends this runs . . . from dusk to midnight . . . it costs less than $100 to put this together . . . minus paying the teenage workers in cartons of cigarettes . . . plus the hot cider we have to buy because we’re freezing our asses off in line for two hours . . . so that’s . . . holy crap! The creepy fat guy taking money at the gate is a multi-billionaire as of last night.

Some haunted things are more quality than others. In New Jersey I took a bunch of my son’s friends to a haunted woods for his birthday party. It started out with an old lady telling the story of the New Jersey Devil, a legend that most pre-teen boys believe strongly. (“My dad’s cousin? He was down the shore? When he was like 15? And there were these missing chickens, right? And there was just a pile of feathers? And he saw the Jersey Devil. Yeah.”)

The old lady’s story did its job, because for the entire woods walk, we moved through the forest like a colony of bees - me, the queen, in the center with 9-year-old boys attached to my pant legs, my purse strap, my shirt, my waist and in one boy’s case, my neck. We moved so slowly, the Daisy Scout groups were passing us up. These boys were so scared they were crying and moaning and begging me to take them back to the car. I would have, too, but I didn’t want to go back past the old lady with her Jersey Devil story. So we slowly oozed forward through the cemetery, the big tube, the insane asylum, the trampoline covered in leaves, the haunted school bus, right up to the chainsaw chaser, where one of my worker bee appendages may have fainted, but kept his grip.

But New Jersey was the exception to the rule. Few haunted venues put as much effort into it. I can just picture the creepy fat guy in the August planning meeting: “OK, we’ve got a bunch of flannel shirts, six bottles of red paint, a stack of plywood, a gallon of black paint, a chainsaw and some masks from my mom’s basement. Can somebody make a pitcher of hot cider? Cuz I’m thinking of getting the leather interior and sport package this year.”

I guess I should be grateful that my kids didn’t ask to be taken to anything haunted this year. It’s too expensive, the cider is watery and tepid, it’s not scary enough, and the mosquitoes bite you to smithereens in line.

And worst of all, the kids can now drive themselves, leaving me at home and missing out on all the fun.

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