OCT. 16, 2007
Haunted Houses are like assholes. Everybody has one and most of them are pretty scary. If you’ve ever been in one, you know it involves a lot of moaning and screaming and blood, and very likely you’ll want to get out just as soon as you go in. You might even wonder why you wanted to go in at all. If you haven’t been in one, you’re probably at least a little bit intrigued by the idea, but why? Life is scary enough, why would you want to subject yourself to additional terror? And pay for it? Just a quick scan of evening news stories reveals some of the most depraved shit imaginable: A man sexually assaults and hangs a 6-year-old girl in her garage; a college girl is killed and dismembered by her boyfriend; a mother puts her three daughters in a bathtub and sets them on fire – and those are just here in Texas. There’s plenty of grisly shit that goes on every day in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Darfur. When it comes to pain and suffering, the human race seems to take an if-we-can-conceive-it-we-can-achieve-it approach. Sure, getting mauled by a bear or eaten by a shark sounds really horrifying, but those are mercy killings compared to the average torture session during the Spanish Inquisition. We may like to think we’ve evolved somewhat in the last 500 years, but there’s no conclusive proof. Having flesh torn from your body with hot pincers may indeed be more painful and terrifying than being waterboarded or having electrodes attached to your testicles, but we’ll never know for certain. For most people such scenarios remain completely hypothetical, and maybe that’s the point. If the only true terror in your life comes from some schmaltzy holiday tradition like a haunted house, you’ve got it pretty good – maybe too good. Maybe your body occasionally needs that hair-raising, heart-pounding adrenaline rush of terror, if only to counterbalance the increasing torpor of modern existence. If your greatest fear in life is something like public speaking, leaving your fly open, or getting a pimple on your forehead, you’re probably underterrorized. Fortunately, here in America you can remedy this problem without having to drive around with a cougar in your back seat or volunteer with Oxfam in Mogadishu. How about the sheer terror of being in a dark room and having your hand plunged into a bowl of peeled grapes or spaghetti? Or maybe having something pop out at you unexpectedly even though you were pretty much expecting something to pop out at you unexpectedly? With enough planning and financing, opportunities for terror abound – opportunities like the Austin Haunted Forest, a quarter mile of “twisted performance art, wicked art installations, and totally freak the bejesus out of your soul.” In addition to their homemade haunts, this year the AHF features the Life Size Mousetrap, a “16 piece, 50,000 pound interactive kinetic sculpture set atop a 6,500 square foot game board complete with a Vaudevillian carnival show, musical score, and can-can-dancers” imported all the way from San Francisco, one of the scariest places in the world. What kind of sick freak would build such a monstrosity? It’s too frightening to even consider.