Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Best Scare-Fest EVER! A Halloween Haunted Warehouse with the Roanoke Jaycees

The absolute best scare-fest ever was one I got to participate in from “the dark side.”

The whole thing was set up in this big old warehouse that you walked through, room by room, one frightening scene after another, really dark walkways, a guide in front of you with a flashlight pointed at the ground, monsters and mass murderers in convincing make-up and costumes pawing at you as you pass by, and a number of surprising, hair-raising twists and turns that managed to give even the most macho men a good startle. 
    
I went with some other friends from Hollins University to help out the Roanoke Jaycees with their haunted exhibit (which is unfortunately closed this year), now known as the FEAR FACTORY
    
They had tons and tons of volunteers involved.  The decorating was really remarkable and detailed that they did to make this place genuinely spooky.  When we were given a walk-through tour I was very grateful that the lights were still on.  I quickly determined from this well-lit tour that I’d be okay taking people’s tickets at the door before entering this place, but that walking through that series of twists, turns, scary sights, and sudden frights multiple times with a group of people counting on me not to drop the flashlight and run screaming for the nearest door would be asking a bit much.
    
I still remember the sheer terror I felt during the latter part of a hayride a friend and I went on one October when I was trying to squeeze through a little space then run as fast as possible in a real forest in the dark from the crazy guy with a chainsaw.  It turns out I don’t like people running after me with chainsaws in a dark forest even if I know they aren’t really going to cut me into little pieces.  It seems even more ridiculous (at least to me) when I thought about the fact that I had paid to have someone inflict this punishment upon me.  I don’t watch horror flicks.  I’ve had enough real-life scary stuff happen that I don’t need the adrenalin-rush from something that’s not actually life-threatening or worthy of complete panic.
    
The Roanoke Jaycees went all-out.  The most shocking scare that particular year came near the end.  It’s dark, and you can see a sliver of light from outside, so you think the tour is almost over.  You’re looking forward, going towards the light when all of a sudden, headlights come on, a horn is blasting, and the front of a real car falls right into where you are standing with your mouth and eyes wide open and at the last minute hits a barrier that’s disguised on the other side of a farm-like wooden fence.  As you can probably imagine, some people were screaming their heads off at this point, which was kind of a cool additional real-life sound effect for those about to enter the haunted house or those already in it.
    
After a few seconds to recover from such a jolt and start breathing again, the group can clearly see that they are just steps away from the exit now, and can carry on laughing about the whole thing.  That’s where I came in.  There was less than two feet of space between the wall they’d constructed as part of the you’re-going-to-get-hit-by-a-car attraction and one of the actual walls of the building.  It was a dark and vacant little hiding spot. 

When I crouched down, I just could just barely squeeze into the space and scoot far enough back that I could see out, but I couldn’t be seen.  When a group came to the final stretch of the fear factory, I would hear the car horn, see the headlights and get ready.  I’d hear people screaming, a few gasped and then laughed, one or two were startled, but did their best to hide it. 
    
Inevitably, they’d stand there and stare at the car that had almost hit them and admire the set-up while getting their heartbeat back to a normal level.  They leave the last staged scary scene, heading towards the exit which is clearly in sight, and I would let out this piercing, bloodcurdling scream that went on for as long as I could hold it. 

I got a big kick out of watching people jump about two feet in the air.  Even people who knew about the car ahead of time or for whatever reason weren’t really startled by that were genuinely flipped out when they heard a real live, full-fledged scream coming from very close by. 

People would look around and ask where that had come from, but I’d never come out while they were still inside the building.  It was funny, because the guides knew what was on the tour, but they didn’t know about me hiding and screaming at the end, and they couldn’t see me, either, so they were startled as well the first time through with a group after I took up my new post.
    
At the end of the night, one of the Jaycees asked if he could videotape me doing what I had been doing throughout the evening for each group even after I started losing my voice (which probably made it sound even more frightening).  I let him record me screaming my head off from my little hiding spot.  It was long enough ago that I’m not too worried about it showing up on Youtube.

What's really funny is I got to count my time there as part of my community service hours for the month.  I'm not quite sure the community would have considered it a service, but I was participating in one of their major fundraisers.    

I never knew I’d have fun working in a haunted house, but that year I had a blast!
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