It arrived in the mailbox every October like clockwork: the monthly newsletter from my bank’s “Kid’s Club” bearing a coupon for one free admission to the local haunted house. If there was ever a time I wished my letter carrier would lose my address, this was it. Unfortunately for me, he never did.
Now, I don’t want to imply that I was a chicken or anything, but I’ve never understood the entertainment value in being scared. I’m not a fan of things popping up in front of me, creeping up behind me, or going bump in the night. Why would I subject myself to this kind of thing on purpose?
It was bad enough that I slept with a night-light until I was a teenager, but I also possessed a rather vivid imagination that got the best of me at times. One night I saw the shadow of a stray cat with its back arched slink by the ledge of my bedroom window and thinking it was a kidnapper or severed head, my screams woke up the entire household and quite frankly I’ve never been the same.
Naturally, the idea of going to a place designed to freak me out held no appeal for me and I was quick to hide the newsletter in my desk before my mother could spot it and start planning a family outing.
Needless to say my older brother did not share my opinion of haunted houses and actually looked forward to this event every year, if for no other reason than to watch me squirm. I glared at him as he showed his coupon to our mother the night we received them.
“Oh look, it’s a free coupon to the Haunted House,” she announced as she cooked dinner. “We should go. Julie, did you get one as well?”
I thought about lying, but the smirk on my brother’s face told me he would rat me out if I did. Instead, I tried another tactic. “Yeah, I did but I think I am too old for haunted houses. You guys go ahead and I’ll stay home,” I told her. Did I mention I was all of eight-years-old at the time?
“Oh no, we should do this together,” she gushed. “I’ll talk to daddy and maybe we can go this weekend. It’ll be fun.”
There was no point in arguing. This was the same woman who bought a novelty album full of frightening noises to play on Halloween night. For added effect, she turned off all of the lights, fired up a few candles and greeted trick-or-treaters at the door wearing a witch’s costume. Like it or not, I would be dragged kicking and screaming to a place that would give me nightmares for a week.
To this day I avoid haunted houses. To me, a house should represent safety and protection from the outside world. It shouldn’t be the enemy and if the ghosts and goblins have laid claim to a structure, I’m certainly not going to fight them for it.