Usually, if someone suggests to me that I add one of their friends on Facebook, I decline the invitation. Especially if I’ve never met the person, because I have been trying very hard lately to not be a creep. (And it’s not really working out very well, thanks for asking.)
But last year, when my friend Erica was visiting Pittsburgh she suggested to me over lunch that I look up her friend Rick on Facebook because he’s also from the area and big into haunted houses. She mentioned that he used to run his own home haunt called the Haunted Chamber and I recognized the name immediately. I had never gone to it, but definitely remembered seeing ads for it every year.
Figuring Erica wouldn’t lead me astray, I looked him up a few days later, sent him a friend request along with a message explaining why some random broad in his city was wanting to be his friend. He accepted, but we never really interacted very much. Chiming in on a stranger’s status updates can be awkward, especially when it’s me doing the chiming.
Months later, he sent me a really wonderful message. I will never forget it, because it was when Henry and I were in Cleveland and I was sitting on the bed in our hotel room checking my email before the AP Tour show that night. Rick was writing to me about my blog, which is the one thing I always get down on myself about, and his words were just so encouraging and supportive. I sat there crying while I read it and was just really touched by how nice and honest this perfect stranger was being to me. Plus, it broke the ice.
A few weeks ago, we met for lunch and spent the next 2+ hours talking about his history with working haunted houses, my history with going to haunted houses, and I quickly realized that Erica was right — I had a ton of stuff in common with this guy and he is easily one of the most interesting people I have had the pleasure of encountering.
He’s friends with the people who run Castle Blood and invited Henry and I to meet him and his wife Tammy out there last Saturday. So with stomachs full of 80 different varieties of pie, that is exactly what we did.
Rick and Tammy were talking to one of the Castle Blood denizens when we arrived. He was already a familiar face, after years and years of making the worthwhile hike out to Bealesville for the annual Castle Blood tour. But now instead of Professor Scrye, I know him as Chris and he is awesome. (He just loaned me some fake skin in jars for my Murder Desk at work!)
Awhile back, I had written about taking Chooch to one of the no-scare daylight matinees. I usually only write about my haunted house experiences in my paper journals (because I’m dork-loser and have been keeping a diligent record since 1996), but for whatever reason, I wrote about that one here on Oh Honestly, Erin. One of the Castle Blood girls found it and shared it with everyone else, and it was cool because some of them even commented on that post as their characters.
But I didn’t think anyone there would remember that, so I was surprised when Chris and Ricky (aka Gravely MacCabre, Castle Blood’s caretaker) both brought it up to me.
“You might be a fan of Castle Blood, but we at Castle Blood are all fans of Oh Honestly, Erin,” Gravely said and I kind of wanted to die on the spot. Chris said that they’re always on the look-out for Chooch now at the matinees. Things like this don’t happen often and I usually like to assume that only 4 people read this thing, so whenever I’m in public and someone says, “I read your blog” — well, that’s a feeling that I’m not sure I will ever get used to. It’s cool and I love it, but it’s also very bewildering.
Gravely told me there was a girl inside the Castle named Dawn and that she was the one who found my blog. “You have to tell you’re Oh Honestly, Erin when you see her!” he urged, telling me what room she would be in.
Within 3 seconds, I had forgotten. Tammy and Henry both admitted that they hadn’t heard what he said, so then I was left to internalize my panic while we stood in line, because I can’t ever just be a normal, calm human being. What if I didn’t say hello to her, and then Gravely found about it later and became angry that a subordinate had crossed him? Because clearly this was the most important thing on his mind that night, never mind the fact that he was ensuring the night’s tours went off without any fires, stink bug attacks or gang violence.
While in line, I became temporarily distracted from my plight when one of the denizen approached us with a big basket of commemorative Castle Blood roses. They were only $3 and I really wanted one. Henry and I don’t often go to haunted houses together anymore and I thought it would be really ROMANTIC if he could spare a measly $3 of his blue-collar beverage factory income, but he merely smirked in response.
Then I remembered why I don’t go to haunted houses with him. He’d sooner leave me out for the chainsaw guys than be a man and claim his property. I guess he doesn’t have hero fantasies.
So Rick bought two and I was all happy about that until he said, “What? I bought this one for Henry.” Figures, people always side with Henry within 7 seconds of meeting him. (Sometimes even BEFORE meeting him. That’s because I write him as a downtrodden underdog. If only you guys knew the truth.)
(OK fine, that is the truth.)
Meanwhile, the lady with the roses had fetched her albino friend and brought him over to inspect me, thinking I would make a good wife for him. I was very enthusiastic about this prospect, because at this point I would like to be SOMEBODY’S wife. Why not a dead albino guy with scary eyes?
He asked me what blood type I am, but then he and the rose-slinger ran off on an O+ tangent that rivaled Who’s On 1st. While those two were bantering, I looked at Henry in horror and whispered, “What’s my blood type?”
“I don’t know!” he said in that shitty, nerve-scraping tone that makes me want to castrate him along with the entire male population.
So then I spent the next countless moments suspended in time with my blood type quandary, until my prospective husband asked me again and I blurted out, “O+.” Henry said that’s probably what it is anyway. Not like he cares about my blood.
God, why can’t he just care about my blood?
Gravely was walking by so I snagged him and asked him to remind me who I was supposed to say hello to.
If someone tells me to do something, my blinders go on and I’m on a pothole-filled track to the finish line, with sweaty palms and shallow breaths, ignoring everything that passes by.
I’m kind of tightly-wound.
A witch with prosthetics was all I could think about the entire time we were in that fucking Castle.
So in every room on the tour, I would hiss to Henry, “Is that her? Do you think that’s her?” to which he would always hiss back, “I DON’T KNOW!” He was too busy nursing a corset fetish to help me not have a panic attack.
I was distracted from my mission once and only once, in the laboratory where I developed a hearty crush on the cute steampunk inventor guy.
I’ll be back for him.
Eventually, I found my contact and after everyone else in our group continued to the next room, I blurted out, “AREYOUDAWNI’MOHHONESTLYERIN” and we shook hands and I think she said something (not once breaking character) but all I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears because OMG I had to TALK to someone.
I really should have a perpetual Xanax prescription.
The worst part of the tour is always the end. I mean, yeah—It’s great to turn in the talisman your group has collected and get your vampire teeth prize, but it just means that it’s time to leave. I’ve never had a bad time at the Castle, not even when Henry and I were stuck with a group of disrespectful teenagers who subsequently got thrown out and we were given complimentary tickets for having to deal with that, but going with Rick and Tammy really made it a cool, personal experience. It was really awesome getting to meet everyone there for real and it made me wish my mom and I were on speaking terms because she would have died. Castle Blood used to be our thing to do together. You know, before she went crazy. I will forever associate it with her.
(OMG, that steampunk guy was so hot.)
Afterward, we decided to go to dinner.
“I don’t care where we go, just as long as I can get a grilled cheese,” I said, whining about being sick of pie. “I just need cheese, anything with cheese.”
We wound up at King’s and Rick taunted me as we walked past the pie case. I was choking back regurgitated crust every time I even THOUGHT of the word “pie” after eating it all day at the pie party.
However, I did remark that there was not one pumpkin pie to be had at the pie party, which surprised us all. That’s not saying I was desiring pumpkin pie at that point, I was just simply making an observation.
King’s has creamed spinach now as a side, and I kept trying to coax Henry into ordering it.
“Why?” he asked, clearly annoyed at my persistence.
“Because you’re old. And also, because I want to try it,” I reasoned.
He did not order a side of creamed spinach with his burger.
However, when our waitress brought our food, she said to me, “I was told to bring you this instead,” as she slid a slice of pumpkin pie under my nose, followed by a bowl of creamed spinach.
According to my dinner companions, I looked like I was about to cry. I craned my neck to look for my grilled cheese while everyone laughed. The waitress didn’t have the heart to drag out the prank any longer and finally rewarded me with a sparkling plate of God’s Favorite Sandwich and sweet potato fries.
It was a perfect ending to a great night which served as a reminder of why I keep writing in this blog. It has provided me with the opportunity to meet so many awesome and interesting people, and it’s something I think about whenever I feel like throwing in the towel. I’m just really appreciative. (And now I have to go egg an orphanage to balance it all out.)
[If you live in the Pittsburgh area and haven’t ever been to Castle Blood, you’re dumb. But seriously, go check it out! And if you have little kids, they offer daylight matinee tours on the last 2 Sundays of October. It’s only $5 for that and the kids get to trick-or-treat inside the Castle. Totally worth the drive out to Bealesville, so go and do that now.]