Oct 062015
 

 I’m not over here blowing on my fingertips or anything, but I am basically the (un)official Pittsburgh haunted house tip line, OK? Of all the things to be an expert of….Anyway, I decided to repost this thing I wrote two years ago since it’s the beginning of the haunted house season and even though some of the things in this are dated (some of the referenced haunts aren’t around anymore), it’s still PRETTY HELPFUL — so read it, don’t read it, print it out and send me your heavily red-lined copy of it — it’s a free country. Also, if you live in Pittsburgh and want to go to a haunted house with me and Chooch, WHY YES WE WOULD LOVE TO.

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Every Halloween season, I get pretty nostalgic about the “old days.” Way back in the age of flowing flannels and Contempo Casuals (where I would buy all of my slutty “I’m a slut who has money” slut uniforms), it was possible to go to two, sometimes even THREE haunted houses in one night for under $20. True story! It seemed like every last VFW, YMCA and Boy Scout Troop had hoarded enough black garbage bags over the course of a year and used their dues to stock up on slipshod Halloween masks from K-Mart to pull off a “haunted house.” And it may have been hokey and rudimentary, full of blacklit Jason Voorhees masks and “accidental” boob-brushes, but fuck if it wasn’t fun.

In high school, I would scour the newspaper for haunted house ads and then my friend Lisa and I would stuff her parents minivan with our ragamuffin group of friends and proceeded to exercise our god-given vocal prowess. We were Those Kids that everyone else hated standing in line with. And I was That Girl who flirted obnoxiously with Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, hoping to make my crush Evan jealous. (HE NEVER EVEN NOTICED.) There was the Bethel Park Haunted Yard, Clairton’s Haunted Pool, the Glassport Haunted Fire Station, and then all of the Haunted Schools: Castle Shannon, Victory, the Tri-City Jaycees one that I lost my keys in and then it burnt down (no correlation to my keys). Before there was Hundred Acres Manor, there was Phantoms in the Park and Terrors By the Lake. Before Kennywood had their Fright Nights, Station Square transformed into Station Scare and offered carnival rides just in case all of the fog machines, hyper-jealous boyfriends and diet pills* didn’t get you nauseated enough.

*(What? My weight issues go waaaay back.)

But then the behemoth, corporate haunted houses started popping up and taking over. The ones that pay to have haunted house listings and the Travel Channel call them the #1 Haunted Attraction. The ones that make you wait in line for upwards of 3 hours because OMG WE ARE THE BEST IN THE BIZ SO STAND AND WAIT, JAGOFFS. They pour loads of money into their advertising, production and animatronics, but they lack the true Halloween spirit and moxie that the smaller haunted joints have. Money can’t buy moxie, you guys. I’d rather walk through a haunted trail lit by flaming jugs of moonshine in some hick’s backyard than give those corporate bastards my money, if we’re being totally frank here.

People are usually shocked when I start waxing contrary about the city’s most popular haunted attractions, so I have compiled a list to offer some insight into what makes a “good” haunted house.

Here is the official Oh Honestly Erin Haunted House Criteria:

1. Will There Be Chainsaws?

It doesn’t matter how many times Henry exasperatedly assures me that there are no chains on the chainsaws, the moment I hear that whirring, no matter how far away it is, I am suddenly in booty shorts at Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees is mad as fuck because I just had sex on a hammock, and where the hell did this adrenaline come from? I don’t know, but look! I can scale the backs of the people in front of me!

Even when I’m standing in line chanting, “I hope there are no chainsaws. I hope there are no chainsaws” the truth is that there better be at least one fucking chainsaw guy who takes his position really fucking seriously because I just gave you $15 to scare the shit out of me, so please, do just that. Henry does my laundry, so what do I care.

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Chainsaw Guy at Cheeseman Fright Farm. It was really cold that night on that bale of hay, and your persistent wielding provided warmth to my shivering extremities. Also, you didn’t give up even when I used my 7-year-old son as a shield. Good for you, Ambitious Non-Hockey Mask-Wearing Chainsaw Guy. You were way better than the apathetic Voorhees-wannabe at Freddy’s Haunts who whir-whir-whirred for approximately 10 seconds before walking away.

2. Will There Be the Possibility of Simulated Horror Porn by Michael Myers?

So, maybe it’s just me, but when I’m singled out in a crowd by some dude who looks like his face got violently bear-hugged by bologna slices and green olives, maybe even corners me and snorts and snarls in my ear, I am REALLY FUCKING EXCITED to be there at that haunted attraction. Especially if it’s a particularly sexy-savage Michael Myers. And for those 30 seconds you’re towering over me with your fake machete and vacant eyes, I promise to pretend that you’re not actually some pizza-faced 17-year-old band nerd. NO, YOU ARE A FUCKING HOT PSYCHOPATH WHOSE EVERY PRIMAL INSTINCT IS TELLING YOU TO KILL ME, BUT WAIT! WHAT’S THAT!? YOU ARE FALLING IN LOVE WITH THIS CHUBBY MOM-BROAD WHO IS SCREAMING HER FACE OFF!

And then I’ll go home and write about it in my haunted house journal and it goes something like this: Holy fuck, I am so hot for Michael Myers! I bet he doesn’t pay that much attention to anyone else in that wing of the haunted maze! When we made eye contact, I think he winked at me but it was hard to see over the strobe lights. AND SPEAKING OF HARD! I’m not sure if that was Michael’s tumescent cock-machete or the Pizza-Faced-Kid-Dressed-As-Him’s satchel of dork dice, but I’m totally probably maybe pregnant now, you guys, right?

Just to really illustrate my alarming Michael Myers crush, my kid wouldn’t exist today if I hadn’t thought his dumb dad looked like Michael Myers when he would wear his stupid blue Weiss Meats coveralls back when we were co-workers in 2001. THAT IS WHAT MADE ME WANT TO SLEEP WITH HIM, OK?

Anyway…

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Rich’s Fright Farm Michael Myers. You smashed your fist into the wall in front of me every time I tried to escape and at one point BROUGHT ME TO MY KNEES while Janna stood off to the side, staring at her imaginary watch. I could feel your hot murderous breath on my neck and it was, well, fucking hot. Now your demon seed is sprouting inside my womb. Womb, womb, womb.

3. Will Someone Please Entertain the Fuck Out of Me?

Hi. I just dropped the cost of a concert ticket* down on your haunted establishment, so please prove to me that I didn’t make a mistake. *(What? I like underground bands, you guys.) If you’re charging me approx. $18 for 30 minutes, then I better come out the other end feeling like I just came. I mean, feeling entertained. Ridicule my blondness with your biting wit! Tickle my eyeballs with your macabre decor! Make me follow directions! Engage me! (No really—do you want to get engaged? Because Henry apparently doesn’t.) Pay attention to me, to me, to me!

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Castle Blood, duh. You still never fail to call me out for being a dum-dum. (Remembering three talisman is trying. IT’S HARD FOR ME TO PAY ATTENTION, OK!?) You still make me believe I’m going to be poisoned in Professor Scrye’s lab and turned into mortal mana pua by some convincingly realistic witch. (I don’t know why I picked a Hawaiian food that I have never eaten.)

But let me tell you something about this sanguine estate—if you came looking for chainsaws and robotic corpses hemorrhaging on toilets, queue the Sad Tuba soundbite. This is half past Saw, more toward Nosferatu. Castle Blood’s tagline is “Halloween the way it oughta be” and they mean it. It’s elegant and unique, it’s intelligent and interactive, it’s humble and passionate about the season. I’ve been going to Castle Blood since the late 90s and it’s still just as refreshing and inspiring as it was when I was a teenager. We’ve been taking Chooch since he was a baby (first to the no-scare matinees; he’s since graduated to the nighttime tours) and he loves it because it’s magical while still maintaining a high creep-factor—-plus, sometimes Henry gets presented with a death certificate.

4. Will You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman Teenager Again?

As previously mentioned, I long for the old-school haunts of yore. The ones in vacant buildings that charge $12 and under and probably meet the safety standards of a treehouse in 1954. The ones that aren’t mentioned in the obligatory WHAT TO DO THIS OCTOBER newspaper write-up or any of the haunted house listings online. The small haunted house put together by members of a local community and advertise by tacking up flyers in Spirit Halloween stores or sticking bright orange signs in the ground next to the highway. I like giving these people my monies! They know how to crack me up while also making me pee my pants. (I had a longstanding reputation at the now-defunct Victory Haunted School, and every year, from the moment I set foot inside, the “monsters” would start chanting, “Erin’s here! Erin peed her pants!” So fucking obnoxious but I loved every second of it.

If I’m in such pitch-blackness that I need to walk with outstretched arms while simultaneously screaming to no one and everyone that I AM SO FUCKING SCARED OMG WAS THAT A BREAST I JUST TOUCHED, then this haunted house rules. If I’m told, “GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND CRAWL THROUGH THE TUNNEL OF LOVE…OR DEATH!” and I literally find myself scrambling on my hands and knees over top of what I really really really hope are pieces of a CLEAN mattress and I start screaming about how I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO DO THIS! I AM SO SCARED! OW I JUST HURT MYSELF! then this haunted house rules. If the volunteers are so over-the-top with their theatrical lines and fake gunfire that I am literally doing pee-squats from laughing so hard, then this haunted house rules. If I tell the guide that my name is Erin and he decides that “Smellvin” is a better name even though that would only make sense if my name was Melvin, but everyone else thinks it’s hilarious, then this haunted house rules. If some kid pops out of nowhere and freaking feeds me a mouthful of Silly String and even HENRY laughs, then this haunted house rules.

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Ohmygod it’s a tie! Teen Quest’s Scaremare in Mon City and the haunted basement of the Sewickley United Methodist Church. Can we please admire the irony here, that two of this heathen’s favorite haunted houses are Christian-based? IDGAF, these two haunts made me laugh until I almost peed. (ALMOST, I swear!) It was like being in high school again, faced with the threat of falling down a staircase and inhaling asbestos. And the volunteers at these two places had way more enthusiasm than any of the ones anywhere else, especially Terror Town, who apparently pays their actors and that is just ridiculous because for the last two years, their “employees” were relatively ineffective and I’m officially done giving them Henry’s hard-earned Faygo money. Especially after seeing one of those “actors” on Facebook turn her nose up at people who, god forbid, volunteer their time to play zombies. The people at Scaremare and the church in Sewickley had HEART. The church even had a babydoll displayed in a very horrific, decidedly un-Christian way! I applaud them for that, for being able to recognize that it’s OK to be outrageous and controversial in the name of Halloween, and for being so balls-to-the-wall. I actually wish I had the time to revisit both of these places this month. Even if it’s just essentially dropping money into a collection plate. I’m OK with that.

5. Do You Have a Worthy Haunted House Companion?

Chances are, during this season you are going to sometimes be driving great distances and are probably going to get lost at least twice (are you going to a hayride on some jackass’s farm? Yeah, good luck trusting your GPS with that), so you better make sure you don’t bring some douchebag along with you who is going to drive you so insane that you need to buy your first pack of Camel Wides in 7 years at some sketchy gas station in the middle of downtown Sharon, PA. (True story.) And then once you’ve arrived at the haunt, you might be standing in line for an hour at least. DON’T BRING A DUD OR YOU ARE FU-HAHAHAHA-UCKED. I was lucky this year and have gone to haunted houses with quality peeps (and Henry), but I have been pretty unfortunate in the past. Your company can make or break the haunted house experience, especially if you are so fucking over-the-top annoyed at who’s ripping your shirt in faux-fear that you forget about the actual haunted house itself. Did you like it? WHO EVEN FUCKING KNOWS?!

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: And the award goes to my good friend Janna. No one handles being pushed and shoved into chainsaw guys with quite the panache as she, nor can anyone tolerate my extreme giddiness with such a steely veil of patience. Except Henry, but he hates going to haunted houses. I like to believe that every time I scream, and I mean SCREAM, “JANNNNNNAAAA LOOOOOOK OUTTTTT!” that I’m actually saving her life for real. And she just kind of chuckles a little at first, but by the end of the night, I sometimes detect some eye-rolling and sighing.

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Those are my unofficial winners because I still have at least four more haunts to attend before Christmas starts shitting all over my fun. And remember, all of this is subjective. The things that I look for in a haunted house might not be the same things that make you scream like Laurie Strode or make popular local radio DJs jack off into each others’ cupped hands. If your haunt isn’t going to be gonzo enough to scare the FUCK out of me, at least entertain me. Make me laugh, make me push Janna into a chainsaw guy, have a hot Michael Myers, make me have some F-U-N if I’m giving you twenty goddamn dollars out of Poor Henry’s wallet.

(And let me just tell you, now that Chooch is brave enough to go to every haunted house with me, October is officially waaaaay more costly than December.)

Some extra tips:

  • Look for coupons! Sometimes haunted houses will offer them on their website. Hundred Acres Manor usually offers $3 off coupons at Eat n Park or Burger King. (They’re only good on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, I believe.) And you know, check Groupon and Living Social or have a boss that forwards every single haunted house deal to you like I do. Maybe stop in your local corner pub and gather up enough barflies to qualify for a group rate. Just trying to save you some bucks, OK?
  • Go on off-nights! If a haunted house is open on a Sunday or Wednesday night—GO THEN! You will beat the crowds and probably have a better victim:monster ratio. Have you ever gone through a haunted house with just the one person you arrived with? SCARY AS FUCK. Real talk.
  • Try to remember that no haunt is perfect and “bad nights” can be expected. Maybe I went to Cheeseman’s Fright Farm last weekend and had a blast, but you went earlier in the month on a night where they happened to have a lot of volunteer no-shows. Shit happens, ya’ll, and most of it is behind the scenes. This is why I try not to do too much bashing. (And believe me, I’ve been to a few duds this year.)
  • If you go to a haunted trail after it’s been raining all day, you’re PROBABLY GOING TO GET MUDDY. Don’t be that dickhead who complains about it. Maybe you should have stayed home and watched a Duck Dynasty marathon instead.
  • Bitching about standing in line isn’t going to make the line move any faster and pro tip: NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR YOUR STUPID YINZER MONOLOGUE ABOUT IT, EITHER.
  • Pretend that you are actually running for your life. BECAUSE YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.

Hey! Why don’t you leave me a comment and tell me about your best (or…worst) haunted house experience?

 

Oct 052015
 

This weekend was good, a strong start to October. I got one painting started, another finished, and yet another closer to its anticipated deadline. Baby steps. No pressure. Constant loops of Pentimento and State Champs music videos on YouTube. This is how I function. 
 Roots.

Did you know that Henry is a wedding handyman on the side? It’s true. He’s in the process of helping Chris and Monica build a display for their wedding desserts so we had to run to the craft store Saturday afternoon, which usually I bitch and moan about because the craft store is annoying but I love it in October because of all the Halloween shit. Plus, I had stuff to get for the upcoming pie party, decoration-wise. When we were checking out, the elderly cashier asked us what we had planned for the burlap sacks we purchased. First of all, none of your business? Also, Pinterest-approved body bags.

AND ONE OF THEM WILL BE FOR YOU IF YOU DON’T STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.

I was in a mood on Saturday.

 

Moving on.

Chooch is bona fide infatuated with YouTubers (what 9-year-old isn’t) and has much love for Hannah Hart. We actually just had a huge argument because made the mistake of telling him  that I have known of her existence for quite some time now and fun fact about Chooch: he knows everything and also, he knew it first. He’s worse than a hipster in that regard.

Anyway, all last week he was begging us to take him to Barnes and Noble because he wanted to get her book and if you read my blog like a good little pair of Internet eyeballs, you already know that Henry took him there on Friday and they struck out.

Well, Saturday evening we were on our way to a haunted house in Sharon. Chooch fell asleep because he was pouting about something or other, it all blends together. Henry, feeling a moment of charity, pulled off one of the exits and stopped at a B&N, where he successfully procured said book and Chooch was one happy jerk-son when he arose from his backseat nap.

(I like Hannah Hart. I used to watch My Drunk Kitchen and thought it was hilarious. But this book….? It makes me seriously think any ol’ motherfucker can publish pages of basic thoughts and call it a book.)

(John Green wrote her foreword. Apparently it’s a thing for YouTubers to have John Green help them with their books? I learned this from Chooch the other day when he told me that if I ever wanted to be an author, I would have to seek a LOT of help, maybe from John Green.)

After the haunted house, which Chooch is supposed to blog about, Henry and his deep pockets took us to the Middlesex Diner in Middlesex, PA which made Chooch and I laugh hysterically and Henry yelled at us for being 12-year-olds.

Our waiter was new. Possibly even new at life. He screwed up nearly everything but in such adorable fashion that I implored Henry to leave him a decent tip. Poor guy.

I got a salad with oil and vinegar and Henry to walk me though the ratio process.

Then there was a guy whistling and I sincerely thought it was a prelude to murder, like after receiving the chicken salad he came to pick up, he was going to whip out an Uzi and let loose.

I’m super paranoid. I think it might be a bordering on an actual psychological condition at this point. The amount of times I’m walking around downtown, see something shady, say “Nope,” and then change directions is alarming.

Oh wait, I just remembered that’s normal.

There was hand sanitizer behind Chooch which was a good thing because that kid needs it. Also, I ordered coconut cream pie and the waiter brought me french silk. I really liked that kid, I sincerely did, so in lieu of slinging it back to him Chinese throwing star-style, I peacefully held the pie out to him and in a gentle tone said, “Thanks, but I could I have the coconut instead?”

“Right,” he sighed, “because that’s what you ordered. I’m so sorry.” And then I thought he was going to punch himself in the head, but maybe he waited until he was locked in the broom closet at Ma’s house to do that.

My pie was eh. I always have high standards for diners when it comes to pie because if you’re calling yourself a diner, you should have the homemade pie to back it up. This pie was definitely not homemade. It was firm yet gelatinous, and had a layer of skin between it and the meringue, which was the worst part for me, the meringue. I really dislike meringue and prefer my coconut cream pie to have a heavy helmet of fresh whipped topping on it.

I peeled off the meringue and threw it on Henry’s plate, which was really Chooch’s plate of pumpkin pie that he didn’t like so now Henry was eating that along with my meringue, in addition to his own dinner and also half of Chooch’s dinner because WASTE NOT WANT NOT or whatever your grandma had embroidered on her idiot tea towels.

On the way home, Chooch and I had such strong laughing fits that Henry barked, “If he pukes back there, you’re cleaning it!”

The next day, we went to visit Wendy and baby Summer after Chooch’s piano lesson! (Don’t worry, I ended up not actually being sick like I thought I was on Friday. It was all in my head, even though everyone kept telling me that and I was like, “No no no this is West Nile.”

Is West Nile still a thing? Don’t tell me. I don’t need to know. Anyway, look at how miserable Henry made Summer! One look at his grizzly visage sent her over the edge, man. Don’t worry, Summer, that mean man has the same effect on me.

Wendy looks amazing, by the way. A-MAYYYY-ZING. I was like, “How the hell is it possible to look so good one month after birthing a child?!” I still looked like a sebaceous glob for a good year after Chooch was born.

Fine. Two years. Then Jillian Michaels helped me.

Then I got fat again.

Then, Jillian.

Next, fat.

Now, Jillian.

It’s a vicious cycle. Chooch has actually been working out with me and he hates Jillian but I think he is secretly enamored of her. I know I am! At first, he bitched about it but here’s the thing: 4th grade was when I started my journey to Fat Status. And that journey was at break-neck speed, you guys. I was unlocking that level faster than my mom could replace my wardrobe with huger sizes. Without giving Chooch a complex, I’m trying to subtly teach him that fitness and exercise are such important things to make a habit of at an early age, plus healthy food. Otherwise, he’ll be 36 and terrified of food just like his broken mother. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I wish someone in my family would have come to my aid back then instead of waiting two years and then flipping out because I looked too hideous to be a junior bridesmaid in my aunt’s upcoming wedding, thus putting me on Slim Fast. Because that’s normal, right? For an 11-year-old to be substituting meals with Slim Fast shakes and getting Slim Fast popcorn in their Easter basket?

So yeah, exercise was done over the weekend, too.

Then we went to Castle Blood! That will be its own post though. I think Chooch and I both going to review it, so that should be interesting.

These weekends are just the absolute best. I love you, October!

Oct 272014
 

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CASTLE BLOOD:

I like the castle blood this year. First,  We got back from Knoebles and I was fricking tired.  We got FREE Tickets, Yay! So we went in and this guy was telling us stuff. He said we were on a quest to find a Broken Heart, Blue Sapphire, and a Brain. He asked who wanted to be the leader I said I wanted to. So we were walking and I held Erin’s hand. Next, We entered this Gravely’s Office and a Butler was cleaning Gravely’s desk and bookshelf. He gave us a ghost named Destiny she with us to protect us. Then we went into a Mausoleum where there we bones of animals, mermaids, and human skin. This guy said is we looking for anything and I said “Yes a Blue Sapphire. a Broken Heart, and a Brain. He said that we wouldn’t want the blue sapphire because it was stolen and said you wouldn’t want a stolen sapphire would you? We said no. So he gave me the thief’s hand. And we went on with our journey. Last, We went into the Gypsy Room but before that I got a ring from some girl to give to the gypsy. So we went in and I had to go sit on a chair and give her the ring but it wasn’t hers. So we went into the next room and there was a girl showing us the rings she got from her husband that she killed after. She said she was missing one so I gave the I had. That was the one she lost. She gave me a broken heart because the ring I gave her was from someone that left her. After that we entered the Cemetery and that was the last part and nothing really happened there then we went into the Gift Shop and I lost the Broken Heart there and so I got a FREE Pumpkin. I was bad after that and I had to go to bed when we went home. All in all, Castle Blood Is awesome the way it is now.

 

WEST DEER NIGHTMARE:

West Deer Nightmare was good and cool this year. We were in line and my shoe was untied and so I went into the light and I heard people laughing so I looked beside me and there was a clown standing right next to me. I said “Good day mate.” and then said “Hows your day mate?” Then I walked back in line. It took awhile to get to the front but then we did a lady opened a door and made us watch a video of dead people like Lizzie Borden’s mom and dad. I got a flashlight and kept shining it in GODFORBID HENRY’S eyes and he was pissed off. Then we went to an adult with a baby mask on and it was acting like a baby too. It was following us and mommy was so scared I laughed. We came into this room where there were REAL people under blankets, (Maybe they were supposed to come out) but they were sleeping. We were walking and Freddy Kruger came out of the wall and I said “Hi.” and then “Bye!” Mommy was scared. We went into this room where nothing happened but then I gave the flashlight back. (We were outside now) I warned mommy there was something behind us but she didn’t listen. Then about 5 seconds later VROOOOM VROOM (That’s my chainsaw noise) I ran so it could get mommy and GODFORBID HENRY. But it kept coming after me! Thats how good or may i say cool West Deer Nightmare was!

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HAUNTED EXPEDITIONS:

It was so awesome! But daddy didn’t want to go because he was being a wussy but then he realized he was to jealous and didn’t want to be a wussy and be on NBC News! We went on a hayride but it wasn’t a hayride it a trail. We waited in line for about 20 mins. But this guy with a pumpkin mask tried to scare mommy but i ruined it because i kept saying Hi to him. He was talking to me about the Krampus and scared me about the Krampus. We went in  and watched a video of the rules and then walked mommy got scared about 500,000,000 times. One time she got scared i peed my pants. No really i actually did. I’m not joking. Then we came to this thing that popped out from behind a tree and scared mommy so bad she ran and punched me in  the face. Oh god I hate her! Then a WEREWOLF came out and scared mommy I tripped, fell down the hill and Henry was so mad he yelled at me and said GET UP kind of like SHUT THE DOOR if you’ve never seen Erin’s Youtube.  Then the manager scared us! Then we waited for the other group. He went to go scare them and so I did too. I was the last scare. The manager said F*** and he said sorry i’m so sorry but mommy said i don’t care he has a mouth on him. So he said I mean FIDDLESTICKS. The hayride came back to pick us up and so we went on and drove and this guy came out of the woods and said Wheres Angie? WHERES ANGIE? Angie was scared and he saw her and pulled her into the woods. And daddy lost his hat on a tree like a LOSEERR*. That’s how cool and awesome I think Haunted Expeditions is.

 *(Erin here: Normally I wouldn’t care if Henry lost his hat because they’re just dumb Faygo hats but this time it was an EMAROSA VERSUS HAT! Luckily, the nice Haunted Expeditions kid leapt off the wagon like a goddamn hero, found the hat and rode his trusty golf cart back to the parking lot, where Henry’s dumb head was reunited with the best goddamn beanie in the world. PEACE OUT, BITCHES.)

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Oct 262014
 

 

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I have been dying to go back to Knoebel’s ever since I was there on opening day in 2013 with the DAFE crew. I know this sounds weird coming from the likes of me, and that this is the opposite of what I should like, but this park is ADORABLE. It’s all quaint and family-friendly, far away from the Big City and rife with fluffy dogs on leashes. And that’s just on a regular day! They have Halloween-themed weekends in October, so Henry earned a million brownie points (do those still exist? is there an app to keep track of them now?) by taking us there last weekend.

It was goddamn precious. Leaves on the ground. Hay bales painted like pumpkins. Ghosts hanging from the trees. A Halloween-music light show on the front of some building. There were no chainsaw guys or zombies popping out from behind garbage cans, but who the hell cares? Sometimes a little Halloween Lite is just as magical.

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Also, the novelty of amusement park rides in the fall!

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On the way through the parking lot, Chooch declared that whoever stepped on a leaf first loses. Because I am an 8-year-old too, I was all about this game and nimbly tip-toed past crisp leaves skipping across the pavement in front of me, all while giving Chooch sharp shoves to try and make him trip up, Once we crossed the threshold into the park, though, I decided that we should stop playing because I wanted to look around at the seasonal decor instead of keeping my eyes on the ground.

“Besides,” I added. “Everyone knows I won anyway, Chooch.”

“Hey! I didn’t step on any leaves either!” Henry cried from in front of us, and I laughed because what the fuck, guys? Who invited Henry to our reindeer games?

I didn’t know this until we got there, but Chooch could have worn a costume and participated in the trick-or-treating stops around the park. I am always so woefully unprepared.

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CHOOCH: I thought the skeletons in the car were Ron and Jim from the tombstone right in front of it.

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First up, Chooch waited in line for the much-anticipated new ride of 2014, Flying Turns. It was the longest line we’d wait in all day, because this bitch is a hot commodity. (It took something like 8 years to build it, I think.) They had cute Halloween decorations set up along the line though, so we at least had things to distract us from the violent thoughts and ideas our minds were drawing up regarding the three teenagers in front of us who were totally obnoxious and kept rough-housing (ladies and gentlemen, I’m officially my dad) and every time they would lower their voices and side-eye me, I was certain they were making fat jokes.

(Chooch can’t write his thoughts on those kids because I won’t let him swear of make violent statements, so he said he has nothing to say then.)

Did I mention that there were signs along the way that threatened an approaching weigh-in? Because of the type of coaster this is, and physics that make my brain bleed, the ride attendants have to make sure that the weight is dispersed between the cars in a very precise manner and that SOME RIDERS MAY NOT BE ABLE TO RIDE TOGETHER. I texted Henry and said, “Great. I have to get weighed just to ride this thing? I want to die.” And he was all “lol.” I’m sorry, how is my body dysmorphia/eating disorder/obesophobia FUNNY? Fuck you, Henry. Have fun sitting on benches all day with the old people.

Turns out, it wasn’t that big of a deal. There were three large metal plates on the coaster platform that you had to stand on with your riding partner while waiting for your turn, and the weights weren’t displayed, and even if they were, it was a combined total anyway. Chooch and I got the front car and several pre-teen kids filled up the other two and I guess my thunder thighs didn’t break the ride because we made it back in one piece.

All of that for a ride that seemingly lasted for all of 40 seconds and was just OK.

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Meanwhile, Henry had been roaming about like a child predator on the loose, and won Chooch some stupid plush peace finger thing, but it says YOLO on it. I kept hoping Chooch would lose it.

CHOOCH: I had it put in my sleeve and I kept acting like it was my hand and just holding it up.

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I think that the Phoenix might be my favorite wooden coaster of all time. It makes me laugh so hard that my face hurts (I KNOW, I KNOW: AND IT’S KILLING YOU). The second time Chooch and I were in line for this, we had an actual argument over where we sat the first time (he said it was the third car, BUT IT WAS THE FOURTH).

Anyway, the first part of the Phoenix has you going through a tunnel, which is fun on its own, but at night it was all foggy and lit up with Halloween shit! IT WAS SO EXCITING! CHOOCH AND I SCREAMED LIKE ASSHOLES!!!

CHOOCH: When it was nighttime, me and mommy were just talking and then we didn’t even know a hill was coming up and we screamed like idiots.

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This park is really not that big at all but Chooch and I would have been lost, literally, without our maps. Except that later that night, we had our maps and still got lost, literally, when Henry was naïve enough to think we could handle finding a bathroom on our own. Yeah, good one, Henry.

After Chooch and I went on a ride called Fandango and he continually cried YOLO instead of POLO when the ride operator wanted us to play Marco Polo, I decided it was time to break for food before I lost consciousness or murdered some nearby campers. Whichever came first. So Henry got in line to procure food for us (pierogies and potato pancakes!) while Chooch and I went to find somewhere “nearby” to sit but apparently it wasn’t near enough for Henry, who had a hard time finding us. MAYBE IT WAS INTENTIONAL, HENRY.

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We took pictures of ourselves while sitting next to two scarecrows who were apparently on break. Remember when we all carried around 35mm film cameras and practically no one took selfies because what a goddamn waste of film? Those were the days.

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Then Henry pouted because he didn’t want anything from the place Chooch and I chose to get food from, like he wasn’t grazing the entire time Chooch and I were on the rides. No one’s crying for you, Henry.

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CHOOCH: While we were in line for the Black Diamond, daddy was creeping on us and everybody else. He went on the side of the Black Diamond to look at the eagles, I guess. That’s what he said. Nobody else had a group of two and they needed a group of two for the coaster, and we were the only ones that had two and we got to line jump and it was so awkward. But I was happy because we actually got to go on quickly.

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CHOOCH: This lady was eating an apple and it was so awkward because she was creeping on people and I was laughing.

I only took this picture because I’m jealous of people who can eat apples without cutting them up first. SORRY THAT I WASN’T RAISED ON A FARM!!!!

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I know, it sucks to be at an amusement park!

Oct 242014
 

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Fright Farm was scary 10/10. First, It took 1 HR to get there but I survived. When we got there the line was like 25 minutes long. There was a dj on a stage and then Taylor Swifts Shake it Off came on and i started twerking. And then 5 minutes for the Hayride to start. We have to sit at the edge of the Hayride it was like we would fall off. Next, after 45 or something minutes after the Hayride we went in the haunted house. It was scary 10/10. But Janna almost had a seizure. But she actually didn’t. Mommy was scared when I warned her about there was someone going to pop out. Then we went on the slide. I loved it. Janna almost fell on the steps so I warned her. She tripped on the steps one time. Last year, Erin and GOD FORBID JANNA said it took them forever to get through the maze. But when I was with them I said follow me but I purposely ran into a clown and he trapped me and Mommy in a corner and I ran. But the clown said to mommy Do you want to play death? She said No but the clown chased her in the maze. GODDFORBID JANNA tried to save her but the clown pushed her out of the way. She had a seizure. I said follow me again and they did and I lead to victory. Finally, We went to the last part. We got blindfolded and had to follow a rope. But sometimes it got higher and I couldn’t reach it so mommy said she had it and then It got lower and I could touch it again. I was scared like so bad I could cry and my eyes were closed and I almost fell asleep. We kept touching people and they said we were in line. But Erin’s blindfold fell off and they pulled it back up. We finally got out of terrifying death creepy maze like idiotic mean place. Then I had Hot Coco because it was freezing like a Winter Wonderland. Walking In A Winter Wonderland. When we were leaving Chandelier came on and that was my favorite part. In conclusion, That’s how I felt at Riches Fright Farm.

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Oct 232014
 

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Last night, Janna and I took Chooch to Rich’s Farm. This post is not really about that. (Chooch claims he will be guest-blogging about this and Castle Blood tonight; WE’LL SEE.)

This post is actually about how he and Janna could have easily filled in as Dorothy and Rose for Kristy’s Golden Ghouls group costume at Zombiefest last week.

Before we left Fright Farm, Janna decided to be nice and buy Chooch some hot chocolate. On the way back to the car, he spilled some of it.

“Did you spill your hot chocolate?” Janna asked, noting that he had stopped and was looking at his pants.

“No, I pissed myself, Janna,” Chooch said dryly. “YES, I spilled my hot chocolate!”

I mean, that haunted house was fucking awesome, but this might have been the highlight for me.

Oct 092014
 

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Going through old haunted house journals for research (seriously, my life has zero point; if you could have seen the shit I wasted time on after work today, you would have been like, “Bitch, find some direction, this is much sad, very get help”), I found some old photos from 1998, back when I thought it was a great idea to bring a 35mm camera to haunted houses with me and then spin around to take pictures without warning. I’m sure the volunteers at these haunted houses would also agree it was a great idea after they blinked away the stars that the flash left in their eyes.

Anyway, this picture was my favorite picture for a really long time! I took it at the now-defunct Castle Shannon Haunted School (RIP). That’s my friend Angie and her then-boyfriend Mike. Something terrible was clearly happening.

God, I miss those days a lot sometimes. I’m pretty sure that haunted house was like, $5. This season rapes my wallet nowadays. BUT I CAN’T QUIT IT.

 

 

 

Oct 072014
 

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HUNDRED ACRES MANOR 9/21/14: I thought Hundred Acres Manor was cool scary and kinda funny because of MOMMY, First, We got there and had to wait because the sun was still up But GOD FORBID JANNA TOOK FOREVER SO WE HAD TO WAIT AND WAIT AND WAIT FOR HER! Then one of the actors came up to me and thought I was a chicken and hit me in the head with a Toy Chicken and the people behind us were two girls and a mom the two girls were going in by themselves and one was scared as hell and the other was not amused but they saw Ethan (the guy who runs the haunted house) they tried to talk to him but then he went back in. Next, Janna finally got here and our day was saved! Then we finally got to go in and I got a glow stick necklace. Then we got to go in the elevator that was very steamy and rocky so we got out and then someone screamed in my face and those are the only times I am scared, LOL! And then we got to the maze and Erin and Janna were scared. We caught up to a couple and they showed us the way I guess But the Lady was scared (She was like mommy’s age.) and the Chainsaw Guy was looking for us but the other actors found us! Next, We got out of the maze it was just a butcher part left so nothing more! (The meat was human body parts!) All in all, Now you know what Hundred Acres Manor is and how much I liked it!

HUSTON’S HAUNTED HOLLOW 10/4/14

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I have to say I had to PEE very bad and almost peed my pants because of how funny mommy was! First, We waited in line for about 1hour so it took forever (Janna was actually here with us this time!)And the people behind us were so annoying because they were all like stop hitting my face!!! STOP IT!!! IT WAS SO ANNOYINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!! One of the actors were outside and it was The Beetle Juicer Man (Beetle Juice Guy) and mommy told him to take me! That Idiot!!! And he was making the people in front of us laugh so hard! Next, After the past 1hour we were finally in! And there was a girl and another girl and a witch said to us “Im sharpening this shovel for your grave” I wasn’t scared! Then we went inside of a house it was kinda scary! There was a kitchen, a Bathroom with guts in the tub, a Basement that was a carnival there were clowns and we got 3d glasses and the first thing was a Spinning Tunnel that I hate so much! A room with clowns one clown said “There’s a Duck over there , HONK! Last, Now its time for the hayride good thing the people behind us in line aren’t with us! Every time we stop we have to walk in the corn and threw the woods there was a trail DONT WORRY, JANNA IS OK SHE DIDNT HAVE A SEIZURE! We got to a structure in the middle of the trail and we had to go in it and JANNA COULDNT SEE AND SHE WAS PISSING ME OFF BECAUSE SHE WOULDNT EFFING TURN THERE WAS A DUMB IDIOTIC ACTOR IN HER EFFING WAY I WAS SCREAMING THE HELL OUT OF ME I HAD A HEADACHE! Then we got back on the HayRide and we got split up into to smaller groups and then we got to a Chainsaw Guy and mommy ran like a wussy and made me laugh so hard because she pushed me into the corn and we got to ANOTHER Chainsaw Guy and made us go the opposite direction and made our group split up and mommy ran like a wussy again and pushed me in the corn. Then finally we were done and I finally got to PEE! The main topic)

P.S. Henry didnt go to neither and he was too wussed out.

Feb 202014
 

Well, that mushy Hallmark holiday is done-zo and I hope everyone survived being sufficiently glutted on chocolate hearts strewn about the workplace. Henry and I aren’t exactly a walking example of a Nicholas Sparks “novel,” so it’s kind of nice to have an option to celebrate Valentine’s Day without needing to make reservations at a crowded restaurant or relying on Henry to suddenly sprout a romantic notion and surprise with some glittery romantic bullshit.  So for the second year in a row, we pretended to somewhat like each other at Castle Blood’s special VD event.

I know I have virtually clung to Castle Blood’s jock numerous times over the years, but it’s because it is a fantastically imaginative haunt produced by talented people who pour their blood, sweat and costume makeup-stained tears into it, their Gothic lilts never wavering; the whole experience has given me so many beautiful Halloween memories since I was 16.

And now that they’ve officially nested in their Monessen location, Castle Blood is not just your standard October pop-up haunt anymore. With a set-up way too creepy to waste, Castle Blood is the only Pittsburgh-area haunt that reworks their story for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and even a special Midsummer’s Nightmare, which is just enough to keep us horror hounds pacified until the official Halloween season without completely stripping itself of that original autumn novel.

Of course we brought our spare limb Chooch with us, just in case the urge to openly love each other conquered our carefully-built cinder block wall of mutual disdain. (Not likely, but you never know. You’re welcome, people of Monessen.)

This year’s theme was “Love & Death,” and it revolved around one of the Castle denizens, Vapor, and her bloody trail of dead husbands. She greeted us in the first room of the Castle, which was full of placards featuring the names of all of her dead husbands. She told us to pick three and Chooch was absolutely beside himself, raising his hand and “Ooh ooh”ing like a rabid teacher’s pet because one of the cards said “Henry.” I mean, this kid was in anguish, hopping from foot to foot, squealing through clenched teeth, ready to projectile vomit the word “Henry” all over Vapor’s bloody face. I wonder if he’s like this in school, too…

However, there was a young couple in our group, probably high school-aged and totally adorable; Vapor chose one of them to answer before Chooch and he acted like his head was going to explode, like some punishable crime had just been committed before his eyes.

(I’m sorry that my son tried to disembowel you with his mind, Vapor.)

Finally, Chooch got his turn and instead of just telling her which name he wanted, he practically choked on his tongue while shouting “Henry!” and then walked over and grabbed the card, too, completely ignoring Vapor’s insistence that being handed the card wasn’t necessary. He just REALLY wanted to make sure she knew he chose “Henry” and not “Ivan,” I guess.

Now I can’t even remember the story of Husband Henry’s demise because I was too busy trying to keep Chooch from having a seizure. He gets so excited to participate, but sometimes he forgets that there are other people with us and they too would like to play along. So then I have to hiss, “LET OTHER PEOPLE HAVE A CHANCE” because I may or may not have approximately 7 entries in my Haunted House journal where I’m whining about getting stuck in a group with attention hogs.

After Vapor told us the story of three of her husbands’ untimely deaths, we were set off into the Castle with an order to find a fractured heart, a fluffy, and a flame, which Chooch happily screamed when we were acquainted with our guide for the evening. She asked if Henry and I were married, which delighted me greatly because it gave me a chance to emit my patented Harumph of Disgust. I guess she liked my response, because I was rewarded with a plastic ball and chain to carry around through the castle. Chooch kept trying to pry it from me; Christ, kid, let me have a thing or two every now and again!

We paused in a small room outside of the library, where our guide encouraged us to check out the art work on the walls.

“I think you’ll like the one behind you,” she said to me. It was a painting of a lady being attacked by an angry mob. She explained that it was Lady Bordella, and apparently she did some things that some people did not appreciate, which automatically made me think of myself and the Catholic School Incident and I was like, “OMG DOES THE GUIDE KNOW ABOUT THAT!?” So then I was paranoid and looked over my shoulder only to find myself face to face with a werewolf, which made me scream and then Chooch did the “Parents are so lame” eye roll. I get no love from him in haunted houses.

In the gypsy room, I got another chance to verbally articulate my disdain for Henry by answering “pffft” when asked if anyone in our group was in love. The cute little high school couple were the polar opposite of Henry and me and they tended to cuddle up on each other in response to these types of relationship status inquiries. It was adorable and sickening all at once, but they seemed like some kind of scene kid offshoot, so I decided to go with the “adorable” judgment. Anyway, we scored the fractured heart in this room, which was given to the scene kid for safe-keeping.

Next up was the lab, which was lacking a considerable amount of dorkiness and at first I just couldn’t…put…my…finger on it. But then I realized it was because Professor Scrye wasn’t there for the first time since, I don’t know, practically the beginning of the Castle. But his new assistant Zap was there and immediately made Chooch blush.

“Shut up,” he whispered, ramming his elbow into my ribs when I tauntingly fluffed his hair.

Professor Scrye’s fill-in tried to put the fractured heart back together for us, but failed. As he handed it back to the scene kid, Chooch made a swipe for it because god forbid if he doesn’t get to touch every single talisman. Scene kid let Chooch keep the heart and you would have thought it was cold hard cash (or…a stuffed cat) what with the way Chooch rejoiced and hugged it to his chest.

Before our guide took us through the mausoleum, she turned to Chooch and asked, “Do you even know what a mausoleum is?”

“Yeah,” he scoffed. “It’s like a building in a graveyard where they keep dead bodies.” Like, duh.

“Hmm, this is surprising,” she said, her mortal-hating tone softening a bit. “How do you know this? Does your mommy let you play in graveyards?”

“Yeah,” Chooch answered with a shrug, because this is Normalcy in our household.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was when the creepiest, most Peter Steeliest-looking vampire emerged from a corner and demanded that the scene kid in our group sing him a love song.

“What genre?” the boy asked, and I so badly wanted to scream, “POST HARDCORE!” because you know me, stereotyping people everywhere I go. (But seriously, I want to believe that on their way home later, that cute couple put on some Emarosa.) Anyway, the kid tried to pass the buck, so Vampire Peter Steele went down the line, asking each one of us to sing him a love song, and let me just tell you that Henry is lucky I suck at coming up with a medley on the spot because mine would have been a fucking 87-verse funeral dirge about how I wasted 13 years on a blue-collar d-bag who won’t marry me so I stabbed him in the eye socket with an icicle, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, love is an enema for the heart, tra la la.

So then it was back to scene kid, who blurted out Itsy Bitsy Spider and was awarded a small fluffy pillow for his effort. Chooch was like, “OMG FLUFFY WE GOT FLUFFY!” (I’m telling you, there’s nothing like an interactive haunted house to make a seven-year-old feel important.)

In the end, we wound up with all of our talismans (talismen?) and walked away with honorary vampire fangs, a Hershey Kiss, and a satisfyingly non-mushy Valentine memory. I deemed this trip to Castle Blood as one of my favorites yet; the whole “going to a haunted house in February” brings back some of the novelty and I even found that I was more jumpy than usual. Castle Blood doesn’t focus on scares, but they do have an occasional “boo!” moment, and every last goddamn one of those made me jolt. I guess I’m just much more stoic in October.

Chooch and I spent the rest of the night making fun of Henry for being one of Vapor’s murdered husbands. Obviously.

———————

I started writing this a few days ago, before the news of Castle Blood’s eviction was announced. For the second time in as many years, they will be looking for a new home and I can’t tell you how much this breaks my heart, knowing how much work goes into this (OK, Henry knows more about that part that I do, since my definition of “work” is “standing around in everyone’s way”). This is so much more than “just a haunted house.” For a lot of us, this is a standing Halloween tradition. I’ve been going to Castle Blood since I was 16, and we started taking Chooch when he was two. Some of the people involved in bringing this place to life every year have become my friends, and I know that they won’t let this ruin them.

So, here’s hoping that Castle Blood v.4 will be the best one of them all.

(Seriously. They have to come back because I WANT TO HAVE MY BIRTHDAY PARTY THERE.)

 

 

 

Nov 222013
 

Even though I keep a paper journal for this stuff, I still like to have a list here on my blog for easy access in case I forget just how much I absolutely hated a certain haunt or which one had the hot Michael Myers. You know how it is. I realize this is way late, but you know…I do what I can, OK?!

  • Freddy’s Haunts in Aliquippa: I’ve had a lot of fun at this one in the past, but my last several trips out there have basically ended with one loud Sad Tuba. This past go-around, my friend Jess and I got stuck going through with a horrible group of middle school-aged girls (there were at least 15 of them and they were total fuckerbrats). We went on a Saturday night and it was absolutely dead, no pun intended. Even the chainsaw guy was apathetic and no one bothered to scare me and Jess at all because the few volunteers who actually showed up that night were too busy fucking with the teenagers. It was a total let-down and I’m officially writing Freddy’s off for the rest of forever. That’s $12 I can spend somewhere else. When I was telling Henry about how annoying those teenaged girls were, I realized, mid-sentence, that “Holy shit, I just walked through a haunted house with 15 mini-Erins.”
  • Haunted Hills Hayride in N. Versailles: This one is so fucking hit-or-miss. I went last year and it was ridiculously fun. This year, we went on a night where it had been raining, so the trail was closed and only some of the hayride “exhibits” were in play. Laura, Janna, Chooch and I went back a week later to cash in our trail raincheck and it was just downright lousy. Just like the hayride, there were a bunch of stations along the trail that we just walked right on past because no one was there. And then some Yinzer bitch in the group with us started a fight over FLIP FLOPS with our equally-as-Yinzerish guide and it was just a real white trash display of awkwardness. So awful, and then Laura was all, “THIS IS THE WORST EVER THANKS FOR BRINGING US HERE, ERIN.” No, thank YOU, Haunted Hills Hayride, for making me look like an asshole in front of my friends!
  • Hundred Acres Manor: Granted, this is one of the haunts that every Pittsburgh publication collectively jizzes on themselves over, but it’s mostly worth it. They do load up on a lot of the cop-out animatronics that I hate so much, and there is also a lot of dead space, but it is mostly super entertaining and LONG. You get your money’s worth for sure in this one. The first part (it’s split up into several themes) has always been my favorite. The actors in that section are incredibly made-up and take their characters to the extreme, and the décor is like fucking eye candy for weirdos like me. (They have a doll room, you guys. And I want to live in it.) This one gets super crowded so I always always always go on a Sunday, and I have even gone on Wednesday nights after work in the past. This one could easily suck if you end up going through on a busy night with a group of 20.
  • Castle Blood: Still one of the most intelligent and entertaining haunted houses ever. It’s like a show and a haunted house for the price of one! We always have so much fun here, and I credit it as the haunt that immersed Chooch into the whole Halloween scene. I love that some place I’ve been going to since I was 16 has become a family tradition.
  • Terror Town: Total waste of that prime for-real-haunted real estate. This joint was so fantastic in its inaugural year (2011) but then they quit caring about the theatrics I guess and resorted to lots of dead space and a few mediocre volunteers. Maybe I just went on an off-night….two years in a row. And then one of their “actors” posted a shitty, classless comment on a mutual friend’s Facebook status about how “volunteering”  and that pretty much drove the nail into the coffin for me. I wipe my hands of thee, Terror Town. At least now I’ll have more room in my schedule now for an out-of-town haunted house.
  • Rich’s Fright Farm: OMG OMG OMG I hadn’t been here since I was in high school and it was on a seriously awkward date so I have blocked this place out of my mind since 1996. But since I had some weeknights off in October, Janna and I decided to check this one out on a Wednesday night. I know for a fact that Rich’s get PACKED on the weekends, so we really made a wise choice because the line was super short and we were on the hayride within 30 minutes or so, after Janna spent 10 of those minutes attempting to take a group photo of the two couples in front of us.  (Not like, from behind a bush or anything. They asked her to take their picture.) Long story short, this was the most expensive haunt I went to this year but it was entirely worth it. I screamed so loud a few times that I HURT MY BACK. I think that means I’m officially old. It took about an hour to do the hayride (which was on a wagon-thingie that didn’t have any sides so our legs were dangling and I was so scared that Janna was going to roll me over a cliff for all of the horrible blog posts I’ve written about her), and then all of the walk-thrus, which included maybe the most frustrating maze ever where I lost my fake-boyfriend du jour. Oh and we got to go down a huge tunnel slide which deposited us right smack in a courtyard of dead Victorian women waltzing with each other. This was definitely in my top 5 of the season and now I’m really excited to go back next year, only I won’t wear boots that are meant to be slippers.
  • Scaremare: Shit you guys, this one hit really close to my heart because it was so fucking OLD SCHOOL. Chooch, Henry and I went through with a group of 4 people and they were extremely pleasant as far as strangers in a haunted house go. Some of the actors were kind of (hilariously) off their game, but to me that’s all part of the experience! I love laughing in a haunted house. And we were ALL in a very WTF state from the get-go. There were even several moments where I found myself wondering for real if I was going to get hurt, and there was one part where we all had to crawl through a padded pitch-dark tunnel. It had a loose “Depression-era gangster” theme and was even housed in an old bank building, so I really enjoyed that aspect of it too, plus the fact that our 1920’s-dressed guide was totally cute. The very last part was a pitch-black maze that everyone was supposed to walk through alone (Henry literally cut in front of everyone while we hemmed and hawed and proceeded to disappear through the doorway, thanks for the support Henry). The guide let Chooch and me go together, probably because he didn’t want to be responsible for psychologically damaging a 7-year-old. We were the last in line, so it gave me a chance to totally schmooze him by telling him how much I enjoyed Scaremare. I HOPE HE DREAMT OF ME THAT NIGHT. Anyway, after Chooch and I emerged from the darkness, we walked into a small room with blinding white light and an angel, and that’s when it dawned on me that this was a fucking religious haunted house. Everyone else from our group was in there too, and the angel told us to choose either the lightness or darkness, and literally every single one of us went out the “darkness” door. She seemed really disappointed. I liked this one so much that I actually kind of wanted to go back, but there were still too many others that I needed to visit.
  • Sewickley United Methodist Haunted Basement: Chooch’s review pretty much covered it all, but I still wanted to give them a shout-out. It’s so much fun! Total pandemonium and there was definitely a man dressed as a dead Vanna White in one of the rooms, and a babydoll hanging from a tree. I also got Silly String’d in the mouth, since my mouth is ALWAYS OPEN! Even Henry showed some sign of life by LAUGHING. We tried to get Janna to go with us but she was all, “Blah blah blah I just got a new kitten and can’t leave him alone!” Lame Janna’s lame.
  • Cheeseman’s Fright Farm: I thought this one was just so/so. I’ve had a lot of fun there in the past, but the actually walk-through seemed kind of rushed and lackluster. Chooch and Laura really liked it though. The scariest part for me was when I was the ONLY ONE who walked through the stupid birth canal thing and I slipped when I was halfway through and almost fell and would have happened then!!? WHO KNOWS?! I had a mild panic attack because I hate those things so much but they’re even worse when no one else is in there with you helping to push through. I wouldn’t mind axing this one from my list.
  • Ghost Lake: OMG this night was so much fun. So it was me, Chooch, Henry and Janna; luckily we got our tickets through a local BOGO site because they were $25, which was actually worth it considering it took us about 3 hours of my non-stop screaming to get through all of the attractions. Our local amusement park, Kennywood, converts to a haunted attraction every fall, but I would gladly eschew that one and drive two hours to the half-defunct Conneaut Lake Park. There were 13 different haunted attractions!! And they were mostly all set-up in abandoned houses around the premises, and the actors were allowed to touch us! IT WAS SO EROTIC. I thought the park employees did a bang-up job keeping the lines moving at a good pace and the whole thing was pretty organized. You had to go through each attraction in order, so there wasn’t too much mass confusion going on. Again, Chooch’s review was pretty spot-on, but I just wanted to add that my favorite part was trying to close Janna inside one of those stupid inflatable birthing tunnel things that I hate so much. (Is there even an official term for those bullshit props?) And when she tripped when we were walking to the next attraction and I mocked her, as usual, and then proceeded to twist my ankle. One of the attractions had FOAM IN IT YOU GUYS! So that was novel. The only one I thought was lame was the Vampire’s Lair, which one of my friends pointed out was spelled “Liar” on the ticket and I didn’t even notice at the time so that’s a good sign that we were having lots of fun. We skipped out on the 13th attraction, whcih was actually just a ride on Conneaut’s rickety-as-fuck wooden coaster. Good thing too because apparently several people sustained facial injuries on it that night. Anyway, I can’t wait to go back again next year oh my goddddddd. Even stone-faced Henry was like, “That was fun.”
  • Grimm Manor: You know how we’re members of the Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts Club? (THAT NEVER GETS OLD!!) Well, our fearless DAFE prez, Rick Davis, has a home haunt in Vienna, Ohio. It’s only an hour or so away, so we decided to pair that one up with Ghoul Mansion in Sharon, PA. Rick turned his entire front yard into a cemetery, complete with movable figures straight out of dark rides! It was so vintage-y and wonderful that we lingered alongside the fence for a few minutes just admiring it all. The haunt itself was free, short and sweet. Very entertaining, though! It impresses me so much when people literally turn their home into a haunt. (I mean, look at Castle Blood!)
  • Ghoul Mansion: Chooch and I already wrote about this here and here. This was only my second time visiting GM, but it was in my Top 5 for the season, seriously. They’re such assholes, but in the best possible scare-actor way.
  • Demon House: I don’t know why I thought this would be a fine haunted house to take Chooch to. It’s fucking scary! Especially the upstairs of the house—I kept looking over at Chooch, expecting him to be in tears, but he held it together way better than I did. I just kept nervously laughing because I didn’t want him to start mimicking my own fear. There was one part where some asshole guy told us we had to play hide and seek and then yelled for us to run and if I had grown up with an alcoholic dad, that PROBABLY would have given me terrible flashbacks of repressed memories. Anyway, we ran straight into a hallway that had all those old, heavy clothes hanging in it—I couldn’t breathe in there and all these bloody people were screaming at us to run and I wanted to cry especially because JANNA was in front and she was literally moseying along like we weren’t potentially about to get slaughtered. Thanks, Janna. The last part of the house was a day-glo Alice in Wonderland theme and I really loved it but it wasn’t scary. Then we hung out for a little bit afterward and watched some of “Ghostbusters” on the movie screen outside while Chooch and Janna drank their hot beverages like elderly people and Chooch almost left behind his stupid stuffed dog, which miraculously made it through the entire haunted house under Chooch’s jacket, and then the dumbass sets it down on a picnic table afterward and walks away. Then I missed a turn on the way home and we ended up on some un-lit backroad with a truck tailgating us and Chooch almost started to cry. The end.
  • Cavern of the Dead: Henry and I were going to go to the Trundle Manor halloween party on this night, but I was feeling grumpy and VERY anti-social, also totally lazy in regards to putting together a costume. So instead we decided to go to dinner and a haunted house, but since it was November 2, our options were limited. Then I saw that Cavern of the Dead in Wampum, PA was still open and I thought Henry was going to be all, “THAT IS TOO FAR AWAY AND ALSO TOO EXPENSIVE. YOU AREN’T WORTH THAT.” But instead he was like, “Whatever you want to do” which I’ve learned over the years is his canned response when he’s losing all will to live. Since it was kind of far away though, I decided that we should just go to Sheetz and get sandwiches to go, so Henry started driving down all of these scary, dark roads and god forbid I had the nerve to ask him a question and this is how that panned out: Me: “WHERE ARE WE?!”
    Henry: “DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. JUST SIT IN THE CAR & SHUT UP.” Thank god he actually was just taking me to Sheetz though and then he pouted because he apparently wanted to go to a real restaurant but didn’t say anything so he ended up not eating dinner that night, boo hoo. Anyway, Cavern of the Dead was amazing. I even accidentally found something online that said if I liked their Facebook page, I could get a FREE ticket for that night, so it only cost us $20 instead of food for the week! And there was only one other couple there, so we waited in approximately zero lines. Cavern of the Dead is literally in a mine, and it was really wet and muddy in there from all the rain we’d been getting, thank god I was wearing my WHITE TOMS. Anyway, I feel like this one wouldn’t have been scary at all if it had been a busy night, but since we were alone, I screamed like a bitch through the whole thing. Then a zombie made me hug him. We got to ride on some kind of mine bus thing that took us even further into the mine AND THEN SHUT THE LIGHTS OFF OMG even Henry was whimpering. Blah blah blah, there was a really frustrating hallway of doors that were all dead ends and some girl kept singing, “No, over here! You’re going the wrong way!” and Henry was all, “I hope she wasn’t 13 because I bumped into her boobs a lot of times.” Then Henry asked me to marry him on the way home and I said sure.

And that sums up the 2013 Haunted House Experience. Ciao for now.

 

Nov 162013
 

GHOUL MANSION:

when we were in line a bloody nurse tried to lick us not daddy though. When we were inside we had to go down in the basement we got separated from henrys beard we had to stand in the dark which we didn’t have to it was all erin’s idea. erin was too scared to move and leave daddy alone I thought she hated daddy!

this dude came and scared us and we said “where is henry?!” and the dude said “I ate him” and we were like “no seriously” he was like “HENNNRRRY!!!!!” Then when we went around the corner after henry finally came back a clown had one of those little horn things and it was like BEEEEEP.

then we had to go up steps and a kid was down there and was like “Can I eat you” and then we finally got up the steps. and then like four rooms later we were walking down this hall then the same kid that was under the steps saying can I eat you and I was like “aw crap” in my mind. and he was like “remember me? I was under the steps! I wanted to eat you! can I eat you alive? can I eat you alive” and then finally we got through that hall and had to go through another hall and that kid was still following us. henry was in front of us and I was like “i’m gonna push you” I said that to the kid, so I pushed him and still I couldn’t get past him.

“I gave a high five to a clown it was awesome I really liked the haunted house”.(:

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DEMON HOUSE

Erin got off work at nine picked up JANNA “GOD FORBID” Erin got lost because Henry gave us bad directions mommy scared me bad. Mommy lied to me and said that demon house wasn’t scary. when we finally got there, well we didn’t get to the haunted house yet, we had to drive on a bus because mommy crashed into a tree, just kidding. there was no one there so we didn’t have to stand in line. I brought Murder Victim with me, a stuffed dog.

when we got to the demon house for real we sat by a fire and a dude called our number so we had to go up and he talked to us about something and made janna knock on the door. it wasn’t scary though. it was just a cave. like a fake cave made out of fake stone. it was like a mine. Murder Victim was scared.

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Once we got out of the cave we had to walk through a forest and then this clown said “follow me!” Then we heard vrrrrooooooooom three chainsaw guys came out of the forest we pushed Janna into one. Me and mommy went the wrong way one chainsaw guy said “that way.” Then we got to the real haunted house.

I hate writing.

My favorite part inside the house was going upstairs and playing hide and seek when these two people wanted to play hide and seek and they said “if you find ME, you’ll be dead!! If you find HER you’ll be safe!” So we found her. In the second room this guy said IS THIS YOUR MOMMY I was like “yeah who the eff would she be??” He was like “well she’s a terrible mom for bringing you here!!!”

Oh yeah at the end of the haunted house Dr Who was there! He was like ready for time travel? Scream YAY TIME TRAVEL! Louder! YAY TIME TRAVEL! I can’t hear you, louder! So we had to go through this maze thing that wasn’t really a maze he was like GO THAT WAY! I like Dr Who.

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At the end, Janna god forbid wanted APPLE CIDER but I wanted hot chocolate. What a good day for hot chocolate. I got to have a glow stick and we sat and watched Ghostbusters first then when that was over we say by the fire. It was really warm. I put Murder Victim on Janna’s lap and Erin was like “where’s Murder Victim?” I was like on Janna’s lap you dumbass! But before that I lost him for real but I got him back.

I liked Demon house I was not scared. Erin and Janna were.

Nov 052013
 

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We drove for like, how long? Two hours I guess. idiot Janna was with us and god for bid Henry put like 40 jackets on me.

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when we got in line this BUNNY-DEAD KILL ME it was chasing everyone else BUT then a gas mask dude  I wanted the BUNNY-KILL ME and the gas mask dude to chase me but then some dead jester thing came out of nowhere with a stick with a skeleton thing on top and got in my face, slammed his stick with the skeleton into the ground but henry told us to go in line with him because it was shorter and there was this glass window thing in the register and I looked right through it and saw the bunny dude’s face.

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so now we’re inside and first came Clown Town. the best of all is The Fog, number 10. Each one was in a different part of the park and we had to walk to each one. and henry and janna were talking about having to pee all the time, that’s all they did.

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Me and my 40 jackets.

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mommy was scared but nothing was even in there!!! All I saw was when we went into the merry go round I looked to the right and saw these two clowns looking on their phones. iphones, I guess.

haunted hotel Conneaut scared me the most. Mommy told me “ghosts are real” because they are. to prove that ghosts are real, I slammed my right leg on the step! wonder who pushed me mommy or a ghost?? then this ju-on lady just came out of nowhere in this dark room. I saw it first, no one else saw it. it was like gonna slam her hand on my leg but then I did this—hop!

when we were in line after the hotel Conneaut for apocalypse zombie we had to walk on this boardwalk when it ended these two dudes came running at us. I wasn’t even scared. mommy is the one who came running behind janna and henry. then the chainsaw guy came. back to the mommy was running scared part, those guys were like touching mommy and janna and henry but not me at all.

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last house on the left. I did not think it was scary, when we went in, we had to go upstairs. this dude had a metal stick and slammed it on the wall and then we went THE WRONG WAY BECAUSE OF MOMMY so then we had to go through a black curtain or something. when we went through the curtains we had to walk through a living room and this girl came popping out of nowhere and said “do you know what the fox says?!” and I was like “a ring ding ding ding ding” and she was like “good job!” and then we came to another guy who said “do you want to know what the fox says? it says nothing!” This guy in a pig mask was like on the right of mommy and mommy didn’t even notice it. he was a bloody pig guy, just with a pig mask on.

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this was after we walked through Demon House with all the bubbles at the end. After we came out of the Devils Den we passed this kitten named Boots. It was cute. The end. Hope you enjoyed! write a comment!

Oct 312013
 

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I have very little to complain about regarding this past weekend. Janna made the trek with us to the Conneaut Park haunted house on Saturday evening, but first we made a pit stop at some Italian restaurant in Meadville, which is where Janna went to college.

Meadville, not the Italian restaurant. I’d be pretty fucking pissed if I found out that Janna went to college at an Italian restaurant and hasn’t been spending the last 10 years serving me homemade gnocchi and tiramisu. That WOULD be just like her, though.

I can’t remember the name of the restaurant now, except that Janna kept talking about how amazing their wedgies are, which was funny because wedgies, you guys. Wedgies. Chooch started to feel not so hot during dinner and Henry was not being sympathetic at all because he felt that for sure Chooch was just reacting to the fact that he wasn’t getting his way, but I can’t even remember what exactly was “the way” that he wanted.  I actually wasn’t feeling so great either but I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want Henry to be all, “THAT’S IT, I’M TURNING THIS CAR AROUND” even though we were still at the table eating, because I DIDN’T WANT TO GO HOME! I WANTED TO GO TO THE HAUNTED HOUSE!

Meanwhile, Janna was getting prodded in her boob by the waitress.

Henry was being such a fucking sourpuss during dinner, but what else is new. He was actually fine once we got to GHOST LAKE OMG! I’m surprised he even took us there at all since it’s more than an hour away and Henry hates haunted houses because they “do nothing” for him. Ghost Lake turned out to be one of the best decisions ever. I wasn’t sure which direction it was going to go, considering Conneaut Park is in such a sad state of disrepair and barely any rides are operable. But that ended up only adding to the ambiance and allure of Ghost Lake. There were 13 different haunted houses (well, the last one was technically just a ride on the roller coaster, which I politely declined because it was raining and that wooden bastard is scary enough on a sunny day, and actually, two people got hurt on it that very night so there) scattered around the park’s property. Some of them were in legit abandoned houses, and one was inside the Hotel Conneaut which is purportedly haunted. They weren’t all on point, but each one made me laugh and scream AND THE PEOPLE THERE TOUCHED US! Not anything out of control, but they would grab our ankles and shoulders as we walked by which was creepy and I loved it. I’ll let Chooch cover the rest of the details but I just want to add that I got to push Janna like 87 times and then tried to close her into one of those stupid inflatable birthing passages. And she just continues meandering about her merry way. I don’t know how she does it. I mean, Henry is really patient but even he loses it constantly and slips into a frown-gown.

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Which brings me to Sunday night, when Henry, Chooch and I drove to Vienna, Ohio for our Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiast club leader’s home haunt. First though, we stopped down the street at Yankee Kitchen which was—and I’m going to say something that I would never say because I loved this place so much it makes me stupid—AMAZEBALLS.  Yeah, I just wrote that on  the Internet and I’m not sorry because this place really was like the freshest, manliest, hunkiest balls that God ever created, dunked into a goblet of motherfucking amazement. And then the Yankee Kitchen offered it as a blue plate special. Only things missing were Flo and Alice. The waitresses were too young and non-waitress-y! But there was an entire line of Olds at the counter and short order cooks who looked like they moved to Vienna from a place where the hills have eyes.

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Henry was super irritated because Chooch and I were mocking the cook every time he’d put up an order in the window. Especially after he screamed, “FISH DINNNNNNER!” We were almost under the table in fits at that point, and Henry was doing that nose-flare, widened-eye silent warning thing that he mistakenly thinks scares us but actually only makes us lose it even harder. Get a clue, Henry.

I had a really good grilled cheese and then used the last of the toilet paper in the bathroom when I peed and didn’t tell anyone.

After the home haunt (Grimm Manor, which again, I will let Chooch write about) we drove a few miles away to Sharon, PA for Ghoul Mansion, where I got to flash our Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts membership cards at the ticket booth for a discount (we saved $12 total!) while Henry hunkered back into the shadows because he was embarrassed by how elitist I was acting.

We had a tiny bit of a wait inside the Mansion but it was OK because the line-actors were stellar. There was this girl dressed a bloody surgeon and she kept trying to lick Chooch and me. It was disgusting and awesome. I applaud her commitment to her role.

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Some bloody photographer made us pose for a picture in the very first room, which I thought was just a set-up for something horrible to happen, and I was right because it turned out to be a real photo and you know I hate having my picture taken, but I thought my hair looked good so I made Henry buy a copy. Also, that coat is my grandma’s from the 1980s. I used to visit her and she would start pulling shit out of her cedar closet for me to take home. I have this really pretty lavender trench coat-type thing that everyone always asks, “OMG WHERE DID YOU GET THAT” and I literally say, “The Cedar Closet” like I know about some secret society boutique. I haven’t been able to wear it in a few years though because HENRY needs to sew new buttons on it. God Henry, you fucking suck.

Speaking of Henry, look at his molester-y side-eyes. I hate him. (No really, we’ve had 87 fights today regarding Halloween and costumes and our marital status.)

Anyway, some asshole in a Jason mask separated Chooch and me from Henry by pretending to do us a favor (there was another one of those stupid inflatable vaginas that I didn’t want to walk through so he offered a “shortcut”) but what he really does was shut Chooch and I into a pitchblack room with the instructions to “GO TO YOUR RIGHT.” Fuck you! I’m not going anywhere! So Chooch and I stood there, holding hands, ALONE IN THE DARK and I almost started to cry (OK, I cried) and I just repeatedly shrieked, “HENRY! HENRY! HENRY!” over and over, as if he doesn’t hear THAT enough. Chooch however was very still and silent.

Henry said that basically he was forced to walk through a darkened maze alone while the actors weren’t even trying to scare him, and all he could hear was my big mouth from a distance. There was some monster I couldn’t see that was apparently standing right next to us and he kept screaming, “HENRY’S DEAD! I ATE HIM!” and I can’t remember the last time I was so scared and happy all at the same time, maybe the time I realized it was just brain matter and not menstruation on my white seersuckers. Then the monster yelled, “You can have her back now, Henry! She’s annoying me” so we were finally reunited.

Ghoul Mansion I think is going to make it into my Top 3 for the season. I was actually sweating by the time we made it out.

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Henry applauds himself for pissing in a portajohn, a real life Bitstrip.

Seriously, speaking of Bitstrips, I’m not sure what is what more annoying: The actual posting of the Bitstrips or the people bitching about the posting of the Bitstrips. If you have logged into Facebook even once in the last two weeks, you probably know what I’m talking about.

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By the end of the night, Henry was completely done with us.

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And Chooch was fucking exhausted.

Here’s a video! Henry has a two-second sound byte in this that rivals the beloved NO YOU CAN’T HAVE A SHAKE! line from the “Henry Eating Ice Cream” video of last spring. Oh, memories.

My throat hurt from screaming and my stomach ached from laughing: sure signs of a fucking good weekend.

Oct 272013
 

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Scaremare

It was at an old bank full of Gangsters.  We had to crawl twice. One time we had to crawl    like for 2 minutes. I saw a real snake and Mother didn’t see it. At the end the tour guide said ”this is the time you go in one by one” Daddy had to go first he said “F*** IT I’ll go in alone :(“. at the beginning this Old man in the 1920’s like daddy’s age screaming about the Children behind bars. And we had to sing HAHA EAGOR YOU CANT GET US NANANANA then he broke through the bars like THIS: IIII:)IIII.    This lady in front of us THAT DADDY LIKED THAT TOLD US TO hide her from the ring around the rosey  grandma that told me I stole her cat so she told me to check mommy’s weird purse so I pushed it. I loved the haunted house

 

THE END

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Sewickley Methodist Haunted Church:

Janna wouldn’t go with us. because she got a new kitten named Ted Nugent it was to dumb to leave it alone. At the beginning there was this fake spider from the HALLOWEEN STORE.  This guy in a red mask said what’s your name I said Riley mommy said Erin and Henry said Henry The guy in the red mask said Erin more like Smelvin  witch doesn’t even make sense BUT IT WAS FUNNNNNNNNNNYYYYYY  BECAUSE I WOULDN’T STOP CALLING HER THAT!!! I got to spin the wheel and it landed on door one of death I’d rather go in door two of terror. The guy that was dressed like a girl was from a TV show called Wheel of Fortune named Vanna White. I never even watched Wheel of Fortune. The janitor which wasn’t really the janitor hung himself on a rope and had really big teeth. I loved the haunted church this year!! last year um I forgot what happened last year. i’ll just say it was good. maybe next time Janna wont be an idiot and will leave her kitten TED NUGENT that’ll teach you a lesson JANNA! LEAVE YOUR CAT IT CANT OPEN WINDOWS OR GRAB THE NOB OF THE DOOR!!!

Cheeseman Fright Farm:
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In line I had to go to the bathroom. I went in the boys bathroom but there was this like 10 year old and he was POOPING in the stall and the urinal was too high so I couldn’t use it so I had to use the girls bathroom no one was in there. it was awkward.

Michael Myers was chasing everybody in line. the people in front of us were like ‘oh well crap Michael Myers is in line’

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the hayride part well I kept saying hi to all the monsters they said hi back. The chainsaw guys kept putting their chainsaws in the hay right by laura she was so scared ha-ha. Anyway look at her face in the picture. Jason was in a tractor and it came out of nowhere from the hay shooting fire out from the pipes. It made me feel hot. well it did! The fire went right in my face. The haunted house part we got out of the hay tractor I guess that is what you would call it, and we were going in through a hay tunnel I realized I was in front and I was like “no no no” so I turned around and squeezed past laura to be in the middle.  Mommy was scared because I popped out of nowhere and she screamed AAAHHHH.

There was this guy holding a fake snake  but there was a real snake behind him in a tank. He was like “like my cat? wanna pet it?” I was like “oh it’s a cute cat I wanna pet it!” He was like “OK go head!” This girl from a graveyard screamed in my face, popped out of nowhere like a butterfly and I was like “well I can scream louder!” and I screamed, so.

I liked it. I had fun. And that’s when I liked chainsaw guys. Please don’t make me write about the picture with Michael Myers.

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Oct 222013
 

Hold up, wait up a minute. It’s more than halfway through October and I haven’t already posted 87 times about haunted houses? Shit son, let me stuff the word cannon.

This Halloween season, I have been pretty nostalgic about the “old days.” Way back in the age of flowing flannels and Contempo Casuals (where I would buy all of my slutty “I’m a slut who has money” slut uniforms), it was possible to go to two, sometimes even THREE haunted houses in one night for under $20. True story! It seemed like every last VFW, YMCA and Boy Scout Troop had hoarded enough black garbage bags over the course of a year and used their dues to stock up on slipshod Halloween masks from K-Mart to pull off a “haunted house.” And it may have been hokey and rudimentary, full of blacklit Jason Voorhees masks and “accidental” boob-brushes, but fuck if it wasn’t fun.

In high school, I would scour the newspaper for haunted house ads and then my friend Lisa and I would stuff her parents minivan with our ragamuffin group of friends and proceeded to exercise our god-given vocal prowess. We were Those Kids that everyone else hated standing in line with. And I was That Girl who flirted obnoxiously with Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, hoping to make my crush Evan jealous. (HE NEVER EVEN NOTICED.) There was the Bethel Park Haunted Yard, Clairton’s Haunted Pool, the Glassport Haunted Fire Station, and then all of the Haunted Schools: Castle Shannon, Victory, the Tri-City Jaycees one that I lost my keys in and then it burnt down (no correlation to my keys). Before there was Hundred Acres Manor, there was Phantoms in the Park and Terrors By the Lake. Before Kennywood had their Fright Nights, Station Square transformed into Station Scare and offered carnival rides just in case all of the fog machines, hyper-jealous boyfriends and diet pills* didn’t get you nauseated enough.

*(What? My weight issues go waaaay back.)

But then the behemoth, corporate haunted houses started popping up and taking over. The ones that pay to have haunted house listings and the Travel Channel call them the #1 Haunted Attraction. The ones that make you wait in line for upwards of 3 hours because OMG WE ARE THE BEST IN THE BIZ SO STAND AND WAIT, JAGOFFS. They pour loads of money into their advertising, production and animatronics, but they lack the true Halloween spirit and moxie that the smaller haunted joints have. Money can’t buy moxie, you guys. I’d rather walk through a haunted trail lit by flaming jugs of moonshine in some hick’s backyard than give those corporate bastards my money, if we’re being totally frank here.

People are usually shocked when I start waxing contrary about the city’s most popular haunted attractions, so I have compiled a list to offer some insight into what makes a “good” haunted house.

Here is the official Oh Honestly Erin Haunted House Criteria:

1. Will There Be Chainsaws?

It doesn’t matter how many times Henry exasperatedly assures me that there are no chains on the chainsaws, the moment I hear that whirring, no matter how far away it is, I am suddenly in booty shorts at Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees is mad as fuck because I just had sex on a hammock, and where the hell did this adrenaline come from? I don’t know, but look! I can scale the backs of the people in front of me!

Even when I’m standing in line chanting, “I hope there are no chainsaws. I hope there are no chainsaws” the truth is that there better be at least one fucking chainsaw guy who takes his position really fucking seriously because I just gave you $15 to scare the shit out of me, so please, do just that. Henry does my laundry, so what do I care.

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Chainsaw Guy at Cheeseman Fright Farm. It was really cold that night on that bale of hay, and your persistent wielding provided warmth to my shivering extremities. Also, you didn’t give up even when I used my 7-year-old son as a shield. Good for you, Ambitious Non-Hockey Mask-Wearing Chainsaw Guy. You were way better than the apathetic Voorhees-wannabe at Freddy’s Haunts who whir-whir-whirred for approximately 10 seconds before walking away.

2. Will There Be the Possibility of Simulated Horror Porn by Michael Myers?

So, maybe it’s just me, but when I’m singled out in a crowd by some dude who looks like his face got violently bear-hugged by bologna slices and green olives, maybe even corners me and snorts and snarls in my ear, I am REALLY FUCKING EXCITED to be there at that haunted attraction. Especially if it’s a particularly sexy-savage Michael Myers. And for those 30 seconds you’re towering over me with your fake machete and vacant eyes, I promise to pretend that you’re not actually some pizza-faced 17-year-old band nerd. NO, YOU ARE A FUCKING HOT PSYCHOPATH WHOSE EVERY PRIMAL INSTINCT IS TELLING YOU TO KILL ME, BUT WAIT! WHAT’S THAT!? YOU ARE FALLING IN LOVE WITH THIS CHUBBY MOM-BROAD WHO IS SCREAMING HER FACE OFF!

And then I’ll go home and write about it in my haunted house journal and it goes something like this: Holy fuck, I am so hot for Michael Myers! I bet he doesn’t pay that much attention to anyone else in that wing of the haunted maze! When we made eye contact, I think he winked at me but it was hard to see over the strobe lights. AND SPEAKING OF HARD! I’m not sure if that was Michael’s tumescent cock-machete or the Pizza-Faced-Kid-Dressed-As-Him’s satchel of dork dice, but I’m totally probably maybe pregnant now, you guys, right?

Just to really illustrate my alarming Michael Myers crush, my kid wouldn’t exist today if I hadn’t thought his dumb dad looked like Michael Myers when he would wear his stupid blue Weiss Meats coveralls back when we were co-workers in 2001. THAT IS WHAT MADE ME WANT TO SLEEP WITH HIM, OK?

Anyway…

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Rich’s Fright Farm Michael Myers. You smashed your fist into the wall in front of me every time I tried to escape and at one point BROUGHT ME TO MY KNEES while Janna stood off to the side, staring at her imaginary watch. I could feel your hot murderous breath on my neck and it was, well, fucking hot. Now your demon seed is sprouting inside my womb. Womb, womb, womb.

3. Will Someone Please Entertain the Fuck Out of Me?

Hi. I just dropped the cost of a concert ticket* down on your haunted establishment, so please prove to me that I didn’t make a mistake. *(What? I like underground bands, you guys.) If you’re charging me approx. $18 for 30 minutes, then I better come out the other end feeling like I just came. I mean, feeling entertained. Ridicule my blondness with your biting wit! Tickle my eyeballs with your macabre decor! Make me follow directions! Engage me! (No really—do you want to get engaged? Because Henry apparently doesn’t.) Pay attention to me, to me, to me!

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Castle Blood, duh. You still never fail to call me out for being a dum-dum. (Remembering three talisman is trying. IT’S HARD FOR ME TO PAY ATTENTION, OK!?) You still make me believe I’m going to be poisoned in Professor Scrye’s lab and turned into mortal mana pua by some convincingly realistic witch. (I don’t know why I picked a Hawaiian food that I have never eaten.)

But let me tell you something about this sanguine estate—if you came looking for chainsaws and robotic corpses hemorrhaging on toilets, queue the Sad Tuba soundbite. This is half past Saw, more toward Nosferatu. Castle Blood’s tagline is “Halloween the way it oughta be” and they mean it. It’s elegant and unique, it’s intelligent and interactive, it’s humble and passionate about the season. I’ve been going to Castle Blood since the late 90s and it’s still just as refreshing and inspiring as it was when I was a teenager. We’ve been taking Chooch since he was a baby (first to the no-scare matinees; he’s since graduated to the nighttime tours) and he loves it because it’s magical while still maintaining a high creep-factor—-plus, sometimes Henry gets presented with a death certificate.

4. Will You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman Teenager Again?

As previously mentioned, I long for the old-school haunts of yore. The ones in vacant buildings that charge $12 and under and probably meet the safety standards of a treehouse in 1954. The ones that aren’t mentioned in the obligatory WHAT TO DO THIS OCTOBER newspaper write-up or any of the haunted house listings online. The small haunted house put together by members of a local community and advertise by tacking up flyers in Spirit Halloween stores or sticking bright orange signs in the ground next to the highway. I like giving these people my monies! They know how to crack me up while also making me pee my pants. (I had a longstanding reputation at the now-defunct Victory Haunted School, and every year, from the moment I set foot inside, the “monsters” would start chanting, “Erin’s here! Erin peed her pants!” So fucking obnoxious but I loved every second of it.

If I’m in such pitch-blackness that I need to walk with outstretched arms while simultaneously screaming to no one and everyone that I AM SO FUCKING SCARED OMG WAS THAT A BREAST I JUST TOUCHED, then this haunted house rules. If I’m told, “GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND CRAWL THROUGH THE TUNNEL OF LOVE…OR DEATH!” and I literally find myself scrambling on my hands and knees over top of what I really really really hope are pieces of a CLEAN mattress and I start screaming about how I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO DO THIS! I AM SO SCARED! OW I JUST HURT MYSELF! then this haunted house rules. If the volunteers are so over-the-top with their theatrical lines and fake gunfire that I am literally doing pee-squats from laughing so hard, then this haunted house rules. If I tell the guide that my name is Erin and he decides that “Smellvin” is a better name even though that would only make sense if my name was Melvin, but everyone else thinks it’s hilarious, then this haunted house rules. If some kid pops out of nowhere and freaking feeds me a mouthful of Silly String and even HENRY laughs, then this haunted house rules.

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: Ohmygod it’s a tie! Teen Quest’s Scaremare in Mon City and the haunted basement of the Sewickley United Methodist Church. Can we please admire the irony here, that two of this heathen’s favorite haunted houses are Christian-based? IDGAF, these two haunts made me laugh until I almost peed. (ALMOST, I swear!) It was like being in high school again, faced with the threat of falling down a staircase and inhaling asbestos. And the volunteers at these two places had way more enthusiasm than any of the ones anywhere else, especially Terror Town, who apparently pays their actors and that is just ridiculous because for the last two years, their “employees” were relatively ineffective and I’m officially done giving them Henry’s hard-earned Faygo money. Especially after seeing one of those “actors” on Facebook turn her nose up at people who, god forbid, volunteer their time to play zombies. The people at Scaremare and the church in Sewickley had HEART. The church even had a babydoll displayed in a very horrific, decidedly un-Christian way! I applaud them for that, for being able to recognize that it’s OK to be outrageous and controversial in the name of Halloween, and for being so balls-to-the-wall. I actually wish I had the time to revisit both of these places this month. Even if it’s just essentially dropping money into a collection plate. I’m OK with that.

5. Do You Have a Worthy Haunted House Companion?

Chances are, during this season you are going to sometimes be driving great distances and are probably going to get lost at least twice (are you going to a hayride on some jackass’s farm? Yeah, good luck trusting your GPS with that), so you better make sure you don’t bring some douchebag along with you who is going to drive you so insane that you need to buy your first pack of Camel Wides in 7 years at some sketchy gas station in the middle of downtown Sharon, PA. (True story.) And then once you’ve arrived at the haunt, you might be standing in line for an hour at least. DON’T BRING A DUD OR YOU ARE FU-HAHAHAHA-UCKED. I was lucky this year and have gone to haunted houses with quality peeps (and Henry), but I have been pretty unfortunate in the past. Your company can make or break the haunted house experience, especially if you are so fucking over-the-top annoyed at who’s ripping your shirt in faux-fear that you forget about the actual haunted house itself. Did you like it? WHO EVEN FUCKING KNOWS?!

*THIS SEASON’S UNOFFICIAL WINNER*: And the award goes to my good friend Janna. No one handles being pushed and shoved into chainsaw guys with quite the panache as she, nor can anyone tolerate my extreme giddiness with such a steely veil of patience. Except Henry, but he hates going to haunted houses. I like to believe that every time I scream, and I mean SCREAM, “JANNNNNNAAAA LOOOOOOK OUTTTTT!” that I’m actually saving her life for real. And she just kind of chuckles a little at first, but by the end of the night, I sometimes detect some eye-rolling and sighing.

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Those are my unofficial winners because I still have at least four more haunts to attend before Christmas starts shitting all over my fun. And remember, all of this is subjective. The things that I look for in a haunted house might not be the same things that make you scream like Laurie Strode or make popular local radio DJs jack off into each others’ cupped hands. If your haunt isn’t going to be gonzo enough to scare the FUCK out of me, at least entertain me. Make me laugh, make me push Janna into a chainsaw guy, have a hot Michael Myers, make me have some F-U-N if I’m giving you twenty goddamn dollars out of Poor Henry’s wallet.

(And let me just tell you, now that Chooch is brave enough to go to every haunted house with me, October is officially waaaaay more costly than December.)

Some extra tips:

  • Look for coupons! Sometimes haunted houses will offer them on their website. Hundred Acres Manor usually offers $3 off coupons at Eat n Park or Burger King. (They’re only good on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, I believe.) And you know, check Groupon and Living Social or have a boss that forwards every single haunted house deal to you like I do. Maybe stop in your local corner pub and gather up enough barflies to qualify for a group rate. Just trying to save you some bucks, OK?
  • Go on off-nights! If a haunted house is open on a Sunday or Wednesday night—GO THEN! You will beat the crowds and probably have a better victim:monster ratio. Have you ever gone through a haunted house with just the one person you arrived with? SCARY AS FUCK. Real talk.
  • Try to remember that no haunt is perfect and “bad nights” can be expected. Maybe I went to Cheeseman’s Fright Farm last weekend and had a blast, but you went earlier in the month on a night where they happened to have a lot of volunteer no-shows. Shit happens, ya’ll, and most of it is behind the scenes. This is why I try not to do too much bashing. (And believe me, I’ve been to a few duds this year.)
  • If you go to a haunted trail after it’s been raining all day, you’re PROBABLY GOING TO GET MUDDY. Don’t be that dickhead who complains about it. Maybe you should have stayed home and watched a Duck Dynasty marathon instead.
  • Bitching about standing in line isn’t going to make the line move any faster and pro tip: NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR YOUR STUPID YINZER MONOLOGUE ABOUT IT, EITHER.
  • Pretend that you are actually running for your life. BECAUSE YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.