The smell of fear is in the air...
This time of year always triggers memories of two things – the World Series and Halloween-related hijinks.
And it reminds me of a crisp autumn a few years ago (OK, a few decades ago) when the World Series and my haunted adventures collided in the Alabama woods.
Details are fuzzy at this point, but I was in college and I remember my fraternity being approached by a local doctor who was looking for an organization to create and host a haunted trail in the woods next to his estate.
A small group of 20-25 guys, we were in dire need of cash to keep our operation going, so any opportunity for fundraising was welcomed and we jumped at the chance to build and man what was called The Spook Walk.
At first it was fun, as we spent several hours on the weekends and after class clearing the land that would be the haunted trail – all the while coming up with various stations and props to scare the guests – demented escapees from psych wards, grim reapers, the usual haunted house characters, and spookifying the grounds.
I remember my station – I was a severed head sticking through a hole in a table and through a fake serving plate covered by a cloche – one of those fancy silver bell-shaped dish covers. When the dish cover was removed, I’d psychotically sing a few refrains from “I Ain’t Got Nobody” in my best David Lee Roth/Louis Prima imitation – and the guests would either laugh, or run away, depending on their levels of sacredness, or intoxication.
Meanwhile, there was an undercurrent brewing – the formerly sad-sack Atlanta Braves had gone from worst to first, and landed in the World Series for the first time since the franchise moved South from Milwaukee. Many of my fraternity brothers were avid Braves fans, having grown up watching the team on the Superstation, TBS. And we had a brother from Minnesota, too, so he was just as much into this now-classic Braves-Twins series as we were.
But we had a dilemma – the Series was happening at the same time we were manning the Spook Walk. Let me remind you – these were the days before mobile media devices were prevalent other than say transistor radios and boom boxes. So, we used a little bit of redneck ingenuity and because we were running power to some of the haunting stations/staging areas, we split off an extension cord and trucked a small portable black-and-white TV replete with rabbit ears into the woods.
Throughout the evening - it was hard to distinguish between the intentional groans and shrieks of my brothers in monster character and the cries of anguish reacting from the excruciatingly painful extra inning World Series loss by the Braves.
Between rounds of waiting for more guests to come through the trail - we’d huddle around the TV to catch glimpses of the game, and I can remember updates being relayed to me as I waited underneath that table to attempt to surprise unsuspecting guests.
Later, the Spook Walk became a bone of contention with some members of my fraternity because they felt the good doctor was ripping us off by paying us a nominal fee for many, many hours of manpower to transform his property into a haunted trail and then also scare the shit out his well-to-do guests.
But it was still fun - and it obviously left a lasting impression, and gave me a taste of what it’s like on the other side of the mask.
Well, it’s that time again, and whereas my team isn’t in the World Series this year, it starts this week, and in the meantime the Grand Strand area’s horror houses and haunted attractions have cropped up again in recent weeks as Halloween draws nigh (it’s Wednesday, for you calendar-challenged folks out there).
I don’t find myself working a haunted trail or such, but our intrepid correspondent Derrick Bracey volunteered to. Bracey went undercover - literally - at local haunted attractions to find out about the people that work there and why they do it, how much time and toil is put into running a fulltime/part-time haunted house and evolution of these fear factories - i.e. how they have grown from spaghetti for guts and masked men to elaborate make-up, lighting and movie-inspired sets. And you can read his tome, which is this week’s cover story.
In addition, within the cover story package, we have all the details about a handful of local haunts for all you freaks that want to get your scare on, too.
Oh yeah, and in case someone asks: trick or treating is on Halloween; Halloween is Wednesday.
Kent Kimes, Editor