The only thing scarier than a truly ghouly haunted house is being deathly afraid of haunted houses in the first place. I once had a not-so-great experience at a haunted house in my hometown. After I got a good scare from a man wielding a buzzing chain saw, a wolfman doused me with a bucketful of ice water. I wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go, what with all the bodies crowding the attraction, all the actors and slowly moving displays of corpses crawling from their graves. I was trapped. Hours later, home, dry and utterly freaked, I scrawled a fierce journal entry, using as strong language as a precocious first-grader can get away with.
And every fall since, I’ve scoffed at the season’s bumper crop of haunted houses.
It was my evil Weekly colleagues’ suggestion that I work through my fears with some sensory immersion. So Sunday night, I gave Fright Dome and its five haunted houses a chance. My goal: surviving two. Inside “Hillbilly Hell,” I dodged the denim-overalled, white-trash undead and homicidal zombie hicks. But all this was child’s play compared to “Jigsaw’s Revenge,” one of two Saw-inspired attractions.
It wasn’t so much the audio-animatronic bodies writhing in torture-porn peril, or the diabolical machinery poised to wrench the hired actors from tit to tail. No, it was the pure sensory overload: female ’tweenager screams, strobe lights, pitch darkness, an endless maze of confined corridors and the constant touching from body bags and props. I brought along a tall, strong man and then proceeded to use him as a full-body shield.
When a rabid, silver gorilla-man (Fright Dome’s owner, it turns out) began taunting me, I buried my face in my companion’s shoulder blades. That’s when a killer clown (no doubt smelling my fear) took a running start and slid right to my feet with a menacing glare. I was about to faint dead away when it occurred to me—that would put me on eye level with the fiend. So I did what any first-grader would do: I burst into fat, hot tears and had to be taken out a back door. Score: Haunted houses, 2; Xania, 0.
Fright Dome scary? In a word: yes.