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Elliott Serrano Presents:









If you ask me, Halloween is the best ‘holiday’ of the year…

Halloween is a time for ghosts and goblins, beasts and boogie men; a time when grown adults can dress up in colorful costumes and walk around in public without getting reported to the police as potential sex-offenders. It’s also a time when we celebrate the imagination and indulge in the things that give us a fright. We see scary movies, play practical jokes and visit the neighborhood Jaycee’s haunted house. We do these things in the spirit of play and good fun. And I’m down for all that, all except for that last part.

You see, no matter how cool or crappy, convincing or cheesy it is, there is no way in Hades that you will get me to set foot in a ‘haunted house.’ Seriously. It doesn’t matter if the ‘house’ is a neighbor’s garage that has a smoke machine running and is populated by neighborhood kids in cheap rubber masks. I won’t go in it.

Nuh-uh.

And it doesn’t matter what the incentive is. Really! I once had a lovely young lady, lets call her ‘Kara’ since she was dressed in a Supergirl costume - and by costume I mean underoos and nothing else – ask me to go into a ‘haunted house’ with her after she offered to show me her tattoo that was strategically placed just under the bikini line of her girl’s briefs. The so-called ‘haunted house’ was really no more than a series of large black plastic bags wrapped around poles with a couple ‘spooky’ statues propped up in the make-shift doorway. A perfect place for an impromptu dalliance, and did I mention that she was wearing NOTHING BUT UNDERWEAR?

But I would have none of it. She went in the front of the black plastic garbage bag fortress, and I went the other way. (I think she met some other guy in there who couldn’t believe his good fortune to come across a cute blonde who was ready to shed her underoos for the next guy who came along.) It didn’t matter, since my irrational fear probably would have kept me from – ahem – performing anyway.

So why am I so afraid of haunted houses, you ask? Where did this deep-seated phobia come from? Can you believe that it happened at church?

Yup, I was around 8 years old and my church was throwing a Halloween party. As part of the festivities, the youth ministry group turned part of the church’s gym into a ‘haunted room.’ It was too small to call a ‘house’ and I remember seeing my friends running out of it screaming and laughing – mostly laughing – and having a good time. I also remember that my older cousin was with me. She was in her teens and above all the childish games, but indulged me when I asked if she would take me into the ‘haunted room’ our church so ironically hosted.

I was warned that the first ‘monster’ was just some kid with clay over his face, making him appear like some strange eyeless golem. When he got close and howled, I proclaimed ‘I’m not scared’ which made my cousin laugh. And I wasn’t. Really!

Once the teenager with clayface left, someone cued the spooky music and started flicking the lights so that they would have strobe effect. Over the din of spooky sound effects and music, I could hear someone announce that the ‘Lord of the Undead’ was in the room. I looked ahead to see a long cardboard box on a table, shaped like a coffin.

And that’s when the vampire appeared. He sat up in his cardboard coffin, his face white, his fangs protruding from his mouth, his lips red. The lights strobing, the music blaring, ghostly sounds wailing, I froze as it appeared that the vampire was looking RIGHT. AT. ME.

And that’s when I screamed.

And my cousin laughed.

Then I screamed some more.

She still laughed.

Then I started to cry.

Then they had to turn off all the music and sound effects and turn the lights on, effectively killing the little ‘spookiness’ the room had. Regardless, my somewhat active imagination did for the ‘haunted room’ what it had intended, which was scare the bejeezus outta me.

Even with the lights on they had to calm me down and someone had to walk me past the cardboard coffin containing the oblivious teenager with whiteface and plastic fangs.

Afterwards, everyone had a good laugh at the kid who claimed he couldn’t be scared by a neighborhood church’s haunted house. Oh, and they stopped having Halloween parties at my church shortly after then. I’m not sure if my incident had anything to do with that. I’m pretty sure it didn’t. Did it?

So anyhoo-

Let me go on record as saying that I just love Halloween. I love the costumes, the parties, and the revelry that allows everyone – geeks, nerds and norms alike – to get back in touch with their inner child.

I love monsters and ghosts, zombies and werewolves. And yeah, I even think that vampires are kinda cool.

But you can’t – no way, no how – get me to go into a haunted house.

And I don’t care if a cute girl in Supergirl Underoos is in there waiting for me.

Elliott Serrano is a writer/columnist who loves Halloween but isn’t so crazy about haunted houses. He even had a hard time going into the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. He’s still scared by A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, and has been unable to watch The Blair Witch Project since he first saw it in a movie theater. Call him a wuss if you want…just not some of the other things he’s heard. You can read his blog Geek To Me over at ChicagoNow.Com and watch his show on YouTube.

E.R. Serrano

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