Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pounding Hearts

Oh, no. It’s back again. I read that for many New Yorkers, it’s time to gather up the nerve to join other freaked-out people for another evening at Nightmare, an interactive production by Psycho Clan, which runs through Halloween. This is a guided tour through what Psycho Clan describes as New York’s most “horrifying haunted house.” A thirteen-room tour that is “guaranteed to rattle the nerves of even the most jaded thrill seeker.” This house of horrors is touted as an experience more ala David Lynch than John Carpenter.

I remember this time last year when my sister invited me to join her and her friend, Celeste, for this thrill. I hesitated because I do not love to be scared, especially when I don’t have to be. Sister was being very convincing, though.

SISTER: So. Are you coming?
ALICE: Aahhh. Well, let’s see. The brochure says that one will never sleep well again.
ALICE: And you do remember that my doctor says I am stressed and need peace and no…er…horror?
SISTER: In for a penny, in for a pound!
ALICE: What? That so does not make any sense!
SISTER: 8:30 tonight, right?

So Celeste, Sister and I were there. I was timidly ready for it all. Yeah, I was ready for the horror, the nightmares, the haunting dreams. Who was I kidding? I was there because Sister made me go and a happy Sister is…well, anyone who knows her knows the ending to that!

We were allowed through the rooms in groups of ten. Let me just say that there were no cute little witches and goblins going boo at every turn. Oh, no, my pretties. This WAS more David Lynch than David could ever dream up.

We all had to walk in single file down very dark passages and grotesque people would appear suddenly and shout at us or try to grab our arms or legs when least expected. At one room, a distraught young man was fighting to not place his arm into a large fan that was turned on. He lost the fight and as he yelled and plunged his hand into the rapidly spinning blades, the lights went out and we were splattered with liquid. Everyone screamed, even the burly young men. Well, especially, the burly young men.

The next room’s scenario: A young girl anxiously asking us not to go “beyond the black line on the floor.” She was in pajamas and she went to lie on her bed when suddenly we all heard loud thumping coming from a window over her bed. We all thought that some creature would come in from that window. Nuh uh. When the girl jumped out of bed to look out the window, something GRABBED her leg from under the bed and pulled her away through a hole in the wall while she thrashed and screamed ⎯ loudly. Our nerves WERE rattled!

Then a door burst open and a woman looking manic, feral, and dangerous turned to us and, with a look that promised a slow and painful death, waited. One of us, apparently, was to tell her where the hell her “daughter” went. How did I know this? Well, maybe because she kept on moaning, Where is my daughter, to us. If nothing else, I catch on quick!

Sister decided at this moment to shake her head at the woman and say, “You’re a bad mother!” HUH? What the hell was Sister doing? Shut up! Bad Mother looked at Sister in a very menacing way and started walking toward us. One of the men in the group gasped and said, “You shouldn’t have antagonized her!” Yeah, no kidding. We all started moving a few steps back and left Sister to her fate.

Well, the rest of the 20-minute walk through hell had us buried alive, subjected to a madman in his blood-splattered bathroom pulling out his teeth because of the voices in his head, being unsuccessfully grabbed at by gargoyles, as we walked slowly through directed passages, seeing a nurse smothering a baby in it’s crib (just a doll, of course) and then turning to us, hissing that we were next and chasing us after the group decided to run like bats out of hell.

Of course our group had bonded at the start of the tour. We had no other choice because each one of us walked together holding on to one another. I had misplaced Sister and Celeste almost at the beginning, so I found myself holding on tightly to the shirt of a guy in front of me. A very cute Asian guy with long dark hair was following me and I so wanted him to be my “savior” but he was super glued to my back and was not in the hero business.

Yes, it was unsettling and it was a rather shaky group that left the building. A quote about fear has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.

Our next thing? We went to a bar.

Apparently, this year the haunted house will be even scarier. The production group polled thousands of New Yorkers to list their top 13 fears, and then incorporated these fears into the new design of the rooms.


One of my fears? Rats. I’m sure there will be plenty of those running around. I’m not going to say anything else because I don’t want to give Psycho Clan any more ideas. Just in case Sister calls me up and tries to get me to go again.

Maybe she won’t remember this year. Yeah, maybe.

Hmm. O.K., here’s another fear: Sister never forgets. Anything. EVER.

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