Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughts from the Big Chair

For the past few weekends I’ve been doing a lot of pondering. Well, there’s not much else to do, since I’m sitting on my big, furry ass, waiting for folks to plop down their money so they can snuggle up with me and get their photo taken to document the event.

Early in the evening you might find me reading a book, but once the crowds start showing up, I have more fun just people watching. Nicograph (our photographer) and the Spouse (managing the gift shop sales) keep me company and we all share in some good laughs at some of our observations.

But, like I said, I have some deep thoughts while I’m perched on my big bench, overlooking the crowd...

1. Normally I don’t like being stared at. It freaks me out. I’m terribly paranoid most of the time (ask the Spouse about my habit of locking doors) but when I’m made-up all horrible and ugly I don’t mind being looked at. So go ahead and stare. For 5 bucks you can take it a picture, it’ll last longer. But, really, look all you want. If you stare long enough I might wave, stand up and freak you and your pals out, or do a trick.

2. But don’t be obnoxious about it. If you come to our Haunted House and you’re being a jerk I already hate you. And I am the first wall of security in our establishment. So if you come in with a chip on shoulder or with an attitude I’ll be alerting the rest of our security to be looking for you. And we have two police officers on the premises that we’d love to introduce you to.

3. Don’t come in drunk and/or stoned either. I hate you, too. I just can’t comprehend the mentality that says, “Hey, let’s get drunk and go to a Haunted House!” You dumb ass. You just wasted money on something you either won’t remember or will get tossed out of because of your behavior. Smooth move, Exlax.

4. Another thing about the drunks and stoners... Do you realize how bad you smell? I notice these things, especially when you slam yourself next to me for a photo. I’m nearly dying from the fumes. I could easily get a buzz just from your aroma alone.

5. Yes, I AM real. Yes, I can hear you. And yes, I talk. Feel free to talk to me and ask questions. Just don’t be a putz about it. If you are polite, genuinely curious and friendly, I’ll chatter with you as long as you’re in line waiting to get into the House. But if you’re being an asshole the most you’ll get out of me is a shake of the head. I don’t communicate with morons. I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

6. Like I said, I AM real. And, if you ask first, you can touch me. You can touch my ‘face,’ you can shake my hand, you can feel my fur or touch my wings. (I tell ya, I haven’t had this much physical action since my younger, single gal days.) But do NOT grab me, try to pull off my ‘face’ (it’s glued onto my real face) or pinch my fingers. Some little tween girl did that last week and I wanted to kill her.

7. I am NOT ‘Jeepers Creepers.’ I started this costume years before that damn movie was released. Don’t get me wrong, I love that movie. But I am NOT the creature from that film. I barely even resemble that thing. And we don’t do famous movie characters at our House. Go somewhere else for that stuff. All of our stuff is original. Nicograph and I got so tired of hearing ‘Jeepers Creepers’ that she made me a sign last weekend that says, “I am NOT Jeepers Creepers! I am a GARGOYLE! Get it right!” I haven’t used it yet, but I may have to.

Oh, well, it could be worse. At least I’m not hearing ‘the flying monkey from The Wizard of Oz’ any more.

8. Our volunteers are wonderful. I can’t say that enough. So many of them check on me all night, making sure I’m ok and well-hydrated. These folks are bringing me soft drinks all night long. And since I’ve turned Directorship over to my protege, B, things have gone very well and I personally have been a lot less stressed. Which is a good thing. The Spouse is happy.

So one more weekend and then it’s a wrap. And I can look forward to Halloween Night in our neighborhood. And then I can take a much needed rest from spooking.

Except we have not one, not two, but THREE (yes, three) Ghostly Sleepovers in the Mansion for the first three Saturdays in November. Which means I’m pulling three all-nighters doing Tarot Card readings for our ghost-hunting guests.

Yeah, Halloween really is an all-year event for me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Say cheese!

One of the biggest challenges in the Haunt business is coming up with new ideas every season. Some haunts keep the same rooms and props every year because they are so popular. Our organization, however, tries to keep our house full of fresh, new things. Sure, we’ve had some favorites we might have used a couple years in a row, and there have also been a few old things we dug out of the closet and gave a fresh coat of paint to, but for the most part we try to offer something different every year.

One of our most successful concepts was the Casket Ride. We took a real casket (a nice looking black one with gold trim, I might add), ripped out the metal spring and added padding and a removable lining, propped that sucker on a long, inclined ramp with industrial rollers and viola. A ride to die for, literally.

We even had a camera mounted over the Loading Zone so that people waiting in line could watch some poor bastard lay down in the coffin, the lid get closed, and the coffin roll off camera. That alone had some folks dampening their drawers.

This year we were inspired by a get-up that occurs at a lot of amusement parks. As soon as you walk in the entrance, some employee and a goober in a big, floppy character costume approach you and your group, snap a picture and hand you a ticket with a number on it. At the end of the day, you report to a booth and, lo and behold, there’s you and your crew with the floppy-costumed critter available in 8 X 10, wallet size and keychain size.

So it if works for them, maybe it’ll work for us. But instead of a cute, furry thing, we could have, say, and evil furry thing.

We honestly had no idea if this would even work, but we will willing to give it a try. The staff got hold of a halfway decent printer and stocked up on ink cartridges and photo paper. Nicograph (who’s been helping out at the Haunted House for quite a few years now) brought her digital camera, tripod, laptop and fabric for a backdrop.

And I brought myself, some furry legs and some big-ass wings.

We just found our next big money maker. We’re averaging about a dozen a night. And that number increases every weekend.

For 5 bucks, you and your pals can get your photo made with yours truly. So, in a sense, I’ve become a twisted version of a mall Santa.

Yes, people are more than willing to plop either themselves or their kids on my lap for a photo. Imagine using one of these for your Christmas Card this year.

So I sit on my big chair all night, eyeing the crowd ominously, while Nicograph solicits potential subjects.

Who knew we could make this much money (and have fun at the same time) and still keep our clothes on?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best Scares, part 3

As much as I love being my gargoyle alter ego, there were times back in my early days at Literally, a Haunted House that I needed a break. So once in a while I would throw on a tattered, hooded robe, make myself look sickly and slightly evil, and just wander behind groups as they ventured thru the House. I not only provided security, I got to see all the other actors in action. And I got to see customers freak out all night long.

Altho there are some tried-and-true classic scares (clowns, chainsaws, drop windows), sometimes just being silent can be way more intimidating and frightening.

And, as they always say when interviewing neighbors of a serial killer: “He was real quiet and kept to himself mostly.” It’s those quiet types you gotta watch out for.

One night I’m doing my stealth roving I notice this one woman in my current group being a general loud-mouth wise-ass. She’s crass, rude, disrespectful of our actors and a general pain in the ass. She’s blonde, aprobably in her late 30s (old enough to know better), and surprisingly not drunk. But she’s being a real bitch.

So that when I start staring. Right. At. Her. Unblinking. Eyes wide. And with those yellow cat-eye lenses, not to mention the sickly face, it’s pretty damn creepy. Hell, look at the photo. There is no sexy in that get-up.

Well, needless to say, she felt the eyes on her and glanced up to catch my unwavering gaze, and that cocky attitude went poof. I’ve never seen a face fall that fast.

As we went from room to room, I stayed behind the entire group, remaining in the background so as not to disrupt the action in each scene. But Blondie is not watching the actors. She keeps glancing at me.

And I’m not looking at anyone or anything but her. And I’m not blinking.

By the third room, she’s no longer enjoying herself. She grabs her male companion and, whispering loud enough for me to hear, says, “That thing’s looking at me.”

Blondie’s companion looks up at me but doesn’t seem to care. He’s having a good time watching the show so he doesn’t care that his girl is getting freaked out.

This continues from room to room. Blondie is getting more and more nervous, uttering “That thing’s still looking at me!” at least two more times.

And my face never changes. And I never say a word.

By the time we reach the end, Blondie is a complete mess. Once she makes it out the exit she relaxes and says to her group, “Did you guys see that thing looking at me?”

One of the nice things about being roving security is you get some decent exercise, since you’re on your feet walking all night. Another nice thing is that you are not limited to one room. Or even the House itself. You can go anywhere you want.

That includes chasing people out the door. Across the yard. Down the street.

Blondie had only a second or two of peace before I emerged from the exit, still staring at her, and started following her. Blondie broke out into a brisk walk up the street, constantly looking over her shoulder at me.

Don’t worry, friends and neighbors, the street she was on is a well-lit dead end with little traffic, so she wasn’t in danger of getting hit by a car. But getting run over by a vehicle was the last thing on her mind as she started to run. Meanwhile, I’m just walking at a leisurely pace behind her. And only her. By now her pals are howling with laughter as they watch their friend run away screaming from a slow moving spooky person.

Finally, I stopped in the middle of the road and slowly raised my right arm and pointed to her, never saying a word. It made for a nice visual.

Blondie made it home safe, sound and un-traumatized that night. How do I know this? She and her companion came back the very next week.

It’s always a compliment when you have repeat visitors in the Haunt business. It gives you that warm, sticky feeling to know you and your organization are so damn scarey that folks are willing to undergo the ordeal all over again.

So, yes, Blondie and her man came back the very next weekend. And guess who followed them thru the house again?

In the first room Blondie noticed my presence and nearly lost it. She held tenaciously to her man while nearly screaming, “It’s that thing again! It’s still looking at me!”

I’m going to give yall a few minutes to bask in this moment of great satisfaction that I, too, was experiencing....

Aaawwww, yeeeeaaahhh... This is gonna get good.

Once again, Blondie’s companions are having a great time. Once again, Blondie is a mess. Only this time the volume has been turned up to 11.

By the time we reach the exit, she’s become an Olympic sprinter. Her pals are still laughing as she dashes up the street again. And I, too, am slowly following her.

But this time I throw a little humor in the mix. Humiliation is the greatest thing to serve to someone who deserves it.

I stop in the middle of the street, just like before, but this time, in my best toddler voice, I shout, “Bye-bye, lady!”

Blondie screeches to a halt and turns around to make sure she really heard what I just said.

I put my hands to my cheeks, giggle like a little girl and go skipping (yes, skipping) back into the House.

I don’t know who was laughing harder; her friends or our staff.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I can has candee?

Forget stinky, moist cat food. Forget cheezburgers. Forget even tuna.

THIS... is what the cat lives for. Caramel Apple suckers.

Just another reason why Halloween is a big deal at our house.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Best Scares, part 2

One of the easiest ways to scare somebody is to pretend you are a prop. The more made-up and heavily costumed you are, the more effective this is.

Seriously... nobody expects something that’s 8 foot tall with wings to be real. Which makes this whole set-up so much fun.

Mastering the whole ‘prop-stance’ was simple. I would back up against the wall and stretch my arms out in a threatening manner and freeze. I would even find a small spot on the wall ahead of me to focus on without blinking. As people walked past me I remained frozen. I might even let them reach out and touch me to see if I was real. All I am waiting for is the right moment.

That moment is that fraction of a second where they assume I’m fake and relax. And that’s when I get them. Sometimes is a loud snarl and lunge, other times it’s a simple turn of the head with one hell of a stare down. Once they start running there’s 8 feet of sexy gargoyle right behind them, maintaining their speed.

Many a visitors’ crotches have been damped this way.

One night while in my frozen pose I observed my next group of victims. It was a mix of young guys and girls but one guy stood out in particular: ball cap on sideways, overly baggy pants with the waistband below the ass crack, wife beater shirt, walking with an over-confidently swagger like a rooster in a barnyard, complete with head bobbing... you already know the type.

This is the type I normally try to avoid. And I warn my actors of the same. When you see someone that looks like they might be trouble, avoid them and scare the rest of the group.

So I lunge and snarl at the rest of the group. But guess who screams like a little girl and nearly drops to his knees?

Baggy Pants is not as tough as his homeboy exterior portrays him.

Yes, Baggy Pants let out a wail that rivaled your average 8-year-old. Upon regaining his balance he dashed down a short hallway and stopped, cowered in the corner.

And, just like the slogan for McDonald’s, I’m lovin’ it. Looks like we have someone who needs ‘special attention.’

I lumber down the hall and loom over him, growling and breathing heavy the whole time. He’s still trembling in the corner with his arms thrown protectively over his head.

After enjoying this spectacle for a few seconds I decide to add the icing on the cake. I thrust out my right hand and, in a low, beast-like voice I say, “Shake my hand!”

Baggy Pants looks at me and shakes his head ever so slightly.

I keep my hand out and shout again, “Shake my hand!!”

Baggy Pants, still looking very rattled, shakes his head again.

Now, in my normal everyday voice I say, “I’m a GIRL! Shake my hand!”

Baggy Pants has a moment of clarity and, still looking frightened, gingerly holds out his hand. I grab it, give a few strong shakes and turn around and walk away.

Now while all of this has been happening, his buddies have been just a few feet away watching all this go down. My satisfaction comes from knowing that, once they all got outside, his buddies probably gave him grief for the rest of the night:

“Dude, you got scared by a GIRL!”