You would think that watching the ghoulishly garbed actors of the Asylum, Denver's best rated haunted house in 2006 and one of Hauntworld's top 25 in the nation, chatting backstage about the stresses of writing a paper on the fall of the Ottoman empire might ease your mind about the whole ordeal of going through a haunted house. Because hey, it's not real, right?
But once the scary clown guy was holding a chainsaw, I realized there was no amount of sunlight, granola bars or humanizing talk of "But I've got so much homework to do tonight" that could put my mind at ease.
The basic premise of the Asylum is that beneath a hidden passage descends the damp and musty Gordon Cottingham's Hospital for the Mentally Insane -- so not only crazy people, but claustrophobia, rats, snakes and spiders too.
I loitered outside the trailer behind The Asylum around dusk to discuss the hilarities of scaring people with a gang of teenagers as they donned the look of dead mental patients and posed for photographs. I learned that putting on a latex mask is a three-person job requiring baby powder and that puke is often just "a casualty of the atmosphere." Evidently fake blood tastes like sweet candy, and one actor claims to have talked six groups back into the haunted house within the first hour of opening. (Don't pretend you've never considered sneaking out that exit door half-way through but simply couldn't bear the thought of losing your pride in front of your friends.)
From the hundreds of applicants, these are the actors who take it seriously. So basically, these are people who were able to act like total freaks at noon on a Saturday with no costumery or sound effects and were able to pull it off. I was impressed by their enthusiasm as they explained the complex process of a good scare. Timing is key and it's much more than groaning loudly at the right time. On set, they call each other by their character names: Doll Girl, Clown Man, Cannibal Dude, Outdoor Zombie, Black Girl (this is because she dresses in all black clothing) and the Shake and Bake Dude (this is because he is the doctor that mans the electric chair).
When I asked them how they don't laugh when some chick pees her pants or some mom throws her five-year-old child to the wolves, they all laughed like the possessed and said, "We laugh in character." In other words, I really want drink a few beers with them at their Halloween party.
While I lurked around the make-up trailer in the parking lot, Doll Girl stood on the curb and called attention to me while announcing to the entire staff that my name was Maggie and they should damned well use it when trying to scare me. I laughed nervously and tried to look like I didn't care. Walking through a dark corridor of flashing strobe lights with your arms erected like Frankenstein is disorienting enough, but an entire warehouse of dark rooms filled with the berserk grunts of dead mental patients whispering your name? I mean, come on. The sun was setting and the final drops of blood were added. I sat in the car for about five minutes and told myself I should really go through this by myself. You know, rise to the challenge. The sky was black as pitch and I could hear the chainsaw running outside of the car -- and I totally chickened out.
I simply needed another human being to gouge my nails into. A human accomplice is a necessary anchor for a runner, and I would use this body as a shield with no remorse whatsoever. Also, I figured if I came back in a few hours, they might forget my name. You understand.
Random side note: You are not even safe when you are inside a vehicle in the parking lot of a haunted house. I was recently caught chugging a beer at Primal Fear by the perfectly still face of dead janitor pressed against the car window. This guy was terrifyingly creepy because he was silent and just walked around with a huge broom all night. I realize this doesn't sound scary at all, by the way.
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The Asylum is scary, though. It is the sister haunt to The 13th Floor and is located at 11425 Community Center Drive in Northglenn, right by The Boondocks. Even their website is scary. Or call them at 303-355-FEAR.
On November 5, they host a "Black Out" night where you can make your way through the haunt with only the light of your glowsticks. That's right. Glowsticks.
(Stay tuned for City of the Dead, also known as "the haunted house with a bar in it.")