Conquering a fear of fear: Haunted houses really aren't that scary, right?
If only haunted houses were this well-lit. And made me laugh as much as this photograph of people being scare does.
Since becoming an adult (er, since I started having thoughts about things in a way that seemed adult-like), I've wanted to like haunted houses. I've wanted to like them so bad. It sounds dumb -- desiring to enjoy something as inanely holiday commerce-driven as a haunted house. But I'm fascinated by rituals that seem teenager-ish and late night/weekend-oriented -- coordinating my gang and plotting out which haunted houses to go to, driving around, eating lots of sugar, staying up late. It all sounds perfect. The only problem? I hate being scared.
Why any human would want to subject themselves to intentional terror is beyond me. Even the thought of exposing myself to something that isn't real yet seems so real it scares the living shit out of me has no entertainment value. Fake blood, simulated torture, strangers in costumes following you, even the simple act of moving through a dark room are in no way equals "fun"; for this reason, I've never seen a horror movie of any kind (intentionally.)
The only haunted houses I've visited were during my childhood, and not by choice. Though these few instances were probably very mild on the scary scale and made for children -- I recall being forced through a "haunted" exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science once -- I never uncovered my eyes. I just clung to my best friend, head buried in her shoulder, praying she would guide me out of the living hell as quickly as humanly possible. (As I think back, she probably took her sweet time, not just because she liked haunted houses, but because she liked to watch me squirm a little. This is key to having a good BFF: The friend is someone you want to spend every day with because the friend is awesome, but also someone who knows your deepest fear, and enjoys seeing you almost pee your pants when faced with it.)
I spent my twenties pretending I was fearless by drinking a lot and fighting in public (which doesn't actually make you a badass, it just makes you the stupidest, most annoying person in the bar/chain restaurant). So now that I'm 32, shouldn't this time in my life be all about looking at what really terrifies me the most and conquering it? Being fearless about the haunted-house experience and understanding that none of it is real, that nothing will happen to me if I allow myself to feel, gasp, scared? I've thought many times about facing this greatest fear -- feeling/being scared -- and just going for it. I mean, really going all out and paying a bunch of strangers to make me feel unsafe and scare the shit out of me. After all, what if my fear of haunted houses turns out to be similar to my irrational aversion to Greek yogurt? After repeatedly refusing to try the creamy substance despite its hype, I finally ate some Fage with honey and let me tell you, now I'll eat that stuff for every meal -- I don't care. No rules.
Isn't that what your thirties are supposed to be about? No rules, just right? Er, maybe that's just Outback Steakhouse. (Wait. Ignore that video link -- it's a crazy Christian sermon disguised as an Outback Steakhouse training video.)
Whatever. In theory, going to a haunted house with the knowledge that I could come out a better person sounds pretty cool -- and life-changing. If I face my fear of fear, I can only imagine what else I could do. I could stop being afraid of heights, finally eat food that isn't injected with Splenda and not count the calories (or "points," if you speak Weight Watchers), maybe even try to travel out the country in some way other than on a cruise ship. The possibilities are endless.
This Halloween, I'm going to do it. I'm going to go to a haunted house. Girl Scout's Honor.
But before going to a haunted house, maybe I should try to get through Michael Jackson's Thriller in its entirety. I've never been able to -- it's just too damn scary.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.