Family Ties

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 1999

MARY ANN FITZMORRIS / L’Observateur / October 30, 1999

To scare or not to scare? That is the question. Tis’ nobler to havenightmares? Or to ignore the childhood thrill of being a little scared? As a child I was denied all those life-enriching experiences like Ouija boards, slumber party seances and haunted houses, thereby completely stunting the growth of my dark side. As my children get older I’ve decidedit’s harmless to let them be a little scared. Right?The big question, though, is what constitutes a little. This is a verysubjective thing, and it really depends on tolerance level. My kids havealso been denied exposure to things that go bump in the night, but they tend not to be very scary kids, so I decided we’d do a haunted house if I could find a mild one.

I felt I had stumbled upon the perfect fit when I heard about the spook house at Zephyr Field sponsored by the Children’s Museum. Most activitiesconnected with the Children’s Museum tend to be geared to younger- thinking children, and how much more wholesome can you get than Zephyr Field? It seemed a safe bet.

As we waited for the opening of the haunted house, we could see All-American type teen-agers dressed in black, their faces painted for the occasion. They didn’t look too scary as we watched them walk in and out.This was reassuring to me, and downright exciting to my daughter. My sonwas unsure, so he wanted to wait for Dad.

By the time Dad arrived our expectations were high. Immediately inside Irealized that it was very, very dark and very, very stupid to have my daughter in there. The first All-American ghoul to jump out at her madeher jump into my arms and bury her face in my shoulder. She started tocry. It was going to be a very long 10 minutes.Having been to so few haunted houses, I have no means of comparison, really, but this one seemed to have all the basics. My husband thought itwas really scary, and my son thought it was fun. I thought it was prettygeneric and harmless, which was exactly what I wanted.

There was one point at the end though, which was more maddening than actually scary. It was a maze that was cramped and exceedingly dark. Nothelping at all was some ear-splitting heavy-metal music. I found thismaze borderline irritating as I kept going the wrong way and bumping into walls, which, because of the extreme darkness, I had bumped into several times before.

Every few minutes a light was turned on for a brief second, allowing you a chance to try to find your bearings. Sometimes, though, the moment ofillumination made it even scarier, as my son found out.

He had been holding on to my husband’s shirt the entire time, as we baby- stepped our way through the pitch black. But he got separated from Dad inthe maze and was comforted by catching a hold of another shirt that he thought was my husband.

The silence and tension were broken by a teen-ager’s voice commanding, “Hey kid, let go of my shirt!” Then the light flashed and my son realized he had been holding on to one of the ghouls! Fortunately my husband was right there, and my son reattached himself.

All of this went on over the steady and muffled wail of my daughter, who was buried in my shoulder.

After finally figuring out how to leave the maze, we made our way past stinky, roaring chain saws and moss to the exit door. Once outside my sonlaughed nervously and said it was really cool. I guessed right on him.My husband exclaimed how really scary he thought it was. I guessed wrongon him – the wimp. My daughter quit whimpering and declared she’d nevergo to a haunted house again. I noticed her pants were damp. I reallyguessed wrong on her.

In the end, it was pretty much what I thought it would be, but then I’ve never been all that scared of haunted houses.

As I was finishing this column, I got a call from the people who are working on my car. Now, THAT was scary!

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