It will be fun, they said.
All you have to do is come to the haunted house and show people around. I admit I have never been a fan of anything haunted, but in exchange for volunteering a few hours, our granddaughter’s softball team would earn a donation to help cover team expenses.
But my curiosity and anxiety levels rose after I scanned the volunteer’s handbook for “Terror on Washington Street.” Costumes and make-up could be involved and black clothing, from head to toe, was required.
On a recent Saturday, I left for the terror assignment, with my husband and son, two good sports equally anxious to see what fate awaited us.
Inside the gates of terror village, we were given a choice of characters who made the spooky magic happen. I let it be known right away that I was devoid of any talent to scare people—despite what many people say about me. So I was assigned to sit in a chair in the haunted reading room, while occasionally casting a threatening gaze at unsuspecting visitors.
Sweet, I thought. I raised kids—I know how to threaten people without saying a word. I picked up my costume – a flowered house dress and a black wig that transformed me into a scary witch of a woman in need of a hairdresser. A layer of white makeup and a few smudges of red and I was fully spookified.
My husband fared less favorably with his assignment to the haunted jail cell. Dressed in traditional black and white striped jail garb, he shared the room with props that never stopped moaning in despair. Our son opted for rat duty. That is, he was responsible for letting fake rats into areas of the building.
Doesn’t it just tell you everything that handling rats –even fake ones—was a job someone would choose over other activities?
My library duty became less desirable after I settled into my comfy chair in a dimly lit corner. One of the house managers introduced me to my roommate, a prop I named Howling Harry. A motion detector linked to Harry caused him to drop into view and begin shrieking in pain when a visitor entered our room.
My plan to spend my six-plus hours reading was sidelined when I attempted to remove a book from the shelves, only to realize they were screwed together. Perhaps a safety measure to keep terrified or angry visitors from throwing volumes at the volunteer actors? One unanchored novel kept me minimally engaged and served as a suitable prop for the patrons who momentarily noticed me before Harry captured their attention.
And there was music throughout the Washington Street terror chamber. Loud, scary music that, like the screams of the paying customers, never ended. Our room was filled with creepy organ overtures. Harry seemed to love it.
Attached to their friends by true death grips, their eyes closed and imaginations whirling, hundreds of people paid $15 each to be terrified. Now 30 years old, Clinton’s haunted house is considered one of the best in central Illinois.
I’m not certain how much the softball team earned for our volunteer efforts. I am certain I will be willing to write a check to the team next year in lieu of a night in the den of terror. I met people dedicated to the haunted endeavors, so much so that they have returned year after year.
This grandparent is better suited for the concession stand. Popcorn, anyone?