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Haunted Houses 

They literally come to town like ghosts in the night. The lines are quite long and it is ironic because the human condition loathes fear, yet here we are paying for it. With each inch forward we boast of our lack of fear, knowing that our knees are shaking and our words are mere bravado to combat the reality of our emotions. Even though the real world is beyond frightening, we are gluttons for punishment.

We need to know that our dwindling 401K’s and bankrupt home values are not the real fright. Ghosts and goblins await, the real threats to our livelihood. Even MJ’s “Thriller” video could not be viewed without a nightlife. Yet here we are, face to face with the supernatural, volunteering ourselves to a future as surreal as the ditsy blonde cheerleader in a Tobe Hooper film school offering.

We Americans love the haunted attraction.

The venue changes every year but the players remain the same. Ghosts, goblins, monsters and demons seem to follow us from house to house, if you have the cash. The theme might be a prison, a crime scene, an asylum or the morgue; as long as the lights strobe and the fog machine works, we are in a state of manufactured horror. With a concession stand. From this date until after Halloween, we treat ourselves to the macabre; floating heads, detached souls, creepy children and old-timey prophecies. For $5-$40, we lose ourselves to an underworld that seems to have never discovered electricity or the celestial art of “passing over” and leaving this realm behind.

It goes back to 1915, ironic since the original purveyors of synthetic fright would theoretically be haunting us for real now. Imagine that, a haunted house within a haunted house. But it was in the 60’s and 70’s that the Jaycees made the haunted house a moneymaker akin only to Girl Scout cookies. Sprouting up in major Midwestern locales as Louisville and Cincinnati, the holler-for-dollar ordeal has grown into a national tradition. What once began as a scare-fest in Lombard, Illinois, (the longest running haunted attraction in America) has morphed into an industry. Organizers have made a living out of the month long affair, recruiting Hollywood style CGI, attracting committed actors and writing a virtual screenplay for the events that follow. For these promoters, eleven out of twelve months of the year are committed to “the show”.

Of course, there exists “real “haunted houses. One could travel to the upstate New York site that inspired “The Amityville Horror”. One could make a pilgramige to the home of Lizzie Borden, or travel to Bobby Mackey’s haunted honky-tonk in Wilder, Kentucky. But as TV ghost hunters and common sense reveal, no sightings of ghosts occur in these places (aside from the bills in your wallet). But attend a haunted house production in the heartland; scares are imminent.

At least the screams in these places are fun. Six months after the last show, the IRS comes calling. That is a fear we do not pay to see, but pay for greatly regardless.

Oh,how we long for the Bride of Frankenstein.

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