It was supposed to be an evening of Halloween fun for all, but I’m not so sure that everyone would agree it worked out that way. After all, some enjoy a good fright more than others, and depending on one’s tolerance, fear can bring out the best or the worst.
It was a cool October evening in the early 1980s. I was around twelve or thirteen, and my best friend Jennifer, who was around ten, was spending the night at my house. There was a church run haunted house a few minutes drive away, and we begged and pleaded for my mom to take us. She finally caved but said that she wouldn’t go in with us; instead, she would wait in the car.
So there we were standing in line in front of the little Cape Cod style house beside the church which was filled with all sorts of spooky surprises. Behind the house was a small cemetery decked out as part of the experience. We would follow a path from the front door of the house to the back and out into the cemetery. As we waited for our turn, creepy music played throughout the parking lot and over it we heard the occasional scream from inside. At first, we giggled. The longer we waited though the more nervous we became. We tried to outdo each other with our mock bravery and attempted to scare each other. Eventually that stopped when we realized we were making things worse. We started to voice our fears. We contemplated getting out of line and just leaving. Right about then the line started to move. The couple in front of us had apparently been listening to us go on and on about how scared we were. They were in their twenties and quite possibly on their first date. Maybe Jen and I were breaking the ice for them. We gave them something to laugh and talk about. Anyway, the guy gallantly turns to us as we are getting ready to make our escape and says, “Don’t worry girls! If you get scared, just hold onto the back of my jacket. I’ll protect you.” Made much more confident by his offer, Jen and I stayed and moved along with the line.
I don’t remember much after that. Vague images of skeletons and cobwebs skitter across my mind. The sound of a chainsaw hums in my ears. I’m sure, looking back now, that my head was rotating around the room like Regan in The Exorcist. I was so scared. In a state of heightened awareness, we made it safely through the first room. As we made it through the doorway, something jumped at us from behind. Jen and I screamed at the top of our lungs and took off running. We’ve probably never moved so fast in our lives. We went from room to room at the speed of light in what now seems to be a smoky haze of semi-consciousness. We skipped the cemetery and went straight for the car. I remember one of the actors in the cemetery yelling for us to come back, that it wasn’t over yet, but it was over for us. We were done with that mess.
When my mom saw us approaching the car, she started laughing uncontrollably. Only then did we notice that we had followed the instructions of the guy in front of us. We had indeed grabbed hold of the back of his jacket when we got spooked . . . and he was still in it. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance. I’m sure that when he made his offer to protect us, he could not have foreseen such a thing happening. He must have been astonished by the ferocity of our grasp as we hauled him along with us. We were certainly shocked to realize we had taken him captive and let go of his jacket as though it was scalding our hands. Without so much as a “Thank you” or a “Sorry” we jumped in the car and locked the doors.
I think he was dumbfounded as he turned and walked back toward the cemetery. We never saw his date again and to this day, I wonder if he ever saw her again either. I’m thinking their first date may have been their last. Then again, maybe we made for the most memorable first date ever and they ended up married and living happily ever after, telling their kids and grandkids all about us. In that case, “You’re welcome!”