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5:05 a.m. - 2001-10-30

I would think that at one point or another in this godforsaken diary that I would have written about the Haunted House of 1998.

I checked my archives and none of the titles suggested that I had written about it in great detail. So ... that's the little story you get today, kids. Gather 'round and try not to poot because this is a small, unventilated room and you don't wanna gas out Uncle Bob.

In September,1998, a bunch of us were sitting in an office at the newspaper talking about how much fun it'd be to put on a Haunted House. One of the guys that worked with us had worked on Haunted Houses before and was going on and on about all the things he had built for the House.

I had worked with the local Jaycees for two years in a row on their Haunted House which was simply pathetic. It was held in the hallways of a local elementary school whose scariest feature happened to be the neighborhood that it was in. None of us wanted to be there at night because the gang members were much scarier than the monsters.

After a little brainstorming, we thought that if we got the United Way involved in our little scheme, we could get some backing to put on a helluva Haunted House...something that our deeply religious city had banished years ago as being "paganistic".

The United Way thought it was a great idea. They'd put up $1,500 to help us buy some materials and stuff for the House. In return, all the proceeds made would go back to them. If I recall, we told them the House would make at LEAST 10 grand. If I recall, we pulled that figure out of our asses.

At the time, I was writing a book about the Millenium that was never published. Still, it was taking up a great deal of my time, so we appointed one of the writers on the staff to serve as the leader of the project.

This guy...a nice guy and all...but not exactly a leader by any stretch of the imagination ... took the reins and promptly dropped them on the ground and then went running, screaming into the night.

He was good at budgeting our time. By this date we needed to have this room done...the following week, this needed to be done, etc.

He just didn't schedule anyone to do any of the stuff he needed done.

We had found a 9,000 sq. ft abandoned warehouse whose owner let us use. These days, our Haunted House is a church, which really blows my mind because it was an absolute shithole before we got in there and looked much worse after we were done with it.

Our "leader" had decided by the second week of October that he didn't have what it took to be the leader. Nobody wanted to work for him and he didn't want to work. He just wanted to show up in a mask and scare people when we finally opened.

So...book or no book...I was thrust into the position of being in charge of this crap.

Early on, we knew we'd need a lot of wood to build things in certain rooms. We had very large spacious rooms that needed partitions built in them.

We decided to go around to local lumberyards and businesses like Home Depot and ask for their scrap wood. That way, we wouldn't have to spend any of the $1,500 on wood.

...Our first leader spent all $1,500 on brand new sheets of plywood. Which happened to be big mistake number one.

Big mistake number two...He wanted to use every piece of that wood to build a hallway, essentially dividing a large open area into two large open areas with a hallway.

So our entire budget went to building a hallway that we really didn't need.

This infuriated several of the people who I recruited to work under me. Once that hallway had been constructed, we were left penniless and scrounging up stuff to make the rooms "scary".

I was able to go to some local businesses and get items either donated or loaned to us for the cause. People really wanted to help out the United Way and it was fairly easy to do.

Except the things that were available for donation just ... weren't that damned scary.

"Here's a table and a broken TV!"

"Here's a rocking chair and some streamers!"

"Here's a lamp and several cuddly stuffed animals!"

As the weeks QUICKLY went by and we tried to do the best we could with what we had to work with, I realized that this was going to be about the absolute WORST Haunted House ever. This was going to make the Jaycees Haunted House in the elementary school look like something out of Universal Studios.

We had radio stations set up to do live remotes from the House. We had called the TV stations to come out and film parts of it. We arranged for as much free publicity as we could for the thing.

The first night, we might have had 100 people show up.

At three bucks a head, that's $300.

Not quite what we were expecting.

I had issued a desperate plea for volunteers to work in the House. Luckily, I met and worked with some very cool people for the first time who I still see these days and are still very cool people.

Then...I had ... the biggest damned jerks in the free world working for us.

The worst were ... the local Camarillos. I think that's how you pronounce their names. Basically, it's a group of people who've outgrown Dungeons and Dragons, so now they play a role-playing game where they're vampires.

Several of them actually thought they were vampires and witches.

They were Alabama Goth. So if you can imagine a buncha white trash rednecks putting down their beer cans and saying "Hey y'all, lookit me! I'm a goddamned vampire! Whoooooooo!", you can imagine what we were dealing with.

These people took their "room" very seriously. They all stayed contained to the same room where they were performing a human sacrifice that was wayyyyy too Satanic for my tastes. They would drink "blood" and then pull out the guy's entails and sling them all over the room while he laid on a table screaming. Then they'd come running at the crowd and waving the entails in the crowd's faces.

I don't remember what exactly they were using as the guy's entails. But my God...by the sixth night of the Haunted House, that room smelled worse than your average slaughterhouse.

Nobody got along with these people either. They stayed to themselves and wouldn't budge when it came to helping us set up and design other rooms. They must have thought that this was like a college parade and their float had to be better than everyone else's floats so they only worked on their float. And granted...their room was decently designed. But then again, every prop that I had donated to the House...these assholes stole for their room. Every ounce of makeup and fake blood and rubber scars that I had donated ... they took. I butted heads with them on more than one occasion, which hopefully I'll get into here later.

...You know...this whole story is going to take more than one entry. I hope you're ready for it all.

Anyway...the Camarillos sucked.

The second worst person I had to deal with was...no big surprise...my damned $6,000-owing, Coke-slurping, good-for-absolutely-nothing brother in law.

I'll hand it to him...he's a scary bastard. He has these painter's stilts that painters walk around on to paint houses. And he has a Frankenstein suit and authentic mask that he wears so that he LOOKS like Frankenstein if Frankenstein were about 9-10 feet tall. He's very agile on the stilts and can actually almost run in them.

He's also very arrogant when he transforms himself into Frankenstein. The guy is such a loser the rest of the year that when he gets to dress up like this, he really does become the center of attention.

And he milks it for all it's worth.

SEVERAL TIMES over the course of six nights, I had to put the House on hold with several dozen people waiting in line to get in.

Why?

Because my brother in law needed to go outside and smoke a cigarette.

I had explained early on...there will be designated smoke breaks...two 15 minute breaks in a four hour period.

That's not good enough for Frankenstein. And because he's the brother in law of the guy in charge...he'll take a smoke break when he damned well feels like it.

I had never really lost my temper with my brother in law. As much smack as I talk about him here, I've always bottled it up to his face and been nice to the guy.

But I lost it at least twice with the guy during the course of this venture.

I cussed him out in front of everyone and told him to get his fucking ass in the building now or to take his fucking ass home and not come back because he needed a cigarette and I had a lobby full of people that had paid their money to be scared and not stand around for an hour and wait for the prima donna Frankenstein to decide when HE was ready for the show to start.

Then, another time...he had to take a dump. That meant that he had to come off the stilts, take off most of his costume and go crap. THEN come back and get the stilts back on, get the costume back on and get back in his room.

My God.

You woulda thought he'd taken several N.Y. Times crossword puzzles in there with him.

When he was on, he was one of the best features of the House. But when he pulled the prima donna crap, I wanted to kill him.

The third thorn in my side turned out to be the local Teen Squads from the local malls.

Since the managers of the malls were friends of mine, I asked them if their teen squads could come out and participate in the House.

I had a lot of teenage boys volunteering for me throughout the month of October, helping me get the House constructed.

This was their reward. The best looking teen girls in the city would be working alongside them every night for four hours straight.

Uh-huh.

What I quickly forgot was...these precious little girls had full slates on the weekend. They had dates. They had parties. They had only an hour to come and have their intestines cut out of their bellies.

Each night, about 10-20 girls would show up at 7:00.

...With no costumes.

I had SPECIFICALLY stated that anyone participating was in charge of their own costumes. I had a limited amount of masks, costumes and makeup to dole out. I needed all the help I could get from these kids.

They showed up in their precious little Gap clothes and want to be a witch.

Okay honey...stand in that corner over there and give me attitude like you've been giving me since you walked through the door. That will scare the bejeezus outta kids.

Some of the girls got masks ... which they complained about because the masks messed up their hair.

Some of the girls got makeup ... which they didn't want "too much" of because they had spent an hour applying the makeup they were wearing.

Some of the girls were handed surgical masks and told that they were "doctors" (sorry...no scrubs or coats...you're Teen Squad doctors...now...EMOTE!!)

But whatever they were...they were gone two hours into the evening. Which left me with about 3-4 "Scary rooms" that were now empty.

Uh-huh.

People paid three bucks to be taken through a series of empty "rooms" lit by black light.

It was a disaster from the get-go.

Come back this afternoon, and I'll take you on the final run through of this Haunted House from Hell. I may even get some of the more interesting stories included in that entry. If not, this thing may stretch into tomorrow.

Gawd...the stories I'm about to tell....

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