It all started 20 years ago with an adorable and curious 6-year-old (me) and a somewhat questionable parenting decision from my dad. It started with my first haunted house.
I probably heard about it on the radio, but what exactly spurred me into thinking this was something I’d enjoy is lost to me. What matters is I begged my dad to take me to this haunted house and he agreed.
I remember the lady at the ticket window double-checking multiple times with both my dad and me that this was a good decision; that it was what I really wanted to do. Throwing side-glances to her coworkers at the ticket booth like “is this even allowed?”
It didn’t matter. I was determined to experience whatever demented setup was inside.
I remember the tightening in my chest as we got in line; my stomach slowly tying itself into a million knots as we inched up the ramp toward the entrance. Was this a mistake? Probably, but I wasn’t about to wuss out now. I remember the distinct feeling of dread and excitement swirling around me as the darkness took over and we entered the building.
Most of the attraction is a (very scary) blur now, but the one part that sticks out, one of the more defining moments in my life, was the “twist” ending. There was a feeling of pure, joyous adrenaline pumping through my little veins as we finally exited the attraction. The torture was over, I made it! Or so I thought.
My heart momentarily stopped as I came face-to-face with one last chainsaw-wielding monster hiding behind a tipped-over rowboat as you exited the “house” part of the attraction. So I did what any great horror movie character would do and ran right back inside the haunted house. Right back into the “meat locker” room with the previous chainsaw man who then teamed up with outside chainsaw man and chased me to the actual exit.
This is where my love for horror began.
Let me clear any confusion you may have: this wasn’t love at first sight. I was 100% scarred for life from that night. The sound of chainsaws has never been the same again. I don’t have any phobia or real fear of them, but there’s definitely some sort of primal instinct that kicks in whenever I hear one. To this day, the one part of any haunted house that (still) makes me lose my shit are the dudes that chase you around with chainsaws. Two years ago, at a fairly well-known haunted house in Colorado, I straight-up abandoned my boyfriend, essentially leaving him for dead, running for my life from three of these chainsaw madmen (talk about déjà vu). I also ended up tripping (how stereotypical) and finally came to terms with the fact that in a real-life horror movie situation I would probably die.
Despite the disappointment in my heart that I would not cut it as a “final girl” in a horror movie, the genre remains my favorite. It took a little while after the haunted house fiasco for me to cozy up to it, but it quickly became a minor obsession. I rented nearly every horror movie my local Blockbuster put on their shelves before it closed. I was the girl at my friends birthday party who had already seen THE RING and secretly called the birthday girls phone number after the “cursed video” played and freaked everyone out. I was the “slightly-off-in-the-head” friend. And I fully embrace that.
When I hear like-minded people talk about horror, that sensation of acceptance is always a big talking point. Another HT writer penned a story about how You’re Not a Freak if You Like Gory Movies which has plenty of truth to it, but lets be real: if serial killers and zombies are exciting to you, there’s a good chance you’re a little different than most people. And that’s okay. We welcome you with open arms.
Another huge point most horror-lovers bring up is the feeling of escape. Horror allows them to take a different look at reality, or remove themselves from it completely. And while I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment too, for my personal love affair with horror, I think it also harbors a creativity I can’t find elsewhere. The idea of horror (beyond it being an entertainment genre) allows me to not only escape from reality but create a totally new environment, a new persona, rules of the Earth be damned, ANYTHING is now possible if you can imagine it – like having a chainsaw for an arm. Sure, the same thing could be said of other similar genres, like sci-fi, but this is my personal story and things like STAR WARS (as much as I enjoy the franchise) didn’t open my eyes and change my life. A couple of guys with chainsaws did.
While I don’t necessarily condone taking children to haunted houses, my dad’s decision 20 years ago made one of the biggest positive impacts on my life – even if neither of us realized it at the time. One of my life’s mottos, one I’ve found myself relying on more and more, is to take the path that scares you the most. While not the best advice for a horror movie, it serves as a constant reminder in life to take risks, step out of my comfort zone and strive to do things out of the ordinary. Just like a horror story should.
So every once in a while, so long as you’re not in a horror movie situation, take a stroll down the scary side of life. You’ll be in good company.
This article is part of our special October series, #horrorandme