THE SHOVEL-MAN CHRONICLES
Haunt season is officially over. I have returned to Las Vegas after driving 1800 miles from Indy, disappointed that I didn’t get to see a tornado while driving through Oklahoma. Just one. From a distance. As I sit here, feeling morose and drinking my coffee, I think back on the 2015 season with a smile on my face and this nasty callous that is still on my hand which I used to scrape my shovel all season.
There were so many customers this season that a lot of it becomes a blur, though, like anything, there are always standouts. I think one of my favorite moments when was I spotted this teenage girl wearing this silverly, glittery t-shirt that belonged hanging somewhere in Cheetah’s strip club. I ran up to her and her friends and starting singing “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” since, for some odd reason, it made me immediately think of “Frozen.” I don’t think she got it but her friends certainly did since they all cracked up.
Or what about the two people who decided to have sex in the porta-pottie? I kid you not. What prompts someone to have sex in a porta-pottie????? Was the anticipation of being scared just too much of an adrenaline rush? Did they need to have sex so that they’d be more relaxed going through the haunt? A PORTA-POTTIE. I mean, come on, the haunt had a dark maze….certainly that would have been less constrained and probably more thrilling (and certainly cleaner). I think they should have been upgraded to VIP status for their brazenness, especially for NOT locking the door! Pity the poor woman who opened it up to discover the X-rated film going on inside. She certainly got an extra shock before even entering the first section of the haunt.
On one of the busiest nights, when there was a 3-hour wait, the crowd was getting a tad anxious and fiesty and all of sudden a 300 lb man decided to hop up on one of the barrels and dance and start stripping. Cell phones popped out of everyone’s pockets and pictures were being taken, not to mention being filmed. I felt like I had entered a David Lynch movie. I kept looking around for a midget dancing backwards. At that point, I just put down the shovel and went behind-the-scenes and enjoyed a nice Twix bar. There was no way I was going to be able to scare anyone. That sight was more frightening than anything I could do.
One of the most admirable things about the haunt is the dedication of some of the actors, who never broke character while in their areas. A couple of times I had friends come through the haunt and decided to remove my mask and go through with them to experience as a guest. One actor in the hospital area had no qualms grabbing me and running a drill against my forehead, simulating a lobotomy. Maybe it was the burlap sack over his head that he couldn’t recognize it was me (yeah, right). Another actor, towards the end of the haunt, grabbed me and picked me up and pinned me against the wall, wrapping a chain around me. Now, that would be fine if I was home, but I was in the haunt, so I said, “Hey…..I work the front line here.” Response: “Well, now you’re in the back.” Give that man an honorary Oscar® for “Best Supporting Actor in a Haunt.” I can definitely see why we are considering the most intense haunt in Indianapolis. And why we really need to supply Depends to many people before they enter. You think I joke? One woman peed her pants mid-way through and was so amazed that she took a selfie of her jeans. Last year, while I was working in the live snake area, I would grab people’s legs as they walked through. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Oh my god, I think I pissed myself.” Thank god I was wearing gloves throughout that season.
Speaking of, it’s interesting to see what people’s fears are. I, personally, have never had a fear of snakes. You can drape a 100-lb. snake around me and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Mind you, I’m not going to become a snake charmer with King Cobras around me, but I think snakes are actually pretty cool. On the other hand, put a little cockroach near me and I turn into a 12-yr old Catholic school girl. Years ago, while I was living in Los Angeles, I was sitting in my apartment and heard a noise that sounded like the refrigerator acting up, so I went into the kitchen, only to discover this huge ass cockroach on its back, not able to right itself. This thing was so big, it could have its own license plate. Most sensible people would have just stepped on it, end of story. But not me. I slowly backed out of the kitchen because I just knew it was watching me, waiting to pounce if I came closer. I proceeded to call my sister who lived seven miles away with the promise of Cheesecake Factory if she would drive over and kill it. It was a nice dinner that night for her. This ties into last year at the haunt as well…..We got a bevy of Madagascar hissing cockroaches that we were going to put under plexiglass for a bug corridor. For various reasons, it didn’t happen. But I did buy a bunch of fake, very realistic looking ones and put them in this hallway…every night the haunt was open, I would sprinkle boxes of uncooked rigatoni before the first guests came through so that walking through that section would give a nice “crunch” sound and feel. Why should I be the only one freaking out over bugs? Share the wealth!
Darkness is another thing that most people have an issue with. Especially being lost in the dark. The maze this year seemed even more complicated to get out of. Even being a worker there, it seemed like it took me six hours to get through it. Many dead ends and hallways that were hard to find the exit. And then you end of completely lost and groping complete strangers. It was a definite flashback to being in NYC in the late 70s, that’s for sure. They just needed to be playing the Village People or Donna Summer and the fear would have turned into excitement. Wait, no. This is supposed to be a haunted house.
One of the new things at the haunt this year was an employee in disguise who would take pictures of the guests at a perfect scare moment. Brilliant. Along with him, we would peruse all the pics of the night to decide which ones were “the best” (though all were posted). I have never laughed so hard at some of these pics. Cell phones flying, glow sticks in midair, people’s faces contorted in ways you didn’t think were possible. And one very telling thing about these pics: Boyfriends gladly pushing their girlfriends in front of them; teenage boys in fear, stacked against each other like dominoes, close enough that you couldn’t get a credit card between them; little kids laughing while their parents are screaming in horror. It’s amazing how people change when they are being scared out of their wits. And how they’d gladly sacrifice anyone to keep themselves going.
As I sit here, thinking of all of this, it makes me sad knowing I have to wait a whole year to start this craziness again. And craziness it is. But maybe that’s what makes it so much fun. The anticipation of haunt season approaching, the planing of new and inventive ways to scare. Perhaps if it was a year-round thing, it would lose its appeal and become bland and dull after a while. Besides, it’s going to take a year to try and get rid of this callous off my hand from that damn shovel.