Thrills not worth the price of admission



I, like many of you, consider October one of the most enjoyable times of the year; the trees are changing, football season is in full swing and every single food and beverage you’ve ever had is now available with pumpkin spice.

Another bonus is in the holiday department, since October offers a strong lineup. Along with South Dakota’s Native American Day on Oct. 14 and everyone’s favorite National Mincemeat Day on Oct. 26, the final day of the month offers possibly the single most fun holiday of the year: Halloween.

As we all know, this holiday offers loads of entertainment opportunities for people of all ages, from the young kids who dress up as pirates and witches and chase candy all night to the young adults who dress up as scantily clad pirates and witches and chase each others’ genitals all night.

Among the many options, though, there’s one Halloween weekend staple that consistently fails to live up to expectations, and that would be haunted houses.

Now, as a quick disclaimer, I’m not saying that a haunted house can’t be a fun and exhilarating experience—I’m sure many of you could tell stories of houses that reduced even the hardiest of thrill-seekers to whimpering pants-wetters—all I’m saying is that the average haunted house is a shoddily-made waste of money and time that would be better spent stocking up on BooBerry cereal and bathing in discount Snickers bars.

A major problem with haunted houses is that the majority of them are, quite frankly, not that scary. There’s a reason generic horror films that rely on jump-scares are reliably panned by the critics, and the average haunted house is working at a similar level of quality.

It’s tough to create a genuinely chilling and suspenseful environment, but it’s easy to give a zitty high schooler a chainsaw and a hockey mask and stick him in a dark corner. Every cackling clown and screaming schoolgirl is the same way: overused and formulaic but still standard at every house you’ll have the misfortune of attending. The result is an exasperating predictability that turns individuals into bored, regretful cynics, like middle-aged divorcees or Macbook owners.

Regardless of the quality of the haunted house itself, there are two things that are certain: it will be overpriced, and there will be a line. Also, you are going to spend the duration of your time in line stuck next to either a gaggle of insufferable middle school girls or a large, pungent man in a Duck Dynasty costume. No exceptions.

At some point around this time, you are forced to evaluate your decision to spend forty-five minutes of precious Halloween time being herded around. You also may consider the $10 you’re about to spend to wander around in the dark and where that money could be more wisely invested.

This notion brings us to maybe the most convincing argument against haunted houses, which is the alternatives. For those determined to get their fear fix, $10 goes a long way toward a horror movie marathon, which is hours of entertainment from a nice warm couch, as opposed to a confused fifteen minutes in somebody’s barn or cornfield.

If you have younger relatives, try taking them trick-or-treating. Just observing the sheer joy kids get out of Halloween is sure to warm your heart (plus you can probably swipe some candy from them too).

Better yet, throw on your own costume and hit up some parties. That’s where I’ll be, asking girls if they want to learn the “Monster Mash” and winking.

Finally, if you have the option, consider hanging out at home and handing out candy for a while. It’s tough to overstate how enjoyable it is to brighten kids’ days so much with so little effort. Just be sure you’re giving out the good stuff. If you’re slinging Necco wafers, you’d best prepare for a busy All Saints’ Day of hosing egg off your windows.

Halloween promises a bucket-load of fun each year, but only for those who spend their time wisely, and steering clear of haunted houses is a smart move to help make the best of it each year.


Fear can be fun


When my friends and I play the game “Never Have I Ever,” I always get them with this one: Never have I ever ridden a roller coaster. Something about hurdling towards the ground in a machine under the control of a likely intoxicated ex-convict just doesn’t appeal to me.

I get it, though. From what people tell me, the knowledge that you’re not actually going to splat on the pavement (although I’m not totally convinced) combined with the adrenaline of falling is exhilarating. And that, for me, is where the appeal lies in haunted houses.

Fear is a very primal emotion. Maybe it’s something left over from our ancestors’ days of frantically knuckle dragging away from saber tooth tigers (or maybe not, I’m no historian), but being afraid has a more physical effect on us than other emotions do. And it’s fun.

Shaky hands, racing heart, giggles that persist like a bad case of the hiccups: it gives you an excuse to let yourself go. It also gives you an excuse to use the “hold-me-I’m-scared” line with members of the opposite sex (wink wink, nudge nudge). Unless you’re a guy, then I wouldn’t suggest that.

The key is in the relief, not the actual fear. Would rollercoasters be nearly as much fun if you weren’t absolutely sure the rails would catch you (although I’m still not convinced)?

What about scary movies? Would you watch them if any of those things could happen in real life? No. We do all those crazy, adrenaline-inducing things because we know we are, in fact, going to walk out with all our body parts intact.

So in spite of the cold and the middle schoolers and the fact that you totally recognize that chainsaw-toting clown and he’s so lame, go for the visceral thrill. Adrenaline from a haunted house won’t disappoint. And after you’re finished, there’s always Halloween candy to soothe your shot nerves.