Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dead Inside? Redefining My Halloween Experience

This has been a hard post for me to write - clearly, since I've waited nearly a full month to write it. It all started when I went to the opening night of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights on September 21st. Haunted attractions (as I prefer to call them, to differentiate from locations that are rumored to be "actually" haunted) like these - and Universal's annual event in particular - have been a huge part of my Halloween experience for at least the last 5-10 years. Of course, I've been going to Knott's Scary Farm on and off since I was a little kid, around 7 years old, and while I always looked forward to it I was never devastated if I missed a year, and I never felt the need to seek out other haunts - Knott's easily filled my yearly quota for mazes and fog machines and actors in rubber masks.

Then I started this blog. At first I envisioned Spooky Little Girl as merely a place where I could talk about the horror movies I was currently watching and/or anticipating, and where I could point like-minded readers to noteworthy spooky events happening in the Los Angeles area. Then I discovered something interesting: There were SO MANY MORE haunted attractions in southern California than just Knott's and Universal. And as a journalist (of sorts), I could often get free passes to these events in order to review them on my blog!

The freaky floodgates opened and I started attending as many haunts as I could possibly fit into my schedule. Basically, I had little time for anything else - my weekends were packed between mid-September and the beginning of November. At first, I was in horror heaven. And then I started to feel a little lackadaisical about the whole thing; I was still excited, but it was hard not to feel like I was seeing the same things year after year. It was hard to ignore the fact that the "monsters" were just actors and the "mazes" were just painted plywood. I used to be incredibly jumpy - one of those people who screams at nearly every turn in the maze. Last year, I started to suspect that I was broken. Nothing scared me anymore. I had lost my scream. I was dead inside.

Last year, I told myself I would take a break from mazes and haunted attractions. At least for a little while.

Yet as the months rolled by and my beloved Halloween haunts started to loom on the horizon, I felt excited again. I couldn't wait to go to Universal and take a ride on the Walking Dead Terror Tram and revisit the La Llorona maze and experience the witch-themed scare zone. September 21st rolled around and Mr. Spooky and I happily headed out to the Valley for our annual dose of scares. Yet something curious happened. Something I had never fully experienced before.

We had just finished the Terror Tram and we paused on the walkway overlooking the backlot. I felt strangely empty. Not scared. Not intrigued. Not thrilled. Looking out at the sound stages and production offices, I felt an ineffable, powerful yearning to be a part of everything - to actually make films instead of just watching them or, at an even further remove, walking through mazes loosely based on them. I turned to Mr. Spooky and said these fateful words:

"I think I'm over haunts."

It was a weird, complicated feeling to finally confess this truth out loud. I felt relieved and sad and like I was finally growing up, but maybe I was a little depressed about growing up, but really I felt excited that I was finally ready to learn about things and maybe make some art instead of just experiencing things that interest me and scare me at a safe remove via an amusement park ride or maze.

I felt ready to experience Halloween in a new way - a way that doesn't involve having people in costumes jump out at me and startle me. Haunts have been such a focal point for me these past few years that the 31st has actually become an afterthought: Sometimes I don't even dress up on the day itself. More than once, Mr. Spooky and I have just stayed at home and watched scary movies instead of planning anything for our favorite night of the year. When people ask me what I have in store for Halloween, I've often felt confused: Halloween is beside the point, right? My objective was to go through as many mazes as possible!

Am I truly over haunted attractions for good? It's hard to say. Maybe in a year or two I'll feel like going to Knott's again, or I'll pine for the Haunted Hayride, or there will be a new haunt that tickles my fancy. I'm certainly not writing them off entirely. But I can say, with complete confidence, that I am over haunts for now.

So where does that leave me for the rest of this Halloween season? It is, after all, still my favorite time of year.

Tuesday is my birthday. I'm going to see an advance screening of Paranormal Activity 4. On the 20th, Mr. Spooky and I are heading to Vegas to tie the knot in a gothic garden wedding ceremony. Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure.

I want to see Sinister and V/H/S. I'm still looking forward to the Halloween rerelease at the end of the month. Of course, staying home and watching scary movies on TV will always be a great way to spend any given October night (Hot Tip: TCM is showing a slew of Hammer horror flicks on Wednesday!). But what else?

Here are a few more non-haunt-related Halloweenie activities I'm looking forward to as I start to redefine the holiday for myself:
  • October 24 - Dead Men DO Tell Tales @ the Last Bookstore: An awesomely weird combo of sex ghost lecture/slideshow presentation, films by the Art of Bleeding and performances by Rosemary's Billygoat and a band that does sci-fi theremin music. Sex ghosts?!!
  • October 25-31 - Monster Mansion @ the Magic Castle: If you or someone you know has a Magic Castle membership, you need to go the last week of October. Classic monsters will be roaming the halls, and guests are encouraged to come in costume! The Magic Castle is one of my favorite places in the entire world. I celebrated my birthday here last year and it truly was magical.
  • October 27 & 28 - Victorian Halloween and Mourning Tours @ Heritage Square: Learn about the Spiritualist movement, Victorian funerary customs and mourning etiquette in a gorgeous period-authentic setting. I've always wanted to do this and have never been able to find the time...until now.
  • End of October/beginning of November - Dia de los Muertos events: I would love to experience all of the cool Day of the Dead events offered around L.A. this time of year. Perhaps we'll actually make it out to the always-crazy-crowded Hollywood Forever event on October 27?!
More than anything else, I am finally learning the truth that lies in all those treacly Christmas specials: Halloween isn't something you can buy in a store. Halloween isn't something you can purchase a ticket to, or something you have to venture out to find.

Halloween, my spooky sisters and brothers, is in your heart.


Wendy the (Very Good Witch) said...

Great post! I can relate, but in a different Halloweens have been defined by instilling my love for the holiday onto my young children. By they are growing older year after year and almost too old for trick or treat, and are beginning to have lives of their own, with obligations that interfere with my traditional holiday plans. So I too have had to come to terms with what Halloween will mean to me once they are no longer a part of the focus! And I've felt a bit meloncholy about it, trying to grab hold of the magic that made it so special for me! (sigh). So your post resonated with me, and I empathize with what you are going through. I think you've got a great plan to fill your time with wholly new Halloween experiences that peak your interest and curiosity! I hope you have a happy Halloween in spite of no haunts. And best wishes to you and Mr. Spooky on your forthcoming nuptials. - W

spooky little girl said...

Thank you! It means a lot to know the post resonated with you. xo SLG

Spooky Vegan said...

Aw I was wondering why there weren't any haunt reviews this year. I completely understand your position tho...I use to run a horror site and watched horror movies / read horror books 24/7, but after 6 years I was kinda over it and didn't find myself enjoying it like I used to. Though horror is still my favorite genre, I closed down the site and decided that I would enjoy horror on my own terms. I hope that the same happens to you and the spark comes back to you with Halloween!

spooky little girl said...

Thank you! Yeah, it definitely sucks to feel burnt out on something that used to mean so much to me. Ah, well...I'm excited to rediscover Halloween's other delights. xo SLG


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