When I was around eight years old my parents took me to the local county fair.
It was a big deal.
It was the first time I was allowed to go on rides all by myself and I was pretty excited.
One of the places there was the “Haunted House.”
I’m not sure if that was the actual name of it or not, but that was the theme.
It wasn’t really a “ride.”
It was a place where you walked through a dark maze filled with all kind of scary things popping out at you which, theoretically at least, is supposed to be “fun.”
Well, I really wanted to go in and see what this thing was all about.
From the outside it looked like a fun adventure.
When you’re eight years old and you’re first experiencing the freedom of being able to go on rides all by yourself, almost everything looks like a fun adventure.
My parents reluctantly agreed to allow me to go into the Haunted House “ride” by myself.
Neither one of them wanted to go with me—they both hate these kinds of things and I’m not even sure if “grown-ups” were allowed.
When I first went inside, it was a mixture of nervous giggles and jumping back in surprised laughter whenever something would jump out of darkness to scare me.
The place itself was a maze of nearly pitch black hallways that twisted and turned into various dead-ends that led nowhere, forcing me to turn around and try to find my way out.
Each turn was met with another device or event designed to scare the crap out of you. While I didn’t literally mess my pants, I’m sure I came close a couple of times.
While I didn’t literally mess my pants, I’m sure I came close a couple of times.
After about ten minutes, my amusement began slipping into real terror.
I was completely lost inside this dark maze and couldn’t find my way out.
The darkness seemed to close in around me and what had started out as “fun” had become “real.”
I was absolutely terrified.
The bloodied faces of the actors in the shadows growling and reaching out to grab me caused me to scream and run away into the darkness crying.
At one point, I remember trying not to hyperventilate and crouching down in one of the dark corners, doing my best not to allow my crying to make too much noise.
Several people stumbled past without seeing me.
I kept hiding, not knowing if they were other “monsters” or not.
After several minutes, I worked up the courage to continue on my journey and to try to make it out alive.
Fighting through my tears I slowly felt my way along the wall of the pitch black hallway.
With extreme caution, I would peek one eye tentatively around every corner hoping I would be able to see and hopefully avoid any more unpleasant surprises from the devil.
As I approached one corner, I could see the glow of lights from something on the other side.
There was also a low growling sound, mixed with other nefarious noises coming from where the source of the lights seemed to be located.
I considered turning around and going back down the hallway, but I could hear the screams and laughter from other people making their way toward me.
I stood motionless, trying not to breathe and holding back my muffled sobbing as best I could.
It was my moment of truth.
Was I going to stay there shaking in fear?
Or was I going to do something?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what happened next.
I vaguely remember taking a deep breath and throwing myself around the corner in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to preserve my life.
I was either going to make my way past or through whatever it was that was waiting for me around the corner or I would die in the process of trying.
I am grateful to report that I survived.
The lights turned out to be some mechanical device off to the side that I quickly ran past without taking in any of the devilish details.
Minutes later I pushed through a black curtain and emerged onto a platform outside the trailer with steps leading down to where my parents were waiting.
They were upset that I had taken so long and told me to stop crying.
Boys aren’t supposed to cry even if they’re traumatized.
Sometimes I wonder how many of the things I’m afraid of in my life are just flashing lights and scary noises inside my head or rattling around outside in the dark.
Unfortunately, I still spend too much time hiding in a corner.
Covering my eyes and hoping the monsters will just go away instead of getting up and walking past them.
While I still don’t like haunted houses, they’ve taught me that most of the things I’m afraid of aren’t actually real.
They might look and sound scary, but in reality, they’re more of a distraction than an actual threat.
It’s up to me to decide if I want to continue hiding or to keep going.
No one else can make that choice for me.