GUEST POST: Jon M. Jefferson

A Tale of Two Attractions

So I realized something recently. But I’m not going to jump right out and say it. Instead, I’m going to lead you through a rabbit warren of seemingly random thoughts before we get to any semblance of a point. Yeah, that’s how we do things sometimes.

So, let me begin by saying that my two daughters can be similar and completely different people all at the same time. My oldest, for as long as I can remember, has been terrified of clowns. The youngest, not so much. In fact we had a conversation not too long ago about how much we were going to laugh at the daughter afraid of clowns.

Side note: I have always referred to the girls as brat 1 and brat 2. Brat 1 is the oldest. Let’s return to the thoughts.

Anyway, through conversation I found that brat 1 had gotten over her fear of clowns. This is important because it plays into the thoughts coming up. I mean right now. Probably in the next paragraph.

See, we recently went to The Haunt in Grand Rapids. It’s a themed haunted house experience. One of the stories was devoted to clowns. We thought maybe it wouldn’t go over well with Brat 1, only to find that she says she isn’t afraid of clowns anymore. No biggie, but it felt like she had taken away a bit of our fun in that moment. I was wrong, but not for reasons that are readily apparent. We still had a ton of laughs in the haunted stories, kinda makes me miss them already.

Which brings us to more of a realization in the experience that I might not have had otherwise. See, I don’t really watch too much horror. If anything I might read it from time to time, but it isn’t a driving force for entertainment. Instead I have dark thoughts and if I allow too much to influence them, it can get super ugly in my thoughts. I have to be careful what I allow to influence the darkness inside me and all that. Which is weird because I love horror art, the darker the better.

But I digress…

The main thing I took away from the experience was that my daughters and I are not really the target market for such things. We spend more time laughing at others as they give in to their fears and admiring the craftsmanship of a well designed experience. If you’ve ever experienced the annoying movie goer who tends to talk all the way through a movie, yeah, that’s us in a haunted house. We spend most of our time making friends with the monsters and marveling at all the cool props.

The couple that ended up being pushed into our group, I think, are more of the target market for these experiences. They were on a date and the boy was more afraid of everything than the girl had been. He ended up using her as a shield through much of the winding path through the stories (yeah, that’s a story to tell their kids of their first date…). But yeah, we didn’t scare, not like that. There were a few jump scares but those were short lived.

My drive was making friends through every story. Some of the actors were baffled when we came through. And some were fast on their feet, and quick of mind. Like the woman I shouted at that I liked her as we passed by. Her response had been “Eeewwww! Boys are icky!”

Our experience was so much different than the average adventurer. And that was the thing that kept us going. Which brings us to the next weekend where we made it to the Niles Scream Park. This one is much bigger than the attraction in Grand Rapids, through the night we ended up walking around 5 miles. The layout is different and you have a chance to catch your breath between stories.

The highlight of the night had been something unexpected. One of the stories is the Field of Screams. This one is designed around a maze. Simple concept, much larger execution. It might have disappointed me if it had only been the maze at the start. I’ve been through those before, some you get incredibly lost in and others that feel like a blip in the day. The starting maze had felt like a blip. We were in and out of it way to fast.

But it didn’t end there. We ran through rooms that assaulted your site, hearing, and touch in ways that were disorienting at the least and left you feeling lost and confused at the full. My favorite part being this room of mist where the fog was so thick you couldn’t see more than a foot in front of you. And then they added in a strobe light. The couple in front of us were not part of our group. But they became my guide (I was in front of my girls). The guy had a really light colored jacket on so he stood out even in dark rooms. In the strobe light he kept bouncing in front of me from one side to the other as he was feeling his way through the fog. I ran into him a few times, not going to lie.

Mind you, we spent our time laughing through this one too. It’s what we do. And I’m pretty sure this couple were hoping to get away from us as soon as possible. They never once looked back at us or said anything to us. I made it a point to be loud enough for them to hear me when I spoke about them. I mean, they could have acknowledged us. That’s just polite, right?

Anyway, the shared reactions and conversations through all this as we made our way through is the more important part of all the scares. I mean, laughter in the face of fear is the whole point. And making fun of those around us that scream for a scare that is meant to illicit said scream is also important. We face our fears and come out stronger for it. Sometimes we even go back again for more of the same.

Maybe we are part of the target market. You know those people that never met an animal they wanted to make friends with? This is going to be my downfall in the zombie apocalypse. I’m going to want to make a pet of the first ones I find. Yeah, I’m coming for your brains

I’d like to add a quick note to this: Niles Scream Park was voted best haunted attraction in the US on Coaster Nation.

Jon Jefferson writes Speculative fiction with forays into Noir and Bizarro. His stories have appeared in the 2013 Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Anthology, and on the Weird Tales Magazine web site. His work can also be found on Amazon and Smashwords. Flash fiction stories can be found at his site Misadventures in Strange Places and his anthologies, short stories, and novellas can be found at his Amazon Author page.

A longtime fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy stories in all their forms, he has spent most of his life looking for magic in the everyday moments of life. He hails from the tundra of Southwest Michigan. The monsters in his life include his wife, two daughters and grand babies.

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