I’m going to level with you, I’m what you would call a scaredy-cat. That’s not to say that horror stuff always scares me. Very often I find myself pleasantly surprised that a horror movie is more stupid than it is scary. I also know monsters aren’t real, I’m not high on the list to be abducted aliens, and the ghosts moaning in the downstairs bathroom are actually just my long-dead grandma complaining about her bunions.
I get all that stuff. What I don’t like, is to be startled.
Urban Dictionary defines — yes, I’m using Urban Dictionary in an article, it’s the future baby! — a ‘scaredy-cat’ as “someone who shies away from facing their fears.” Definitely me. My mother has a large scar from being bitten by a dog and my brother has narrowly avoided being chomped at the neck by a pit bull. Figuring I’d be next, young Dane was deathly afraid of dogs for 15 years.
I love dogs now — thanks to a friend with a chihuahua — but the feelings of suspense and being startled? Those aren’t good feelings. The adrenaline from a roller coaster? Perfectly acceptable. The adrenaline from someone popping out of the bushes or some shit? No! Never. DON’T POP OUT OF A BUSH! This is how people get punched in the face.
Now slow down. Am I saying that if you ever pop out of the bushes and scare me I will punch you in the face? Yes. That is what I’m saying. Right square in the kisser. I’m not a violent person (and definitely can’t afford a lawsuit) but at that point, it’s just reflexes. I can’t control what my arms will do when my body senses danger. So when my ever-so-lovely girlfriend asked if I wanted to accompany her and her family to Knott’s Scary Farm my mouth stupidly said “yes” against the better judgment of my brain.
As that simple one-syllable affirmative left my lips, my eyes widened and alarm bells went off in my brain. I’ve been coasting through my twenties confident that I would never have to face a horror night of any kind. I am an adult with adult responsibilities, so either something will “come up” or I can just say “I’m too old for that shit.” (Meanwhile, every Halloween I avoid horror movies by looking up their Rotten Tomatoes score and pretending to be a film-buff.)
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Dear @knottsscaryfarm, I love you. I can’t hold it in anymore. I need the world to know that I love you. From the moment I walk into your gates and breathe in the fog, it feels like Halloween. That feeling of the greatest day of the year lives for over a month long in Buena Park, California. I love your attention to detail. I love your original ideas. I love your dedicated monsters. I love your use of technology. I love that you never let me down when you could just rest on your laurels considering your wonderful reputation. Thank you for never letting me down and making me feel like a kid every year. Sincerely, Jeff DePaoli P.S. The Depths maze this year was next level awesome. P.P.S. Can I please have the Trick or Treat banner currently hanging in the dining room scene whenever you retire that maze? Pretty please???
In the days between my stupid agreement and having to face my fears in front of my girlfriend and her cousins and brothers, my anxiety grew. I asked friends who had been to the famed attraction what I should expect. I looked up rules to see what monsters can and can’t do. I scanned through pictures of what the grounds typically look like. Nothing helped.