This piece ran previously.
I hate being scared. I hate the dark. I hate enclosed spaces. I hate being touched by strangers. I’m so-so on actors.
In short, I hate haunted houses.
So, when my editor told me I would be spending an evening getting repeatedly scared in dark, enclosed spaces while being touched by strangers (who also happened to be actors) at a haunted house, I was more than a little aggravated. Next, he told me I would have to drive from Los Angeles to Orange County for the privilege, and I was ready to quit entirely.
At which point I remembered two very important things:
- My job can be done by almost anyone with a steady internet connection and a pocket thesaurus, which lessens my bargaining position somewhat.
- The last royalty check for my book could not finance a Mexican pizza at Taco Bell (author’s note: it would be much funnier on my end if I was joking about this).
And so it came to be that I spent an evening at the 17th Door Haunted House in Tustin, California.
On the appointed night, I bought tickets for 10 p.m., the last time slot that 17th Door had available. I did this in part because it seemed difficult to face the rest of the evening (and an early dinner at Applebee’s) after going through a haunted house featuring simulated gore and dead fish being rubbed on my person, but mostly because driving from Los Angeles to Orange County at rush hour is one of the few things in life that sounds less appealing than having a decomposing trout slapped about my chest and neck.
As a traveling companion, I brought along stand-up comedian (and friend) Ryan. I chose him partly because I knew he would make the experience more fun, but mostly because he hates haunted houses just as much as me, and, for many unflattering reasons, the idea of somebody else suffering by my side made me feel somewhat better about what was to come. I would like to note that I promised to buy him tacos after we were done at the haunted house… just so you know that I’m not a complete monster.
Tustin is a city about 10 miles south of Disneyland, and the 17th Door Haunted House was located in one of the vast shopping centers that Orange County is so famous for (along with family-friendly amusement parks and Twitter bigotry). I found it next to a Home Depot and a Toys R Us, and though the rest of the shopping center was empty (this being a Tuesday in Tustin), there was a large crowd of people spilling off the sidewalk and into the street in front of the location. There was also a row of porta-potties in the parking lot next to the haunted house. Though I needed a pee, and I knew that I would soon be startled to a degree that could very well compromise my dominion over my bladder, I decided that pissing my jeans was a much more dignified option than using these particular parking lot porta-potties. They had a certain look about them.
The space for 17th Door used to be a furniture store, and the showroom was turned into the waiting area/merchandise table/line corral. But before we could get in line and start the haunted house experience, Ryan and I first had to sign the attraction’s famous waiver. At the time, I thought the waiver was just an admittedly effective way to generate hype for the event, and I signed without reading the fine print. But even though I doubt that the contract would stand up to much legal prodding, I probably should have perused it a bit more closely before I signed. Because a man who signs a document that says he consents to “being puked on” without reading it, probably deserves to get puked on.