The first thing that you need to know about me is that I hate anything remotely scary. I don’t do horror movies—scratch that, I don’t even do trailers for horror movies. Call me a coward…and you’d be right.
I’ve been to haunted houses in the past, and it wasn’t pretty. I think I may have broken some bones in my friend’s hand one year and I hyperventilated in the car for 20 minutes after another.
Somehow, with the horror of past year’s experiences fading, I convinced myself that this year would be different and I’d be fine. After all, as college students, finding things to do on Halloween can be a challenge, and this felt like the perfect chance to get into the spooky spirit.
As I stood in line for the Haunted Trail at Balboa Park, shivering in my Dorothy costume, clinging to the hand of The Tin Man (my silver bodyguard for the evening), it hit me like a truckload of rotten pumpkins that I had made an epic mistake.
Despite having purchased our tickets in advance, the Tin Man and I, along with our friends who looked like they had just stepped off the cover of a My Chemical Romance album, stood in line for about an hour and a half to enter the gore-filled experience.
While we waited, a very scary Beetlejuice made me scream. Not off to a good start. That stripy suited, wig-wearing employee, sent me over the edge. I would have left, but having already spent $28 on my ticket, there was no turning back.
Finally, we reached the front of the line, where we were told that the “creatures” could not touch us, but that if we ran, they would “chase us down and kill us like the chickens [we] are.” Great.
Our first stop was a narrow chapel complete with eerie organ music and masked nuns darting out of the shadows. A fellow scaredy-cat screamed behind me, “I thought you were supposed to love Jesus!” at the nuns, which did help lighten the mood slightly.
As we traveled through the maze of rooms, graveyards, churches and pitch black corridors, we encountered the most gruesome characters from Stranger Things, The Purge, Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, as well as classic Halloween tropes like overtly terrifying clowns, mad scientists and dead brides.
Because of the proximity to Halloween, the steady flow of people through the Trail helped immensely in my ability to handle the jump scares and creep factor—I’m all about safety in numbers. If you’re more hardcore then me, go earlier in October to ensure that you get your fair share of shrieks.
As we bypassed the last blockade (chainsaw wielding country boys), I was shocked to realize that I had fun. My heart rate had shot through the roof a number of times, but I hadn’t cried and hadn’t needed to close my eyes (the all-important barometers).
I lived to survive another year of paying to be scared by strangers in face paint, and I even have some new found confidence in my guts.
Just kidding. You’d still never catch me dead in a horror movie.
The Haunted Trail’s final night is October 31st, 6:30 to 11:00 p.m. Buy tickets at hauntedtrail.net.