Sunday, October 31, 2010

hell house

i'm sitting here flooded with halloween memories.  vague memories made fuzzy by the years and the candy- back then and now again.  i'm feeling nostalgic.  like i want every weekend to be halloween.  i want cat ears to be accepted accessories in the grocery store year round.  and i want my kids to feel excited going up to a neighbor's door that is glowing with jack o' lantern grins.

as i was chatting with katie- each of us gushing with snip bits of our past halloween adventures- she encouraged me to tell this particular tale.  it's scary, but not in the way you'd imagine.

i was in my teens- maybe 14.  it might have been my last halloween in torrance, ca- shortly after this i was brought, under protest, to the northwest.    halloween in california always involved some kind of haunted house.  the neighbors would convert their entire house or we'd go to knott's scary farm to be chased by creeps in costumes.  a group of friends had all decided to venture to a particular church to go to their haunted house.

i'm not sure if i knew what i was getting into.  there was a short period of my life when i went to a first assembly of god church with my friend and her mom.  so i knew the story of hell.  for a spell, i believed it.  i cried real tears because i knew my soul had been saved from that evil, dark place.  looking back, i have no idea what sins i had imagined i committed?  but by the time i was headed to "hell house" on halloween i had already figured out that i didn't need guilt to be a good human.

you may have heard about hell houses.  they are a big business now.  i've heard NPR do reports on them.  back then, they were just beginning.  so here's the premise: you die and go to hell.

here's what i remember.

my friend's brother or boyfriend had some connection with the place, so the door man relayed the message that we were to get the full treatment.  like dante's worst ring of inferno.  in southern cali.  from teenagers.

we had a guide for the tour.  the inside was pitch black.  we huddled close together as we were led down a narrow hall.  it had many turns, like a maze.  and then the walls started to get smaller and smaller.  until we were all squished together and trapped.  not sure how we got out of that.

i remember walking on a bridge with hands underneath us, grabbing at our ankles.

people jumped out at us from hidden spots.  flash lights.  strobe lights.  red lights.  black lights.

then we were led into a large room with a stage of sorts.  there we witnessed several skits about people who were now in hell.  i remember the person who killed someone drunk driving.  the girl who got an abortion.  the gay teenager.  at the end of the skit the condemned would whimper and cry out for salvation. alas, it was too late.

then folks came out to pray for us and our sinning teenage hearts.  i think i was offered a bible.  i didn't take it.

sitting here one click away from facebook, i am "friends" with one person from that experience.  i want to write to him and ask him about it because i wonder if i am making some of this up.  like if somehow bits of movies and stories and nightmares have all collided to form this memory that didn't really happen the way i think it did.

then i think sometimes its better just to remember your own hell house experience however you want. 

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