Soundtrack to Life – Happy Haunting – The Warehouse Years

I now start this column for the second time. Gotta love it when your computer freezes. Anyways, this is now the fourth week of this column and still no mail… ingrates. I kid, I kid. I would like to thank J and Aki for the positive feedback though. Thusfar, I’ve given you two examples of the kind of stories I’m looking for: Where the song is the focal point of the story, and where the song provides a backstory to the actual story. This will be a third, one where I’d heard this song frequently during the time of the events, to a point where when I hear this song today and think of this story. It’s something I talked about on the board at length, though hardly touched upon the topic, however much sense that makes. Warning, this is a long one as it covers 2 years. Expect the sequel, maybe next week. Enjoy.

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Happy Haunting – The Warehouse Years

“Superbeast” by Rob Zombie

As they turned down down the corridor, the light faded to pitch black. They’d lost sight of everything; their path, eachother and even their hands were they to even place them not an inch from their face. They felt along the smooth wooden walls, navigating their now invisible path. The girls huddled close to their respective guys who boldly, though apprehensively led the way. Another corner, and amidst the cacophony of the thunder storm they’d left behind, something else could be heard. Something mechanical, gears turning with no relent. Also, there was a hint of something else, music. To a few of the party members, it was a little familiar. An eerie electronic/metal kind of music. Down the hall, they saw light, and though dim, it was enough to illuminate the path ahead. They sped up to once again regain their vision. The concrete floor beneath their feet gave way to a hollow sounding wooden ramp. They stepped up onto the platform and turned with the path to see what lay up ahead. It was like something out of a psychadelic dream. Before them, a wooden bridge, perhaps 15 feet in length, but what was it’s purpose? Why, to carry them over the swirling aether about them. A portal, or so it seemed. Neon blues, oranges and whites rotated clockwise. This was the source of the music.

Shriek the lips across the ragged tongue
Convulsing together sing violently
Move the jaw, cry aloud
Bound up the dead triumphantly

The song was “Superbeast” by Rob Zombie, but the song was no warning, as clearly there was no “Superbeast” in sight. They marveled at the sight for but a moment, before one of the girls prodded her beau out onto the bridge. Convinced it was stable, they all stepped out onto the bridge. But the surroundings had been deceptive. With the swirling all around them, a feeling of vertigo took over. They all felt as though they were drawn to the left hand rail, as if the bridge was forcibly trying to throw them off. They fought to ignore the sensation, focusing on the end of the bridge. Another platform there, with mirror to make the deception just that much more influential. Halfway across when they noticed something else. A form, seemingly melting out of the wall and floor beneath the mirror. Before they knew what it was, it exploded into motion. A feral growl from the creature briefly drowned out the music as it charged down the bridge. The men backed up, the women clutched to them out of fear, some screaming in horror. And then it stopped, only a few inches from the party. It looked like a reject member of Slipknot: Navy blue coveralls, chains draped over it’s shoulders and tied about it’s waist, and it’s face, covered in a gray hood with a cage of forged iron covering it’s visage. It took a moment to look at each member of the group, relishing in the terror of the women it seemed. And then it laughed, a low sinister laugh. The creature’s maw glowed when it opened. Slowly, it backed off, also effected by the vertigo it seemed as it clutched the rail and faded back to the wall. The party looked at the odd figure as they walked past and into another series of black corridors.

As they left, Gary walked in. He looked around and walked across the bridge to my position.

“Good job. I gotta go follow those guys cuz they’ve been causing trouble in the other rooms.”

I lifted my mask and took the glowing mouthpiece out.

“Alright.” I said.

Gary plodded off after them, flashlight in hand. It was gonna be a long night. That’s just a little example of how things go on a nightly basis when you’re working at a haunted house.

It all really started back in 1999. Scott’s accident had brought us all closer together in my little group of friends. And whereas I’d been excluded from many things in the past due to living in the middle of nowhere, my friends now made strides to contact me frequently about what was going on. On one night, after visiting him in the hospital, myself Jay and Musse went about the town, just enjoying the night. They then offered me and invite to work with the haunted house they worked with. I figured it might be something fun to do, so I told ’em to give me a call when the time came. They came through with their promise, and shortly after on a Wednesday night, we were on our way to the haunted house. Granted, it was the middle of summer, and it didn’t start running until October, they needed to start work on it early.

I was expecting a decrepit old house but was rather surprised when we pulled up in a gravel lot with several long warehouses. This was the sight of a haunted house? When we entered, a few people milled about, moving things around. Some people were disassembling things, while others were putting things together. Very industrious it seemed.

“I wonder if Tiffany and Lara (yes, the same Lara who posts at these boards) are here.” Musse mused.

“Who’re they?” I asked.

“Some people we worked with last year.” Jay answered.

As if on cue, out they came. They welcomed Jay and Musse back fondly, but now it was time for introductions.

Jay: “Lara, Tiff, this is doG.”

Me: “What?”

Tiff: “Why doG?”

Jay: “It’s like God, but backwards. Cuz Joe is God.”

Me: “Just call me Joe.”

Lara: “Nice to meet you doG.”

Me: “It’s Joe!”

Jay: “Sure it is doG.”

Me: “Jason….”

And thus, we were called The Zoo. Jay is known often as Mouse. Musse is, well, Moose. And I’m doG. Thus, The Zoo.

With introductions out of the way, Jay decided to take us on a guided tour. As we went from room to room, we’d get in the way of those who were working, and Jay would vanish momentarily only to pop up when we least expected it. When it came time to work, we weren’t allowed to do much as we weren’t 18 yet, so for the most part we painted and cleaned things. That was our duty, but we kept it interesting, interspersing it with a quick vanishing act followed by popping up when anyone walked by. It practically became a competition.

First night of actually working as a monster, I worked with Ben. Ben is infamous not only in our house but in the community for piecing together some of the best costumes around Halloween. This year, it was a hideous alien costume with boots that made him about 8 feet tall. Pretty imposing when he comes stalking out of his cell. I played the survivor of an alien attack. Smashing outfit too; black and neon yellow jogging jacket, a red bandana and Laser Tag gear. In any case, I’d tell the groups of the attack and tell them to get out. At this time Ben would come charging out in his alien gear and I would “fend him off”. When Jay helped me in here serving as Captain, we were a little better. After that night, I worked in the dark maze. Basically, I didn’t have to be seen, didn’t have to act, just give the group a scare when they walked past. I still dressed up, as I’d occassionally follow groups into the light. Beat up flannel, chain around the waist, glow in the dark hockey mask.

One of my fonder memories was trailing one group for two rooms. Through the cemetary, into the Ogre’s room. The Ogre was a huge prop we’d pieced together with what we could find. It was rigged so that it would stand up, over 10 feet tall. Someone, using a voice changer would then speak for it. I’d followed this group in, the Ogre stood, and demanded one of the girl’s to step forward. After several demands, she still wouldn’t budge.

“He said ‘Step forward'” I rhasped. Now, she moved. They were honestly scared. I’d put fear into these people. Shy little me who’d never really been taken seriously by my peers before was now making the demands, and they were listening. Power trip, ‘nough said. And honestly, that’s a part of doing this that I absolutely love. On any given day, I’m just another guy in this world, another face in the crowd, someone you wouldn’t think twice about, someone you’ll forget in a minute’s time. In that house though, I’m not me. I’m feared, I’m a focal point, I’m someone you’ll remember days later, maybe longer. It’s a complete role reversal, and it’s just such a rush to me. The fact that I might be giving someone nightmares….. and then when I get into costume those nightmares are worse! Couldn’t miss the dig at myself.

After the season was over, I coudn’t wait for the next year. And in the late spring, we returned to start working. As per usual, the comaraderie was much the same. Idle chat and gossip while working, brief breaks during our job in which one would chase one another with a broom or something that could conceivable hurt. During one such spree, Lara walks in.

“You guys are crazy. I missed you!”

That gets ya right here, don’t it? I was starting to feel at home here. I couldn’t wait for our weekly visits to help out, as is the case to this day. But this year, we didn’t show up for most nights. Still there was our share of memories.

As mentioned above, my favored costume was the Slipknot gear I’d assembled. I worked the black hole (as described earlier), and the office. I’d hide behind what was supposed to be French Doors, and on cue I’d shut off the lights, throw on the strobe and come charging out. That was actually my first role as a big scare, so I was happy for the opportunity. When I wasn’t working those rooms or the dark maze, I’d be working the Exorcist room in which I played a priest. Everything was rigged to move around at the push of a switch. Drawers, a chair, the bed. I would either be chanting over the afflicted girl’s bed, or sitting in a chair rocking back and forth saying “No hope.” Being me, I had to take a few shots at organized religion while dressed the part. Never in front of the guests though, as it would likely offend them. I was often found in the dressing room crossing myself, nodding and saying “Send me money.” Well, I thought it was funny.

Of course there was the whole Legacy room fiasco I’d mentioned before on the boards. Jay and Musse basically turned this room into a two man mosh pit. They ruined everything in that room. Shelves, books, decorations, you name it, they wrecked it. They actually put a hole in one of the walls, illuminating one of the dark mazes. When they weren’t working it, thankfully others continued the trend with that room. Actually, Lara and Aki worked the room one night. On that night, I just so happened to be roaming around the place, lookin’ for a good scare. I got it in my mind, that these people are already jumpy, so I don’t have to try hard, just thump the wall. Trust me, sometimes, that’s all it takes. So, I was walking down an access hallway, thumping the walls every few feet. And when I made it to the Legacy room, I hear a group in there, so I gave the wall and extra hard thump. Screams come from the room. Yes!

“Hey! You knocked the light out!”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

Ah yes, Aki. How she became a part of the house was a different story. See, we didn’t want siblings getting involved, namely due to Musse’s little brother. He was obnoxious at the time, just trust me. The annoying sort of tag along. As it worked out actually, Aki met Lara online. Lara had been a part of the house, practically since it’s conception, so that’s how she was a part of it. Anyways, she was trying to get ahold of Jay, and wound up getting Aki. They clicked, and the rest is history. So that’s how Aki became a part of it all. She and Lara frequently worked the elevator. They didn’t aim to scare, just to entertain. Their method: Speaking in British accents and taunting the guests. It was quite hilarious.

Even the hallway after the elevator had it’s own stories. For one, we had fake picture frames that the monsters could “interface” with the groups through. Whether it be just snarling or reaching at them. I got quite a few good scares like that. It was through one of those pictures that I caught something I thought was priceless. The group came out and was greeted by my friend Adam standing there. “I’m Adam, I’ll be your screaming idiot for the night.” And with that, he tore off down the hall. Well, we say if ya can’t scare ’em, entertain ’em.

That final night, as we had our “cast party after the show”, there was a nacho cheese fight. It all kinda started by accident, but it was all in good fun. Nights like these layed the foundation for coming years. Not just for the haunted house, but for friends as well. And every night, before and after we were done, a few select tracks from Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe could be heard over all, blaring from the black hole. I can never hear that album without thinking of my nights working for the Hartford Jaycees Haunted House.

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Got a story you’d like to tell about a song that’s in the Soundtrack of your life? Don’t post it on the board. Email it to me and I’ll put it in my column. Stories will be posted in the order that their received. I don’t play favorites. All I ask is that you make sure the spelling and grammar are in fine order.
Email your stories to: loki@baloolapalooza.com