OK, I will admit it: I am a scaredy cat just minus the whiskers and tail.
The “Creature Feature” movies that would appear on TV when I was a kid, horror flicks, slasher films with gore, things that go bump in the night?
Nope. No thank you. I will just sit over here and watch “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” and even then I am not sure if I might not get spooked.
Yet despite my aversion to all things horror, I somehow have surrounded myself in my life with loved ones who worship at the altar of fright flicks.
My late fiancée was an aficionado, with a collection of VHS tapes that, after she died, I sorted through, picking up each box as if it were a dead rat I was holding by its tail.
Among the titles in her collection were such classics as “Basket Case,” “Bloodsucking Freaks” and “Pumpkinhead.” For Carla, a collection of such movies was as normal as having a set of encyclopedias at home.
She even once convinced me (OK, maybe pressured is a more accurate verb) to go to the movies and sit in the front row to watch the zombie apocalypse movie “28 Days Later.”
What I saw of it through the spaces between my fingers was pretty scary.
So having established by bona fides as a chicken that would make Colonel Sanders envious, let me tell you about two other loved ones who are committed hardcore horror fans: childhood friends Rich and Silvio.
These guys are more twisted than a pretzel doing yoga.
They have long joked/threatened that they would lock me in a room, prop open my eyeballs a la Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange,” strap me into a chair and force me to watch the movies that make them giddy and make me squeal and squirm.
Because, you know, what are friends for?
So it was that in advance of Halloween during a rare get-together of all of my childhood friends that they subjected me to a movie called “The Descent,” about a group of female spelunkers who go exploring a cave system they shouldn’t and what happens to them.
It was — spoiler alert! — filled with jump scares and frights.
I have to say that I think I held up pretty well and did not shriek. Much.
Certainly it was nothing compared to our visit last year to a haunted house in New Jersey where I f-bombed my way through the attraction, all the while pushing a friend, John, to move faster through the creep-filled hallways.
Having survived all of that terror last year and the viewing of “The Descent,” I believe I deserve to celebrate this Halloween in a style more in keeping with my aversion to horror.
I’ll have a bowl of Count Chocula cereal while watching Casper on TV.
No doubt you’ve all read Chris’s tale about how, despite his general distaste for Halloween haunted houses, he girded his loins and joined posse members Rich and Father John at the Haunted Scarehouse in Wharton, N.J.
Whaddaya mean you haven’t read it?!?!?! Stop wasting time and check it out here. I’ll wait.
As luck would have it, our intrepid lead blogger had an audio recorder with him during his jaunt through the fright house.
Listening to Mad Mister Mele’s girlish screams and incredibly foul language had me wishing I was there.
Sadly, I, um, had to wash my hair that night. And I felt a tickle in my throat and couldn’t risk exacerbating it. Plus, I hadn’t dusted off my CD’s in awhile and was concerned about allergens…..
He asked when we could go. I replied: “Does ‘never’ work for you?”
So you have to wonder what I was thinking when I suggested to my About Men Radio brethren that we visit a Halloween attraction in Wharton, N.J., called the Haunted Scarehouse.
(They called my bluff since I never thought anyone would actually take me up on the idea!)
So it was that John and Rich, accompanied by one of Rich’s daughters and two of her friends, plus my brother-in-law Ed gathered at a warehouse transformed into what Scarehouse described as “two terrifying attractions…spread over two floors of fear.”
My first mistake was somehow ending up at the head of our group as we made our way through darkened mazes, creepy sets and blind turns.
So I did what any full-blooded, macho manly man would do: I pushed the three 14-year-old girls to the head of our group.
Haha! Just kidding: No, instead, I pushed John to the front and then held onto his jacket like a security blanket.
John was fearless, moving through the corridors like a linebacker. But my admiration wore off when he began cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz” and making all kinds of spooky noises in an effort to freak me out further.
This, in turn, prompted me to frequently threaten to kill him.
(Sorry about that, John.)
The sets had high production values, with moving walls and floors, huge hydraulic-powered monsters jumping forward at you, strobe lights and loud sound effects that left you disoriented and breathing heavy.
I was sweating and my heart felt like I had just gotten off a treadmill.
As we pushed onward, more and more costumed characters jumped out at us, from behind, from the sides and from hiding places.
While some of them scared you silly by screaming or revving up a chainsaw, others just silently got in your face, like this one actress with a crooked Joker-like smile caressing a headless doll.
What. The. Hell?!
The real trick came when you saw what you thought was a mannequin – was it a mannequin or was it a costumed character staying real still? I made a several wrong calls and the damned fright they gave me had me doing plyometric cardio.
It also prompted me to swear. Colorfully. Often. And loudly. Very, very loudly.
(Sorry about that, girls.)
When we got to the second floor, the attraction operators split up our group, so that it was now just Ed, John and I. Yeah, just like in the horror movies, the group gets split up and you know what happens next!
I tried at this point to keep a sense of humor, such as when a character with a stump of a wrist waved it in my face and I told him I could not lend a hand.
But in the end, I did a lot more screaming (OK, shrieking) than I did laughing.
What I discovered was that yes, things really DO go bump in the night — though actually that was me stomping on my brother-in-law’s foot when I jumped back in fright.