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BOO. Are you scared yet? Nah, I didn’t think so. But this is the time of year that our thoughts turn to the dark side of things, and I’ve been wondering about just what scares me, and “us,” by extension. And the answers I’ve come up with – both the “what” and the “why” surprised me.

About 30 years and another lifetime ago, I was a guide for a local haunt. (“Haunt” is Industry-speak for “haunted attraction”.) By most accounts, I was very good at my job. In fact, I was the only guide to ever scare the pee out of a patron in the waiting room, before she even got inside the haunt. As you might expect, over the years, I’ve told (and retold) those stories to my progeny. As time-and-a-half goes by, we find ourselves back in the city of my birth, and my daughter informs me that her heart’s desire is to follow in her dear old dad’s footsteps, and become a guide at the haunted house, still in business (and scaring the yell out of everyone) some 30 years later. What’s a doting father to do? I acquiesced, but determined that, at the tender age of 13, she’s too young to go it alone at a place like the Louisiana State Fair. So I suited up once more, and took a place beside her as a tour guide. It’s actually even more weird than the haunt itself, being back in the saddle after all these years. First of all, I’m not used to being treated as some éminence grise, the “voice of experience” and all that. Nor am I accustomed to being treated as if the rules at the haunt don’t really apply to me. But in a way, it’s kinda cool.

The haunt itself it typical horror fare – with a twist. Most haunts just let small groups of people wander through a maze that takes them past people and things in scary masks who startle and scare the patrons. Ours is a guided tour with a script, several mazes, trap doors, elaborate effects, and the like. Being the jaded old man that I am, I don’t find any of it particularly scary. My daughter, however, is pushing her personal envelope. For her, guiding is empowering, helping her to conquer her fears of the dark, the unknown, things that go bump in the night, blood, you name it. That’s good for her in more ways than one. You see, not too long ago, she began complaining about back pain. I took her to the doctor, and was shocked to discover a diagnosis of severe, idiopathic scoliosis. Standing up straight, you’d never notice it. When she bends over, however, that 60º curve in her upper back, and the corresponding 40º curve in her lower back is all to obvious. We recently caught a bus-and-truck company production of Young Frankenstein – the Musical. Let’s just say that, while she’s got a surprisingly robust sense of humor about her condition, she relates, albeit ruefully, to Igor, and only wishes her hump could go away as easily as his.

We’ll run a lot of people through the haunt over the next three weeks. They’ll get their money’s worth, and be plenty scared. Me? Not so much. It takes a lot to scare me nowadays. I caught a new show on FX that my girlfriend taped for us. American Horror Story. It’s the charming tale of a psych professor husband who gets caught with his hand in the nookie jar by his wife, who recently had a miscarriage. As penance for his peccadilloes, they uproot the family from their East Coast digs and head out to Californy, where they rent a beautiful old mansion with a past more screw up than the family’s. Turns out the old manse is haunted, and I don’t mean by some harmless wraiths. This place already makes that possessed Cape Cod in Amityville look as harmless as Beaver Cleaver’s house. Everybody there has a past – a bloody, violent one. The maid appears to be an old woman to the hot wife, and a hot, young, oversexed vixen to the husband, trying his best to be faithful. The next-door-neighbor (Jessica Lange at her most brittle) is a klepto/psycho/something. And many of the folks that show up for a chin wag are no longer among the living. Scary? Um…definitely creepy. Riveting. Engaging. But scary? I dunno. My bar has been set ridiculously high on the “scary” scale. And I don’t mean to post any spoilers here, but let’s just say that ol’ Jessica is one scary-good shot with a snubby wheelgun. In episode 3, she brings a whole ‘nuther dimension to the term “bullseye.”

I’ve given a lot of thought as to why this is. I used to love scary movies. The original Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis? A classic. The old Universal flicks with Karloff? Scared me out of my wits. But today – movies don’t really scare me, or even disturb my sleep. Now it may just be that I’ve gotten older. But there are things that do keep me awake at night. It’s just not anything in the way of a scary movie.

I think it all started on 9/11. The sight of those planes hitting the World Trade Center towers was beyond scary. The thought of what went through the minds of those passengers in the seconds before they were vaporized is so far beyond scary it defies definition. And the post 9/11 world is most definitely a more scary place. It may well be that 9/11, for me, anyway, has just taken all the thrill out of thrillers. What kind of special effects can come close to equalling the realization of what happened to those 3,000 people on 9/11?

But there are other things that give me that same feeling of unease that I used to pay $8 to get at the cinema. Walking around in Condition Yellow, and forcing myself to be constantly aware of my surroundings is a lot like projecting myself into the hero’s role in a horror flick. Without the creepy music, of course. Then again, I’m perfectly capable of turning the radio station in my head over to the horror soundtrack channel. Which is oddly comforting. I mean, if I’m hearing the creepy music, it means it’s MY movie, which means, as the central character, I will survive. That is, unless I’m hearing somebody ELSE’S music, in which case I’m toast.

Oddly enough, guns don’t scare me. At all. I have a very healthy respect for them. But I’m not afraid of them. The people who wield them? That’s another story. I’ve been to ranges and seen things that would make my hair start turning gray, if it hadn’t already. And my apprehension over trigger discipline, muzzle safety, and the four rules is not limited to civilians. I now make it a point to chat up any uniformed officer I encounter in a retail setting. I introduce myself, mention TTAG, and chat about guns in general, and his service piece in particular. It’s a way for me to ascertain a level of comfort/competency that the officer has with firearms. Obviously, it’s no substitute for a range test. But it’s not like I can go up to him and ask to see his last qualifying scores and make sure he’s keeping his skills up. But talking with the officer does give me at least a little better feeling about how he might react in an emergency, and give me a clue as to if I’m gonna be in as much danger from his friendly fire as I would be from the bad guys’ guns.

Of course, there are other things that scare me. My daughter’s pending surgery scares the ever-lovin’ crap out of me. I know she’s in good hands. But I feel powerless to do anything more than to be there for her. And that’s the scariest feeling of all.

So, before we get to All Hallowed’s Eve, what scares you? When something wicked this way comes, what is it you see that gives you the willies?


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  1. I think having a sick/disabled child can be pretty scary. I speak from experience. You have no control over the outcome (ie surgery), except how you handle the situation is crucial. I tend to compartmentalize and can separate feelings. I always try to project calmness and confidence so my wife and other children keep their cool as best they can. Sometimes it is pretty difficult and can wear on you. Good luck to you and your daughter.

  2. In a horror context, I find the Grudge movies to be, if not the outright scariest, certainly among the creepiest. The relatively sterile suburban settings, the eerie and unexpected ways the ghosts appear, and the inevitability of death (and an angry and sorrowful ‘afterlife’) for those caught up in the “grudge curse” always make my skin crawl.In real life, what do I find scary? I’m afraid of the weaving, speeding nutjobs on the highway. I’m afraid of the oblivious housewives in the shopping centers, driving their husbands SUVs, yapping on their cellphones while ignoring the pedestrian traffic around them as they try to find the absolute closest parking space. And I’m very, very afraid of government at every level, whose idea of law and order is to constantly lower the bar of what’s considered punishable criminal activity. I’m more afraid of unintentionally breaking a law and losing my savings and reputation than I am of being victimized by an actual criminal. Here’s an example: Schmucky Schumer and that Kristen Gillibrand are trying to defend NY State’s maple syrup industry by making it a felony to claim you’re selling authentic NY maple syrup, when you’re actually not. While I’m not in the business of hawking plant based sweeting condiments, it scares me to death that something that at best warrants a fine and civil restitution under this proposed law would be commensurate with stealing large sums of money, or maliciously injuring someone badly. The fact that our lawmakers and by extension the law itself, are quickly losing all sense of fairness or proportionality frightens me, too.On another note, I tried to watch American Horror story, and I found all of the characters to be extremely unpleasant, pretty much without exception. The dialogue felt overbearing and hamfisted, so I gave up on the show without even completing the first episode.

  3. Here’s an example: Schmucky Schumer and that Kristen Gillibrand are trying to defend NY State’s maple syrup industry by making it a felony to claim you’re selling authentic NY maple syrup, when you’re actually not. While I’m not in the business of hawking plant based sweeting condiments, it scares me to death that something that at best warrants a fine and civil restitution under this proposed law would be commensurate with stealing large sums of money, or maliciously injuring someone badly.

    I heard a commentator say something recently that really summed up this kind of thing. It was in response to a woman being sentenced to 16 years for selling weed to an undercover officer on three separate occasions, said weed’s total value was a whopping $24. Sixteen years. Twenty-four dollars. But I digress.

    The statement went like this: “There are two kinds of people we punish: people we’re mad at (like this lady), and people we’re scared of (rapists, murderers, pedophiles). We need to stop confusing the two.”

    • I was asssigned to narcotics enforcement for 9 years during my LE career.I never worked with anyone who wanted to bust someone for a small amount of grass unless the person was a colossal asshole.
      Generally,it was “let’s feed Mr.Toilet,or Sewer,whatever.
      I am not in favor of being aggressive about malum prohibitum crimes(i.e. it’s illegal because we say so).
      Immigration offenses excepted,because we need control of that situation.
      Malum in se crimes are a different story.Murder,robbery,burglary,sex offenses,etc. are evil in and of themselves.
      If we had less people locked up for drug crimes,we’d have more room to hold really dangerous people like pedophiles until they were too old and infirm to walk unaided.
      Firearms violations used against otherwise law abiding citizens are a crime in themselves.Schumer and his ilk need to face treason charges for trying to subvert the Constitution.I hope he gets sick and dies real soon.

  4. While I do not fear the gov’t I certainly do not trust it. Any of it. Power is what it hungers for and that does create the potential for fear. What I fear is the direction our society is heading. The lack of outrage for a Border Patrol Agent that was convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison. His crime was rough handling of a 15 year old illegal with 75 pounds of pot on his back. Or 2 two women who have put their son on meds to prevent puberty until he is older and can decide what gender he wants to be.
    Let’s not forget the self righteous belief that some people must be saved from themselves to protect others. The best example is the gun grabbers saying guns must go to protect society simply because they do not like guns and see no use for them. The worst is the concept of knowing what everybody else is doing while tweeting about what they are doing. From “reality TV” to facebook, twitter, and cameras on every corner, our slow slide away from right to privacy is gathering speed. The next generation may not have any concept of privacy.

  5. I don’t like 99.9999% of most horror/slasher movies because they’re all about victimhood and showing you how there is no defense, you’re doomed, DOOMED, I SAY!!!


    To quote the 24th century’s greatest warrior/philosopher, “I don’t believe in the no-win situation.”, and I don’t believe in victimhood, either.I’ve a phobia of needles (because I’m a real hard stick) and spiders (because, well, because), and that’s about it.

    • Hi im with the mormon church and I would like to share a message with you! Lol (please dont censor im really mormon)

  6. A fully involved building fire with an 800 lb human whale on any floor above the first. That or the always devastating kid at bottom of pool call. (Used to be a mmedical in FL)

  7. Dying without leaving a meaningful legacy. Being erased from memory and having my descendants fail to continue the chain of life. Rather torn apart by wolves than dying in obscurity.

    • Kinda of like that guy who had all the exotic animals who killed himself? He was torn apart by bengal tigers, he wont be fading into obscurity anytime soon

  8. “I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but there is no evil I fear, for You are with me. Your rod and staff are my comfort.”

    OK, I am afraid of dying painfully.

  9. wow, guess we weren’t supposed to see this? We never said the rules didn’t apply to you, we said the original set from way back when weren’t being used as is since it’s been oh say, 30 years or so since they were originally penned. We held you to the same expectations as the rest of the cast only with the ability to make judgement calls in matters of your daughter for safety reasons.

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