But Halloween aficionados though we are, there’s always something left to surprise us. Together, we’ve compiled a list of twenty things we learned this Halloween, for your reference and enjoyment.
2. Stretch! Some of these Halloween events are a lot more physically demanding than you'd think. Delusion: Masque of Mortality and the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor events had us sore for days afterwards after what we went through. Totally worth it, though.
3. If you're going to pay for a VIP experience, for the love of god don't lose your VIP guide! We went a little all out for Fi's birthday this year and did the VIP experience at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. Part of it involves a guided backlot tour, before being led into a couple of mazes. Well, half of our group apparently missed our guide and abandoned us, which meant by the end of the night our tour group had a mortality rate somewhere along the lines of an early Friday the 13th film.
4. Why let the scare actors have all the fun? One of my proudest moments this season happened at Halloween Horror Nights. Fi was off getting a drink in the VIP lounge, leaving me standing by a window. I saw the scare zone outside full of clowns chasing people down, including one twenty-something blonde girl who was cowering right by my window. Sensing an opportunity, I put my face right up against the glass and tried to look empty. She looked up, she saw me, she screamed. Life is good.
5. Front of the Line Passes are (almost) always worth the investment. The bigger events get packed, leading to lines in excess of two or three hours for some mazes. If you want to see everything, the only way you can do this is by getting front of the line upgrades. At Halloween Horror Nights and Dark Harbor this was worth the investment, however at Knott’s Scary Farm, where Front of the Line effectively meant doubling your ticket price, we decided to take our chances. Considering that this got us on 7 out of the 10 mazes (one of which we went through twice, because it was really awesome) and the train ride, I think it was a gamble worth taking. (Also, avoid the train ride on Halloween at Knott's. Boring.)
7. As a female attendee, if a Halloween haunt isn’t scary enough, you can go for bonus points by burying your face in a guy’s jacket. This is the universal signal for every monster in range to pay you special attention. Better yet, if possible (as it is at the Haunted Hayride), lie back into his lap. Done right, this serves the double purpose of marking you as a target and heightening the sense of physical vulnerability. What passes for a cheap startle when you’re upright or curled into a ball can be downright terrifying when you’re off balance with your neck and other soft bits facing up. It’s a silly biological response, but it works.
9. Startle responses are surprisingly easy to reprogram. While we were unable to restrain all expletives when the scares were good, even when sincerely trying, a combination of dares, jokes, creative friends, and the presence of small children had us blurting out everything from “Hello sailor!” to “Go, Diego, Go!” in a few moments of terror.
10. The insides of abandoned, reportedly haunted ships can get really dark! At the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor Halloween event, three of the six mazes take place within the bowels of the ship itself. Two of them, Hellfire and Submerged, have long stretches that take place in near pitch-darkness. While most on-land mazes you'll find have some ambient light sneaking in, here you could not see your hand in front of your face much of the time. The monsters seemed to quite enjoy this, as in one dark corridor, one snuck up to within six inches of my face and screamed at the top of his lungs. I fell back, on my ass, and since Fiona was holding my hand hard, she went down with me.
12. Mechanical bulls (and mechanical monsters alike, as the one at Dark Harbor was called) spin really, really fast. This elicited a different kind of scream from the rest of the event.
13. When falling off a mechanical monster try falling off to the side. Falling off to the front can end badly. Almost one week later, my back is still killing me.
16. White tights are also surprisingly difficult to find. You’d think they’d be in every clothing and shoe store, if only for ballerinas, but you’d be wrong. I had to get them at a costume store to feel secure in my Harley Quinn mini-dress. (Before anyone conjures any unseemly images, this is a Fi tip).
18. It’s just about impossible to find carveable white pumpkins. While we’ve seen lots of pictures of round white pumpkins, the white pumpkins sold in the stores near us were all of a squat, flat variety so dense they require a hatchet to open. Literally, we used an actual hatchet.
20. Be fearless. You get a better experience from these events the more you throw yourself into one. If they ask for volunteers, volunteer away! If you see something scary, scream your head off! The monsters will appreciate your enthusiasm and your delicious, delicious screams. Of course, there is such a thing as being too enthusiastic. Please do not hurt the monsters. They work very hard, and do not care for the abuse, and you don't want to take the chance that this is the one time that a guy actually dressed like a deranged lunatic will snap and decide to remove your skin with a cheese grater.
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-- Matt Carter
(We know there's a lot of Matt Carter's online you could spend your time with, so thanks for hanging around this one!)