Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Indianapolis Children's Museum and the Perfectly Scary Haunted House

I hadn't planned on taking the children to a haunted house this year--it still sounds crazy to even write that phrase--but Will and Syd are addicted to "This Week's WOW," which of COURSE talked all about the haunted house that the Children's Museum of Indianapolis puts on each year, and so they asked if we could go.

And so we did!

(Nota bene: Although I'm sure they had been hearing about the haunted house for weeks on "This Week's WOW," it's interesting that they didn't ask to go until last weekend. Perhaps they had to get their nerve up!)

The girls wanted to go to the haunted house during frightening hours, but I insisted that we go during friendly hours. You've got your whole life to go to scary haunted houses, after all, but you can only pull off going to friendly haunted houses when you're little. Also, I really didn't want two totally traumatized children waking me up in the middle of the night all winter. And during the friendly hours, you get to trick-or-treat from the costumed characters in each room, showing that when in doubt, or if you think that kids might be afraid of you, bribe them with candy!

Turns out the kids weren't a bit afraid. They LOVED the trick-or-treating, but they also loved checking out all the costumes and props and settings that make a haunted house:

I was actually really into that part, too. You definitely do not know this about me, but I did my undergrad degree at an expensive out-of-state university on scholarship, and I was ALWAYS hustling for dough--I babysat a really weirdo kid (and plenty of conventional ones), I wrote opinion columns for the student newspaper, I slung popcorn at my hometown movie theater on Thanksgiving and Christmas days, and one autumn I held a meat cleaver and a bloody mannequin arm and pretended to vivisect a fellow actor at one of the scariest haunted houses in the state of Texas. It was shockingly hard work, but also so, so satisfying, in a really mean way, of course. I made adults cry, I made a man wet himself, I made someone vomit, I gave a teenager an asthma attack, and I was infamous for causing a ridiculous number of people to safeword me, I was so awesomely scary. And I didn't even last the entire season (I injured myself chasing a loudly weeping woman out of my room, so intent on catching her and strapping her to my table that I ran flat into a painted-black wall in the pitch black maze).

Anyway, I'm REALLY into haunted houses, and I was super stoked that the kids were, too.

Check out this bookshelf by the haunted house's exit. All the book titles are previous years' themes:

It was a pleasant surprise to find that the rest of the children's museum was deliciously, non-spookily themed for Halloween:

Sammy Terry is a local celebrity and campy horror film host. Love him!

The background is an actual still used in Nightmare before Christmas

But, of course, since it's been a year or so since we've been to the Children's Museum, it was also wonderful to find much that's remained exactly, happily the same:

I don't know if it's the homeschooling, or their personalities, but in some ways my kids are very "young" for their ages, and I love that about them. They're completely uninterested in tweeny pop music or TV shows or books, they still play with play dough and shaving cream and colored rice and sand, and they can still completely immerse themselves in toy dinosaurs--

--or pretend scuba diving:

We're actually going to start the pyramids and mummies chapter of The Story of the World next week!

But, with all the many levels of the world's largest children's museum at their disposal, I still found evidence that something else was on their minds:

So as we're spending the day at the museum, the kids mention once or twice that they wished that we could go to the haunted house's frightening hours, too, and I kept mulling it over in my head, and we kept hearing kids who looked the same age as or younger than my two talk about how THEY were going in the scary haunted house, so finally, helped in no small part because *I* wanted to go, too, I bought tickets for the frightening hours. I was sort of worried, still, but seriously, there were toddlers in line for this haunted house. One woman had an infant on her hip (I still think that was a seriously bad idea, but still...).

Oh. My. Goodness. Imagine the perfect haunted house for a brave kid--low lights, lots of jump scares, nothing malicious or gory.

This was that haunted house.

It helped, I'm sure, that we'd done the friendly hours earlier, and so the kids were familiar with the layout, but still, it was PERFECT for kids. The lights were down so that you couldn't see what was coming well, but nothing was pitch black. The actors were mainly costumed in black morph suits (I want one of those soooo bad!) with pieces of the environment attached so that they blended in, or in generic "spooky" attire--torn clothes, zombie-ish face paint, etc. No blood. No weapons. Nobody vivisecting anybody else. Their main occupation was jumping out and scaring you, which yes, is startling, but you knew ahead of time that's what would be happening, so you were prepared. After my eyes got used to the lighting, I could sort of see the morph suits, so I'd steer my unsuspecting tots toward them in every single room, and laugh when they shrieked.

Random tip: If you enter a room and the actors are already out and acting spooky, then you're going too fast for them to get set back up for you. Slow down, so that the actors in the next room can jump out and scare you!

Seriously, this has to be the only kid-friendly haunted house in the world. It was brilliant. The kids and I had a freakin' ball. They're bragging their butts off about it to everyone they see.

I wonder how many years til I can take them with me to the Dungeon of Doom?


Tina said...

That's so awesome! I told the hubby I want to live in your town. We have a college and a military base here and the town doesn't offer very much. All the cool stuff happens in the other "big" cities in Montana which are all 3 hours and a snow-covered-mountain-pass away.

I'm one of those people who get terrified in haunted houses, even though I know everything is fake. I feel like I get picked on more cause I'm so short. Of course, the last haunted house I went to was back in high school which was...15 years ago. Yikes.

julie said...

I want you to live in my town, too!

It is really satisfying to pick on the easy target. The actors can hear from the other rooms, and it's not usually too hard to pick out who's doing all the screaming by the time they walk into your room. I know that if somebody was screaming--or, better yet, crying!--by the time they got to my room, I'd definitely try to send them over the edge with my meat cleaver and mannequin arm.


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