Sunday, October 9, 2016


This is the time of year when all of the Halloween haunted houses start popping up. One of the most heavily advertised is called Spooky World, Nightmare New England, which is located in Litchfield, New Hampshire.

The advertisements for Spooky World are more than enough to entice any horror buff.  They feature zombies, ghouls, fiendish clowns, a haunted hayride and acres of woods that conceal terrifying creatures, all of which will, at some point, leap out at unsuspecting visitors to test how strong their bladders are.

All I can say is Spooky World has come a long way in the past 20-plus years.

Back in the early ‘90s, I happened to come across a brochure for a new haunted attraction called Spooky World, described as America’s number-one horror theme park, located in Berlin, Massachusetts.

The brochure described such chilling attractions as 20 authentic Hollywood horror stage-sets, super-charged special effects, a cast of 60 live performers, an enter-if-you-dare haunted house and a horror-movie museum. Wide-eyed, I studied every word of the brochure. Perhaps it was because I was born on Halloween, but I’d always felt a sort of kinship to things that went bump in the night. So I suddenly had a burning desire to go to this new Spooky World place.

My husband, however, wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea. For one thing, it was about 80 miles from our house, and I wanted to go on a weeknight to avoid the crowds. And secondly, my husband wasn’t a big fan of haunted houses.

So I was forced to bring out the ammunition I’d been saving…the one thing I knew would make him change his mind and be even more eager to visit Spooky World than I was.

“Linda Blair is going to be there signing autographs and meeting fans on Monday night,” I told him.

His eyes grew as wide as saucers. “Linda Blair! Seriously? You wouldn’t be lying to me, would you, just to get me to take you there?”

“I swear it’s true,” I said, crossing my heart with my index finger. “I know what a huge Linda Blair fan you are, and I figured you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to actually meet her.”

For years, my husband had been suffering from a bona-fide movie-star crush on Linda Blair. He‘d rented all of her movies...twice. He’d then watched reruns of those same movies on TV.  I figured he’d probably crawl on his knees over broken glass just to meet her. Fortunately, I was right.

So on a very cold Monday night that October, my husband rushed home from work and we headed off on the hour-and-a-half journey to Berlin, Massachusetts.

“I’m starving,” he said when were halfway there. “I didn’t have time to eat anything.”

“I had a sandwich at about 4:30,” I said. “But I’m sure they’ll have a snack bar where you can grab a burger or something.” I paused before adding, “Guess what? I bought a disposable camera, especially so I can snap a couple photos of Linda Blair for you!”

There weren’t any cell phones with cameras in them back then, and I didn’t want to lug my expensive 35mm camera with me, especially if zombies were going to attack me while I was carrying it. So I’d bought a cheap, small, disposable camera, hoping it would suffice.

After what seemed like the world’s longest car ride, we turned onto Spooky World’s dark, bumpy, road. There, we had to sit and wait in a line of backed-up traffic for over 20 minutes. Finally, a large barn-like structure surrounded by endless acres of farmland in the middle of nowhere came into view. We had arrived.

Eager to begin our night of thrills and chills (and Linda Blair), we parked the car and hurried toward the entrance. An employee greeted us and told us there were about 4,000 people ahead of us in line. We laughed, thinking he was joking. After all, it was a Monday night, not a weekend night. Unfortunately, the guy was telling the truth.

“If we hadn’t traveled so far to see this place, I’d leave right now,” I muttered to my husband.

He clearly was aghast. “And miss seeing Linda Blair? Never!  I will wait in line all night if I have to!”

Nearly two hours later, we finally had our tickets ($12.50 each) in hand. “Thank goodness,” my husband said, groaning. “My back and legs couldn’t have stood another minute of this.”

“My legs were really starting to ache,” I said, “but about an hour ago, they went completely numb from the cold, so I can’t feel them any more.”

Another employee then told us, “Your adventure will begin with the haunted hayride, which boards passengers right behind this building.” He nodded in the general direction of where we were supposed to go.

We walked to the back of the building and stopped dead. There, stretched out as far as the eye could see, was a sea of people standing in a line that made the lines at Disney World look only two inches long. I honestly thought my husband was going to cry.

Fools that we were, we waited in line for another two hours. By then, my husband’s stomach was growling so loudly, people were turning to stare at him. When we finally boarded the hay wagon, it was 10:45. I was so relieved just to be sitting, I nearly knelt down and kissed the hay bales. There wasn’t a bone in my body that didn’t ache, and my nose had turned into an ice cube with nostrils.

I figured that after all of the waiting in line we’d done, our reward would be a horror show to beat all horror shows. Once again, I’d figured wrong. The attractions basically consisted of what looked like teenagers running around dressed in department-store Halloween costumes. And the so-called “professional” movie sets were nothing more than badly spray-painted plywood. If my lips hadn’t been frozen together by then, I would have demanded a refund.

“Well,” my husband said, when we climbed out of the hay wagon and headed toward the next attraction, “if it weren’t for getting to meet Linda Blair tonight, I’d be really upset right now. I wonder where she is and when we’ll get to see her?” He craned his neck to scan our surroundings.

I glanced at my watch and sucked in my breath. It was 11:15. According to the brochure, Linda was scheduled to be at the park only until 11. I had no idea how I was going to break the news to my husband, but I was pretty sure his response would include the words “divorce lawyer.”

We toured the haunted house, which basically was a bunch of mannequins with light-up eyes, then moved to the horror museum, which was the last attraction. By then, it was 11:30 and definitely time to go home, especially since my husband had to get up for work in about six hours. But first, I knew the time had come for me to gather the courage to deliver the bad – no, make that devastating – news about Linda Blair. I felt my stomach turning into a giant knot. 

I opened my mouth to utter the words that were guaranteed to crush my poor husband’s heart, when I was interrupted by one of the employees making an announcement.

“Linda Blair was scheduled to be here only until 11:00,” he said, “but she has been kind enough to remain here until everyone who wants to meet her has had the opportunity to do so. She’s right over there at the autograph table,”

Never in my life had I so desperately wanted to give a big hug to a celebrity.

There were only about 20 people waiting to meet and greet Linda, and we were inside where it was warm, so I didn’t mind having to once again wait in line. My husband stood behind me, his eyes fixed on the table ahead, where, to his dismay, people were blocking his view of the object of his desire.

Finally, when there were only three people ahead of us, Linda came clearly into view. I honestly thought my husband was going to need CPR.  She was dressed all in black and next to her on the table was a stack of cans of pea soup, which she was autographing (for those of you who have never seen her terrifying movie, “The Exorcist,” one of the most classic scenes involves her projectile vomiting what looks like green pea soup all over her bedroom and on anyone within range).

I noticed that no one was taking photos, so I suspected cameras weren’t allowed. Still, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying because the worst they probably could do was either throw me out or confiscate my cheap little camera, neither of which disturbed me.  So I discreetly took my camera out of my purse and aimed it in the general direction of the table. Then I quickly snapped a shot and stuffed the camera back into my purse.

At that precise moment, the people in front of us left, and I found myself face to face with Linda Blair.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” she said glancing at my purse and then up at me.

I felt my cheeks flush in embarrassment. I was all set to surrender my camera to her when she smiled at me and added, “What I mean is you shouldn’t have taken candid shots of me! At least let me pose for a photo so I’ll look half-decent!”

Once again, I thought my husband was going to faint. I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple more shots of Linda, which she graciously posed for. I was on the verge of asking her if my husband could pose with her, but then decided not to press my luck. Also, I was pretty sure if Linda actually got close enough to touch him, the paramedics would have to be called.

During the entire ride home that night, my husband had a smile on his face that rivaled the Cheshire Cat’s. And every Halloween, right up until the day he died, he mentioned how great our visit to Spooky World had been. Apparently, he had completely erased all memories of our nearly frostbitten limbs, gnawing hunger, and the endless hours we’d spent waiting in line for a second-rate horror show.

Now, over 20 years later, the new Spooky World has all of the fancy, frightening, high-tech effects the original one lacked.

  But it still won't ever be as thrilling as the night my husband finally met Linda Blair.


#   #   #



No comments:

Post a Comment