The Haunted Hayride of Lost Souls [Single White Nerd]
On Saturday night, three friends and I went to the Haunted Hayride at Griffith Park. I hoped for some overpriced cheap thrills and instead found something far more terrifying: a Purgatory filled with lost souls searching, pleading, clawing for escape.
It starts promisingly enough. The smell of fresh hay hangs in the air, red and green lights cut through the manufactured fog, intricately carved jack-o-lanterns lay about. Vendors dressed as zombies circulate through the crowd selling drinks, hot dogs, and candy. I hop up and down, an excited five year old swept up in the carnie-goodness of it all. My friends and I go to stand on line.
The line is long.
It stretches maybe two hundred meters up a hill. It loops in on itself a few times. Just to the side, several small sideshows have been set up to entertain the crowd. They don’t seem particularly active. Danny Elfman music pumps from speakers strategically placed around the line. The fake fog hangs thick. I’m still excited.
A guy behind us is markedly sullen. “How long is this line,” he gripes to his girlfriend. Then he plunks himself on a bale of hay. My friend leans over to me “What a jerk,” she says, “Why can’t he get in the spirit of this thing?” I nod. What a jerk.
Ahead of us are three guys in their early twenties. At some point, a costumed character comes up and shocks one of them. The kid shrieks like a six year old girl. He jumps up and covers his face with his hands. I think he might be crying. We decide that we like these kids and will do everything in our power to ride with them. Everything is more fun with shrieks and tears.
45 minutes later. Still in line. The head of the line, where we’ll board the ride, is in sight. Alas, it’s a cruel joke. The line will zig and zag at least five more times, carrying us away from the front with each turn, taunting us. It’s starting to get cold. One of the kids in front of us has lost his wallet. The guy behind us is still sullen.
A few feet away, the thoughtful organizers of the event have provided entertainment in the form of a knife throwing clown and his lovely assistant. As the line inches forward in fits and starts, he cackles into a microphone:
“Who wants to see me throw knives at her? I’ve never done this before. I must be crazy (high pitched cackle). She’s beautiful, but makes poor decisions, like letting me (cackle) throw knives (cackle) at he(cack)r(le).”
The patter grates. He won’t shut up. His cackles are forced. He stuffs them into the microphone as some sort of proof that he is, in fact, crazy. The microphone blasts them straight into our ear drums. It’s painful. Almost as painful as the line. I want to get away from the guy. Maybe I want to jump out of line and head home. “No,” my friend says when I voice this as an option, “We’ve come so far. We can’t turn back.” I nod. We can’t turn back. There’s a hayride to. . .ride.
30 minutes later. The line has carried us away from the cackler. And back. He’s cackling at us again. Remarkably, he and his assistant have completed a whole cycle of their performance and have started again. Who wants to see me throw knives. . .. He cackles. Again and again he cackles. I envision myself leaping through the crowd and wrestling him to the ground. Squeezing his throat, brandishing a knife over him. “Who’s crazy now,” I’ll yell into his pancake make-upped face, “WHO’S CRAZY NOW?!?!?!” Then I’ll stab him. Or pretend to stab him. No, I’ll really stab him. I want a hot dog. There’s a zombie hot dog vendor a few meters away. I gesture him over. He’s out of hot dogs. The performer cackles. I want to kill him. Or eat a hot dog.
20 minutes later. Now we’re friends with the people in line around us. “This better be worth it,” says one. “It can’t be,” says another. “Let’s leave.” They don’t leave. They can’t. There are too many people. They’re trapped; we all are. The cackling clown has taken off his shirt. It’s not pretty. A hipster couple has resorted to choreographing spontaneous dances to the ersatz Danny Elfman music pumping through the speakers. My friends and I have started playing charades. And 20 questions. Finally we resort to just counting the cacklers cackles. I lose count at 20. The hot dog zombie has returned. I buy a hot dog. I inhale it. It’s cold and a little undercooked. I might get salmonella. I don’t care.
A few feet away, people who dished out double the ticket price for VIP passes strut up to the head of the line. They board the ride after waiting maybe 10 minutes. I’d scoffed at the VIP passes. Now I wish I could turn back time and buy one, become a VIP. But I can’t. I can never go back. This isn’t some choose your own adventure book where you can just mark your place with a finger. It’s real life. Maybe. Actually, at this point, I don’t remember a time that we weren’t standing on this line. What if it never ends? What if it just loops in on itself endlessly, taunting us with an eventual end, but never quite getting there? What if were doomed to stay in this line forever, waiting for someone to let us onto a mythical ride?
What if I’m doomed to transform everything into a tortured existential metaphor for my life?
Finally, we make it to the head of the line. We ride the ride. It’s kind of cool. Had I not just waited for three hours and shuffled into an existential morass, I might have enjoyed it more. Afterwards, we all go through a mirror maze. You know, one of those things where you go in and can’t tell if something is a door or a mirror shooting your reflection back at you.
At one point, I find myself cornered by a green-jacketed, blood-shot eyed man. He looks at me wildly, exhausted. We reach out towards each other. Just as we’re about to touch, my hand hits glass. He’s me. I’m him. We’re trapped in this maze together. I’ve escaped the line and the cackler only to get stuck with myself. I resign myself to myself and give me a knowing look as if to say this is all your fault. He gives me the same look.
My friend’s arm reaches through a semi-hidden doorway. “Come on,” she says. We leave.
Come see Michael Kass tell a terrifying taboo tale at the Taboo Tales first anniversary show on November 3rd. Purchase tickets online and avoid the lines. For the love of all that’s holy, avoid the lines.
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featured image credit: Abode of Chaos