I walked by that haunted house hundreds of times…
But there was no way I ever planned on going in.
During any vacation, break, and free weekend, my family would go to Ocean City, Maryland to visit my grandparents, who owned a Motel along the beach.
(And yes. This was the same beach where I would find skate sacs and terrorize my brother with them.)
We would hang out at the motel, play on the beach, and pile into my grandfather’s dark blue van to drive over to the boardwalk and spend the day playing at the game-rooms and riding the kiddie-rides.
And every time we walked down that boardwalk (for over a decade), we would have to walk by the Haunted House to get to the real fun. I hated that big, scary, ugly bat…hated it.
My uncle was a bit of a terrorizing fiend himself, and if he caught me even looking at the bat, he would pick me up and pretend to carry me into the Haunted House until I cried for mercy.
(Now that I think about it, I can see where I got my terrorizing skills from. Hm.)
Many years later, I went back to Ocean City, long after my grandparents sold the motel, and this time with some church friends.
My friends Kyle and Dante were walking with me and I saw the stupid bat long in the distance.
Instinctively, I averted my gaze, but stopped when I noticed my friends pausing at the entrance.
“Wanna go in?” Dante asked mischievously. Kyle walked over to the booth to see how much the tickets were.
“Uh…sure?” I replied hesitantly. I had a rep for being a thrill junkie, and I wasn’t going to back down now. It was time to face my childhood fears.
I sat, squished between the boys, clutching the handlebars while trying to put on a relaxed face at the same time.
“Whoo!” The boys yelled.
“Whoo…” I muttered.
With a clank, the doors opened and our car went into the house.
The guys were laughing at the stuffed rats that were poorly glued to the ceiling, and the plastic skeleton that hung from the rafters. I remained wary, as we moved our way through to the next room.
At that moment, a column started to “fall” and stopped a couple of feet away from where we were. What surprised me wasn’t the falling column, but the high pitched scream that came from Dante.
I laughed so hard. Dante laughed too, though out of relief. Kyle had been laughing too, until a giant rat (with its hydraulic mechanism audibly apparent) launched towards him, which caused him to scream even louder.
The rest of the ride was a blur, as the tears that poured down my face kept me from noticing anything.
When we got off of the ride, the three of us promptly fell onto the wooden planks of the boardwalk, rolling around and laughing.
It made me realize that facing fears are so much better when you have people around you who you can count on to face them with you. Plus, it’s fun to look back on those fears and giggle at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Nowadays, more and more, I realize that while I have the ability to do things on my own, it doesn’t mean that I should. Friends are good.
(Plus, in retrospect, I think that my friends had only pretended to be scared just to make me smile. And it worked.)
Now, when I see that winged creature as I walk along the Boardwalk, I look right into its goofy looking eyes and think about how much fun I had that day. How silly I was for even being scared of it in the first place.
(If you’re curious about the ride, watch it from some dude’s POV HERE)