Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hauntings scarred me for life

I grew up in the deep south and every year I would venture north, a bit, with my parents to visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  Way back then Gatlinburg, while a tourist town, was less flash than it is today, but it had a few landmarks I'll never forget such as a Space Needle (with arcade), Fannie Farkels arcade/corn dogs/funnel cakes, Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum and a little hole in the wall called Hauntings.
Part of the classic tri-fold brochure that convinced me to enter the establishment
Aw hell.
I was young and apparently foolish.  I would look over the brochures we had collected and see if there was anything I wanted to do.  When I say young, I mean, young.  Not yet even a tween-ager.  My mother counseled against Hauntings, but I had braved the Mysterious Mansion and solved it with skills honed from years of watching Scooby-Doo, so what was this to me?  Obviously if you have live ghost shows "every 20 minutes" then either this is accomplished through tricks and special effects or these ghosts are professional performers.  I had nothing to fear.
So on the day we decided to go we ate a late breakfast at the local McDonalds (back then you could buy character glasses made of actual glass...I got Charlie Brown) and we went to Hauntings.
Inside the single tiny room there were just us 3 and a young couple.  We were told not to sit on the front bench.  We sat in the dark for what seemed like hours.  I got scared.  I started shaking.  It was obvious because the Charlie Brown glass that I held between my thighs was rattling on the bench.
When the show started I was thrown into a dimension beyond fear and panic.  Looking back from this point it was nothing, but to my little mind it was pure HELL.
Let's have another look at the brochure, shall we:
That wicked cool ghost is what attracted me.  I mean, what does that say about me?  It says I was a little boy and little boys find stuff like the above cool.

This is what I expected, a person wearing a sheet and some glowing items "floating" with the aid of wires.

Yeah.  What I got was a strobe light flashing on a robed and hooded form swinging a chainsaw, smashing into the front bench and roaring "Someone must DIE!"
I recall to this day the words, "Not me!" being screamed by me because, as I've observed, kids are incredibly practical when it comes to such matters.

Oh, was I a wreck.  For the remainder of the trip I would not walk near that place.  I'd walk in the street to avoid it.  If I was on the other side of the street I'd start to get nervous as we got near it.  It was like the obsession people get with shark attacks or germs.  My psyche was scarred.  My father would later say that he felt horrible that they'd taken me and that he should have known better, but hey, I don't blame him.  I wanted to go.
For years whenever we would visit Gatlinburg (every year for Thanksgiving, because we really didn't want to see the whole family twice within 30 days, so we fled the state) I'd get antsy when we came near Hauntings and move as far away from the building as I could when we passed by.  That is AWESOME.  You can't plan for that kind of permanent mental marking.  I firmly believe my love for all this weirdness was born in that incident.  Bless it.

I don't have that Charlie Brown glass anymore, but I'll always have that memory until the day I die.



  1. OMG.Me and the fam go to Gatlinburg every year, guess where my first stop is? FANNIE FARKELS!! Is that not the best corn dogs and polish you ever put in your mouth? Small world.

  2. Now don't be disapointed, but I've never had the food at Fannies. I just don't eat corn dogs. I do, however, remember them visually and by smell.
    Of course I haven't been in years, but I do want to return soon. Hopefully.
    I'm still not going into Hauntings again.

  3. I didn't know that you were from the south...not that I should have I suppose. But man, I laughed at your post. We LOVED Gatlinburg as young kids, my brother and I. But my parents HATED it! It was such a tourist trap and of course we wanted to go and do everything. I was very young when we went and I remember that I had a loose tooth that I wouldn't let anyone pull because I was (and still am) scared of pain. So I was willing to let it rot out of my mouth before I'd have it pulled. So my parents bought us some salt water taffey from one of those candy stores and out it came in the first bite. Parents are smarter than we think...ha!

    I hadn't been back in many years but we took our kids there in 2009 and we actually had a really good time. It was still VERY touristy. But we ziplined, did the alpine slide at Ober Gatlinburg and road that little old chair lift up the mountain a thousand times. And funny...we stayed right near the Mystery Mansion and we wanted to go in it so bad, but ultimately, my kids are just that....MY kids, and therefore they chickened out...ha! But we WILL go next time....mark my words! :o)

    Loved your story...have so many similar ones. Although most of my childhood trauma was inflicted by Disney's Haunted Mansion...ha! And I'm pretty sure it too is partly responsible for my love of all things spooky and Halloween!

  4. I love the Haunted Mansion. I've been to Orlando's and Tokyo's but not Paris or Anaheim.
    Let's see, Mysterious Mansion is not scary at all, more like a Scooby Doo episode. When my parents would take me every Thanksgiving we'd hike at least 1 trail, maybe more if they were short. The Smokies have some great hiking trails and some of them, like Mount Leconte are insane. So it was hike during the day, roam the city at night. I've never ziplined though. It looks fun.

  5. Sadly, Hauntings is no more. It closed permanently just two days ago.