Chapter 1. Interesting Places, Interesting People
The girl and I head to a friend’s art opening at a residential loft building.
This place does not look like a residence. It is sandwiched among industrial businesses and scrapyards. It sits right against the Cumberland River right outside of downtown Nashville.
We enter the building to the show and meet the building manager. Her door is open and we walk in. She’s very friendly and I immediately like her. After introductions and conversation she mentions she’s out of smokes. I offer to run the errand.
I ask “Where’s the closest place?”
She says “Right across the street.”
I take her cash and walk out the front door. The Murder Mart is right across the street. Bars on the window and strange folk outside. I check my pocket for my knife. I brought it. It’s there.
I then make my way to the street.
All of the sudden a hooptie comes tearing around the corner with tires screaming.
The hooptie hits the strait away and lights it up. The engine SCREAMS.
Two of Nashville’s finest squad cars rip around the corner in hot pursuit. The chase is on.
Right then it hits me…
I like this place. I could live here.
Chapter 2. Make a Move
We have the talk and It’s over. I have to move out. I lick my wounds and do what I do best. Move on. Keep busy.
I need to find some place close to my studio and gallery. Preferably something cool. I’m a batchelor now after all.
Word has it there is a vacancy at the lofts where the art opening was a year before. It’s always word of mouth. They don’t advertise because the don’t need to. I make a phone call to meet.
We go through the normal application routine. These folks are laid back and I feel confident I’ll get a place.
The building manager mentions something. A sort of disclosure that I must be aware of and understand.
She tells me that there is a haunted house underneath the lofts.
A legitimate Halloween haunted house that runs from mid September through October. It’s called The Devil’s Dungeon.
The Dungeon has been in operation for years and is full of crazy rooms, actors, props, animatronics and other insanity. It even has a haunted abortion clinic. Yes, they go there.
Chapter 3. It Begins
Do I agree to the terms? Of course. I sign the lease and I’m ready to move in.
My first night in the new place happens to be on a Friday in October. It’s Halloween season and a big night for the haunted house. I have the flu and I’m laying on a shitty air mattress, feeling awful and watching movies wasted on Theraflu.
Then something shocks me.
Loud Death Metal. One raging song after another. A speaker is right underneath my bedroom.
I put on headphones to zone out. Maybe some more tv and another mug of Theraflu will knock me out.
Unable to sleep I get up and go to the bathroom. Do I have to puke? Nah, good for now.
Then I hear something else. The whine of a chainsaw outside of my new balcony.
I open the balcony door, step out and look down. The haunted house exit is right below my balcony and chainsaw guy is there ready to scare the shit out of anyone that makes it out.
He’s on the side of a mini barn hiding. I can see him from above.
A group of people walk out of the haunted house beneath me. They’re amped up from the hour plus long claustrophobic scare fest. You can see the relief the crisp fresh air and open space offers .
But they are oblivious to the fact that it doesn’t end when they are out.
Chainsaw guy fires up the chainsaw, leaps around the mini barn and lunges toward them.
One girl begins screaming while using her boyfriend as a human shield.
Chainsaw guy is scraping his chainsaw at their feet on the concrete. Sparks are flying. As the chainsaw roars. Several girls run screaming.
This scenario plays out all night. Night after night. All month. The death metal, chainsaws, banging and screaming. The full parking lots and wrapping lines of people I pass through to get into my building or out to walk my dog Dutch.
Eventually something happened.
Chapter 4. Embrace Your Surroundings
I begin to love it. I embrace it.
It’s free entertainment. Something different and interesting. A month long party at our place every night.
I make friends with the haunties. Many of them live in the building and are my neighbors. My landlord owns the haunted house and building. It’s a family business which I respect and appreciate.
I invite friends over and we begin to participate in the action. As patrons exit the building below my balcony we get their attention by throwing candy or simply yelling at them trying to strike up conversation. We set them up for chainsaw guy to let it rip and freak them out.
He doesn’t phase everyone but there’s a high probability of screaming and running. Some go into an all out 100 yard sprints across the parking lot. Plenty of potential track stars here.
It’s easy to stereotype who scares easily. City kids are scared shitless of chainsaws. So are fluff girls. Chainsaws don’t scare country folks and there’s plenty of them that go through the haunted house. This is Tennessee after all.
Watching a haunted house operate is interesting. Some evenings I stand outside on the balcony and watch the haunties prepare for the night. They pull together and have a huddle. Someone leads the huddle and they break to off to prepare. Makeup, costumes and game faces. I’ve seen haunties chew blood capsules and spit on each other to get that extra special flavor of horror.
One benefit of living above the haunted house is I can, on occasion, go through the haunted house for free. After several trips through I learn the place inside and out. Except for the maze.
The maze is my favorite part besides the fact that it is partially located right beneath my bedroom where I hear people trying to make their way through.
It’s pitch black. You can only stumble through hoping to find the next door. When you find a door you enter a room. In that room are four walls, on light bulb hanging down in the middle and a guy wearing a cloak standing in the corner. Choose a door.
You choose a door, leave the room and are back in the maze trying to find the exit. Good luck.
The maze may lead you back to the room you just left or another room that looks exactly the same as the one you left.
There is a guy wearing a cloak standing in a corner in that room too. Each cloak guy switches corners randomly leaving you disoriented when entering or leaving a room. Four doors, one lightbulb and a guy wearing a cloak. Every room.
It takes a while to get out. I’ve been trapped in the maze for almost an hour. When you finally make it through the maze you’re home free.
Ahh, fresh air. And you know what comes next. Want some candy?
I no longer live there now but miss those fall months of horror.
Happy Halloween. Go support your local haunted house. Get frightened and confused. Most of all, have fun. It only comes once a year.