Nothing beats scaring the hell out of other people…
Just ask Stephen King! I’m not exactly how sure my upcoming horror novel — An Interstate Ghost Story: The Girl on the Highway — will be at doing so, but I am going to great trouble to make sure it will hopefully do the trick.
In the meantime, I guess I will just have to content myself with volunteering at the Greenville (Alabama) Haunted Firehouse. The two producers of this community effort, Les and John, came up with this annual event in the year 2003 and have kept it going strong ever since. The proceeds go to the Muscular Distrophy Association and the American Cancer Society.
Working in a haunted house is right up my alley for a variety of different reasons. First of all, I was born on Halloween and have always been very fond of celebrating this holiday from the very day I was born. My brother and sister never let me live it down either, being that I kept them from being able to go trick or treating the night that I was born (just kidding, Steve and Terri!).
Secondly, I found many years ago that I am not a bad actor at all. I had volunteered for a Community Playhouse when I lived in Millbrook and got to act in a play called “The Belles of Horsefly Gulch”, a melodrama. I couldn’t help but notice great and positive feedback from the audience when I delivered my lines and created funny facial expressions. So why not act the part of a crazed chef in the Greenville Haunted Firehouse!
Lastly, being in such an environment naturally gives me more fuel to write future horror stories. As a writer, I need to embrace anything that can help me overcome writers block.
My daughter and I first volunteered for the Firehouse a year ago, and my wife started joining us this year. And we all have a blast when we participate!
As for me, I work in a small corridor with blood splatter all over the walls; these two creepy holographic picture frames that feature two different guys that look normal at one angle, and horrific at another; a human head that has been nailed to the wall; and finally, a human torso on a lift-up counter that — when lowered — blocks the path of visitors, allowing me to give my terrifying rant in a maniacal English accent:
I jump out at visitors from behind a curtain as prompted by my partner, Van, who remains hidden through almost all of my routine, but has a better view of the visitors from his hidden position.
“Welcome to Hell’s Kitchen!” I then act as if I am examining the group of individuals prior to making a horrible discovery. “Bollocks! More amateurs…why do they keep sending me amateurs? I tell them I need professional chefs for the unique cuisine I prepare here, and all they send me are bloody wanna-be’s.”
I then gaze down menacingly enough at the torso in front me, the head of which has already been severed, but is positioned at an angle that — I hope — the visitors cannot see. I then say: “This was an amateur…he came here several months ago.” I then take my mock meat cleaver and make chopping motions right there at the neck and lift the head up for all to see. Then I look it right in the eyes and say: “You’ve been chopped, mate!” This usually elicits laughter from the more brave folk coming through, at least giving them some kind of amusement for their money.
At that point, I raise the counter, allowing them to leave while my buddy finally jumps out — with cleverly-applied make-up simulating that his eyes are no longer there in his sockets, but gouged completely out, leaving two soulless holes in their stead — startling the living crap out of several of them at the same time.
Working at the haunted house is not only fun, but it gives me and my family a feeling of honor and commitment. I feel as if we are part of something truly more important than myself. Knowing that the money paid by these sometimes bold, sometimes scared, oftentimes curious visitors is going to two different great causes…one of which has claimed the lives of two people very close to me, my father — George Quezon Sanderson — and my grandmother — Donna Walls Cook.
That way, I think more about the fact that we served our community well and can look ourselves in the mirror without feeling guilty for all the little kids and some of the less courageous adults we may have terrified in the process.
So now I pose this question to you: What’s not to love?
Note: Please feel free to leave comments on fun volunteer activities you have participated in. It is my hope that some readers will see this article and the comments you leave in order to get some great ideas as to how they can make an honorable difference in their own communities. For those of you who volunteer, God bless you always for your selfless efforts!