There was no line for the last attraction of the night.
We walked up to the door and were asked how many were in our group. “Six,” we responded. The attendant thought for a moment then nodded, unlatching the chain to let our group pass. We stepped toward the door and saw a girl in a dark, tattered gown crouched down by the entrance. She made some strange noises then crawled through the door before another attendant informed our group that this attraction featured ramps and continuous strobe lights and that, if at any point we felt unable to continue, we were to let someone inside know and we would be escorted out. We agreed and timidly entered the building.
We turned left and almost immediately entered a room where the floor ramped sharply upward. Music shook the room as we pulled our way up and down through the maze to reach the exit on the other side of the room. As we adjusted to the environment, a woman dressed a bit like a clown swung around the guardrails just ahead of us, smiling and waving eerily as we turned the corner. We exited that room and walked through dimly lit hallways, past people with sharp teeth and bright eyes who laughed as we passed by. At one point, we entered a dark hall and saw a large man in an animal mask blocking our way. Behind him was the gown girl again (she jumped at me and I might have yelled a bit). Masked individuals, silent and ominous, stared at us as we worked our way through the maze of rooms and hallways and corners, eventually exiting into woods and the cool, night air.
I’ve been interested in visiting a haunted attraction for years. The closest I’ve ever gotten was a haunted house ride at a fair in college that almost broke during our visit. So when the ads for City Park’s Scream Park showed up, offering multiple haunted attractions in one place, I was excited, but a bit nervous that it would be cheap or cheesy. It didn’t disappoint.
During our group’s visit to the park, we fought our way through a zombie-infested compound, explored a haunted swamp by lantern light, sprinted through a cursed mummy’s tomb, and escaped from a murderer’s workshop. In between these main attractions, we caught bits of a stage show featuring vampires at a 50s era high school dance, walked through the eerie ruins of a Greek temple, and enjoyed fresh lemonade and fried Oreos. The visit was everything I wanted it to be.
In part, the trip was enjoyable because we knew the limits of the actors. We knew going in that nobody was going to touch us or actually harm us. Sure, there would be lights and sounds affecting our senses. We expected that. And actors got right up to our faces at times (or stood right behind us and waited for us to turn around). But they didn’t touch us. We knew they wouldn’t cross that line, so, no matter how intimidating the scenario, we knew we were safe. Granted, we were still fearful. The sets were meant to shake us up. But the truth remained that we were totally safe.
The Halloween season can be a frightening time. Some films seem to pass beyond an enjoyment of the creepy aesthetic to a fascination with the vile and the disturbing, and some decorations and celebrations appear more gratuitous than fun. Christians can see in the excesses of the season traces of the fall’s effects, illustrations of the wickedness of the present age. Yet we who know the LORD walk in this world as those who recognize the limits of the darkness. We know that this world, terrifying as it may be, has already been overcome (John 16:33). We follow the one before whom demons tremble, before whom sickness disappears, before whom storms cease. Where light enters the scene, darkness must flee.
I enjoy creepy things. Stories of haunted houses and evil clowns and monsters in the shadows intrigue me. I recognize, however, that these are defanged threats, fictional explorations of the fears of darkness. Yet I also know that, for many, such fears hold weight. Those who do not know Christ remain lost in the darkness, and they may not even realize they’re lost. We who know Christ, however, do not fear as the world fears. We who fear the LORD need fear no lesser thing.
I’ll still watch scary movies, still read scary stories, still visit scary locations (within reason). I still enjoy the creepy atmosphere when it’s done well. But I do so as one who knows a stronger power than any other portrayed in any screen, page, or park. We who know Christ walk in confidence that the one in us is greater than the one in the world (1 John 4:4), and his presence changes everything.
Thanks to Jamie for her suggestions in the editing of this post.