Houses not on my list of Halloween haunts

I enjoy seeing the giant spider climbing up the American Eagle roller coaster at Six Flags Great America while driving up to Lake Geneva for a fall get-away each year.

And taking Ainsley to trick or treat with her favorite Looney Tunes character through the Character Candy Trail or seeing The Wiggles' Halloween Show probably would be fun.

But there ends my interest in the theme park's 20th annual Fright Fest.

The mere thought of the "Saw Live" haunted house makes me tense with anxiety. I do not want to have my nerves tested by iconic traps based on scenes from the film. Nor am I interested in visiting the "Mausoleum of Terror: The Horror Heart of Necropolis," where decaying citizens hope to take revenge on me for the simple fact that I am alive and they are not.

I'm still recovering, in fact, from a childhood trip to the Homewood Jaycees haunted house. I remember details of the visit quite clearly. Terror has a way of burning images on your brain. The first couple of stations in the house should have been a sign to me - or at least to my parents. Things were looking pretty scary, and my mom and dad stopped to talk to a trio of witches about whether this house might be a little too haunted for me at my tender age.

Why did they pick the witches? I was deathly afraid of witches. My mother actually forbade me from watching "The Wizard of Oz" for a couple of years after images of the Wicked Witch of the West kept me awake for a couple of nights after the film aired on TV.

These witches actually were quite pleasant. They responded in character for a while, until they realized the extent of my fear. I remember them dropping their witch voices and telling us what was to come, as if knowing what would scare the pants off me in advance would make me any less scared.

It did not. I tried a similar tactic years later as a counselor of a summer journalism camp at Northern Illinois University, where I was forced to watch "Scream" instead of the more appropriate and less bloody "All the President's Men." A fellow counselor and fan of the film supplied a detailed narration, telling me about every frightening thing before it happened. I still had nightmares.

Anyway, the witches prepared us to the best of their ability and off we went. I clung to the outer walls of the walkway as much as possible and tried not to attract the attention of any of the vampires, ghosts or goblins we passed.

I thought I was doing pretty well until we had to step over a hole in the ground that was home to some sort of monster. The creature reached up from his vertical cell and grabbed my ankle. I must have kicked the poor guy playing him, because my mom, walking behind me, saw him cradling his hand in pain.

Petrified, I bolted. My parents followed me and soon we found ourselves lost and scared in a part of the house that was not on the tour. A helpful ghoul must have witnessed our departure from the main route and directed us to the exit.

I still remember how bright the daylight seemed after being trapped in that dark and horrifying place for at least four or five minutes.

I have been to a haunted house or two (no more!) since and have found the experience to be a bit more enjoyable. But I'm quite confident that I'm no match for Jigsaw and whatever else is lurking in the Saw haunted house.

Spotting a 200-pound spider from Interstate 294 is spooky enough for me.

-Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. This column was first published Oct. 14, 2010.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean