Halloween Die-ary: October 28, 2018

Taking my kids trick-or-treating at an old warehouse with blood spattered walls and hallways full of corpses and ghouls has become a Halloween tradition for me.

For the past three years, I’ve taken them to Fright Kingdom’s Hardly Haunted event. Fright Kingdom is a single-building multi-haunt here in Nashua. It’s a really great one. And, of course, it’s usually for adults. But the last Sunday afternoon in October, they transform it into a kid’s Halloween Party venue.

Or they try to.

The staff at Fright Kingdom throw children’s character masks on all their movie monster props and exhibits on the indoor Monster Midway—Spiderman strapped to Pumpkinhead’s gourd. Jake of the Neverland Pirates atop Freddy Kreuger’s burned visage. A mask of Mickey Mouse atop the mask of Michael Myers. They then have face painting and coloring activities and a dance floor and ice cream and costumed characters to interact with like Snow White and Elmo and those inflatable T. Rex’s that are infesting the world. It’s a Halloween party.

But then, the real brilliance: They let the kids trick-or-treat the actual haunts.

They take a section of the five haunts, use tarps to cover up bloodstains and grisly scenes, throw more kids masks onto ghouls (and sometimes kid ghouls), and then station staff in welcoming costumes with small cauldrons of candy at various turns of the maze for kids to trick-or-treat instead of neighborhood porches.

My favorite part of this experience is listening to the guides who lead the trick-or-treaters through the maze try to explain away bloodstains and decay and cobwebs as food stains and the dangers of not cleaning rooms. It’s pretty great. Because here’s why.

The kids aren’t fooled.

Kids spend their whole lives trying to peek through the fences we erect around them to see the all the horrors of the world that we’re hiding. That’s why they’re constantly bombarding us with questions, waiting for us to slip up, to say something contradictory or accidentally honest.

Fright Kingdom’s Hardly Haunted embraces that metaphor. I mean, you could throw an event like this at the mall and it would be a great dry run for your kids’ costumes and a way to get candy, but it wouldn’t be near as interesting or compelling as trick-or-treating in an actual haunt. It wouldn’t be near as…Halloween, the holiday that teaches kids to flay the monsters that usual scare them and wear their skins for door-to-door rewards.

Now my four-year-old won’t stop begging me to seee the movie with the demon in the well after seeing Samara from The Ring on the midway, despite the Dora the Explorer mask she wore. My eight-year-old hushes her in a frightened panic every time. I still haven’t decided either way.

At home with our small candy haul, we watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, despite the groans from my eldest. She hates this cartoon, although she hasn’t been able to articulate to me why. She’s usually up for anything. Some future season, I’ll dig into that. Afterwards, Lindsey and I started on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix and Expedition Unknown: The Search for the Afterlife on the Travel Channel.

Three more days until it’s time to think about mandatory gift giving and saccharine TV programming and moralistic metaphors and lost family members all the other horrors of Christmas. And more lying to our children, of course.