Horror Writers Association

Halloween Haunts: The Last Haunted House I Remember by Kristina Stancil


Growing up in the Bible Belt I felt like an outcast.  I didn’t care about Miss Piggy and her jewels that she always raved about.  I was down with the Count.  I didn’t have the typical upbringing.  I was told Santa Claus didn’t exist at a young age but witches, ghosts, magic, etc. were spoken of as real.  There was nothing to be afraid of because a good ghost followed the family and kept us safe.

Whether it was the psychological makeup of my mom or the fact it was ingrained into me not to be outgoing but even though I adored Halloween I did not know that we actually had haunted houses in our town.  The last haunted house I remember was when I was in first grade.  It is memorable to me as my first black eye and the reason that I was not out trick or treating like I had the first six years of my life.  It was one of the first times that what I thought was normal and fun was looked at as devil worship.  Anyone who knows me or has read my articles knows that I have been watching horror for as long as I can remember.  So to be told that having blond hair and blue eyes made me a potential victim for sacrifice really freaked me out.  Sort of how Tommy Doyle felt in Halloween when the bullies kept telling him the Boogeyman was coming for him.  Of course his black and white horror features had nothing on the splatter gore of the 70s and early 80s that fueled my imagination.  The kids in my class actually had me thinking I was the main one being targeted….even though I didn’t really know what blond, blue eyed virgin meant at the time.  So I was sent far out of town “for my protection” and run into my age old nemesis, Freddy Krueger.  While the revving of the chainsaw was scaring, coming around the corner to look up at the claws in my face had me running into someone’s elbow and screaming out the door, “they found me.”  My big brother was a know-it-all and was quick to call me stupid, that it wasn’t specifically me they were after. I honestly think he was embarrassed and this could be why I was never let in on the possibility of future haunted houses even if I was an avid viewer of KARK Little Rock’s Tales of Haunted Arkansas that they showed every Halloween week.

In checking my facts I decided to check in with some friends from elementary and high school who are now the go to in Arkansas for scares.  The girls I never suspected they would be into the macabre as I was and the guy, I’d known since second grade the Carter boys were cool. Brooke Raley, Alisha and Corey Carter made me realize maybe our town was not as fearful in the aftermath of the killing in West Memphis as I had been led to believe.  Then again Corey remembers the best haunted house, at the fairgrounds being around 88-90.  Which was about the time he nicknamed me “Sicky Vicky” after our beloved Garbage Pail Kids since we had another Kristina in our class.

So perhaps my first haunted house experience had as much to do with the West Memphis Killings dampening my Halloween fun as an older child and a teenager. The fact that the three boys were charged on circumstantial evidence and paranoia over their innocent interest in an Earth based religion known as Wicca had nothing to do with me in particular except I now know that is what my mom was doing with her candles.  I wasn’t allowed to tell people how my mom like to do candle magic and it was further harped upon when people found out my closest friend at the time was dark, foreboding, and had a black cat.  So the cat thought it was a human, so did the cat on Sabrina The Teenage Witch and cats in reality that I have known.

I guess as kids we were all tried so hard to fit in with our own closest friends we didn’t really talk about those with people that we didn’t deeply trust….then.  Corey, if he ever hid his interest in the bizarre or weird certainly doesn’t hide it now.  He and Alisha actually make me want to visit Arkansas again.  About eight years ago Corey started the most well known haunted house in the state, Fear Factory 501.  No longer do the kids in Arkansas have to come up with their own fun on Halloween, like I did.  Parents pay them to actually scare their kids and from what I hear he is pretty good at it.  I wish when we were kids we would have had a fun safe place to go get the bejesus scared out of us without the spectator of the moral majority forcing their belief system on it.

Kristina Stancil has a Masters in Literature, coordinates the HWA’s Gulf Coast Chapter, and owns Blood Reign Lit.


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