Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Maze

Every October the owners of a house a couple of towns over erect a haunted maze in their backyard.  It’s not-for-profit, just for-fun, and it’s a spooky treat for the little ones as well as for the adults.  They go all out, and it shows, and it’s appreciated. 

We’ve gone three out of the past four years, though I did not go the first year (stayed at home with a still-in-diapers Patch).  This past Saturday, me, the wife, Little One and Patch, as well as our good friends and their children, all stopped by for an hour or so trip through the creepy labyrinth. 

First, as you pull up, I’m always a little leery at the sheer suburbanness of it all.  How do their neighbors not call the police on them?  Saturday at 7 pm must be prime time, because a dozen SUVs crowded the real estate all around the house.  Anyway, we got the little ones out and across the dark street without event.  Then, the fun began.

A large, disembodied hand greets you at the front of the driveway.  Then – and you never quite know where – voices catch your ear and movement catches your eye every couple of feet.  Animatronic witches and zombies move and cackle with glowing eyes.  Freddy Krueger menaced a line of maze-goers from a fir tree next to the garage. 

Then: the maze itself.

From the outside, it looks tiny.  Incredibly tiny.  I’d estimate it at twenty by twenty feet, four hundred square feet inside.  Probably a couple hundred wooden stakes planted every two or three feet held up rows and rows of burlap.  Klieg lights flood the yard with blinding white light, but once inside the maze it gets a bit dark and murky.  In falls past there would be dry-ice smoke, but there wasn’t any this time.  Only twenty-five people at a time were allowed inside; any more, the owner said to us waiting on line to get in, and the slightest scare could cause a “herd stampede through the nearest burlap wall.”

Little One and her girl friend went in ahead of us, to their sheer delight.  Me and the wife, with a nervous but brave Patch sandwiched between us, followed.  Once you went in the labyrinth, you were in a labyrinth.  The corridors were narrow, about two feet across I’d guess.  If my math’s correct that means only a hundred feet of winding path, but the sheer amount of twisting and forking made it feel like it was four or five times as much.  The walls were about seven feet high; you couldn’t see out, and some stretches had a burlap overlap as a ceiling.  Occasionally there’s a door you could push through; these are unmarked.  Sometimes a mirror is hung.  Sometimes a baby or a skull.  There was a “Snake Room” where a dozen rubber snakes adorned the walls; this turned out to be an integral clue to finding your way out.  Then you had to find the “hall of hands,” a ten-foot section where bloodied stumps poked you.  Once you got here, you could almost find your way out.  I got past the Snake Room and the Hall of Hands three times before finding my way out.

Oh, and when the crowd thins, they have a Clown and a Demon sneak about grabbing your legs.  Fortunately, since we had Patch with us, they were not causing mischief this night.

Quickly I got separated from my family.  Kept passing the same people over and over.  Caught up with Little One but found it hard to keep up with her.  Didn’t matter, because she’d get us lost anyway.  Outside the maze stood a deck where the owner’s wife camped out with a bullhorn to help anyone who needed it.  On the deck you could look down into the maze and see everyone scurrying blindly about, like rats in the dark.  My buddy was next to her and, looking down on helpless me, relentlessly mocked my helplessness.  Several times I passed the entrance and thought about leaving that way, but that would be like admitting defeat and opening yourself up to the wholesale mockery of two dozen strangers. 

Finally, after thirty minutes in, I was the last one of our party to part the secret doors and exit the haunted maze on the far side.  Our friends had already left, but my family was still there.  Patch, who started to lose it in the maze (so bad that my wife had to exit via the entrance with her), came up to me and said, “Dad!  I can’t believe you kept going through the wrong door!”

Wait till next year!  I have a secret to find my way out first …

No comments: