On the eve of the haunted house event, I arrived at the Honors House to begin setting up at approximately 6:00 p.m.. I was stationed in the dining room, a room we were going to somehow turn into the scene of a surgery with four white bedsheets and 42,000-ish white plastic table cloths. The goal, of course, was to recreate the sterile white terror of the operating room. We began to cover the extensively brown walls of our room. Here we hit our first snag. As you may or may not know, white plastic table cloths are incredibly thin. They are so thin, in fact, that they do nothing to cover the dark brown walls of the dining room unless one chooses to layer them. As we began the evening with four table cloths, this presented an issue. Luckily the ever-wonderful Brooke Mayer saved the day, bringing us more sheets in the eleventh hour. We were saved from one struggle only to face the next.
Having decorated our room, we moved on to decorating ourselves. The characters in our room consisted of two doctors, two patients, and a scary man in a mask who could stalk our guests through the room creepily. I volunteered to play a patient strapped to a chair about to have some sort of awful head surgery. We began creepening ourselves up: whitening faces, darkening eyes, bloodying ourselves up. Unfortunately it was at this time we discovered that the fake blood didn’t look particularly bloody on skin or fabric. Another actor in the house solved this problem with chocolate syrup, which does in fact look an awful lot like dried blood when smudged onto skin and fabric. (Also, fun fact about chocolate blood! In Psycho the blood swirling down the shower drain is indeed chocolate syrup.) You may at first think that covering yourself in chocolate sounds like a dream come true, but there are some side effects one might not take into consideration in those fantasies, such as the horrific stickiness and the overwhelming smell.
Alas, this was not the last of my food-based haunted house horrors. Did you know that flour and water mixed look like scars on skin? That’s because it doesn’t. I learned this fact the hard way. Having been told otherwise I let someone glop the pasty mixture onto my neck and shoulders. Having been covered in various foods, it was time to begin.
The doctor (portrayed by the somewhat terrifying Maren Orchard) strapped me to a chair with some plastic cords. Here began the real struggle. The cords ran across the chocolate on my arms, making the cords stick to my skin. This effect was exacerbated when the hauntening began in earnest. As we performed and more and more people entered the house, the dining room began to warm up. Now, while this caused nowhere near as much sweat as the table, it did cause just enough to prevent the chocolate from drying fully. The continually damp chocolate remained sticky, and my skin remained stuck to the plastic cords for most of the house. Somehow, however, the dampening effect didn’t extend to the flour/water paste. The paste dried into a hard pointy crust that stuck firmly to my skin and itched like nobody’s business. The more it dried the more bothersome it was. By the time the house was half over I began picking at it as soon as visitors left the room. I thought I was going to lose my mind. The crust was shockingly painful to rip off, and the cords were also shockingly painful to unstick from the chocolate. As anyone who knows me well has heard upwards of a million times, I truly dislike having gross things on my skin. I can’t handle the sensation of having water on my hands after I wash them, a continual source of irritation to my mother who gets stuck waiting for me to dry my hands completely. The evening was full of unpleasant sensations.
By 9:50, ten minutes from the end of the house, the restraining cords had turned brown from the chocolate and the floor around my chair was covered in picked off flour paste flakes. The line was cut off. We were nearly there. Everyone in the dining room was feeling the sticky, crunchy exhaustion setting in, but we rallied. We did it. We scared those last fifteen people, and we did a darn good job. The last group went through, and we were free. Free to sprint to the bathroom, rip off our costumes, and feel the sweet, sweet relief of washing off all the various food items. The crust fell off, the chocolate flowed down the drain, and I was once more able to move without sticking or crunching.