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Allegheny

Blindfolded and barked at: The Scarehouse Basement tests mettle

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, 10:15 a.m.
The  “Happy Clown” in The Basement of Scarehouse in Etna Saturday, September 21 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
The “Happy Clown” in The Basement of Scarehouse in Etna Saturday, September 21 2013.

Hello. My name is Kristy and I’m a horror addict.

I hang out in cemeteries. My wardrobe consists of monster T-Shirts and black jeans. I can quote “The Exorcist” verbatim. There are more pictures of zombies in my apartment then there are of my family. I have numerous skull tattoos.

All that being said, the ScareHouse Basement frightened the bejsus out of me.

Six years ago, the Etna-based haunt introduced the adults-only attraction to give freaks like myself more boo for their buck. Unlike the traditional walk-through – which has enough thrills and chills to satisfy even the most diehard Halloween fan – The Basement requires guests to sign a waiver before entering.

Why?

Well, in addition to high-voltage effects, moments of complete darkness, strong scents and an abundance of fog, there’s plenty of R-rated language and sexual content. This isn’t a place for people with pacemakers or weak bladders. And unless they’re carrying a demon spawn, pregnant ladies should avoid this place like the plague.

I visited on a busy Friday night. The ScareHouse mascot, a deranged, axe-wielding rabbit, greeted me with a silent, unblinking stare. Thankfully, I was rescued from his creepy gaze by staff members including Owner Scott Simmons, Marketing Director Katie Dudas and The Basement Manager Tracy Campbell.

These are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, but every weekend in October they gleefully reduce grown men and women into hysterical, sobbing messes. They’re sadistic and I love them for it.

“You’re going in alone?” Tracy asked, raising her eyebrows.

I felt my throat tighten. “Yep,” I squeaked, signing my name on the waiver with a trembling hand.

After I checked my purse and cellphone at the ticket booth, Tracy lead me to a waiting area, where four other people sat looking pale and regretful. There was a lot of nervous laughter and foot-tapping going on.

One of the actors asked us to stand up and join hands in a circle. We all obliged and grasped each other’s sweaty palms. We talked about our greatest fears and then our host offered us some roasted crickets to snack on. Most folks declined, but my stomach was growling like a werewolf, so I popped the insect into my mouth. It tasted like burnt popcorn. I suddenly wanted my mommy … and a mint.

Two guys headed into The Basement first, followed, moments later, by a pair of young women who immediately retreated back to the safety of the courtyard.

One of them was on the verge of tears.

“I can’t do it,” she told her friend, who calmly, but firmly, reminded her that they had just spent $50 on non-refundable tickets.

I offered to buy them drinks at a nearby bar if they made it through. Emboldened by the promise of free booze, they re-entered the maze. I heard them shrieking the whole way.

I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of The Basement, because not knowing what you’re in for is part of the fun, but what I can tell you is that it’s an uncomfortable, claustrophobic experience that’s worth every penny. I was blindfolded and barked at and forced to divulge personal information. I prayed for it to be over, yet didn’t want it to end.

When I finally did emerge from The Basement about 30 minutes later, I saw the girls who went in before me. They, too, completed the demonic course, but declined the drinks.

I guess they had had enough spirits for one night.

Kristy Locklin is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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