Paradigm Lost: Survival Guide
October 28, 2009 by Christine Sawyer
The Netherworld Haunted House in Norcross, Ga., rated No. 1 in Fangoria’s Top 20 Hometown Haunts of 2009, is celebrating its auspicious thirteenth year of existence.
When my brother called to see if I wanted to pay this Netherworld a visit, I responded “No, but thank you,” swallowing just a tiny tremor in my vocal cords. Inwardly, however, my entire arsenal of neurotic defense mechanisms was switching into high-alert mode at the susurrous utterance of … haunted house.
A vivid, borderline obsessive imagination could be the reason why I feel so defenseless to the monster of fear. Perniciously invading many media outlets—movies, television, video games, fake radio ads for OnStar, etc.—the monster finds little difficulty in making itself known through me: cold, sweating palms; the tighter squeeze of a blanket; persisting hallucinations, as my brain tries to pinpoint those liquid after-bedtime shadows and guess what they’re up to after my eyes flutter shut; even “mere mentions” are enough to throw my heart into an odd rhythm of palpitations:
The insatiable undead, eroded fingers in perpetual reach.
Spiteful Japanese spirits, a restless flicker of evil brooding behind their feral black manes.
Ectoplasm (not in the cellular membrane sense, of course).
From the obligatory marathon of Halloween-themed episodes and movies on TV networks across University Cablevision, to the physically real horror of treading through dark-lit passages of haunted houses like Netherworld, fear could be anywhere, from the murkiest of puddles to the most crystalline of Camp Crystal Lakes. It gives you this tingling sensation that something is always just a cool breath behind you.
So as we approach another All Hallow’s Eve, the post-Druidic concept of which I am a huge enthusiast minus the aforesaid elements (is there any rational opposition to free candy, costume parties and bobbing for apples?), perhaps we easily jumpy folk could use a mini pocket survival guide to a few of the more common manifestations of horror that have rooted themselves in the American psyche.
Presented here are five familiar situations that may metaphorically knock on your door in the coming days, and not in the endearing guises of young trick-or-treaters. Although there are doubtless many more psychologically profound tactics to cope with fear, like “flooding,” these are just some homegrown bits that may be easier to remember in your time of need. Additionally, some may be more practical than others, depending on the likelihood of the situation. (See Item No. 5)
The model is presented like this: A terrifying, how-did-I-even-get-here scenario, followed by a tip on how to survive it.
1. I’m watching my morbid friends/weird sibling engage in a survival horror game. They must never know that while they are button-mashing an endless legion of menacing cadavers to a transitory death, deep inside I too am dying – from raw fear. And seeing a rather detailed display of severed body parts.
Survival horror is possibly a zillion times worse than just plain scary “horror.” Imagining yourself in the protagonist’s combat boots hacking your way through the freak creations of CG designers with a taste for the macabre can be enough to do you in. And the glory of increasingly realistic game environments for these decidedly unnatural inhabitants to stalk you through may be a little more virtual reality than desired.
One trick is to find a “bestiary” of the game’s enemies and acquaint yourself with each of the little vermin’s stats – which levels and geographic areas they’re condemned to idle through, their ease of defeat, likelihood of recurrence, and most common attacks.
Not only would this help demystify some of Resident Evil’s more bloodcurdling assaulters, but if you’re lucky, it may render you the Connoisseur of Fiends among your friends as well as those of your weird sibling’s. And thus, in times of intense game play, you have just become an extremely useful gamer’s companion.
2. I’m seeing a scary movie against my will or better judgment.
Get earplugs. Leave them in. Enjoy your greasy tub of popcorn without hurling the better part of it on your seat neighbors and the Coke-sticky floor whenever something demonic appears on the screen.
A huge part of many horror movies is their accompanying soundtrack. The onset of creepy music—that mélange of cacophonous, instrumental shrieks—has an interesting way of queuing a chorus of screams and seat jumps. You can lessen this apprehension by blocking a major sensory component of it—in this case, sound—such that the sudden appearance of a cutlery-wielding undead hand doesn’t feel quite as sudden or alarming. Who knows? It may even be the young, misunderstood kid of daddy Thing.
3. I’m camping out at a haunted house to scrounge up some dare bucks.
Though your name and picture may appear under the dictionary’s entry for “wimp,” you are first and foremost an impoverished scholar. When the opportunity to make a buck presents itself, you jump in line and ask questions later.
Whatever the case, do not do as the Blair Witch kids have done. Never venture in alone (even if prerequisites for the dare bucks say you must), under-equipped for some paranormal action or without at least three solid escape plans.
Smuggle in your small pet, at the least. Camp out as close to an exit door or window on the ground floor as you can, ensuring every few minutes that said exit has not mysteriously been latched shut to prevent an unthinkable escape from eternal confinement.
You can also draft more escape plans as you huddle with your SureFire M6 Guardian and 2-liter bottle of Dew through the long, long night.
4. Actually, I am going to Netherworld (or some other historic building/warehouse serving as a makeshift haunted house). I feel irrevocably doomed.
Well, yes. Unless you are in cohorts with the actors, actresses, sound effects people, and general organizers of the H.H., managing some arrangement of “sanctuary zones” in room after possessed room of spine-tingling, heart-attacking madness—doom may indeed be pending.
5. My car broke down on a small deserted road, and it’s been miles since I passed a gas station. My cell’s dead, and it’s getting dark outside pretty fast. Also, I can’t be sure, but I think I hear a low, menacing growl in the nearby thickets. But thank heavens for OnStar! Let me just…
Stay in your car. Turn off your lights. Pray hard for sunrise and Sgt. Brock L. Killemawl’s army tank to miraculously rove by.
And never, ever call OnStar if you suspect that an abominable, flesh-hungry creature of the night is lurking just outside the thin metal frame of your car. Onstar will remotely unlock your doors.
And you will be hastily devoured.
-Christine Sawyer is a senior majoring in public relations at the University of Georgia. She would kill for some favors candy corn as her Halloween treat of choice.