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The Lesson of Our Haunted House Disaster

posted in: Confessing the Blessings, Storytellers | 0 |
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A still from 1991’s movie Haunted. (Image via Wikipedia.)


The lady at the ticket booth said the haunted house wasn’t “too scary” for little kids. Boy, was she wrong. It all got me thinking: What’s the difference between fun scares and reveling in evil?


I grew up celebrating Halloween; I loved it as a kid. I have allowed my own kids to participate in the fun. They enjoy dressing up and going out in the dark to ask for candy. But we keep it all in good fun; we do not dress up as ghosts and witches. We don’t celebrate the darkness. Unfortunately, we had an experience of celebrating Halloween in a way we’re not accustomed to.

Our local gymnastics center was putting on a kid-friendly haunted house. Normally I would never bring my kids to a haunted house, but this one was aimed for young children and “kid friendly”. With the title “Ghoulish Giggles”, I didn’t feel like I had anything to worry about.

As I walked with my two younger kids, we passed by a lot of frazzled looking parents. One child was crying. At first I CONFESSINGdidn’t think much of it, but then I overheard a mom say to another: “It was pretty scary!” and I began to have some doubts. I asked the lady at the ticket booth what to expect; she told me it wasn’t “too scary” and that the lights were kept on in the haunted house. That didn’t sound too bad, so we went in.

We stumbled about through the maze in semi-darkness (the ticket lady said the lights would be “on,” but they were dimmed as low as they could go), and got caught and wrapped up with spider webs that hung down on the ceiling. Loud screams and moans blasted overhead. And where I had expected to find kids dressed in cute costumes handing out candy, we saw scary witches and demons hiding in dark corners to scare us. At the end of the maze was an “evil clown” who appeared to be lifeless, but then eerily lifted his head with a dead stare as you walked by. All this time, my kids was screaming and crying, begging me to get them out. All around me, I heard little children whimpering and crying while parents tried to console them. We  walked out shaken, and I understood now why the parents I had seen before looked as frazzled as they did.

When does ‘good fun’ become ‘disturbing’?

I felt terrible about what happened and especially for Anna and Henry, who still visibly shudders to this day whenever the haunted house is discussed. I can see that it left an emotional scar when instead all I wanted was to give them a good time with Halloween fun. Perhaps, more disturbing than anything else, is the fact that my other two kids enjoyed the haunted house and didn’t see any harm in it. They argued with me that it was all in good fun; the scary witch and the evil clown were just actors, the blood was fake. Nothing really bad had happened.

I have heard this all before from friends in my lifetime who regularly went to haunted houses and horror movies. In fact, just down the road from us is a Halloween attraction that is very popular. They have many positive reviews about the chain saw massacres, the “asylum circus act”, and the “little dead children” strewn about in cornfields. But it’s all in good fun, they say. It isn’t bad, because it’s only pretend.

It goes both ways

Our minds are precious things. Like other God-given gifts in our lives, we can use our imagination for good or for evil. With the rosary, we are using our mind by contemplating on the goodness of God. We use our imaginations as we meditating on His miracles, His teachings, and His mercy. And as we meditate and think, our souls are being conditioned and formed. Holiness is happening, even if we don’t always know it. The more we expose our souls to things of holiness, the holier we become. The more we practice our Christian faith, the more we become like Christ. The more we practice charity, love and forgiveness, the more peace we have in our hearts. Body and soul work together in the formation of holiness.

The same holds true for evil. The more we expose ourselves to evil things, the easier it becomes to accept evil. The more horror movies we watch, the easier it is to watch someone’s head get hacked off with a chain saw. The more haunted houses we go to, the more we will crave to be scared. And just like holiness, we will go deeper, want more, crave more. Scary will no longer be enough, darkness has to be darker, evil has to eviler. And it’s hiding behind “all in good fun.”

Using God’s gifts to glorify Him

The only good thing I can say that came from this experience is that it gave an opportunity to talk about the responsibility God gives us in how we use His gifts. I explained to the kids how God wants us to have fun, but that He desires that our fun remains pure and good. We want to celebrate the good things in life: the heroes, the firefighters, the princesses or even the food we love to eat like a hot dog or pizza. We don’t want to celebrate things that are not of God or against Him: evil witches, scary ghosts, chain saw murderers or zombie children. We want Him to look down and smile at our creative costumes, how we put our imagination to good use and how we can glorify Him in it. We want to please Him with keeping our thoughts and minds with things that are of God, and out of darkness where evil lurks.

Our minds are a gift from God and it is possible to celebrate Halloween without the evil, if we aim all our actions and thoughts toward God.

“Look, you will soon face a dangerous crisis; the devil will try to ensnare you… He will convince you that certain things are not sinful. Then you’ll have to tussle with friends and what they might say, with [dangerous] readings, with your own passions, and so on. Be on your guard. Do not let the devil rob you of that peace of mind and purity of soul which makes you God’s friends!”  —St.John Bosco

Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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