5. A haunted house filled with old butlers wandering aimlessly through dimly lit corridors. I have a terrible fear of butlers, these creepy old English men lurking around your home at night, cleaning ancient mahogany furniture, living in some broom closet — always silent, always respectful. What do they want? You can’t trust someone who’s organized his entire life around cleaning. My worst nightmare: I wake up to a soft squeaking noise. I get up, enter the pitch black living room, flick on the light — there’s a butler compulsively wiping off a glass coffee table with a rag. He lifts his head and stares at me with the glazed dead eyes of the eternally damned. He says, “Don’t worry, sir. I’ll never stop cleaning. Never stop cleaning. Never stop cleaning.”
I remember a Tomb Raider game where Lara Croft starts out in her mansion as the tutorial. A creepy old butler would follow you from room to room, outdoors, upstairs. You could shoot him, but he’d block the bullets with a serving tray. You could try to outrun him, but he’d find you eventually. He always found you. And he farted all the time too, so when exploring the dark attic, you couldn’t see him, but you could hear him farting somewhere nearby. Nothing funny about it — just terrifying.
4. A haunted house you enter through a giant stone version of Paul Giamatti’s grimacing mouth. As you approach, a megaphone blasts an audio loop of him going, “Eugh,” and one animatronic eye squints horribly. Through his mouth, you traverse rooms in which lookalikes reenact the most depressing scenes from various Paul Giamatti movies. Here’s the scene from Sideways when Paul Giamatti says, “I’m a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage.” Here’s the scene from American Splendor where he says, “I felt more alone that week than any. Sometimes I’d feel a body lying next to me like an amputee feels a phantom limb.” One room has Paul Giamatti staring off a highway overpass at cars passing beneath him. Another room has Paul Giamatti saying to a doctor, “Are you telling me my soul is a chick pea?” There’s even the scene from Big Momma’s House where Paul Giamatti describes how his marriage dissolved after he caught his wife having sex with the gardener.
3. A haunted house that’s an exact replica of your parents’ home. Incubus plays at a low volume from hidden speakers throughout the house, and a familiar voice says, “You used to love this music.” Who was that? Where did that voice come from? You enter the kitchen, and there’s a guy the haunted house hired because he looks vaguely like you, and he’s dressed in your clothes (they consulted your Facebook after you ordered your tickets online). He says, “You’re not handsome, smart, or funny. Not really. Why don’t you just kill yourself?” You hear someone behind you — it’s an old man dressed in your clothes. He says, “No one will ever love you. You’ll never get married, you’ll never even have another girlfriend, and when you die, it’ll be alone in a rented apartment in a town where no one ever knows your name.” Horrified, you flee to your childhood bedroom and hide in the closet. For ten minutes, you sit in the dark, shaking. Then you realize there’s a boy’s face hovering centimeters from yours, and he too is dressed in your clothes albeit a smaller size. He says, “I thought I would be better than this when I grew up, that I would have achieved something, done something.” Then he whispers, “If I’d known you were my future, I would’ve killed myself.” Before your eyes, his teeth grow into shark teeth, and he tears open your stomach, spreads your entrails around the closet like party streamers, and sucks on your eyeballs. “Nom nom nom,” he says. “Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom.”
2. A haunted house built to look like an Applebee’s, and as you enter, you look around and notice all your ex girlfriends/ boyfriends dining with their new more attractive girlfriends/ boyfriends. And when you listen to the new boyfriends/ girlfriends talk, you soon realize they’re smarter, funnier, and overall higher quality human beings. You say to one of them, “You’re not so great,” and the new boyfriend/ girlfriend, “Yes, we are,” and you know it’s true, of course it’s true, you always knew it was true. He/ she says, “The world is filled with social well-adjusted human beings like us. What’s your problem? What’s your excuse for being awkward all the time? Do you think it’s cool to be a depressing weirdo?” You have no answer. One by one, each of your ex girlfriends/ boyfriends says the most emotionally debilitating thing they can think of. One says, “You were never sexually attractive to me, and that’s why I broke up with you.” Another says, “I only dated you out of boredom.” Another says, “I don’t even think about you.” You say to no one in particular, “I don’t understand how the managers of this haunted house found you all, hired you, and brought you here.” You say, “I think this is probably the worst Halloween ever,” and one ex girlfriend/ boyfriend says, “That’s so typical. You can’t enjoy anything. Apropos of nothing, you’re ugly.”
1. A haunted house where every room is filled with chocolate—chocolate rivers, chocolate fountains, chocolate bunnies, chocolate trees, chocolate cats, chocolate sculptures of Spider-Man — but you can’t have any of it. Every time you try and grab a chunk of Peter Parker’s chocolate face, an old butler slaps my hand and says, “No.” You say, “But I–,” and he says, “No.” You say, “Please! I will do anything. Anything.” He says, “No.” You drop to your knees and have a full throttle temper tantrum like a small child. You try to leave, but the doors are locked. For days, you live in this building full of chocolate, starving to death, drinking from a small dog dish of water next to a chocolate sculpture of Ben Reilly. Finally, when you can’t stand it any longer, the butler brings out a garbage bag filled with fruits and vegetables. He hands you a piece of broccoli, and you look at it, and you cry. You cry at the sheer unimaginable horror of a world where all the gross things are good for you, and you cry at a world where all the delicious things give you diabetes and cavities.