I know this goes without saying, but traveling with children is not easy. In general, living with children is not easy. One of the more infuriating phenomena, in either case, is when you plan out, with enthusiastic diligence, an event for which god-fearing children should be grateful and/or sh*t-in-their-pants excited, and they just simply are not. It makes you want to leave them in an closed field of feral cows while you drive away quickly, your Sirius on Lithium and at maximum volume.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, if someone told me that I would be spending a nice chunk of my day 600ft underground with a colony of bats, and stalagmites (tites? I forget) that look like R2D2, I would’ve been sh*t-in-my-pants excited.
Yes, I used to quarantine myself to the shadowed section of the P.E. courtyard with my pentagram necklace, quietly acting out L.J. Smith imaginations with a like-minded middle-school degenerate, but that’s not the point. Caverns are cool. Both Mila and Jack vehemently disagree.
Here, please enjoy these pictures. Because Rich and I cannot, because they remind us of the seventh layer of hell, which, as it turns out, lies 600ft below a smoky mountain, in a spectacularly lighted tour with four good strangers who want to murder your children.
Mila has a
demon print quirk to which I’ll never respond with understanding calm.
If she gets A DROP of water on her clothing or shoes (SHE WAS WEARING FLIP FLOPS), her entire world collapses. Collapses. No geotic phantasmagoria, no surprisingly witty, back-country tour guide or underground light show can cure her.
Someday Rich and I will have to come back and do it ourselves. (Rich and I getting the chance to “do it”, by the way, is becoming a nebulous memory. We have an ongoing tournament of musical beds here–creaky floorboards and spider sightings does not a full night of toddler sleep make. Aaanyway…)
So we headed back to Gatlinburg for the sky lift, a dizzying chair ride to the 1800ft summit of Crocket Mountain, where the kids mined for gems and ate ice cream sandwiches, to the most magnificent backdrop of sun-kissed crags and bustling tourism. It was a good palate cleanser and definitely a memory I’ll visit often in future meditative escape.
And then, as we’re walking back to the car, we find THIS PLACE:
Remember how we couldn’t go to Ripley’s Haunted Adventure because all the kids are under 6yrsold and the ticket guy wouldn’t give us a break on the age minimum? Well thank goodness, because this place got to be our first taste of Tennessee hauntings, and I couldn’t be more pleased about it.
I wrote a lot on my other blog about how much I love everything horror: film, lit, tv, animatronics, paraphernalia and art of all sorts. I can’t say when the obsession started, only that it’s persisted pretty heavily for as long as I can remember.
It was the thread that held my marriage together–my ex was a big horrorhound, also, so for a few years I had a Screamfest buddy and someone who mostly didn’t sabotage my dream of hosting my very own haunted house in my very own home.
We did so in our mangy Treasure Island, St. Petersburg “bungalow” (the inspiration for Lu’s house in Westward to Strange), around the time I held a three-month position as Assistant Manager at a Forever21 (I totally, TOTALLY get why people hate retail so much). A random stint that, by the grace of Cthulhu, coincided with a floorset overhaul. So I became the happy owner of eight very skinny mannequins, and thus put my haunted house dream-to-reality venture into motion.
At the end of our neighborhood trial, we had more than two hundred retirees pass through our door, and we were featured in a few local papers. It was very cool. Anyway, so I’m REALLY into haunted houses. I REALLY like unique, off-the-grid ones. And here one was, in a break of pasty passersby, sitting there like Pennywise in a tourist crudite.
We had NO idea what it was all about. It was a small building, so it couldn’t really be a Haunted House, but it had all the fixings you’d expect: ghouls, music, goth ticket girl…
The next show (show!) was to start in eight minutes, and so we just hung around, people watching, until she told us to head in.
Inside was a small theater, replete with vintage fabric-covered pews, illusion mirrors and moving furniture. A talking head took us through an invocation of the spirits that lasted about twenty minutes, during which we were plunged into darkness and whispering phantasms became angry, howling succubi.
The kids were completely terrified. Jack went ape-sh*t trying to pull out all of his hair, Mila kept her head buried into my shoulder, and Lucy is already showing evidence of significant scarring. Total win.
So that about does it for Day Three. We went back to the cabin–which the kids are now calling ‘home’–and Rich grilled some BBQ chicken and corn. It was very good, and I’ve already gained about five pounds. Goodnight, Y’all. As they say in these parts.