PERSPECTIVE: Don’t let past fears “haunt” you

Cameron Gorman headshot

Cameron Gorman

Editor’s note: During the week of Halloween, the opinion section of the Kent Stater will be featuring the scariest, spookiest and most haunting stories from our columnists and staff. Here’s a preview of what is to come!

This past weekend, I knew my family was going to be up for some fall-themed “fun” activities. My mother is the kind of parent who likes to create family traditions (which I do very much appreciate), and I knew the arrival of the cold air and chilled ground meant we were on our way to scarves, plaid, candles and family photos.

Now, you may notice that “fun” is resting comfortably between quotation marks. Why is this? Well, were the activities apple picking, pumpkin patch bopping or hay riding, I would hold no qualms. These are the typical places my family frequents during the autumnal season.

Instead, I was informed, we were trying something different this fall. We were all bundling up and heading to a haunted house.

Now, this made sense. I’m 21 and my siblings are finally all teenagers − I have two brothers, 19 and 13, and a sister, 15. The haunted house is the typical haunt (had to do it) of high school and college students. Plus, who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned scare?

Me, that’s who.

It’s funny, too, because I’m a huge fan of horror movies. (Never mind the fact “Hereditary” literally made me sleep with the lights on the night I saw it.) It’s sort of like my also-very-real aversion to tomatoes despite my love of ketchup. Movies are a sweetened-up, corn syrupy version of the real thing. You can hide behind the comfort of knowing there’s a screen between you and the monsters. Haunted houses? Not so much.

People are screaming in your ears, popping out from behind blind corners, emerging from thick fog machine mist and strobe-lighted mazes. It’s in-your-face, and you can’t really hide from it unless you have someone to hold onto and guide you blindly through the place. (Not recommended, by the way.)

I remember going to our neighborhood’s version of a haunted house as a kid, set up in a high schooler’s backyard. It was, to be fair, a somewhat interesting setup, although decidedly something made by a high school student. And it terrified me. I was absolutely mortified, almost to the point of refusing to go in. Heck, I used to be afraid of the animatronics outside of Halloween stores. Yeah.

So, when I heard we were headed to the Carnival of Horrors Haunted House in Cuyahoga Falls, I was more than a little hesitant. I suppose it was that same fear of the unknown, memories of my past aversion to anything close to a haunted house.

When we arrived, on a cold Sunday night, the lines were short. Oh, great. Less time to contemplate my impending doom. I wasn’t sure, still, up until the point when my family and I finally walked through the small entrance to the first of four haunted houses situated on the property. I was prepared for the worst.

And you know what? It was pretty fun.

I know, I’m probably not the best person to write a review of a haunted house, considering this was one of the very few I have ever mustered the courage to enter. But it wasn’t bad at all. After a while, it was more interesting to check out the performer’s makeup and the layout of the houses, enjoying the ups and downs of the frights. I knew nothing would happen ­­­­­­­­­­­− something I realized I couldn’t grasp back in my childhood.

This experience was nothing like the one I had built up in my mind to be feared. It wasn’t a landscape of true horror, but one that I realized had been warped into one by my mind. And you know what? I already compared something to ketchup, so I’ll make another strange connection.

You can do a lot of this in life. You can decide not to try something because of a memory of what you used to feel about it. You can refuse a food because you hated it as a picky child. But tastes change in life, and so do people. Something you used to hate might very well still be something you loathe. But it might also be something you need to re-experience.

It’s easy to build up an image of something you’re scared of in your mind, sure. But it might take really trying it out to knock that fear down. (And I don’t think it could get more literal than a haunted house, could it?)

Cameron Gorman is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected]