Scare Tactics

there’s nothing quite like building a haunted mine shaft

Kinzy Janssen

It pretty much goes without saying that T-shirts play a big role in legitimizing events. Our haunted trail had T-shirts.

Dubbed The Forbidden Forest (before Harry Potter trivia practically became common knowledge) our group of 19 high school freshman and sophomores also had autonomy over the domain name www.scarytrail.com. But this was the year 2000, when you could probably get still get away with www.travel.com, and the like. At that age, anything “official” tickled our fancies. We even had titles. I happened to be co-assistant manager.

But I get annual pangs of nostalgia for different reasons: for the strains of Psycho wafting through the big oaks (the panic-inducing signal to take our places) and for my blood-pumping, voice-changing mask. I miss convening afterwards in the bright kitchen, peeling off my sweaty mask and trading stories with my fellow trail operators.

“Her scream sounded like this …!”

“Some lady tried to scramble away from me and fell over.”

“A squirrel was scratching at my coffin and scared the crap out of me!”

The main attraction that year was a 400-foot abandoned “mineshaft” (an above-ground tunnel) that we constructed with posts and post hole diggers, screws, rope, and sheets of black plastic. Details were our specialty. I remember spending an entire afternoon carving the words Fortune Mine into a sign – gouging out the woody fibers with a flathead screwdriver, one stubborn wedge at a time. We took mannequin heads and hollowed them out, filling them with dyed red rice. We strung pulleys up in the woods, making ghosts travel impressive distances and dropping giant rubber rats from the sky. We removed the wicks from citronella lamps and wired them with flicker bulbs, then misted them with black spray paint for a “coal dust” effect. It was like one really prolonged art project where the group actually liked working together. The crazed lumberjack and the avalanche simulation operator started dating. But we got stuff done.

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