People say that they love surprises. I’m not so sure. I think it depends on the nature of the surprise.
Many years ago, when I was in my teens, our community was foolish enough to allow my friends and I to create a “haunted house” for a Fall Festival. More accurately, it was a Barn of Surprises. Now, we lived in a rural area and we had an intimate knowledge of barns. While none of us was into Halloween gore, we loved practical jokes. The best jokes always included a surprise element, something that no one would see coming.
We didn’t have any budget for this event, so we used materials readily on-hand, including a local farmer’s barn. This particular barn featured several empty stalls and small rooms around the periphery and a 2-story stack of hay bales in the middle. It was perfect. We created scenes for each room and stall, with a path that would lead “guests” through the barn. Since we were all adept at stacking bales, we created an elaborate tunnel through the stack. There was enough room to crawl, single-file, through a narrow tunnel made of 60 pound bales. After a couple of turns, one would have to explore the tunnel completely blind. That’s where we planned a surprise.
Night fell and guests arrived. We waited until we had enough people to begin the tour. Our victims were led inside, where they were treated to a few rather obvious “scary” elements. People laughed and relaxed, thinking this would be pretty tame. In a room in one corner of the barn, we had placed an old tub filled with red water and a willing volunteer. She kept her eyes closed and lay still, with water up to her neck. We kept the walls clear around the tub so that people would walk around her to get to the door on the other side of the room. Along each wall, there was an open window. Everyone expected the tub-girl to lunge or splash them, so they slowly backed up against the wall and stepped sideways to get around her.
That’s where I came in. I was waiting outside a window until several people had passed by. A few young girls slowly crossed in front of the window. Everyone in the room was fixated on the tub, expecting the inevitable lame attempt to startle the unwary, so no one saw me. I selected one in the middle of the pack, reached in, grabbed her around the waist, and yanked her out of the window.
The screaming inside the barn lasted for several minutes. My victim thought it was hilarious and I brought her back so she could catch up to her friends. After another couple of rooms, the guests were informed that the only way out of the barn from that point, was to enter The Tunnel. We explained that we had created a path through the hay bales they could crawl through and that it was perfectly safe. We could hardly contain ourselves as they lined up and crawled inside.
Everything had led up to this moment. You see, one of my friends had come up with an idea to add a little something extra to the tunnel. He had rigged up several thin strips of raw liver (yes, liver) on strings to hang across the tunnel. We had placed these slices of joy deep within the darkest part of the tunnel.
So, when you’re crawling on your hands and knees through an enclosed mass of hay, there’s no room to turn or let someone else go ahead of you. You can’t stand up because there are dozens of bales over your head. You can’t back up because there are people in your way. When you crawl through a tunnel and encounter an obstacle, such as strips of slimy liver hanging in mid-air in the darkness, you hit it with your face. Oh. Yes.
We knew when the first person encountered our surprise from the screams. Each face that enjoyed it added screams of their own. One by one, our guests fled the tunnel, pausing only to wipe their faces and shudder. When we told them later what that substance was that had slid across their exposed faces, the screams were deafening.
My friends and I enjoyed our little surprise immensely, but our guests did not appear to love it as much as you might think. In hindsight, it would appear that one’s enjoyment of a surprise depends largely on one’s perspective. Oddly enough, we were not invited to participate in the festival in subsequent years.
I know. We were surprised, too.