A Halloween Memory

When I was young, maybe fifteen, I punched a clown in the face. It was at one of those cheesy haunted houses run by the Jaycees or the Lions or some other weird service group where all the men had big bellies and wore fezzes. You remember those haunted houses, right?—the ones that featured Chainsaw Hockey Mask Guy, Mad Scientist, Evil Amputating Surgeon, Ace-Bandaged Mummy Lady, etc. They always seemed to have a disturbing clown too, popping out of some dark corner. That was a big problem for me.

This particular 1980-ish haunted house was actually located in an old house. It may have been in Parma, Ohio. It was claustrophobic. It was hot inside, stale, and smelled of human sweat. Strobe lights blinked. Alice Cooper blasted from hidden speakers. I sensed grabbing fingers, breathed the alcohol breath of strangers. It all seemed to compress and feed on itself, elevating my sense of discomfort. Then there came a dark, maze-y area that you had to feel your way out of. That’s when the clown sprang out, cackling. That’s when my fist sprang out, connecting with his face.

Note to seasonal workers: If you dress like a deranged clown and work in a cheesy haunted house for minimum wage, there is a high probability someone like me is going to punch you in the face. In public, they might apologize and say it was impulse, instinct, inappropriate. In private, they will remember how good it felt, their knuckles smearing that insane painted grin right off your face.

When my parents asked me later whether or not it was worth the $5 admission, I said yeah. Absolutely.


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