Back in the day, when I was about ten and in fourth grade, we took a field trip to a roller skating rink.
It was one of the coolest places in town to us, in part because it had been recently renovated to be more awesome than anything else could be to the ten-year-old mind. There was the skating rink, with hills to skate up and down, a working train in the middle that you could ride, and occasional disco lights. There was an arcade off to the side where you could win tickets for prizes like those sticky hands that get stuck on the ceiling and leave their goop everywhere. There were above-rink tubes to crawl through. There was a party area with a White House, a Wild West jail cell, and many other cool backdrops.
There was also the Root Cellar.
To get to the Root Cellar, we headed down a staircase to this dank, dirty underground labyrinth, full of random extra rooms and strobe lights to make every motion more unusual. The place was named after all of the disgusting roots hanging from the ceiling, clumped with dirt and randomly swinging into your face at every turn.
It was the creepiest thing ever, and we loved it.
On this particular visit with all the classmates, it was October and Halloween was just around the corner, waiting to scare the pants off of us. So the Root Cellar had something special in store: it was filled with ghosts, monsters, and jackals in every abandoned room, waiting at the end of dark hallways, eager to scare the pants off of us unsuspecting kids.
We'd been freaked out about twenty times already when I, standing at the back of the group, felt something reach slowly over my shoulder from behind. I looked down and screamed at the grotesque monster paw reaching out from a dark window.
Others standing near me turned back and saw the Thing looming in the darkness. We didn't know what the arm was attached to, and I, in particular, didn't care. It was attached to something creepy that probably wanted to roar in my face and then laugh menacingly as it dragged me off to a torture chamber. It probably had huge, red eyes and fangs, and possibly a taste for the flesh of human children.
So, still screaming, I grabbed the hand and pulled as hard as I could.
The glove the poor haunted cellar worker was wearing came off. I continued to scream, and I threw it hard, straight back into the window and probably right in the face of whoever had been wearing it. Then I ran around the corner with my classmates.
It's not the kids who go into the haunted houses who are brave. It's the people working them.