Muctaru's Blog

I am Muctaru Wurie from Freetown, Sierra Leone. I blog on a variety of subject from my homeland and most of my post feature well researched stories I do.

The Cost of Fear: A Night at Georgia’s Netherworld Haunted House

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Rapper TI was there the same day I visited

Rapper TI was there the same day I visited

One of the first things that surprises me about American society is Halloween. May be it’s because where I am from in West Africa, any image with an underworld or sorcery portrayal would be construed as witchcraft or the like. Anytime you see tomb-like paraphernalia, it’s either a witch doctor or a Juju man advertising their trades. And culturally, you know that’s not funny business. In most villages, you can get yourself into trouble for displaying Halloween-type images if you are not a witch doctor or Juju man.

This Saturday (19th October, 2013), I finally tried to explore one of the features of Halloween by visiting Netherworld haunted house in Norcross. I dug up the web before I left and discovered Netherworld was among the top haunted houses in the United States. My good mood after a smooth 33 minute drive to Georgia’s biggest haunted house was abruptly ended by the sight of very long queues. There were too many people, I even noticed a set of porta potties in the parking lot which I understood were placed there in case nature calls the many curious people and children some of whom a staff told me traveled all the way from Tennessee. The lines were so long, and there were more and more people coming. You could sense the excitements on the faces of people. On a chilly Saturday night, I asked myself: “Why am I here?” I called one of the staff and inquired how long will I be in line before I get to see the inside of the haunted house. He told me may be 45 minutes to an hour, even though I heard one woman saying someone waited for nearly two hours the previous week. “You have an option of paying $10 extra for a speed pass which will see you walk straight to the front of the line with little or no waiting.” I had to opt for the speed pass in addition to the $30 entrance fee and another $10 for parking. My haunted house desire had already cost me $50. At one point, I thought I was on the outside of those huge stadiums that host soccer matches in Africa, you do not always find yourself around huge crowds in Georgia.

Meanwhile, I soon realize that even my speed pass wasn’t so quick as touted, waiting on the speed pass lane, I observed some groups of adults who were about to enter bellowing in excitements like a group of teenage kids who just got an autograph from Justin Bieber. There were few kids too, in my mind I was thinking this wasn’t the ideal place to bring children, plus it was Saturday night too. The workers were overburdened, there were just too many people outside, many of them annoyed having to wait that long. The more the lines got closer to the entrance, the more smiles you see on the faces of those people close to the entrance. There was more excitement when rapper, TI dropped by the Netherworld haunted house, his arrival with his children and family members saw some people leaving their lines just to take a peep. Even the excitement to go see this artificial horror show could not dampen the celebrity madness of some of these folks. It turns out celebs do not walk the same lines as the masses, TI and his entourage were quickly herded in by personnel into the haunted houses. A guy at the back, shouted: “I wish I was a celeb, I am just tired of waiting and waiting.” I have seen people abandoned their shopping carts at Walmart when the queues stayed longer and the self-checkout machines occupied, from my own observation on Saturday night, no one left. It was clear they hated waiting in line, but they patiently waited anyway. Perhaps it was because some had driven from afar, may be it’s just the Halloween fever hitting them.

No wonder the National Retail Federation (NRF) projects that Americans are expected to spend $2.6 billion on Halloween costumes for adults, children and pets this year.

When my time finally came, I was excited to go see what was so special about visiting an haunted house that people will be so eager to put up with a long wait. Walking in, the first thing I heard was the peculiar audio, it didn’t sound scary, but one lady clearly differed. Without seeing anything scary yet-she started shouting: “Oh my God! Oh my God! I don’t think I can handle this, the sound alone freak the hell outta me.” One of the staff members chaperoning excited customers in said: “Once again, remember there are exits at various point. You can walk out at any time if you get scared.”

Upon entering the Dead Ones section, I was astounded at the massive display of splendor; I thought I was actually witnessing a making-the-video of a big budget horror movie. There was everything present that you could see in bestial horror movie. Simply put, this was a show -– there were myriad of what looked like ghastly version of what you normally see on western horror movies. From what looked like rendition of the dead, scantily dressed skeletal figures, a monster looking giant with a long axe. There was the ugly, as well as portrayal of spooky beauty, what looked like beautiful princess character in a fairy tale story walked close to me with a scythe in hand, blood oozing out of her mouth and uttering a creepy cry that suggested she wants to drink some blood.

I was not fazed, there were loud outburst of people yelling and screaming. The screaming was mostly from the female customers. As we moved to the middle of the Dead Ones section, the screaming got louder, bloodied head were popping out along the aisle. A ghostly figure in a coffin randomly raised up their body and lie down again uttering gibberish remarks. In that short walk, I heard: “Oh my God!” like a million times. The screaming from customers became so loud that at one point, it was hard differentiating the voice of the show characters and those of screaming customers. Almost at the end of the Dead Ones section, there was this huge thumping sound that grew so loud and repetitious that it reminded me of the beating of the bhatta (drum) in Africa.

I was staring at this dwarfish figure with amputated legs seemingly oozing blood, when I felt a hand around my waist tightly gripping me and screaming. At first I thought it was a kid or some teenager only for the lighting to illuminate on his appearance, revealing a scary grown-up face. He got up quickly and said sorry to me. I was in a weird surrounding, but I candidly thought that man gripping my waist with his hands almost touching my private part was bizarre.

Up next was the Boogeyman area. I must confess I was getting bored at this point. The thing that surprises me more was the human reaction, not the show on display. The only thing that made me really comfortable was the hot temperature inside because initially when I arrived it was very chilly outside, and getting the heat warming up my body inside was a calm relief. The Boogeyman area was different from the Dead Ones -– there were huge dragon-like creatures and monster characters, bloodcurdling laughs, faces changing, appearing and disappearing into the masterfully  created theater with lighting effect. The sound here was much more forceful and crispy, the crowd which was somehow diminished was moving slowly until there was what looked like a giant saw blade that cut an actor in half then shoot out into the path and make its way toward the crowd. There were loud screams and some couples were holding on to each other, and others ran helter-skelter. I wondered why I never got scared. It’s probably because I was having fun watching how others reacted.

There was this image that captured my attention, a character seemingly attired in an African costume, drenched in blood stood straight squeaking and winking his eyes. Surprised, I stood there and observe his performance. I kept on going along the dark walkway attraction that was filled with more petrifying live actors, amazing special effects and monsters of every imaginable description.

I left the Boogeyman section feeling a sense of satisfaction, not because of the massive art on display but because I was able to see something new to me: people willing to pay money to satisfy their desire to be frightened and them acting up with fear that sometimes look more artificial than the show characters themselves.

Outside, heading for my car, I managed to catch a conversation with this guy who told me: “I love horror films and I love coming here every year around Halloween. The feeling I get here is so amazing. I will likely be here again before Halloween.”

May be the whole thing about Halloween is the entertaining side of it. Notwithstanding the impressive acoustic inside the Netherworld haunted house, the human screams are the one that I remember most.  There are cultural festivals in Africa that will startle Americans, too. One of the things I often heard as a kid growing up in West Africa was the saying: “When you go distance places, you will see strange things.”


Written by Muctaru Wurie

November 5, 2013 at 12:16 am

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