A student’s thoughts on the eerie house
Editor’s note: This is one student’s opinion of Scaremare detailing her experience at the event and not the position of the Champion staff. If you would like to learn more about the history and purpose of Scaremare, you can read the last issue’s article “Scaremare brings light to darkness” on the Champion’s website.
Last week I made the decision to brave the Lynchburg novelty that’s been running since 1972: Scaremare. I typically don’t engage with tradition related to Halloween because of my family’s propensity to draw the line at anything rooted in the pagan holiday of Samhain, but desiring to gain a greater understanding of what all the hype was about, I made an exception for the event that, to date, has brought 26,000 people to Christ.
So, I went, surrounded by friends, a little hesitant and wishing that I was home with a hot drink in close reach. I tried to push expectations out of my mind as I walked through the metal detectors, but there was no banishing the fear that slowly creeped around the periphery of my thoughts.
Stilt-legged clowns lurked and hung around the porta-potties stationed in the middle of a field, waiting for unassuming occupants to emerge. I decided definitively that I did not need to go to the bathroom. At least, not that badly.
Before paying for my ticket, I took advantage of the opportunity to interview students, families and workers in the two-hour-long line; Scaremare entertains a lot of people.
A Scaremare green jacket worker (all interviewees’ names are omitted for privacy reasons) answered a few of my questions. I’d overheard him say that he enjoyed talking to strangers, so I employed my friends’ help to flag him down.
“How long have you worked here?”
“Since three weekends ago.”
“What do you like most about it?”
“I like this,” he said as he gestured to people in line, “(because) I can like, talk to random people and stuff.”
“Do you think that there’s a line, like with horror/fear, and do you know when you’re crossing it?”
“There definitely is a line, like with demonic stuff, which should definitely not be crossed; but also, I don’t really know the exact verse, but there’s something about (how) God uses all things for good, and like, we are presenting the gospel at the end. So, even if it is not great, we are using it in a good way, if that makes sense?”
This volunteer was referencing Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He, like many others, believes that sharing the gospel is worth using a method that edges on the line of ambiguous.
“Do you think that they do cross the line every now and then, or at all?”
“Uh, I would say they occasionally cross the line, but it’s not brutal.”
“Do you think it’s ever like a misrepresentation of the gospel? Which I know is like a tougher question, (because) you’re working here.”
“Yeah, I can’t really answer that one.”
Talking to the Scaremare volunteer made me think about the difficulty of discerning where exactly the line between just enough and too much is. The more I interviewed individuals in line, and the closer I came to the ticket box, the higher my blood pressure got. I felt my fear in my throat.
A group of students toward the middle of the line laughed and joked about exiting the line and, instead, going to watch “The Exorcist.” When I summoned the courage to interrupt their well-meaning banter, I asked the same questions that I asked the others: Do you like horror? Do you think there’s a point where you’ve gone too far?
Amid witty jabs and lots of laughs, I managed to make out that they did indeed like horror. One member of the group added a condition, saying, “Well, it depends on if it’s like, based on true events or not. Because I feel like if you know it’s fake, it’s a little different; but if you know it’s based on stuff like true stories, … then I feel it’s like, more …”
The student’s voice faded off and was replaced by his friend’s, who eagerly stated that anything associated with the demonic was a step too far.
Soon after, I asked a family for their opinions, and a woman told me, “They don’t really go on the side of like bloody and horror, where it’s just the scare factor.”
“So you think there is a line?”
“I think so … (because) they try to prove a point.”
“What point are they trying to prove?”
“That you don’t have to use horror in order to be scary.”
This is true. One doesn’t need to use horror in order to be scary, especially if one is plainly communicating the simple truth of our human predicament: We are in a dark place without Christ. Life outside of his goodness, mercy and salvation is terrifying, albeit perhaps a different kind of terror from the kind you feel when you’re being chased by a clown on stilts.
Finally making it through the lines, we stepped past the ticket booth. I clung to my friend as we carefully stepped through a tunnel and in front of a witch-like Victorian woman, a weird cat mask cult member, a zombie and a clown. I giggled so that I wouldn’t scream. We tentatively walked through a bus, a corridor, a spasmic terror room that made me feel like I was experiencing a bad dream and finally, a sparse room at the end of the old mill with a projector playing one scene: the crucifixion of Christ and, resting against the far wall, a cross.
My ears still ringing from screams, tired of looking over my shoulder and shaking the blood back into my arm after holding onto my friend’s with a vice grip, the lack of distraction in the quiet tent was a welcome reprieve. The volunteer gospel-sharer for my group presented his message and asked us if we wanted to no longer be afraid. He wore white slides in a white tent as he shared light against the backdrop of the eerie, dark, anxiety-inducing old mill. He then asked us to pray with him.
As we walked alongside the road back to the car, I thought about what I had just experienced. I was disturbed, and I tried to work out exactly why.
I likely won’t go back to Scaremare; it’s not something that I enjoyed in the long run. I still fail to put to words the exact unsettling nature of my time in that house.
So, while grateful for gained experience and perspective, I praise God for the safety and comfort of home, cocoa in a mug not far out of reach and the beautiful grace of my Father in heaven, whom I both fear and love.
By a Guest Contributor