Our Seattle trip began with the unexpected joy of finding that we were all given separate rooms at the hotel. This meant that my daily pants-wearing plummeted by about 60 percent. We even had our own little kitchens. There have been nicer hotels on our stay (we still didn’t get our morning waffles -- grrrr), but there’s a lot to be said for the wonders of privacy.
And no pants!
Regarding the weekly setup, my limited involvement was probably the most miserable thus far on the tour. It was raining Biblically as I, two other camp counselors and our headmaster struggled to put up the tents (which, due to regular abuse, are dwindling in number with each new city) and fight off hypothermia, sloshing through tall, wet grass, mud, and (it can now be said) poo.
Fuck this noise.
And while our experience was cold and wet and icky and unpleasant, there were those who spent waaay more time on site setting up than us, so any complaining comes with full knowledge that we by no means had it the worst.
I will say that of all the locations thus far, our Seattle site was far and away the coolest, most atmospheric, and most conducive to the horror atmosphere. It was as though God had created a little patch of heaven for Washington’s serial killers. Narrow paths led into deep woods resplendent with toppled logs, hanging vines, dreary and sagging trees with gnarled, twisted limbs, and a roof of foliage that nullified any moonlight that there might have been.
Oh, yeah. You're getting raped.
I also made a minor discovery about the campout that probably no one else will find as amusing as I do, but which tickled the geek in me ever so. All campers at the event receive a GHC dossier, which contains information about the rules, the scavenger hunt, and the monsters they may encounter. Beneath each listed monster is an enigmatic clue as to how to escape from them. I hadn’t gotten a copy of the dossier before the tour began, and had occasionally heard campers make reference to someone called The Stick Man. “Who is this Stick Man?” I would ask myself. “I’ve never seen him.”
I later discovered that the Stick Man was a character cut from the attraction late in development, but left (presumably by accident) in the dossier. The only clue given as to dealing with the evasive figure is simply: Hide!
So, in the minds of the campers, there was some mysterious creature wandering around the campsite -- a being so menacing that one's only hope of escaping him would be to avoid his notice entirely. I like to believe that he remained in the back of people’s minds as they shuffled trepidatiously down the thickly overgrown forest path, desperately trying to catch sight of the dreaded Stick Man before he could spot them and steal their souls.
But much more amusing to me (and probably few others) is that there is a literary term for a character like this who has been omitted from a piece of work (usually a play), but to which an unintentional reference still remains in the text, random and inexplicable to the reader. Can you guess what that term is?
A GHOST CHARACTER!
So, the Great Horror Campout has its own ghost character; one that I hope becomes an urban myth in and of itself. Like Sulik’s non-existent sister in Fallout 2, stories of him will spread across the internet: “My cousin’s boyfriend’s roommate’s boss totally saw the Stick Man, and it killed her husband!”
Rain and my geeky little discovery notwithstanding, things seemed to be working pretty much like clockwork most of the week, and after the controversy of Sacramento I was worried that I would have nothing of interest to include in my blog.
Then, oh boy -- ooohhhh boy -- something happened on Saturday night that itself may become the stuff of legends.
Usually, in any kind of interactive horror themed event, from your local neighborhood haunted house to any of the major theme park Halloween attractions, the most dangerous people are the guests -- those who don’t see the line between fantasy and reality, or who show up drunk and try to pick a fight with an evil clown, or the dudes who think they can impress their girlfriends by shoving around a little person in a gremlin mask.
Aw, Christ. Here come the frat boys.
Despite the number of times we warn people at the GHC not to touch the creatures (it’s about five thousand), there are always people who break the rule and get their asses thrown out. More often than not, the LAST people you have to actually be afraid of, despite their ghoulish appearance, are the characters.
However, there are exceptions.
In spite of every precaution, including background checks on EVERY actor who auditions for the GHC, a bad egg did slip through the cracks. Now, bear in mind that 90 percent of this tale is based on hearsay from various sources, and thus there is the possibility for misinformation and/or embellishment.
This actor had been cast as a chupacabra in our labyrinth. Back in Sacramento, he had accidentally struck his head and passed out during the Friday performance, and was taken in by the onsite EMT. Later, he insisted he was fine and returned to work.
But was he really fine?
This past Saturday, I was deep in the woods with some campers when I heard someone screaming at the top of their lungs for security. I dashed back out into the open, where I could hear the voice still screaming from inside the labyrinth. I reached the entrance just in time to see a staff member extract two campers -- a middle age husband and wife. As they reported to us, our thick-skulled chup had tried to take the wife’s flashlight, which was A) expensive, and B) strapped to her wrist. When she didn’t relinquish it, the monster became more aggressive. The husband had tried to intervene, at which point the chupacabra struck him and put the wife in a fucking headlock. And, ironically, it was the performer who had been screaming for security.
I manned the entrance to the labyrinth until the issue was resolved. Remaining in character, I told those wanting to enter, “Sorry, some of the chups have gotten a bit rowdy, so we sent someone in with the ol’ cattle prod to calm ‘em down. We’ll be back up and running in a little while.” The campers didn’t know how close to the truth that was.
Security arrived and removed the actor from the labyrinth. The middle age couple was taken care of and eventually rejoined the scavenger hunt. It was a messy little moment, but at least it was over, right?
OH FUCKING NO!
Later, as the campers scampered off to bed, word spread amongst the staff that the wayward chupacabra, who had been predictably fired, had been spotted wondering in the woods. Two members of the production team caught sight of him standing by himself among the foliage and initially mistook him for one of our manikins. When they saw that he was indeed a flesh and blood man, they asked if he was alright. He just turned and stared silently at them…
They fled back to the “backstage” area and informed security. As the hours passed, we all wondered if he would ever be found, or if he had indeed vanished into the woods to become a legend in his own right: the Chupacabra Man of the Washington Backwoods, who preys on hapless wonderers and naughty teenagers. Many, many years from now, people would dismiss him as a myth, ignoring me as I sat in my rocking chair, crippled with arthritis, insisting in a hoarse voice, “He’s real, I tells ya! I was there. I saw him with my own two eyes.” But the youngsters would simply laugh at the poor old man who stank of cat urine and failed dreams, and promptly head out into the woods for a night of unprotected fornication beneath the Seattle stars -- so deep in the forest that no one would hear their screams.
Eventually, the story would become so engrained in the American pop culture that the inevitable film franchise would manifest. Entries would include Chupacabra Man 3D, Chupacabra Man Part VIII: The Final Campout, and Chupacabra Man Part X: In Space.
"This Halloween, bet on red."
But then they found him. Boo.
Allegedly, when asked what he’d been doing in the woods, his answer was “Talking to Big Foot.” This either could have been an attempt to lie (we do have a Big Foot as part of the campout, though he had long since gone home by this point), a smart-ass remark, or further signs of insanity.
Guess what my money's on.
He then somehow ended up stealing the keys to one of our electric golf carts and hiding in a portable bathroom, apparently with the intention of nicking a cart and driving back to L.A. with it. This plan was short lived, however. The keys were recovered and his was driven off the property once and for all.
Or was he?
So, yeah. That happened.
Otherwise, Seattle was wicked cool. We spent a few hours on Monday sightseeing before hitting the road south for Portland. What horrors might the country's capital of weirdness have in store for us? Tune in next week to find out!
GHC Cast and Crew, on the Seattle Troll Bridge