• Robert Saucedo

I Reget Turning My Dorm Room Into A Haunted House

For some reason, during my freshman year of college, I thought it would be a good idea to make a haunted house in my dorm room and charge people money to see it. Like so many things in my life, I half-assed this endeavor with spectacular results.

I don’t remember exactly what made me want to erect the dorm room haunted house but I think it had something to do with the fact that I was still trying to establish my personality at Texas A&M, a mostly conservative college that I hadn’t really wanted to attend. I was the kid with a DONNIE DARKO poster on his dorm room wall. I listened to Nick Cave and drew monsters in the margins of my textbooks during lectures. I was a Weird Kid™ at a very un-weird college and I made the decision that I was also going to be the guy who charged people a dollar to visit a homemade haunt erected in the all-male on-campus dorm I had been assigned to live in that year.

I'm sure, at one point, I actually meant to make something impressive or scary or at least somewhat worthy of people paying a dollar to walk through it. In reality, I spent more time making flyers and taping them around my dorm than putting any actual thought into what the haunted house would consist of. I hadn’t even bothered to tell my roommate what I had planned. He came back to the dorm room after his classes one day with one of the flyers I posted.

“Oh yeah,” I tried to play it off with a laugh and a shrug. “This is a fun thing, right?”

He grunted and announced he’d be spending the night at the memorial student center, studying.

Having put off the planning of the haunt until the last minute, I spent Halloween afternoon in a panic, trying to figure out what my attraction would consist of. I went down to the little convenience store on the first floor of the dorm and spent about $20 on random crap that I could use to make a haunted house out of. I think I walked into the store hoping I’d find cardboard skeletons or rubber rats with glowing red eyes. I should have realized I was dealing with the place people bought microwave burritos, not a Garden Ridge Pottery. I made do with what I could find in the store – filling my shopping basket with whatever I thought I might be able to use to make my haunted house. I got really creative.

I hung scantrons in my closet ("The Cabinet of Forgotten Finals"). I drew scary monsters and taped them to mirrors ("Something's behind you!"). I blew up some balloons, hung pillowcases over them, and suspended them from the ceiling to form makeshift ghosts. I cut out pictures of same-sex or interracial couples I found in magazines and taped them on the walls. In retrospect this sounds terrible - but remember I went to Texas A&M. I spent my freshman year convinced every other student on campus was a racist and/or homophobe. In reality, by trying to mock the conservatives, I was definitely outdoing them at their own game.

The grossest thing I concocted - and the only thing worthy of a haunted house - was when I squeezed a tube of raw chorizo into the toilet and mixed it with half a container of ketchup and a can of corn. That produced the only scream of the night - but it wasn't from a paying guest, it was from a girl my suitemate had invited over for the night. I forgot to tell him what I had planned, or that I had conscripted the use of our shared bathroom for the night.

Right before guests began to show up, my roommate returned. He had changed his mind and volunteered to help with my haunted house, for a share of the profits. I told him to lie in his bed and softly moan whenever anybody would approach. When nobody showed up for the first thirty minutes of the night, he fell asleep and began to snore. The ambiance, I thought!

I spent the first hour waiting for guests to show up. In the end, only about six people actually decided to visit my haunted house that night. I charged the first couple that arrived the posted admission of a dollar and took them around a tour of my dorm room, doing my best Vincent Price impression as I showed them the DIY horrors I had concocted. They were not impressed. After the tour, the guy immediately asked for his money back and I got down on my knees and begged him to let me keep it, rattling off the expenses I had incurred on production costs. He left without a fight, mostly out of pity I think.

For the rest of the guests, I didn't even bother asking for the admission fee. I also dropped the Vincent Price impression and basically tried my best to get people in and out of my dorm as soon as possible. It only took me 10 minutes of actually showing people my haunted house to deeply regret how I had chosen to spend my Halloween. I could have watched horror movies or gone to a party. But no, I chose to embarrass myself - and for what? A dollar? A dollar I was too embarrassed to even ask tor? After the sixth guest, I ran around the dorm, removing all the promotional signs I had made. I just wanted to call it a night and drop the scheme.

Late that evening, just as I was starting to get ready for bed, an RA showed up, announcing he had gotten complaints that I was running an illegal business out of my dorm room. I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about and I was just spending a quiet Halloween night watching scary movies. He left me alone. Also mostly out of pity, I think.

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