Huffington Post article that was written about us two weeks ago; that, and the fact that I am not an idiot. Heck, after reading some of those comments it made me feel like protesting the event. But, alas, I have to work it. I won’t have time to picket.
I mention this because that’s not what I want the story to be. One might say, “who would want that to be the story?” and I would say, “Most producers”. Controversy sells, right? What producer wouldn’t want a ton of controversy then? Well, this one right here. I don’t want people going to this because it is controversial. I want people going because it is going to be the most kickass haunted house in NYC (with all due respect to the other haunted houses that say the same thing). But whether after attending you agree with my superlative, that is still why I wanted you to go. And that is what I am striving to achieve. I want this to stand alone on the merits of how good of a haunted house it is. Out of the haunted houses we have done as the Nightmare team, I am confident this will be the most satisfying for those who want to be very, very scared. Sure, I understand for some they will not be able to get past the controversial subject matter. And I know and respect all the counterarguments as to why this is a good idea, but I know I do things for the right reasons, and I believe, with integrity.
So knowing that the controversy around the subject might lead the conversation, why choose this subject when there are so many ripe for a haunted house? This is our 9th season. Every year since I started asking our audience what we should do next and then how should we do it, Serial Killers has been the number one requested theme; by far. I have resisted it until now because I have had my own reservations, and there were other stories I wanted to tell. But now I want to tell this one. Serial Killers are fascinating to me as a cultural phenomenon. I don’t have a mordant affection for them, nor do I follow them and obsess about them like I know too many do. But I do find them to be a significant part of American culture. Anthropologically speaking, it’s relevant to note that here in America serial killers, although not unique, vastly outnumber cases in other countries. We are certainly “NUMBER 1” in serial killers… by an overwhelming margin. China has had like one. Recently. Amongst 2 billion people.
And that’s sad, unfortunate, embarrassing and something worth reflecting on. They have become legend. So many are plain mythology. Lizzie Borden, considered an axe-wielding maniac, was acquitted of her crimes. How many people know that? She has become mythological. A folklore. Some might not even think she is based on a real person. But it is important to us that she is painted as a monster. Ed Gein doesn’t even fit the FBI definition of a serial killer, yet is one of the most famous serial killers of all time (three different major motion picture characters are based on him).
We as Americans crave monsters. And when I looked at it that way, monsters are for haunted houses. We are by no means going to celebrate their crimes. There is no didactic dissertation on the events surrounding their murders. I will have no one applaud a killing, celebrate it as fun, or turn these villains into anti-heroes. No sir. They are monsters. Monsters are scary. I have no interest in humanizing them, but I feel they are scary because they are human. They were living and breathing, honest-to-goodness human beings. Just like you and I, except they are nothing like you and I.
America is a country of individualism and excellence. But despite being around for over 300 years, we didn’t have our first serial killer until HH Holmes at the turn of the 20th century. What changed about our country then? I have my theories, but that is a longer, probably more boring essay. But what changed and only grew was not only a culture that created serial killers, but one that sensationalized them as bogeymen.
These people are what nightmares are made of more than Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers, yet they seem almost as fictional. But because they aren’t, they are more terrifying. They ARE bogeymen. You are supposed to be afraid of them. They are not sexy or cool. They are awful and despicable. But they have entered our psyches like few can, and because of that, they make the most terrifying monsters in a haunted house.