Part 5 of an 8 part series

by Philip Wallace

. The Boy With One Red Shoe .

There is a pretty good reason why my parents wouldn’t let me go to haunted houses. It was because they would scare me right out of my shoes. I come from a lower middle class background. Sometimes it was low enough that all I would have for supper would be butter and bread sandwiches. So I know my parents didn’t have the money to keep buying me shoes if I lost them. If you lose a shoe at a carnival they won’t reimburse you.

Carnivals were a fixture of my youth. The town where I grew up, Murfreesboro, TN, would see several come through town in a year. There were 3 shopping centers and one large freestanding department store called Clarks and they would all host a carnival at least once a year, sometimes more. My father would take me to every one.

I would ride the kiddie rides and play some of the games. My father loved playing the games, especially if he was winning. The nights were fun, but sometimes they would drag on for a little fellow. It was on one of those long evenings that I was able to convince my father to take me into the haunted house.

It was a typical low budget carnival haunted house. It had a faded facade filled with scary imagery – bats, cobwebs, vampires, werewolves, and witches with a blood red background. The house itself was actually an air conditioned semi-trailer. We got in the long line and my father admonished me to hold his hand. I was extremely excited as the line moved slowly toward the metal steps that would lead us into the horrors within. I could hear buzzers going off and people screaming from inside.

We stepped to the entrance and gave a man in greasy coveralls our ticket. The line inched forward. I was the only small kid in the line. The grown ups towered above me, their legs were like tree trunks. We went through the door and suddenly everything was black. I held on to my father’s hand. My heart was starting to pound and nothing had even happened yet.

I shuffled ahead and the buzzers starting going off, people screamed, and light burst out just a few feet in front of us. We moved some steps forward and a buzzer screamed, a light crackled on and I saw a monster lurching behind a piece of cheap chicken wire. My mind reeled with fright. Another buzzer sounded and another cage appeared out of the dark. I jumped. I began to get disoriented as the stale air made me sick. Another buzzer razzed and I tried to close my eyes as tightly as I could. A strobe light pierced through the gloom and I saw an old crone moving behind the wire. She would tear through it and eat me alive. I was bumped from behind and lost my father’s hand. I couldn’t take it anymore. I pushed through the people in front of me, leaping past cages filled with demons and ghouls.

It was a long journey through a tunnel filled with danger. I would make it even if I had left my father behind. I saw the exit and I blasted through it into the candy colored lights of the midway attractions. My father found me at the bottom of the exit’s steps a few minutes later. I was gasping for breath still reeling from the fright. He was concerned and disappointed at the same time. He calmed me down, but he was quick to inform me that the house wasn’t scary at all. We were about to leave when he noticed that I had lost one of my red tennis shoes.

He asked the carnie if they’d get my shoe for me and we were told to get it ourselves. I wasn’t about to go back in there, so my father went in and fumbled in the dark for it. He came out of the exit without the shoe. There were just too many people inside trampling through. The carnival wouldn’t close until after midnight so my father decided not to wait and try to retrieve the shoe. I would get another pair of shoes the next day, but I wouldn’t get to go inside a haunted house again until I was 17. It’s hard to plead your case with your parents when you’ve been scared right out of a shoe.

Read Part 6: Chicks Dig Haunted Houses

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