The evening was going really well until I entered the haunted house. Somehow, the same little brain that enjoyed Dark Shadows, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Twilight Zone re-runs, simply could not cope with Deacon Bobby or whoever-he-was jumping out at me from a dark corner, dressed as a scary freak. I collapsed, sobbing inconsolably, and had to be rescued by my Dad, who’d been fetched by a witch who was possibly my Sunday school teacher. Then my Mom took over and comforted me with cupcakes and punch, because the right antidote at the right time is an important part of responsible parenting.


A decade passed before I screwed up my courage to enter another haunted house. I was a teenager by then, and my friend KG and I had decided that this would be the best way to spend Halloween. We weren’t old enough to drive yet, so my girlfriend’s older brother and his mate took us off to downtown Houston, to a venue we’d heard hosted the biggest, best, and scariest haunted house in the metropolitan area.


Yeah, well, the outcome was basically the same as when I was five. In a moment of distraction, I lost my group, and ended up in a seemingly empty room off the main hallway, while trying to find them. Cue raving lunatic with a chainsaw jumping out at me from a dark corner, and once again, I was collapsing into an emotional heap – at least in my head. I was still a teenager, after all, and so morbidly preoccupied with appearing cool under any and all circumstances. This vanity served me well,  preventing me from an actual collapse; nevertheless, my heart was pounding, I was shaking uncontrollably, and I felt that if anything else happened, I might fall dead as a parrot coming off its perch.

This time, the deacon, my Sunday school teacher, and both my parents were absent, and since I could not locate my friends or anyone else I knew, I realised that I had to pull myself together and get out of there. I explained to the guy with the chainsaw (which turned out to be bladeless) that I needed a quick exit, and he was kind enough to help me out. I never explained to my friends how I got through the large, rambling house so much faster than they did,  but by the time they emerged, I was safely outside and no doubt looking around wildly for cupcakes and punch.


In the years that have passed since then, I have had to face some facts about myself. Firstly, I do handle being startled at all well (so if you are going to sneak up on me,  please let me know first). I am not the sort of person who would appreciate my friends and family hiding in the dark to jump out for a surprise party, and it is possible that I would not survive such an experience. (Oh, that awkward moment when your birthday present turns out to be an ambulance ride.)


Secondly, in additon to a ridiculously hyper startle-response, I have learned recently from a friend that a condition called vasovagal syncope is what causes me to swoon and develop tunnel vision when witnessing medical procedures, or when exposed to large amounts of blood.  As it turns out, I am not the best person to have at your side when you are having a feeding tube inserted, or receiving an injection, or when your IV falls out of your arm and you spend several hours bleeding out all over the bedsheets in hospital. Inevitably, once I’ve summoned the medical staff, I end up having to sit down before I fall down and create a nuisance for them.