It's the spookiest time of the year. Ghosts, goblins and a new season of Stranger Things have returned from their fitful slumber and the haunted tour industry is in full swing. Toronto's tourist spots have been transformed into cobweb covered dens filled with struggling actors in masks bursting out of plastic coffins and chasing after screaming teens and apathetic twenty-somethings more dead inside than any monster envisioned by Wes Craven.
To these tours filled with bloodsuckers, murderers and creaky animatronics that are undoubtedly fire hazards, all I can say is: Yawn. You call that scary? I challenge you to design a haunted tour that is not hung up on the hormone-addled visions of terror 20th century suburbanites devoured as metaphors for their fears of isolation and crime. Design a tour for the modern, city dwelling human, that speaks to our most pressing fears or better yet, I'll do it for you.
So here it is a haunted house tour that speaks to our modern fears (and that is also super cheap and could easily be set up in one large apartment.)
The Gatekeeper of Dread
The first instance of creeping dread will be at the start when we encourage our unsuspecting victims to hop on the Wi-Fi and let people know they are at the tour through social media.
One would think that going on social media is arguably the scariest activity one can engage in today but we turn the screws even more when the Wi-Fi suddenly stops working and there is only thing you can do to get it working again: go up to the onsite grumpy barista and ask them if they can restart the modem. Tremble in front of his visible annoyance at being asked to do something he doesn't want to do. Shiver at his clear disdain towards you for needing the Wi-Fi. You'll never be able to drink steamed milk again without picturing our barista's vicious eye-rolls and shoddy stick and poke tattoos.
This is just the beginning.
They Only Come at Night
Suddenly from the corner you hear unsettling giggling. From the darkness emerges: a group of teens! Feel your heart race as the teens move toward you, laughing and whispering. Oh god, are they laughing about you and what you are wearing? More than likely it's your decrepit collection of dying cells. Their frenzied youth, their acne, their weird, awkward gait, their strange rituals of bullying and teasing flashes you back to your own awkward adolescence all the while reminding you of your fading vitality and the incoming tide of ignominious death that will eventually submerge you. Try not to scream as they surround you while finding the right filter for their bullying snaps.
The Budget of Death
You enter an empty room. The only object on the floor is a calculator with instructions to calculate a rough estimate of how much money you spend on alcohol and alcohol-related activities a week and then figure out how much you've spent over a lifetime on booze. Shiver as you realise you could have paid off all your debt and bought a condo if you were able to hang out with friends and not a drink at least four beers to tolerate your existence. Shriek in terror as it becomes clear that you have a dependency issue and you should probably talk to someone. Wither in the face of the stark reality that your poor choices and lack of self-discipline are the obvious culprits for your continued precarious financial situation and not the economy.
Take in a Little Culture
You move onto the next room and -bang!- the lights go out. You grasp wildly for the door that you entered from but the handle is mysteriously gone. You sit in dread waiting for what new unspeakable terror is next. Suddenly bright spotlights illuminate the opposite wall. "No, it can't be," you think, "it's too cruel." But your initial fears were correct and as the actors take position it becomes clear; you are stuck watching a experimental play. You want to scream as the overly serious actors continuously explain why they are exiting and entering the scene but you aren't allowed to because it's a play.
Too much, you think. But there's an even crueler twist. You realise that your friend wrote the play and now you have to wait until the play is over and then have to compliment her and all the performers about how much you enjoyed it!
(Full disclosure: the author of this piece used to be in plays all the time. I apologise to anybody who sat through the Trent University production of Closer).
The End Times
No One Can Hear Your Scream
It's the last room. There is a flickering iPad. You go up closer, it's logged into Padmapper.com. Despair with doom as you browse the site and realise that unless someone quickly falls in love with you there's no way your next apartment won't be in a basement.
Only the Grave Awaits
You are almost finished. There is just one long hallway before the exit and your escape back into a just and humane universe. You breath a sigh of relief but then you hear a scraping noise. You gasp as my beloved 80-something grandmother shuffles into sight. This sweet, loving, adorable grandmother then starts making the morbid, passive jokes she has taken to making lately that reference her own impending demise.
"How are you?" you ask.
"Oh I'm fine," she states, solemnly, "I mean, as fine as I'm going to get. I'm 83. They say there's something wrong with my lungs."
You go white with fear. Regret-tinged questions rocket through your head: Do I know enough about my grandmother's life story? Will I regret all the lost moments between us? Try to enjoy your return to the outside world now that you filled with a creeping fear that you have failed as a grandson.*
*effectiveness of final scare dependent on whether or not you are related to my grandmother.
That is the tour. My condolences on now being a sputtering, drooling puddle of terror. That will be $28.50.
Follow Jordan Foisy on Twitter.