“Eat, Pray, Haunt,” by Ron Riekki

Jun 14th, 2023 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I get asked to work in haunted houses a lot.

My sister gets asked all the time to do professional modeling.

We’re both tall, but I get seen as Frankenstein’s monster and my sister gets seen as Naomi Campbell.

Haunted house workers get minimum wage and professional models get maximum wage.

But we both dress just as silly.

For me, I’ve been in a haunted house where they dressed me up as a crazy doctor.

And I had a PhD when they did it. Which made me reflect on my life and it wasn’t good.

They poured blood all over me. It was fake blood, but with that and carrying an axe all night and looking like a cross between Dr. Emmett Brown and Leatherface, it’s difficult to flirt on breaks with the girls dressed as demons who were before us in the haunted house. Except, to be honest, they weren’t really dressed as demons. It was more like they were dressed as professional supermodels. With women, I realized, fashion is all about making you look sexier and with men, I realized, fashion doesn’t exist.

I once had a role in a movie and you’ll probably guess the role I got cast in: serial killer.

If I was just a little bit taller, I’d be a multimillionaire player in the NBA. But I’m a little bit too short for that, but too tall to be normal, so I’m the perfect height where I don’t even have to audition for horror films. Twice, I’ve had directors say I’d be perfect for a role of serial killer and all they’d done is see my body. No audition or anything. All I had to do was be seen by them.

I remember when I went in for my makeup and clothing. The actress Sarah Clarke from The Twilight Saga films got seen before me, all these women concerned about her hair and rouge and eye brightener and skin magnetizer and all that makeup type stuff. I remember ASMR tingling where I was excited that I was about to get that much attention too. Then, once Sarah was done, where they’d spent all that time to make her look like your average mom, which was the role she was playing, I walked up to take my seat to get primped and promped and all that professional type stuff. But the makeup lady just looked at me to judge what she’d do for my serial killer role and she just said, “You’re good.” Then the clothing lady looked at me and said, “Yup, you’re good like that.” I was wearing the clothes I walked in with. Which means, apparently, that I dress like a serial killer.

I probably should say this: I’ve never killed anybody, not in real life, especially not serially. I flirt with being a vegetarian all the time, because ribs, to me, look a little bit too much like, well, ribs. So for me to kill someone would just make me way too nauseous. I can’t even be around someone spitting. How the hell would I be able to kill them? The only way I could ever kill someone would be if there was no blood and they didn’t die. Only then could I kill them.

The point I’m trying to make is this: I was sick one night. It was near Halloween. So, of course, I’d been asked to work in a haunted house. But I was sick. This was before COVID, back when the world was still somewhat sane. And the boss begged me to go to work. I told him I was sick, but he insisted. I’m like the LeBron James of haunted house actors. For that one, they were dressing me up as a demon. But not a sexy female demon where they looked like they were ready to be in the cast of Cabaret. No, they dressed me like a demon who looked like he’d never got laid in his life. It was all about ugliness with my costume. I’d make GWAR look handsome. I remember the shoulder pads that were heavy. The whole costume was heavy. It was like lifting weights to just walk to the bathroom. Plus I was sick. And it was hot in there. So I was sweating bad. And one customer got hurt. It happens. Haunted house workers are running around in the dark, with our eyesight blocked by our stupid masks, and, short story short, we can run into people and they can get scared and run into us, so it’s more like The Three Stooges than 28 Days Later. So they had to get an ambulance for this person. And the EMTs hauled him out. And I followed along, because I wanted to see if the guy was all right and there were all these people in line and one of the people in line asked me, “What happened?”

So I said, “Sorry, we occasionally kill some of the customers.”

And this girl got really scared when I said that, saying, “Did you hear what he just said? Is that true?”

So I went back inside. My work was done.

Well, the boss came up and told me that we’re not allowed to tell customers that we’re killing them.

I asked why not and he said that saying something like that would scare them.

I said that it was a haunted house, that they were actually coming here and paying us to be scared.

He said, “Not that kind of scared.”

So I said I wouldn’t do it anymore. I promised that the next customer that got injured so badly that an ambulance had to come for them, that I promised I wouldn’t go outside and announce that we were killing customers.

And he was satisfied with that and so I went back to running around.

And I was pouring sweat.

And, well, next thing I knew, I passed out.

And ended up going to the hospital myself.

Dressed as a demon.

When I saw the doctor, I kinda wished I was in my old crazy bloody doctor costume. That would have been awesome. But instead I was an ugly demon and he said I had a heart murmur and couldn’t go back to work at the haunted house, and I was kind of glad, because I finally got to relax for a Halloween for a change.

I remember I was working at this other haunted house another time and the porn star actress Monique Alexander came through with her entourage. I know it was the porn star actress Monique Alexander because this guy who was dressed like a ghost told me, “Hey, the porn star actress Monique Alexander is coming through” and so we all got ready and she came through and she looked pretty scared, so I guess we did a good job. She was dressed like a porn star, even in regular life. And I was dressed like a ghoul. Probably in regular life too, come to think of it.

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is, so I’ll just take the end of Aesop’s Fables’ “The Two Goats”: It is better to yield than to come to misfortune through stubbornness.

So now we’ve all learned something and I’ve improved your life a little bit.


Ron Riekki’s books include Blood/Not Blood Then the Gates (Middle West Press, poetry), My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press, hybrid), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle, nonfiction), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press, fiction). Right now, Riekki’s listening to David Gray’s “Please Forgive Me (live in London Hammersmith).”

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