Ozark Nightmares – Lebanon, MO

I believe it’s become obvious by this point that my family may be a bit on the odd side.  There’s nothing at all wrong with this, mind you – I rather enjoy our oddities. I know we are… different, to say the least, but it’s my family, and I am proud of them.

One of the traditions that we’ve held for many years now occurs around Halloween.  My sister, my son, and myself – we take a bit of a roadtrip up to Lebanon, MO (it’s not that far from Springfield – less than an hour) to go to a haunted house.

What’s this?  A haunted house?  Aren’t those EVERYWHERE??

Why yes, yes they are.  But this one has become personal to us.  See, once upon a time, my sister lived in Lebanon and befriended a gentleman by the name of John Benner.  John is a wonderful person. He did costume design, and was a tailor.  He opened a costume shop in town, and started bringing in more than just his work.  Fast forward to 2008, and he opens up his first haunted house on his land! My sis and I made it a point of going.

It’s only gotten better since then. Every year, this wonderful, creative man comes up with a new theme, guts what he had, and completely rebuilds it.  In the past few years, he’s added a corn maze, and additional games you such you can do before going through the house and the maze both. Things to kick around with.

The people he works with has grown over the years, more and more volunteers coming in to give everyone a good scream (and scream we do!!  I’m still hoarse from all my shrieking last night in the house and maze both!).  They design costumes, props, and little acts for each room.  This year, they took a myriad of different themes, each room unique unto itself.  They were beautifully created, and I was extremely satisfied with our trip.

So it started with myself and my sister and a handful of friends. Dev was rather uninterested to begin with, though he’s joined us the past few years to make it a family tradition.  To go through any haunted house, my sister requires a meat shield (someone in front she can hide behind) and someone behind her – this way she isn’t the first into battle nor can anyone sneak up on her.

At least… that’s the plan.

Generally speaking, when we have gone with others, my sister takes a firm grip on whoever is in front of her, burying her face in their back (depending on just how scary the room is), and keeps a vise-like grip on whoever is behind her.  Should I point out now that my sister has claws?? I hold the scars to prove it… She loves the houses despite all this.  For me?  I hold some comfort in knowing they can’t TOUCH me (that’s the rule at most places, yes??). Don’t get me wrong – I get scared!!  I generally will scream, swear, then burst out laughing at every jump scare.

And I assure you, I have one of those classic, horror-movie screams (hence being hoarse today!!)

In past years, I would bring up the rear.  The problem with this – according to my sister – is that I tend to get distracted.  There have been times where some creepy child has trilled “Would you like to stay and play?”, and while the rest of my group (only 4 max permitted to go through at once) move on, I go “Sure!” and hang out in the cupboard of a room. The rest of my party would realize they had lost me two or three rooms later and have to back track to gather me.

Apparently, I suck as a rear-guard since I would lag behind, and people would jump out right behind Jen…

When my son was older and started going with us, he got appointed to be my babysitter. According to my sister, his job was to make sure I didn’t wander off too far.  Sadly, he’s very good at this job.

For the past two years, I’ve been the meat shield. My sister says I suck at this role as well…

If something startles me, I’ll shriek with all the power of my lungs before swearing and laughing… then tell whoever just scared the hell out of me how very awesome their costume is.  If there is a truly exceptional detail (like this year, a few of the masks had AMAZING teeth!!!), I would ask if they could do whatever caught my attention again.

Meanwhile, since I’m in the lead, everyone else is stuck behind while I satiate my curiosity.

This is generally when I feel my sister’s wrath by way of pointed claws digging into my flesh.  It generally spurs me on to the next room a bit faster than I would have necessarily liked.

My sister has declared on more than one occasion that she has no doubt the actors in these places have no idea what to do with me. Psh!!

It makes me a little sad as this is the last chance I will have for at least a year, hopefully more, to be going through John’s haunted house. But more to come on THAT front later…

It’s well worth the trip for anyone wishing to check them out!!  I strongly encourage the trip! For more information, take a peek at their website.

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