I’m thinking about a haunted house.
And I’m shaking in my shoes.
Not because I’m scared of the supernatural.
Because I’m scared of the all too real authority of the dozen men seated at the table before me.
They are the leaders of my small Nebraska community, and they can stomp out my dream like a match on the sidewalk.
Two friends and I want to put together a public attraction for Halloween. We want to make a haunted house of the abandoned B. Y. High mansion. And we want the Ruritan Club to cover us with their insurance.
What started out as a dare, has quickly fallen into the dark abyss of public legalities, business jargon, and responsibility.
All the things high school is supposed to teach you.
We are seniors this year, the Class of ‘84, and we’re a diverse group. Our class is small enough that we all know each other, but large enough to be made of many cliques.
What high school class doesn’t have cliques?
But here’s the dream. The dream is for one night, all of us work together as adults. No parents, no teachers. Nobody but us and the small town community.
If the Ruritan says yes and covers us with their insurance, we can proceed. The owner of the mansion gave us permission. Most of the class is on board and coming up with ideas.
All we need is insurance so if old Grandma Jones falls down and breaks her nose we’re covered.
The wise old men nod, maybe recalling their own crazy schemes of youth.
And we’re underway.
With ten days to go before Halloween, the historic mansion becomes a chamber of horrors.
Greg comes down the staircase in his Michael Myers mask, wielding a rubber knife.
Bryon jumps out of a closet with a chainsaw (sans chain).
Lynn gets chopped up in the basement, and another Greg climbs out of a coffin.
Our most expensive exhibit: we paper an entire room in aluminum foil and hit the strobe light.
When darkness falls on the 31st, all is in readiness. Every single member of the class participates.
A feat we’ve never seen before, and never will see again.
Will the public show up?
In fact, they do.
We start moving them through the screams and moans, the scary sights and terrible sounds.
We hustle. We break things. We fix things. We run like crazy.
We work our asses off.
And we make money doing it. Money that ultimately pays for a future class endeavor.
When the night is through, we’ve learned more about the real world than we ever did in school.
It’s an achievement we still talk about today, 30+ years later.
The mansion is long gone. Most of the Ruritan Club members are gone.
But that night echoes down the corridor of time, its success a ghostly reminder of one of the best nights of our lives.