I know it’s been three days since All Hallow’s Eve – or as you may call it, “Halloween” – but in my defense, Halloween’s origin dictates that it’s a triduum: a three-day observation of remembering the dead, saints (hallows) and martyrs. Ergo, I should still be in the green – not unlike Christmas lights conveniently left hanging up within “12 days.”
I know you’re probably thinking, “I didn’t honor or remember any saints on Friday,” and that’s totally fine! The great thing about Halloween is that we get to spend time with friends and family with sugary sweets, trick-or-treating, parties and costumes. But the iconic thing about Halloween, the thing we remember it most by, is the horror we uphold on that day. Am I right?
The tradition of Halloween has been with America for a long time, but for Germany, not so much. Though it has been picking up here recently, Halloween remains mainly an American celebration.
So, to share some of our traditions with our German hosts, a horror-themed “Fear Factory” event was hosted at the Bitburg Annex from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1. The event started at 5 p.m. and ran to midnight on each day with the first hour serving as “trick-or-treat” run-through for children and the remainder being the haunted hours for adults and any “willing” children.
René Krekel, one of the German actors who participated in the haunted house as a “chainsaw man” and a “masked massacre man”, explained to me what was going on that day, Nov. 1 on Saturday.
“I decided to do this because it’s kind of fun,” Krekel said. “With all the horror films from the U.S. becoming popular, many people here wanted to know what’s going on, so they came and had a look. They will be shocked.”
Being a fan of all things horror-related, I was more than a little eager – and, honestly, a little nervous – to see what our installation had planned for our host nation friends.
Sitting in a dark room illuminated by black light, I tried my best to listen to our “tour guide,” who led us through the maze of horrors with a green glow stick so we wouldn’t be lost. I waited patiently and anxiously for the tour guide to get things started.
Through the maze of horrors, we encountered various monsters and other fearsome sights that included, but were not limited to: werewolves, vampires, zombies, the clinically and satanically insane, ghouls, deformed killers, demented banshees, screaming children (which is actually a lot scarier than you would think), innocent victims getting killed by monsters crying for help and last, but certainly not least, clowns.
That’s right, clowns.
Fog and strobe lights filled the dark hallways and rooms that left you dazed, blinking and slowly shuffling forward as your heart pounded with anticipation as to what horrors lay ahead, unseen in the dense mist before you.
Banging, screaming, maniacal laughter and calls for help could be heard in the grim distance as my shaking hands kept to the wall, feeling my way forward in the Fear Factory. What lay ahead? What would jump out at me? What would they do to me once they had me clutched in their claws?
Of course, the whole thing was make-believe, but that’s what took me by surprise. As a fan, I consider myself quite critical when it comes to matters of horror. I’ve seen plenty of horror movies – since I was 8, I believe – so I’ve grown accustomed to the sight of blood and monsters. But the haunted house was so well done, I couldn’t help but feel I was part of a monster movie, and that’s what made things exciting.
Naomi Garbay, another actor of the Fear Factory who played various roles during that night – portraying both monsters and victims – told me how she felt about the haunted house in the dressing room before the haunting started.
“We’re getting ready for our last night of scaring people and having a lot of fun,” Garbay said. “If someone should get too scared, we’ll help them out. Yes, I enjoy scaring people, but it’s really hard nowadays with a lot of horror films out there; they don’t really notice as much. It’s fun, it’s my first time and I’m really glad.”
And fun and scary it was, indeed. Many actors from the local German community and volunteers from the Spangdahlem community put their best efforts together to ensure citizens from Bitburg would truly understand what it meant to have a frightful night.
It was Matthias Meyer, an event guide, who explained to me what Halloween meant to Germany.
“The Americans get to enjoy the local events, such as Winefest, but now it’s time for the Americans to give something back to the local community,” he said. “We’re hosting this event for the outside community, sharing the American traditions as well, so that they can better understand what’s going on and build a better friendship between cultures.”
Though I did try to gather the reactions from a few tour groups afterward, my lack of German language skills made it difficult to understand what they felt specifically, but their universal body language was enough for me to understand they had a great time, just like me.
Horrifying? Oh, you better believe it.
The Fear Factory was a screaming success, garnering a large gathering far into the terrifying hours of that night. Teens, adults, children and parents all came together not just for a scream, but a chance to see the horrifying thrills Americans enjoy on Oct. 31, every year.
I’m definitely looking forward to attend next year. Maybe, this time, as a monster!