Monday, October 20, 2008

Haunted Library

    I had a long day on Saturday. I was at the library from 8:30 in the morning until 11:00 at night except for lunch break. That's a pretty long day, don't you think? Perhaps I should explain.

    Our director decided to create a "Haunted Library" for the area kids and parents to tour through. It was similar to the haunted house attractions that sometimes pop up this time of year where visitors can walk through the building seeing spooky decorations, hearing scary sounds, and having people costumed as monsters and such pop out to frighten them.

    The library was open as usual in the morning. I worked at the circulation desk from 8:30 until noon as I was scheduled to do. Normally, the library is open until 5:00, and I usually am also scheduled to work the afternoon. This past Saturday, though, the library closed at noon so that we could set up decorations for the Haunted Library.

    We worked the entire afternoon hanging up battery-operated ghosts, spiders, and bats all of which moved in some fashion. The ghosts also made noises. We also placed in various spots around the library very realistic-looking rubber snakes, hairy spiders, rats, and other such creatures. Fake spider webs were draped everywhere and tiny battery-operated lit pumpkins were set about on the tables.

    There was a coffin (with a person inside to pop up out of it, of course), a Harry Potter room where a scary story was told to the visitors, a mummy, a Frankenstein, a Wolfman, and others to be wandering about the building, a "wax" museum full of characters---some of which were stuffed and some of which were live persons, a guillotine with fake blood on it and two boys (friends of one of my sons) pretending to act out a scene where someone was about to be beheaded (for not returning their books on time) , a maze through the book stacks, and other such scary things.

    I had volunteered to help out with the event. We staff members at the library were told we would receive double time off coupons for the hours that we volunteered. It seemed like a pretty good deal to me. I was assigned as a greeter/crowd control person. All of us who volunteered were also provided with the costumes that the director wanted us to wear for the event.

    We worked until 5:00 decorating the library and getting things set up. We then had two hours before time for the "Haunted Library" was to open to the public. During that two hours we were to eat a dinner of pizza and pop provided to us by the director and also get costumes and makeup on for the event.

    One of the other librarians was wearing a witch outfit including a fake green nose that was attached to her face and green makeup and so forth. She made the mistake of getting her nose and makeup put on before eating the meal provided for us. Because of the large hook nose, she was unable to drink her pop from the can. She had to go find a glass to pour it in before she could drink any. She still got pop all over the end of her fake green nose which dipped down into her cup whenever she took a sip of her pop. We couldn't stop laughing when she tried to eat her pizza either because with every bite she came back with pizza sauce and cheese on the tip of her nose.

    I had been provided a floor-length, burgundy, velvet dress and a black lacy shawl which were actually quite pretty, I thought. I was also given a very fancy-looking black velvet witch's hat to wear. Luckily, I wasn't required to wear the big nose and green makeup on my face. Since I was one of the greeters in the entrance way, I think the director wanted to save the scarier characters for inside the library for the main part of the tour.

    The Haunted Library was much more successful than the director ever imagined that it would be. Last year, they had about 40 people attend. This year there were 350 visitors! The tours were supposed to take about 15 or 20 minutes and we had announced that the Haunted Library would be open from 7:00 - 10:00. We were kept quite busy, to say the least, funneling the people through the doors a few at a time. We started out letting only six in as a group at a time according to the director's instructions. However, when growing numbers of people continued to show up outside the door and lined up all the way down the street, he had us increase the number to eight at a time and then again to ten at a time, trying to give everyone a chance to go through the tour. We still ended up extending the tour time with the last group going through just before 11:00 pm.

    We had advertised the tour as being for kids from the third grade on up. There were craft activities in the children's department on the first floor for younger children who might be too frightened by the tour. Unfortunately, there were a few parents who arrived with very young children in tow who wanted to take the tour and insisted that their children would be just fine. A few of these youngsters sought reassurance from me. The groups would come in to the lobby to wait before entering the main part of the library. I was to keep things in order in the lobby with the groups who were waiting their turn to enter.

    One little girl saw me and came over to me. She asked me if it was really scary inside. Then she literally jumped back from me terrified and said, "Look at her hands!" I had been given a pair of black gloves to wear with sparkly red nails glued to the fingers on the outside. The lobby was only dimly lit for effect and the gloves made my hands look scary as if they were the hands of a corpse, I suppose.

    Seeing her reaction, I immediately stooped down to her level and gave her a big smile. I said, "Don't my hands look crazy!! See they are just a pair of black gloves with fake fingernails glued to the outside. Isn't that silly?" I then slowly held my hand out and let her touch the gloves and nails. Up close she could see that they really were just a pair of gloves. She giggled then and gave me a smile. She asked again if it was scary inside. I told her that yes it was, but that she would be OK. I told her that there were high school kids in scary costumes that might jump out at her and try to scare her. I repeated again to her that she would be OK. She returned to her parent's side then bracing herself but looking not nearly as terrified.
    She just needed a little reassurance, as we all do from time to time.

    Another little boy came through who looked too young to be there. He kept asking his mother if everything was real inside. "Would there be real ghosts inside? Are those real witches?"

    His mother teased him saying, "Yes, they are all real. Real ghosts, real witches, real monsters. Everything was real." The poor little kid was looking more and more frightened as she went on. She then mistakenly decided to include me in her attempt to terrify the boy. She asked me, "That's a real witch's hat you're wearing, right?"

    I could see the poor child was nearly frightened out of his wits, and he hadn't yet been inside the main part of the building. I stooped down to talk to the boy and said, "It's a real hat, but it is just a hat. Would you like to touch it." I leaned my head over so he could touch the brim of my hat. He touched it cautiously, but still looked very frightened.

    His mother refusing to stop teasing the boy then said to me, "and I bet you have on real witch's shoes too."

    I broke into a big smile then because I was pretty sure that my shoes would convince the small boy that things were going to be OK if he went through the haunted library. My shoes were covered by my long dress so the Mom couldn't see them, but I hiked up the hem of the skirt so the boy could see that I had on my tan skechers and tan jeans under the dress. I was supposed to wear black pants and shoes under my costume but had forgotten to do so when I dressed for work early that morning. He took one look at my shoes and then laughed. "Those aren't witch's shoes!" he said.

    I grinned real big at him and gave him a wink. I could see the relief fill his face. Finally, he understood that the haunted library was just pretend and not real as he had imagined.

    witch's shoes??

    One other little girl entered with her parents in the lobby. She was in tears. The parents were telling her that they had already stood in line all this time and that now that they were inside they couldn't get back out the way they had come in so they would have to go through with the tour. I went over to talk to them. I explained to them that there were crafts and other activities for the younger kids elsewhere and that perhaps it would be more appropriate for them to take their daughter to that part of the library. I told them I would make sure they could get back out the way they had come in, in order for them to go to the other entrance for the children's department. I and another librarian helped them get back out through the crowd.

    I'm not sure what some of the parents were thinking, but we wanted this to be a fun experience for the kids not something that would give them nightmares for weeks on end. That was why the director had set a recommended age boundary for the kids to go on the tour. I have never been one to particularly enjoy having scary things jump out at me, so I could understand why some of the youngest kids would be quite afraid, especially the ones who were young enough that they might have trouble telling the difference between reality and fantasy.

    Other than having to break up one minor scuffle between a couple of boys about the age of ten, I didn't have any other troubles with controlling the crowd. For the most part, it seemed that those who came for the tour had a fun time.

    After the last group of visitors had gone through and gone home, the director invited us to all stay for ice cream sundaes. He was quite pleased with how well things had gone and was already talking about perhaps holding the event for two nights instead of just one for next year. Maybe next year I will remember to wear more appropriate witch's shoes.....or perhaps not. I know that for this year, at least, there was one little boy who was glad that I didn't remember.

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Haunted Library

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