I remember my first haunted house experience very well. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I made it halfway through, before bursting into tears and crying for my mummy.
That was many, many years ago, so when Hysteria invited me to experience its haunted house, I thought that by now, I’d be much braver, so I decided I’d give it a go.
But by the time I got to Hysteria, up on the second floor of The Dubai Mall (it’s easy to find once you’re near the cinema – just follow the screams and spooky music), I came to realise I was very wrong. I’m not braver by any stretch of the imagination. But luckily I brought back-up in the form of my colleagues Sofia Vyas and Ausra Osipaviciute.
My nerves start to build when I see the window displays (think old-style circus freak shows) and the moving gargoyle above the entrance. Memories of that first experience come flooding back. We’re greeted by very friendly and (thankfully) not-so-scary staff, who explain that our walk through the house will take about ten minutes.
They also tell us that by the time we get to the end, we probably won’t remember what happened inside. Because our minds are forced to regress, in denial of the sheer terror we’ve just put them through? I’m not sure. But I’m trying to decide if I’m glad I won’t be haunted for the rest of my life by what I see in there or if I want to be able to say with pride that I survived the horror of Hysteria and brag to my friends about everything I saw.
But this reverie is abruptly interrupted as I’m told my colleagues Vyas and Osipaviciute won’t be coming in with me. Vyas will in fact be going in with Osipaviciute as a practise run for being a scarer, in order to scare me when I go it alone – read her version of events on www.timeoutdubai.com. Oh the horror! So off they go, first, and the screams start not too long afterwards. It’s a tense ten minutes as I wait for them to come out and reassure me that it’s not so bad.
I get no such reassurance. They emerge running, sweating and with a look of pure terror on their faces – that look you’ve only ever imagined when someone says you look like you’ve seen a ghost… how I understand that look now…
It takes a few minutes for Osipaviciute to catch her breath, before they both exclaim that they’d never, ever, do that alone. Thanks for the words of encouragement, guys.
My time is up. It’s now or never and I need to overcome my fear of haunted houses once and for all. In the first room, there’s a short video explaining the rules of the house. It’s pitch black and I’m 100 percent convinced someone is going to jump out at me. I’ve never been so scared stood inside a room. The video finishes and a door in the corner opens. That’s my cue to start the tour.
At this point, I have to admit, I’m not completely alone. I have Rami Khoury with me, Hysteria’s nightmare creator (yes, that’s his actual job title) and our videographer for the day (head to our website on Monday October 31 to watch the video. I guarantee you’ll enjoy me being scared Blair Witch-style). He tells me to pretend he’s not there. I plead with him to not make me do this alone. I can’t move, I’m shaking so much and there are genuine tears in my eyes. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life and I haven’t even left the briefing room yet… This does not bode well.
When the staff said we wouldn’t remember what happened, they weren’t lying. I also don’t want to ruin the surprise. I will say a few things, though. At several points during the walk-through I crouched into a ball out of pure fear. My throat is still sore from screaming and at one point, I couldn’t move for so long that Rami – clearly feeling bad for me – has to help me through that particularly scary room.
My time in the haunted house takes much longer than ten minutes. After what feels like far too long, I finally reach the last room. I now understand why Vyas and Osipaviciute came out running. I exit in the same manner, vowing never to enter that house again. I’m sweating, too, my heart is racing and I’m shaking. But I feel strangely alive and giddy. I’ve just completed what is hands down the scariest experience of my life. Maybe it was worth it after all… On second thoughts, I’m still a scared little girl who needs her mummy, and maybe no dark rooms for a while.
Dhs100. Open daily 10am-midnight. Hysteria, The Dubai Mall (052 223 0866).Hysteria