My buddy and I have been running three times a week as part of the Couch to 5K program. And we've also been nerding out by going to various IT-related conferences and networking events in and around Baton Rouge.
But last week, my running world and my IT world collided - at the 13th Gate.
The 13th Gate is a legendary haunted house in downtown Baton Rouge. The 13th Gate is nationally renown, and for good reason: it's got movie studio veterans helping create the visuals.
Well, that's not the only reason. Founder Dwayne Sanburn has been working with haunted houses for something like 15 years. This guy knows what he's doing. He knows what scares people. He's like the Stephen King of haunted houses.
I got to meet Mr. Sanburn at the event, and he seemed like such a nice, normal-looking guy. But the fact that he likes to scare the pants off of everyone - old people, young children, women, sick people, and fat nerds like me - either means that there's probably something not quite right with him, or that he's an evil genius who will one day take over the earth with an army of actors dressed as zombies.
My buddies and I got to walk through the 13th Gate with all the lights on and with none of the actors there to scare us. Seems like it would be less scary, doesn't it? I thought so, too.
Boy, was I wrong.
My friend and I had planned to run around Sorority Row after leaving the 13th Gate, so I had a change of clothes. But had I not brought those shorts, I would have felt bad about soiling my pants.
The place is freakin' scary.
For starters, I had no idea what I was getting into. The building looks like a normal building from the outside. Sure, it looks big, but I had no idea that it was 40,000 square feet. It took us a solid 30 minutes to walk through the entire thing, and that's with the lights on and nobody jumping out of the dark to scare us. (OK, so we did hide in the shadows and scare some women who were right behind us. We couldn't help ourselves!)
It's hard to describe what it's actually like inside of the 13th Gate. The best way to say it is that it felt like I was in a horror movie. Seriously. The artistry is amazing, and nothing looks fake. There are chopped up bodies everywhere, snakes, evil clowns, skeletons, a crematory area that you have to crawl through... every time you start to feel comfortable with one of the themes, you turn the corner and suddenly become claustrophobic.
There were no actors dressed as monsters inside, which I was thankful for because I was already severely creeped out and my heart wouldn't be able to take it. But there were some "automated haunts" that scared me just the same. Some of the artwork was breathtakingly beautiful, and some of it didn't exactly take your breath away but definitely made you want to gag. Either way, it did its job.
A big Thank You to Dwayne Sanburn and the people at the 13th Gate, thanks to the BRAC council that organizes Tech Tuesday, and thanks to all the tech nerds that pretended to not see my soiled pants after walking through the scariest haunted house I've ever been in. Don't worry, nerds, I didn't see you soil yourselves either. Your secret is safe with me.