My bloody Valentine

The killer clown roaming the parking lot is freaking us out.

My wife Amy and I don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day, but we always joke about looking for unusual ways to make the holiday our own. That’s when we find out about Valentine Haunt, “Sacramento’s only Valentine horror activity” from the creators of Ultimate Terror Scream Park. Near Citrus Heights, we park in the back of a lot and watch the clown accost people trying to make their way to the entrance.

“What if he’s just a crazy guy dressed as a clown? How do we know?” Amy asks. Everyone was acting so normal—laughing at this terrifying, possibly actually murderous creature. It puts us both on edge.

Prior to this, our collective haunted house experiences amounted to a handful of runs through Disney’s Haunted Mansion and a pop-up Halloween haunted house where the biggest fright was a few witches who jumped out and said, “Boo.”

In line, it’s only couples. The young pair in front of us embrace in a permanent hug. More wandering creeps emerge and target the girl. The menacing parking lot clown sniffs her hair, laughing maniacally. A woman dressed as a blood-soaked baby approaches her, and asks, “Wanna play?” She seems bemused.

At the entrance, we’re handed a fake flickering candle and pushed into the dark, haunted maze as the demon-lady at the entrance yells: “Fresh meat!”

The walls are dark, filled with spiderwebs. Images of gore surround us. We turn the corner and see a teddy-bear man in the wall, motionless. Once we pass him, he chases us.

“Hi kids!” he yells, like a host for a satanic Saturday morning cartoon. We turn the corner into a post-apocalyptic bathroom scene where a zombie-man sits on a toilet moaning at us, reaching for our brains.

Characters come out from all sides: a killer cupid, demons, a human spider, a smiling maniac in horn-rimmed glasses (a serial killer?). Multiple characters chase us at once from different directions. Amy shouts at the monsters. She tells the human-spider to “git” like it was a scrappy, stray dog, while waving the fake candle at it like a sword. I laugh nervously the whole time.

As terrified as Amy is, she takes charge. She leads the whole way, grabbing my hand. Her instincts kick in and her top priority is to save my life. We know it’s fake, but our bodies don’t, just like when you take that first drop on a roller coaster, and for a split-second, you feel like you just might die. What makes this scarier than a ride is that you literally have to use your legs to escape. You feel like you’re going to freeze, but the adrenaline kicks in and doesn’t stop.

In no time, we are driving away in search of pizza. All we can talk about for hours is the haunted house, and how it feels to have such a massive chemical dump running through our veins.

“It’s therapeutic,” Amy says, in a much better mood than she was earlier that day. “I can see why people get addicted to extreme sports.”