For over two weeks, volunteers and construction crews transformed the iconic social hall into a terrible chamber of horrors. Organizers spared no expense in their efforts -- all of that money now lost.
Guests began their descent into the dark catacombs of human depravity by entering the Gothic anteroom of an ornate but moldering Victorian parlor. There, they discovered walls lined with portraits of some of the nation’s scariest personalities. Hanging among this rogue’s gallery were Lizzy Borden, Janet Reno, Fidel Castro as an American college student, Jimmy Carter, hobos lined up for welfare checks, Harvey Milk, Occupy Wall Street protesters, IRS staffers, environmentalists and Barack Obama sporting what appeared to be a Charlie Chaplin mustache. A grotesque walrus-like being crouched at his feet in a studded dog collar and tether. Closer inspection revealed the monster to be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The gruesome master-and-servant pair were flanked by the murky phantoms of Obamacare Death Squads.
"Do you hear that music?" Baldhamer asked during a behind-the-scenes tour for the press and police investigators. It sounded like 60's folk rock.
"In a way, it is," he told us. "It's Charles Manson singing 'Look at Your Game Girl' and 'The Hallways of Always.'" More than eerie, we found the soundtrack unsettling for both its high production value and listenability.
Baldhamer then led us down a series of corridors and into mysterious rooms filled with disturbing scenes of damnation, mischievous spooks and night terrors.
There was the Fallen Pedestal room, populated by crack-addled, unemployed bankers who were begging for change or drugs. There were attics bursting with disgruntled Dodgers fans and rioting members of the Raider Nation. And one hall presented us with a gauntlet of homeless people -- armed with bottles of Windex and dirty paper towels -- through which we had to run.
As we turned one ominous corner after another, we were assaulted by zombie tax agents trying to grab our wallets, demonic repo men and over-sized, bloodsucking leeches from the California Franchise Tax Board. But the final room was truly the most hair-raising for members of this extreme right-wing community.
"We agree it was a bit much," Baldhamer admitted, "but we wanted to show what decent people are up against. Perhaps...it was just too real. Too horrible."
We crossed the threshold into an impenetrable darkness, our hearts pounding audibly in our chests. The attack was immediate and enveloping. Within moments, strobe lights sprung to life, loud disco music came blaring from hidden speakers and we were overrun by a seemingly endless cavalcade of Gay Pride Parade participants. The garish costumes, the simpering taunts, the exposed flesh and confusing androgyny of these monsters forced all sensibility from our minds. But even after our narrow escape, fresh torments awaited us as we arrived in a satanic chapel where spectral ushers seated us in eroding pews, draped in rotten meat and thorns. A mannish woman in a smart business suit strode down the aisle, followed by a group of men in shackles. She approached the prisoners in turn, scrutinized them briefly and made hasty, uninformed decisions about their health care. Some were pulled away to undergo crude street vasectomies. Others were forced to impregnate drugged relatives and father their deformed offspring.
Then, from behind the altar, an Islamic cleric emerged from the shadows -- covered in bloody dollar bills -- and mounted the lectern. Two men in purple and pink tuxedos approached. There, we were asked to witness the nuptials of an interracial gay marriage, followed by the newly wed couple's adoption of an anchor baby.
"It's chilling, isn't it, to think that Kim Kardashian's marriage ended so early because people like this destroyed the institution?" Baldhamer lamented.
It will take the residents of San Narciso County years to erase these images from their minds; but for Halloween scares, no event in the state could have rivaled the terror that still haunts the people of this once unassuming town.
(c) 2012. See disclaimers.