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Halloween haunted houses have come a long way, but there's still delight in fright

Haunted houses have come a long way; there's still delight in fright

2 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House at the National Museum of Funeral History. (This is not a real person!
Third Annual Haunted House at the National Museum of Funeral History. (This is not a real person!) Photo by Katie Oxford
1 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 The museum at 415 Barren Springs Drive
The museum at 415 Barren Springs Drive. Photo by Katie Oxford
3 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House - authentic metal casket
An authentic metal casket at the third Annual Haunted House at the National Museum of Funeral History. Photo by Katie Oxford
4 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House. She sings and swings
She sings and swings. Photo by Katie Oxford
5 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House. Deceased on authentic embalming table rises from the waist up.
Deceased on authentic embalming table rises from the waist up. Photo by Katie Oxford
6 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 Exhibit in the National Museum of Funeral History
Exhibit in the National Museum of Funeral History. Photo by Katie Oxford
7 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 1939 Superior - LaSalle Mount Claire Hearse in the National Museum of Funeral History
1939 Superior LaSalle Mount Claire Hearse in the National Museum of Funeral History. Photo by Katie Oxford
8 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 Dracula Cemetery Exhibition at the National Museum of Funeral History.
Dracula Cemetery exhibition. Photo by Katie Oxford
9 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 President Lincoln’s Exhibition at the National Museum of Funeral History
President Lincoln exhibition. Photo by Katie Oxford
10 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 1972 Japanese Ceremonial Hearse at the National Museum of Funeral History.
1972 Japanese ceremonial hearse. Photo by Katie Oxford
2 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House at the National Museum of Funeral History. (This is not a real person!
1 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 The museum at 415 Barren Springs Drive
3 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House - authentic metal casket
4 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House. She sings and swings
5 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 3rd Annual Haunted House. Deceased on authentic embalming table rises from the waist up.
6 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 Exhibit in the National Museum of Funeral History
7 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 1939 Superior - LaSalle Mount Claire Hearse in the National Museum of Funeral History
8 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 Dracula Cemetery Exhibition at the National Museum of Funeral History.
9 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 President Lincoln’s Exhibition at the National Museum of Funeral History
10 - Katie Oxford Halloween October 2014 1972 Japanese Ceremonial Hearse at the National Museum of Funeral History.

A while back, a friend told me about this museum that he’d visited — the National Museum of Funeral History. Huh? I wondered. I googled www.nmfh.org and to my surprise, found all kinds of exhibits.

The 30,500-square-foot museum, located on Houston's Northside, features the country’s largest collection of funeral service artifacts. From documents like copies of George Washington and President Woodrow Wilson’s funeral bills to women’s dresses known as 19th Century Mourning Period to hearses from the early 1800’s on up. Rows.
 
 One thing’s for sure. Haunted houses have undergone cosmetic surgery since I was a kid. Major. 
During the month of October and beyond there are special exhibitions like Dracula’s Cemetery, the Halloween Classic Car Show and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 and 2).        
 
The one that made me get in my car though and head there was the 3rd Annual Haunted House.  
 
Hours later, after touring the haunted house and the museum, my head was swimming with images. President Lincoln’s Exhibition; a 1972 Japanese Ceremonial Hearse (wow); embalming tools (cremation was the right call for me), to ultimately, the haunted house and remembering the ones of my childhood. 
 
One thing’s for sure. Haunted houses have undergone cosmetic surgery since I was a kid. Major.
 
For starters, electricity is required. Juice for lighting, audio and things that move.
 
Minus a battery flashlight, our childhood haunted houses took place in the dark  — in more ways than one.  No soundtrack. No visuals. None that you could see, that is.  
 
We created them using household items and beyond that, our imagination. Something Hitchcock knew fueled suspense. Like watching water go from simmering to boil. 
 
 There’s a tree in there that made me jump out of my clothes.  
To enter ours, usually the garage, you had to be blindfolded. Then, you were taken by the hand and led on a tour. Strictly touch and feel. Your guide, pointing the flashlight, walked you real slow like down a counter top spread with homemade stuff, mostly, straight from Mama’s kitchen. Always — and this was key — you were told what you were about to touch just before you touched it, maximizing the creep factor when you did.  
 
Blindfolded, who would know that eyeballs were really grapes at room temperature? Or, that sheets of toilet paper drenched in water, then squeezed out and kneaded like dough were not someone’s fingers hacked off? I’ve never stuck my hand into real intestines before but pasta al dente sure felt real enough to me.  Through touch and imagination, we went places way beyond our garage.  
 
Mind you, I’ve nothing against modern day haunted houses. Technology or no technology, the end result is still the same. There’s delight in fright.    
 
The haunted house at the National Museum of Funeral History is a trip to Spook Ville for sure.  The house is recommended for children ages 12 and up, but, even so beware you adults.  There’s a tree in there that made me jump out of my clothes. 
 
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The 3rd Annual Haunted House at the National Museum of Funeral History is open through Nov. 3. Admission is $5 adults; $3 children 11 and under. Check the website for details.
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