The Boy with the Rubber Guts

Dark Manor Teaser

There’s a reason I don’t go to haunted houses anymore. It’s partly because I know how they work, but it’s mostly because I suspect there are other kids out there like the boy with the rubber guts.

In the 1980’s me and my friends went to plenty of haunted houses. My friends Dale and Daryl always turned their garage into a neighborhood haunted house, hanging sheets from the ceiling to make a maze – they loved it.

My Dad’s Masonic Lodge in Riverdale had a hugely successful haunted house that drew crowds from all over Atlanta.  There were always huge lines and the crowds grew longer as the night went on. I vividly remember that they had one room where you walked across a swinging bridge strung over a bottomless pit… inside a HOUSE no less!!! It was a simple yet terrifying and amazing illusion! In reality it was just plywood laid over some mattresses, with rope handrails and an oscillating fan or two in the corners of the room to lend the feeling of air blowing up from the depths.

But in the pitch dark you’d swear that you were one bad step away from a thousand foot drop.  A lot of these gags relied on pitch dark rooms.

In one room you could witness a hissing, spitting electric current snaking up 2 wires on the wall, and I’ll be darned if that Frankenstein monster didn’t always seem to bust loose EVERY TIME a tour group went through the room.

A giant murderous ape would also get loose and run around the grounds, jumping out at people in line.  Every year you’d spot a man with a chainsaw cocked at full buzz, oily blue smoke falling to cover the chilly ground like fog while lines of people scrunched together in happy terror, waiting for their turn to enter the house itself.

This is when I observed how even the Biggest Dudes were all too ready to shove their wives out of the way as they attempted to effect an escape from our scary monsters.

One year the Jonesboro lodge let the boys put on a haunted house of our own, and our was called the “Dark Manor”.

Dark Manor Vintage Poster

At the time it seemed like a fairly simple setup and we quickly worked out a sequence for leading guests through the century old house at the corner of King and McDonough (it has since been torn down).

Location of the Dark Manor

The Laboratory

The grown-ups had used two by fours to create simple wooden handrails along both sides of the path throughout the house. The rails were designed to keep guests “on track” and were covered with carpet to protect everyone from getting splinters in their hands. There were two doors leading into the room I was stationed in, so the handrails essentially split our room in half –  with two of us on one side of the room, two on the other side.

I was stationed in the larger half of the room playing the Mad Doctor, mainly because I had showed up with a crudely carved replica of a knife that I had “crafted” from a loose slat in an old wooden ladder.

In all honesty my “knife” was indistinguishable from a paint stirrer painted silver.

The 2nd boy, who I will refer to as Charlie, had it easy. He was on the other side of the railing from us and all he had to do was bang on walls and holler a lot.  That may sound lame to the teens of today, but back then shouting and hitting things was perceived as an awfully important job.  Plus Charlie wasn’t particularly bright – he was just happy to be anywhere.

The 3rd boy was my helper, my Igor.

The 4th boy was fortunate enough to have a dad who had access to some strap-on fake guts that emergency teams used when they ran disaster drills at the airport.

Every one of us in that room knew how cool those guts were – in many ways they made that kid better than us, so it only made sense that he would be the one to lay on the operating table wearing the fake guts while I spent the entire night cutting him open to the horror and delight of our paying guests.


No Guts No Glory

The story in our room was simple:

About 8 guests would be shuffled into the darkened room, I would mumble something about my “experiment” as my patient shouted out in horror as my assistant Igor held him down.

In one swift motion I would draw my wooden stick across his belly and we would expose his strap-on rubber guts to the world, waggling them at the guests as a strobe light flickered crazily in the corner. There was fake blood involved, somehow.

Once all the guests had gotten a good gander at the boy with the rubber guts the guides would hustle them onward to the next room.  That’s when Charlie would pop out and holler “Gahhhrrrrr!” and begin thumping on a wall.

Like I said, simple.


An Inexplicable Occurence

In between groups we would stand in the dark and laugh about the reactions we had seen on peoples faces in the previous groups. It was cool to be part of the group doing the scaring instead of the group getting scared, but frankly, it was almost so exciting that it made you need to pee a little.

You know that excited, “this kind of makes me want to pee” feeling you sometimes get, right?

As we stood there in the dark, the boy with the strap-on guts gave voice to that feeling by announcing “You know, I kind of need to pee right now”.

All of us felt that way, but being teens none of us felt it socially acceptable to excuse ourselves and go across the street to use the restroom because none of the other boys were doing that.

We just held our pee because none of us wanted to leave the room, especially those of use with important jobs, like vivisectioning.  None of us wanted to be replaced and end up doing Charlie’s job because we all knew in our hearts that Charlie’s job sucked.

Sorry, Charlie.

In my case, I knew that Igor had been bucking to use my super cool paint stirrer / knife, so I told my bladder to wait – once you lose your job as a Vivisectionist it’s practically impossible to get it back.

The boy with the rubber guts was no different – there was no way he was going to leave his post, because wasn’t about to let anybody else use his dad’s guts. After each new group went through he grew more and more fidgety and he began to suggest that there was “an awful lot of fake blood already on the floor”.

Do you see where this is heading?

Because we didn’t.

Imagine our horror, standing there in a pitch dark room with 3 other people, when one of them begins to urinate into a puddle of fake blood in the corner of the room. Imagine the sound. Imagine the smell. Imagine being stuck there for hours more, knowing that you were standing in a mixture of pee and fake blood.

Now you know where the real horror was happening that night.

There’s a reason I don’t go to haunted houses anymore. It’s partly because I know how they work, but it’s mostly because I suspect there are other kids out there like the boy with the rubber guts.



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