By RYAN BEARDSLEY
Special to the Sun-Gazette
I don't enjoy being scared.
Call me a baby, scaredy cat or any other name in the book, but my idea of "fun" isn't normally participating in activities where things jump out and startle me. I do like a good scary movie here and there, but even then I muster some extra courage.
So, as you can imagine, visiting haunted houses or hayrides this time of year isn't exactly at the top of my "to do" list.
My wife, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. She loves to be scared, and doesn't mind putting herself in the position to scream like a little girl.
To be fair, Heather screaming like a little girl is acceptable. After all, at 5-feet tall, she is a little girl. When I scream like a little girl, though, isn't as acceptable.
With all of that said, I was just as surprised as anyone when I decided to take Heather to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia for a nighttime flashlight tour and "Terror Behind the Walls," a top-of-the-line haunted house inside the prison with six attractions.
Heather has expressed interest in visiting the site several times, so I figured what better anniversary present than to scare the pants off us both.
For those who are not familiar, Eastern State Penitentiary first opened in 1829 as a controversial prison set out to change the behavior of inmates through solitary confinement and labor.
After 142 years of consecutive use, the building was abandoned in 1971 and left for ruin. It re-opened in 1994 as a historic attraction.
The penitentiary is considered by some paranormal believers one of the most haunted places on earth and has been thoroughly explored by countless paranormal investigator groups, including more notably SyFy Channel's "Ghost Hunters."
In the fall, the building also hosts the haunted attraction "Terror Behind the Walls," complete with professional actors, effects and makeup.
According to Eastern State Penitentiary's website, "Terror Behind the Walls" is consistently ranked among the top 10 haunted attractions in the country.
Needless to say, as soon as I pressed "purchase" on the website for two tickets, I was immediately reconsidering the visit.
But, I'm the first guy to promote trying and experiencing new things. I suppose I have to walk the walk if I'm going to talk the talk.
Sure - easier said than done. The flashlight tour in a castle-like ruined prison built in the 1800s was creepy enough, but once we got to the haunted attractions, I don't think I was prepared for what I was in store for.
I've been to cheap haunted houses and hayrides out on farms that were more sad than scary; this was not one of those. From the moment we entered the prison until the time we finally made it outside, it was one thrill and chill after another.
I jumped, screamed and ran away more times than I care to admit.
There were times when I completely up and left Heather behind for the ghouls and monsters.
What can I say? It was every man and woman for themselves.
I made it out alive, less my dignity, but also had an incredible time.
The funny thing about being scared in that type of situation is that you can usually laugh about it afterward.
If there was a video of me going through the entire attraction, I would have paid top dollar for it and laughed while watching for years to come.
The best part, as always, was experiencing it with my wife.
After three years married (Happy Anniversary, Heather!), we still get to try new things each year. I hope it's always that way.
Usually, there are few drawbacks to trying new things.
For this particular event, the only negative was having to buy new underwear.
Beardsley, a native of Loyalsock Township, was a former Sun-Gazette reporter.
He now resides in Scranton. His column is published on the third Sunday of each month.
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.