Around one or one-thirty I found myself helplessly in line, listening to the clamor from inside that dark place reaching the outside like sounds from another world. Screams, some sounding human some sounding…otherwise. The discord of warning bells. The bass, brutal laughter of a maniac seeming to shake the building on it’s foundation. Rushing water. Some of the brief silences seemed somehow worse yet
     I got out of line. I ignored the “Awww, come on!” following me. I was outta there before I somehow got forced into one of those godawful little wheeled boats. My best friend Billy and Cindy took their first rides on the Ghost Ship

together early that afternoon. Billy pronounced it “Neat!” I began to feel cheated. So later that afternoon I found myself climbing into one of the little boats of doom next to Cindy myself, following her reassurances to my mom that there was nothing all that scary inside. Uh huh. Not that it would have mattered. Part of the “stone” sea wall had a hole knocked roughly in it and the boats passed through this, up a slightly inclined tunnel of black corrugated metal and “crash!”. I heard it. I felt it. “Crash! “ again, and I smelled the rush of unique Ghost Ship air. This was the smell of an evil and haunted place for sure! Old wood, creosote, stale water, dampness, mold…monsters and entities from the deep sea! Oh man! I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there, leering, inches away! I wouldn’t look! They couldn’t hurt me if I didn’t see them, right? Right? Oh, but the sounds! The sounds were overwhelming! The ringing, laughter, screaming! The rush and bubble of water all around! Now another “crash!” and our boat jolted. More doors? Something worse? Well, we sure weren’t out of this yet, because nothing even resembling daylight was showing through my clamped lids! Something else. Flashing light! No idea what that is and don’t wanna know! Several more “crashes!” Don’t know how many. Now I hear running water again and it’s right in front of us! Oh… “Crash!” Dry daylight!
     “You, uh, can open your eyes. We’re outside now.” Relieved, but…well…disappointed too. Five or six more rides that afternoon, all pretty much the same. At one point Billy wanted to ride with me, but that one I declined. He was a year younger than me. How could he protect me from what I wasn’t seeing but knew was there? Two more rides with my dad that night, eyes closed I wanted a third.
     “Okay, but try to keep your eyes open this time. Will you?”
     “Yes.”
     “Good kid!”
      Easier said than done as the little yellow light bulb above the “No smoking” sign next to the tunnel flashes and the small bell next to it “briiiing”s. I look at the nice lady in the red striped shirt sitting next to that ominous control panel. If…when she presses that one button… She smiles at me, presses the button… Off we go, forward a few feet past her. Quick right turn. Through the wall and up the incline. God, I can smell that haunted air already and this is all such a bad idea! “Crash!” The damn doors are closing behind me and I can’t get out of here now no matter what! Next set of doors right in front of me, and there is a stupid windshield wiper hanging on one of ‘em! I don’t know why. I don’t care! I have much worse to deal with right now. “Crash!” What is this? I’m in a long hallway with greenish glowing support beams all around me! And I think I spoke (or yelled) my question out loud, too, because my dad, reassuring hand on my knee says
     “It’s the ship’s hold. The cargo area.”
      It seems like it’s going to go on forever. It sure looks that way as the screams and evil laughter boom around me. But then there is a sharp right turn into deeper blackness with what looks like more glowing green beams ahead. But “crash!”--through another set of doors and the corridor ahead rolls dizzyingly. My little boat is passing through the center of a large, eerily illuminated spinning barrel. There is something waiting beyond that I can’t…quite…see… Then I come out of the barrel and a light blazes on. A large, angry sailor is sitting at a long rough plank table reaching for his mug. The table tilts and the mug slides beyond his grasp. I am looking at him and he is definitely looking at me, his mouth wide in an outraged but silent shout. Is he angry about the mug or at me for being here? I never find out because my boat veers quickly to the left and winds through the ceiling-support beams of one of the ship’s cabins. Through a window I see the raging ocean outside, and I notice we are riding very low in those waves! To the right out of the cabin and into a short, dark hallway. Abrupt left hairpin turn in pitch blackness and to my right, lurking in a recess, is a vicious looking “man” with the claws of a lobster and the body of a serpent! The claws open and close greedily and his head, which has antennae on it like a lobster’s, turns left and right. Seeking. His mouthful of pointed teeth are no less worrisome than those claws, but he doesn’t seem to notice as I slip by. Sharp right and I see, of all things, a sheeted skeleton sitting in an outhouse lit by a flickering lamp mounted on the wall inside! He obviously doesn’t like being watched and rudely slams the door! Moving now down a long corridor that seems to end on a decrepit wooden dock, the open sea beyond. As I get nearer, something…something wearing a hooded robe and trailing what appear to be shackles and chains rises beyond the far end of that dock, glowing with bluish and reddish light and flies toward me! Oh god…!
     My boat swings a right turn and the terrible thing is gone but…what now…ahead of me is what looks like a wall of stone glowing purplish-black. Above this, absurdly, sits a skeleton on a scaffold, bandanna tied around his bald white head, sailor’s uniform in tatters. In his hand…is that a paintbrush? Yep. And there is a sloppy can of red paint on the plank next to him. What could he possibly be painting in this place? The scaffold he sits on slowly begins to tilt and my stomach is in my throat as I realize, with shock, two things. First, my boat is going to crash into this fast approaching wall! Second, ridiculously, I’m going to be drenched with paint as it does! I look up and scream hopelessly as red paint (well, actually now that I get a look at it more like a red rag on a wire) gushes from the bucket toward me — and stops — as my little boat crashes through a set of doors that only looked like a wall. My dad—oh, he’s still with me thank god!—chuckles. I wonder what is supposed to be so funny.