It’s October and haunted houses are springing up across the country almost as fast as Christmas displays at Walmart, stocked with the usual array of ghosts, zombies, and ax-wielding maniacs. While there is nothing wrong with tradition, trotting out the same old thing year after year won’t get people’s hearts racing and their pants wet.

Most people aren’t afraid of being decapitated by the headless horseman, yet they shriek like little girls when they see a clump of hair in the shower at the gym. If we have learned anything from 40 years of Scooby-Doo cartoons, it’s that the most ordinary places are downright terrifying. That, and never trust old men named Jenkins.

8. A Library

Libraries are like a tomb for a dying medium. But free is free, and people will enter the bowels of Hell for free stuff. It may feel that way as you search for a book using a 130-year-old system that has driven many to the brink of madness, and making your way through a layout that has you running in circles for a half-hour.

You also have to be careful about sticking your hand into the shelves if you don’t want to end up touching unidentified goo.

Meanwhile, the unnerving silence magnifies the smallest sound, be it pages turning or a homeless guy masturbating. If you’re lucky enough to find the book before some other jerk does, you bring it to the front only to find that you can’t check out…because you forgot your library card, again.

7. A Mall

Everybody knows that mall. It’s the one that should have gone out of business ten years ago yet somehow clings to a kind of half-dead, zombielike existence. These Zombie malls even have their own Walkers: senior citizens out for a stroll or a trip to the button store. Like them, everything in the mall is a crumbling relic of a bygone era.

Along the poorly lit corridors lay empty storefronts still bearing names like Woolworths or Borders, a cigarette machine, candy machines that haven’t been restocked since the Clinton administration, and the rusted out kiddie train where children’s laughter died out a long time ago. The only reason you ever go there is to rent videos for grandma’s VCR, and maybe buy some hash from the guy running the swatch watch kiosk.

6. A Bank

Do you really need someone to explain to you why banks are the Epicenter of Pure Evil? Okay then, moving on.

5. A Bus

You can smell the despair the moment you step on the bus, along with urine and a few other scents no one can identify. There are many sketchy characters, but none are as sketchy as the one in the driver’s seat. You can tell from their vacant expression they lost their soul a long time ago, although whether it happened before or after they started driving a bus remains a mystery.

You push your way through a sea of people looking for a spot where you can breathe the easiest and be groped the least, and hopefully avoid catching anything from the millions of germs being exhaled in this meat tube on wheels.

Reading or playing Angry Birds is out; you have to pay close attention since the bus doesn’t announce the stops like they do for those uppity jerks on the commuter trains. And you get to do this every. single. day.

4. High School

The horrors seen here scar the psyche with the white-hot intensity of a branding iron. Alzheimer’s patients who can’t remember their own name still remember getting pantsed and thrown into the girl’s bathroom in the ninth grade. And that’s the worst thing about high school; no matter how many years pass, you never really leave it behind.

Jocks are always going to be jocks, nerds are always going to be nerds, and cheerleaders are always going to be those skinny bitches that slept with the jocks and your boyfriend. You desperately spend four long years jockeying for position; how well you succeed will determine whether you end up in a corner office or a cubicle.

Unless you drop out, then you’ll spend ten years in a shirt with a nametag before going for your G.E.D. because high school won’t let you get away that easily.

3. A Nursing Home

They don’t call them God’s waiting room for nothing. However, a more accurate term might be “a terrifying glimpse into your inevitable future.” A place filled with people falling apart at the seams is depressing enough, but not as depressing as finding ways to occupy them while they run out the clock. There’s only so many times they can play bingo every week without it turning into elder abuse, and the same goes for TV.

Activities like a dance or holiday party is an exercise in futility when most of the residents are knocked out by a trip to the bathroom, and no amount of balloons and streamers can take the sad out of that picture. Nursing homes are more frightening than a sewer of flesh eating mutants because aging is a battle even the most badass shotgun-toting antihero can’t win.

2. A Hotel

You are renting a room where thousands of people have stayed before you and left their mark, which can usually be seen under a black light. Thousands of people eating, sleeping, having sex with a person or a pay-tv movie, urinating, defecating, vomiting and god-only-knows what else, and they probably didn’t go to great lengths to clean up after themselves.

That job is left to the minimum wage housecleaning staff that aren’t being paid enough to put up with all of the figurative and literal crap they have to deal with every day. And even if they do take pride in their work, they won’t be able to get rid of all of the bedbugs, mold, and other nasty things that make their way through hotels like a Las Vegas hooker.

Norman Bates would probably have stopped killing after his mother if he didn’t have a hotel to run.

1. A Public Swimming Pool

Any body of water outside of your own bathtub is bound to contain some questionable stuff. However, where a lake or ocean spreads out the nasty things over several square miles, pools condense all of it into one small area with no drainage. Take the bodily juices of dozens of snot-nosed kids and fat, hairy bodies squeezed into swimsuits that defy the laws of physics.

Add band-aids, diapers, hair, and insects, and you’ve got a stew that would make Satan vomit. It’s a mess so vile that only the most unrelenting hot weather can drive you into it, and even then you have to convince yourself that the chlorine will take care of everything.

It won’t, since the amount of chlorine needed would kill everyone in there, but you push such thoughts out of your mind as you dive in hoping you won’t develop a rash later.

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