Oh, the horror! The horror! I was trapped in the heart of darkness in Siem Reap’s newest tourist attraction, the House of Horror, part of Temple Town’s newest night market, the International Market Dream Flower.
Getting into the House of Horror was a trip in itself, but getting out was a bigger bugger.
I was lost in the maze that constitutes this mad tourist attraction, which has opened in the building that once housed the very dodgy Martini’s Nightclub and long before that the rats-nest-like headquarters of Khmer Rouge generals.
The House of Horror is basically a kid’s thing, as I discovered while queuing with a crowd of youngsters to buy a ticket. The ticket seller queried me as to where my children were. When I said I wasn’t with any kids, a questioning eyebrow was raised, and an entrance ticket slammed down on the counter after much hesitation.
Next came a security pat-down at the entrance. My cell phone was located and I was instructed to turn it off.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because the ghosts don’t like them,” answered the security man.
Inside the House of Horror I groped my way down dark corridors, bumping into dangling fake bits of human bodies, jangling skulls and the like. All pretty naff, I figured, but from the screams coming from further down the corridor, the kids seemed to be having fun.
I stumbled into a room where a dead guy lay on a stone slab but, to my surprise, he sat up and said casually, “Hello sir, which country are you from?”
I asked him if he was a dead guy or a ghost, and when he said he was a dead guy I said that where I was from dead guys did not sit up and ask questions of tourists, to which he responded, “Yes sir, but which country are you from?”
Ditto the next room, where a guy dripping with rotting body parts did a pretty weak “whoo-ooo-oo” ghostly moan in my face. When I told him his ghost impersonation was pretty lame he said, “Sir, where do you come from?”
I then continued my perambulation, eventually stumbling into a cell-like room that was actually a bar selling beer; curious, considering the joint was supposedly strictly kidsville.
So I asked the barman if he was a ghost and he said no, normally he’s a sailor, and told me I had to select a free soft drink from the selection on offer inside the freezer.
To live dangerously I opted for a pineapple Fanta and headed off, getting lost in the dark maze yet again. At one stage, while sucking my pineapple Fanta through a straw I staggered into a dimly lit room to confront a gaggle of about 10 prepubescent girls who took one look at me and collectively screamed at volume 11.
I bumbled away in horror only to become even more lost, then, turning a corner, I was back in the bar and the sailor told me he would help me find the exit.
“Go down here and turn left, then turn left again,” he said. So I did, and ended up in the bar again. Finally, after some desperate pleading on my behalf, the sailor guided me to the exit.
Having failed basic Horror House Part 1, I stepped out squinting and blinking into the bright sun, only to be confronted by one of the teenage girls I’d freaked out earlier. She approached me and said, “Sir, how long have you been working as a ghost? You are very good. You excited us.”
I noted that the suspicious ticket seller had now spotted me and was eyeing me even more suspiciously, so I said goodbye to the teenager and did the ghost-who-walks trick until I was safely clear of the House of Horror and its immediate environs.