"Can you hurry?" The voice on the other end of the line sounded panicked. "Yeah, we're on the west side."
"Oh, you're local, OK. You know where to park, right? Let me give you the secret location." And with that, we were off for a night of in-town tourism, an at-home adventure on the not-so-mean streets of Nashville. We were a young couple bent on finding fun, looking for thrills at any cost. Even our dignity was on the table, a sacrificial offering to the party gods if the night should take us there. We were on the hunt for murder and mayhem and blood-soaked horrors beyond imagination. We were headed for Nashville's Haunted Tavern Tour, a booze-filled couple of hours of homespun yarns about disembodied reflections in barroom mirrors and ghosts of husbands who probably had it coming, all set to a walking tour of downtown pubs — trivia game included.
The problem is, I'm just not into ghosts. I'm a man of (mad) science, zombies and mouth-breathing psychopaths hiding in the bushes. Hippies with rabies who kill all the townsfolk. Amazonian cannibals with a penchant for impaling strangers on stakes. And of course frustrated New York artists with battery-driven power tools and terrible punk-rock bands playing in the apartment beneath them. It's not that I'm anti-ghost, it's just that I derive far more terror from paranoia and madness than, say, drafty houses and pseudo-metaphysics. And don't even get me started about the cornucopia of Ghost Hunters malarkey on SyFy these days — you're cuttin' into my Sharktopus time, people!
You'd think that would be a huge impediment to enjoying yourself on a haunted tavern tour, but you'd be wrong — a few shots of the green mysterious stuff at your first stop, and suspension of disbelief isn't even an option. Which is perfect if your own personal boogeyman is talking to total strangers, cuz you're gonna be doing a lot of that, buddy. (Side note: If Sartre were working today, he'd be making torture-porn films about waiting for public transportation. Just saying.) And while nature was, in fact, doing its best to make sure it did as little mood-setting as possible — it's tough to get a chill up your spine when the temperature's still in the '70s at 7 p.m. — by the time the spooky tales started spilling, we were into it. Buzzed, but into it nonetheless.
But the only real horror we saw was the service at the bar in a certain pool hall named for a large mammal and/or city in upstate New York. If this is how folks are treating tourists, we might want to consider filling in that hole where the convention center is going. As we hopped from spot to spot, listening to tales of death and debauchery told by a woman who was perhaps a little too sweet to "sell" it, we were tempted to interject our own, more personal tales of terror from traipsing up and down Second Avenue. Like, there was the time our brother-in-law got stabbed at last call. Or that hellacious hobo fight we saw once. Or that time a member of the GTL sorority got a heel stuck in a sewer grate and broke her ankle and a mouthful of very expensive teeth.
But, alas — there's a difference between scaring tourists with tales of Victorian-era vengeance and scaring tourists away from the city for good, so we kept our nefarious narration to ourselves. As the evening wore on, the Ghostini glasses stacked up and the night creatures of Lower Broad began to emerge from their lairs. We looked upon our fair city and realized that home is truly where the horror is.