Every year at about this time something strange happens in Billings.
Sadistic clowns, masked men with chain saws, demented small children and every other kind of hellish fiend imaginable seem to gather at specific places around town.
And, for a fee, which many seem quite willing to pay, people can interact with these freaks.
My sources informed me that Two Moon Park, the Boys and Girls Club and Moss Mansion are among the gathering places where these strange exchanges are happening this year.
In the spirit of informing the community, I set off to investigate each unholy site Friday night.
Circus of Terror
I started at Moss Mansion, 914 Division St., where a gaggle of clowns had congregated in a makeshift shack, the Circus of Terror, on the historic home’s manicured lawn.
Admission was $5. A clown named Cal ushered me into the circus, where I was immediately accosted by two more clowns with grimacing faces.
Carnival music came from somewhere as I rounded a corner in the dark, mazelike shanty. To my left, a human head on a spit was roasting over a fire.
At every turn, cackling and screaming clowns, some armed with bloodstained weapons, leapt from the shadows or through the walls. The small children ahead of me clung to their parents and screamed.
In less than 10 minutes, the ordeal was over.
Twisted Fairytales Haunted House
I drove south and east to the next destination on my list, the Boys & Girls Club of Yellowstone County, 505 Orchard Lane, where the Twisted Fairytales Haunted House had been erected.
Admission was $5. I was greeted by a little skeleton girl who said, “I’m chilled to the bone” and laughed.
The little skeleton asked me if I would go through the haunted house and help Little Red Riding Hood find her grandmother. How could I say no? Little Red Riding Hood, dressed in a red dress and a plastic trash bag cape, was standing right next to me.
We entered the house and in less than 30 seconds something in the darkness snatched a screaming Little Red Riding Hood and the two of them vanished through a wall.
Presumably, it was the Big Bad Wolf who grabbed her, but it all happened too fast for me to be sure. I had failed in my mission to help her, but I continued on.
After a few twists and turns through the haunted house, a big, white monster startled the mother and two small children who were ahead of me.
The monster sort of fit the description of a yeti, one the snow creatures that may or may not exist somewhere in the Himalayan Mountains, so I asked the obvious question. “Are you a yeti?”
The beast pulled up his mask, revealing a human face underneath and said, in English, that he wasn’t sure what kind of monster he was.
“Just a working man,” he said.
A few minutes later, once free from the haunted house, I went into the Boys & Girls Club, where a spaghetti dinner was being served.
A woman with a slashed throat told me the spaghetti dinner was only available Friday night and would not be served on Halloween.
But there was no time for spaghetti. I drove across town to my final destination, the Haunted Hallows at Two Moon Park.
Two Moon Haunted Hallows
When I reached Two Moon Park and walked to the entrance of the Haunted Hallows, I could hear women’s screams and the revving of a chain saw in the distance. The 150 people in line seemed all too eager to pay the $10 admission.
I fell in with five strangers from Billings, and we set off on the mile-long trek through the woods on the northwest bank of the Yellowstone River.
We passed a howling woman in a cage, but the cage only had three sides, so she escaped and chased after us.
In places, the trail cut like a tunnel through the trees, their branches shrouded in cobwebs, like a scene straight from a Tolkien story. It didn’t take long for the spiders to drop on our heads.
Every few minutes, some new evil would come out of the woods and elicit screams from my companions. Some of the freaks jumped out at us. Others, several of them small children, quietly walked by, mumbling incoherently.
At the far end of the trail’s loop, we reached a graveyard. Its tombstones were lit up like a rave.
Our group’s fearless leader, Derek Smith, spotted a woman in a swing hanging from a huge tree and thought it would be a good idea to try to scare her.
He sneaked up and lunged at her, but she appeared unfazed and kept swinging slowly in the still night.
As we went on, flickering lights and dangling mirrors in the trees played tricks on my eyes. It was quiet, except for our feet crunching through the leaves on the dark trail.
Then, suddenly, a masked man wielding a chain saw rushed us. The whine of the machine’s engine and the smell of its exhaust filled the air as our group scattered, screaming, in the dark. The demented chain saw wielder singled out one of the girls and chased her, but, for some reason, he never could quite reach her.
We collected ourselves and continued on, now walking along the bank of the river, back to the edge of the woods where our adventure began.
After almost exactly 25 minutes, we emerged unscathed from the Haunted Hallows and parted ways, doubtlessly forever connected by having survived the harrowing ordeal.