My birthday treat this year was a visit to Spookers. Spookers, for those of you who don't know, is a kind of horror-themed amusement park which has been set up in some old buildings at the back of Kingseat, once a dreaded Auckland mental hospital.
"How tasteless, how vulgar!" I hear you say. You don't know the half of it! The whole thing is in supremely bad taste, and is - perhaps as a result? - a huge amount of hokey fun.
We'd hardly got out of the car before we were accosted by a particularly belligerent member of the walking dead, waving a cleaver, and from there things only got stranger. There was a kind of do-it-yourself enthusiasm about the staff: mad nurses, vampires, zombies, ghosts and all. They seemed determined to demonstrate their acting chops, and for all our fine talk beforehand, it wasn't long before we too were running and squealing like girls.
The rather posed studio photo at the top of the page is optional, but I think you'll agree that it would be a shame to leave without such a memento of one's stay. And - all the gallons of fake blood, dusty hospital rooms, and chainsaws aside - there's no denying that Kingseat itself is genuinely creepy.
There were moments as we drove along the long deserted road from the motorway, penetrating further and further into the hinterland, when I began to feel as if I'd strayed into The Locals, my all-time favourite New Zealand rural paranoia film.
I suppose, as a serious student of the paranormal, I should feel ashamed of going to such places. Guess what? I'm not. It was very entertaining, and there was clearly something about me that particularly riled the staff (the fact that I was thirty or so years older than virtually everyone else there might have helped). Not even the Guinness t-shirt Bronwyn persuaded me to wear could persuade them that I wasn't some kind of patronising intellectual looking for something to slag off.
Anyway, we survived (though I haven't yet heard the last of that moment in the forest when I inadvertently lost track of Bronwyn for a moment whilst fleeing from an axe-wielding fiend. "Hey, you left your lady behind," I could hear them shouting after me. Her own remarks on the subject were rather more succinct - which I think was a little rich, given the number of times she'd already thrust me in the way of ghouls or zombies to facilitate her own escape ...)
I highly recommend it - but probably with something resembling the proviso Dylan Thomas added to his praise of Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds: "Just the book to give your sister - if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl." That shouldn't present too many challenges for most of my readers, surely?
Directions to Spookers:
Take the Southern Motorway, take the Papakura/Karaka offramp. Turn right if coming from the North or left if coming from the South onto Linwood Road.
Linwood Road leads into Kingseat Road. Travel 14kms from the motorway and Spookers is on your right.
Spookers is strictly R16 with No ID, No Entry on Friday and Saturday nights. No exceptions.
BYO torch for the Freaky Forest/CornEvil or you can purchase them here at Spookers for $15 (Spookers branded) Wear sensible footwear and you may get some 'fake' blood on you. This will come out in the wash.