My earliest memories of Monster Plantation at Six Flags over Georgia are rife with terrror.
As a 6-year-old, seeing the multi-colored, goofy creatures flap their arms and shout at each passing boat made me want to hide.
Growing older, however, I viewed the musty old mansion with nostalgia. I continued to visit the ghoulish funhouse every time I went to Six Flags.
Its cool, dark recesses made it possible to dodge the hot Georgia sun for several minutes. That was always a plus.
That's how I talked friends into riding the watery labyrinth on into my teens. They were like, 'what, that's a kids' ride.'
I was like, 'it's air-conditioned.'
So, on into the tunnel of crudely-assembled monster-parts we would journey, atop a tiny boat built for 6 people.
As our boat drifted into the entrance of the half-submerged house, the mildewy scent wafting, I would sit back to enjoy the ride, smiling in the dark.
Upon entering the tunnel, a clown-skinned caricature of Scarlett O'Hara greeted us. An unnecessarily loud audio loop blasted her salutations.
She pointed the way to a door, which creaked open as the boat bumped against its waterlogged frame.
A colorful, carnival of creatures sang and danced on a platform of rolling green astro turf. The latex-covered robots waved to each passing boat.
Children's voices sang a hauntingly catchy tune: "You're invited...to our picnic...monster picnic, where humans are allowed to visit."
Thick monster heads turned to watch us float past. A jazz band of anthropomorphic musicians played a melody.
Just when the party was really bumping to life, the long arm of the law came bearing warnings.
"Ok, this way," said a purple dinosaur that looked more like Sheriff Buford T. Justice than Barny.
"Remember," it said, its head turning. "Don't go into the marsh. Whatever you do, stay away from the marsh."
As a kid, it's at this point that I panicked. The boat was headed in whatever damn direction the water was flowing. I felt helpless as we approached...the marsh.
The jovial music faded away, and was replaced by the hissing of steam and insect sounds. The tunnel grew darker and shadows emerged, creeping toward the boat.
Day-glo deformities crouched beside big, dead trees. A demented pig with seaweed hair told us we were in deep shit.
Though stricken with fear, boat passengers pressed on past the nightmare of talking animals and goblins on the hunt for blood.
Growls and groans faded and we heard the guttural laugh of that big, purple dinosaur sheriff.
"Well, you finally made it safe and sound...don't you humans ever listen? Ok, right this way, folks."
Miss Scarlett was there to see us out the door as we exited the cavernous depths of this animatronic funhouse.
"Yoohoo," she said. "Right this way. Y'all come back and see us anytime."
The exit was in sight, the light of day upon us...but the tunnel was moving...unhinging like the jaws of a serpent...
Child-like voices sang a melody as we floated out the tunnel.
"You're invited...to our picnic...monster picnic, where humans are allowed to visit."
They serenaded us as we headed back out into the hot, Georgia afternoon.