ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Halloween this year may become another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Trick-or-treating is being discouraged, and going to a haunted house may be a truly unsafe experience. But for anyone who feels 2020 has not been scary enough already, some car washes have turned themselves into tunnels of terror. Melanie Peeples drove through one of them in Birmingham, Ala.
MELANIE PEEPLES, BYLINE: Now, you might ask yourself, what's so scary about a car wash? So I decided to go check it out with my son.
MAX: Hi. This is Max.
PEEPLES: But before we can even get to the car wash, creepy characters and clowns are messing with people in the long line of cars.
(Laughter) Make sure the doors are locked.
(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)
PEEPLES: He's banging on it with a knife.
It's just funny at first.
That person - oh, he got me, one of those "Scream" guys.
From the movie, "Scream" - he's in a black robe and a mask with the mouth stretched open. Max remains steadfastly cool. But again and again, they get me by distracting me with a seemingly harmless character on one side of the car.
(Laughter) And a small child (ph). Oh, God, he's back again (Laughter). Oh.
It's one of the creepy clowns. I make the mistake of rolling my window down...
(SOUNDBITE OF CHAINSAW REVVING, SCREAMING)
PEEPLES: ...Because, of course, you have to have a chainsaw.
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING, CHAINSAW REVVING)
PEEPLES: Windows back up, which is good, because it's finally time to enter the car wash.
(SOUNDBITE OF WATER RUSHING)
PEEPLES: Red neon lights make the water look like blood raining down.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR WASH MACHINE)
PEEPLES: The fabric cleaning strips lapped the car like "The Tell-Tale Heart".
MAX: Da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, da-duh (ph).
PEEPLES: Finally, we see the end of the tunnel.
(SOUNDBITE OF AIR WHIRRING)
PEEPLES: It's the guy from the movie "Halloween". His crazy hair is being blown all over the place as he raises his machete and points it at Max. Next time, he seems to say. And then we're spit out in the parking lot to celebrate our escape as the next car comes out.
PEEPLES: How are you all doing?
SHAY: All right. That was nice. It was fun. It was very fun.
KIKI: Fantastic. They did a good job doing that.
SHAY: (Laughter) I liked it.
CARMEN: I liked it.
PEEPLES: Can I get your name?
CARMEN: Carmen (ph).
MCKAI: McKai (ph).
PEEPLES: Why did you all come out to do it?
KIKI: It was just something to do. And, you know, since the kids can't go anywhere else - I mean, we're in the car, so COVID-free.
PEEPLES: And we all have a clean car to boot. The haunted car wash was such a hit, traffic blocked up for miles with cars lined up to be next.
For NPR News, I'm Melanie Peeples. Happy Halloween, y'all.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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