Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, ‘Do something that scares you every day’. For the more sensitive amongst us, this is simple – a quick glance at a dozing spouse’s tufts of ear hair gets it out the way first thing in the morning, but for those of us made of sterner stuff, we need to work at getting our thrills.
Trying to live life through Eleanor’s mantra is a bit tricky though during the summer months in Stockholm. There just aren’t that many near death experiences to be had at the best of times but with most of the city closed for the summer, you are more likely to drop dead through ennui than anything altogether more exciting. Trust me, the city is deserted.
The only home-grown people left in Stockholm are the poor old ‘care in the community’ cases who have been left to fend for themselves for the month ahead and they just trail around this temporary ghost town in a sort of genteel bewilderment. But at least the crazies tend to be smiling, albeit slightly maniacally, and are uncharacteristically chatty, again mainly with themselves, but all this friendliness makes a nice change I must say.
Every so often a small gaggle of tourists, again wearing faces of genteel bewilderment, wander through Kungsträdgården, Stockholm’s main piazza. They too are wondering where everyone is and you can see that they have that nagging thought in their heads that perhaps they had forgotten to do something, something fairly important like take heed of a nuclear attack warning or threat of plague.
Unable to comprehend either the language or the cultural nuances, the sight of an ice cream kiosk closed for the summer is probably enough to make them feel that a near death or possibly a real death experience is about to be visited upon them.
But Eleanor’s words are indeed wise ones – you can never really feel alive unless you are dicing with danger, if not actual death and so to bring you the option of a little frisson of fear, may I recommend a little trip to Gröna Lund, the city’s glorified fun fair/amusement park.
Now fun fairs are, I know, quite possibly the biggest oxymoron in the English dictionary for just about anyone who isn’t in the throes of that most unfortunate stage of adolescence where every corpuscle seems to be sprouting or oozing some form of deep unpleasantness.
In fact, I have a theory that it is this fug of teenage hormones, combined with the fumes of fast food transfats, which creates a very special fun fair microclimate. This means that whenever you visit a fun fair, and Gröna Lund is no exception, you can be guaranteed that the heavens will open and the wind will whip up from nowhere, blowing ketchup smeared detritus all over your exposed legs and entangling giant tumbleweed sized balls of candy floss into your new holiday hair extensions.
But it isn’t all those contraptions that swing spotty, squealing teenagers up and down and left to right that gets the heart palpitating. Been there, done that, got the designer T shirt. No, the attraction that really would have our Eleanor reaching for the valium is the Spökhus (Haunted House). I know what you are thinking – a few pop up cardboard coffins, the odd threadbare bed sheet attached to some bits of fishing wire, a few papier-mâché vampire bats on coat hangers.
But no, it’s much, much scarier and the reason it’s much, much scarier is that when you enter the house, there doesn’t seem to be anything at all except the darkness, and then you begin to realize that you are not entirely alone, and then you feel a hot breath against your neck and then you turn around to find a real live man in a dinner jacket with appalling dental work lurking behind you. It’s like reliving some truly hideous London social engagement. Trust me, if I had been wearing pearls, I would have been clutching them as I recoiled in horror.
I have since heard that the Spökhus did once have a bit of a saucy rather than spooky reputation. Rumour has it that women of a certain age would frequent this particular attraction for a bit of anonymous slap and tickle with the ever so obliging ghouls on duty. I am led to believe that this is no longer the case, but I can’t be certain, not without further research obviously. It’s going to be scary for all concerned.
Gröna Lund, Lilla Allmänna Gränd 9, 115 21 Stockholm
Tel: 08-587 501 00
E-mail: [email protected]
Gröna Lund’s Spökhus:
Goosed goose bumps 10/10