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Throughout the entire week, the Redskins defensive line couldn't stop discussing their Monday night trip to "Shocktober," the only real haunted house in Northern Virginia, from across the locker room.
Some of it was a way to process the horror that continued to haunt them – roaming around in the pitch black, listening to unknown animals growl, the usual Halloween fare – and to freak out the linebackers, who braved their stories and went as a unit on Thursday night to see for themselves.
"When we first got there, and Terrance [Knighton] told us the story of the house, it already freaked us out," said Ricky Jean Francois.
Shocktober's website gives a clear description of the terror that infects the residence that the defense was willing to enter.
"Over one hundred years ago Jedidiah Carver was found guilty of unorthodox acts of animal husbandry. For these crimes, his lands were seized and he and his family were cast out of the Town of Leesburg.
"Homeless, he moved his family to the caverns that lie beneath Paxton Manor. Here they dwelled for many years. Things went well for The Carver family and they thrived and multiplied. Though as time went on things began to go wrong…"
Knighton was apparently the ringleader for corralling the defensive line, and while the unit has created a tight-knit bond, most were hesitant to oblige the request. Even a veteran like Kedric Golston, who ended up leading the group, was weak at the knees as they creeped through the house.
"I wouldn't say I was the bravest, but standing in that hallway it wasn't going to get any better for us," Golston. "I figured we might as well just push through. Scary at our age [he paused]…it wasn't necessarily scared, but just uncomfortable. It was just an extremely uncomfortable feeling."
The photos from the evening tell most of the story -- Jean Francois' eyes bulging out of his head; Frank Kearse's shirt filled with sweat.
According to Knighton, Kearse probably lost 10 pounds Monday night.
"I think everybody was scared," Knighton said. "I mean, heading up to it, everyone was anxious. But I think once we got there and realized where we were at, we were by ourselves, it got real. The fact that it was a real haunted house -- obviously you've got characters, people jumping out and stuff, but it was just a creepy house all around. It was dark, and everybody who was acting did a good job."
Jean Francois pledges he will never go into another haunted house again.
"I'm talking about from the time we got into the building until we left, that place was scary as hell," he said. "We were grabbing shirts, shoulders, backs, whatever it may be, we were behind each other one on one."
As if this act of bravery were a challenge, the group of linebackers decided to test their fear, too. Save for rookie Martrell Spaight, they weren't as spooked, and blamed the defensive line for raising the bar of creepiness that actually existed.
"I feel like the D-Line hyped it up so much to where we kind of psyched ourselves out thinking it was going to be some horrific thing," Will Compton said. "It's just a good haunted house. I feel like they were way more scared than we were about it. We were ready to be that scared because of the way they talked it up."
Trent Murphy concurred, but still admitted he and his group – with Ryan Kerigan and Jackson Jeffcoat -- jumped several times. Luckily for them, the group of linebackers ahead of them had to bear the brunt of the scares. Murphy, who at one point considered putting on a mask and scaring his own ranks, had time to mentally prepare for what was coming.
"They were a little jumpy up front," Murphy said. "But for the most part we got all the second reactions. It was good. The people that put it on did such a good job with it. I think if the D-line hadn't gone and talked it up, it would have been more scary. But they just talked it up so much we were just ready to be taken any second."
That's not exactly my definition of an enjoyable boy's night out, but being in communion with teammates is an ideal every team strives for. Being vulnerable together is an easy way to achieve it, too.
And for those planning on going yourselves, Jean Francois has some advice.
"One tip I can give," he said, "is watch out for the little girl."