I have actually seen the Bates Motel, the actual for-real movie set fake Bates Motel — I just didn’t think I’d have to stay in one.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m prattling about, which is not necessarily a bad thing, the Bates Motel is that creepy little inn featured in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho, which scared the living daylights out of 99.7 per cent of the world’s population, including those who never even saw the movie.
It also forever ruined the notion of taking showers and/or staying in small creepy motels.
As I may have mentioned in the first paragraph, Yours Truly and the Better Half saw the actual Bates Motel and the Psycho Mansion up on a creepy hill during our tourist tour of Universal Studios in California many moons ago — BK (before kids). Even in broad daylight on a warm and happy Los Angeles day, it was still creepy — and I haven’t taken a shower since.
Just kidding about that last part, but the point is, recently I found myself in a more or less local version of the Bates Motel.
This was at a location that shall remain undisclosed to protect YT from an attack by Norman Bates’s crazy dead mother.
Let’s just say it was kind of north and kind of east about two hours, and I was there on account of I had a job to do involving photography at 6:30 in the morning, so I had very little choice but to stay in the only lodging in town the night before, other than locking myself in the washroom overnight in the only gas station in town, hoping they wouldn’t notice.
Which, once I saw the motel, I seriously considered as an option.
It was already dark when I arrived at The Motel, and the first thing I noticed was there was a piece of paper on the office door that said to knock on Room 105. Sure, that’s where the crazy people with the large knives are. But it was, like, -85C outside and I had little choice but to trudge along the row of rooms that all open to the parking lot and bang on 105.
It wasn’t Norman, or his mother, but an odd lady who was busy smoking a cigarette and watching TV. She immediately knew my name, which I thought was creepy until I realized the room was booked ahead and I was probably the only victim, I mean customer checking in that night — possibly the only one that entire month.
“Let me get my coat,” she says. “It’s mighty cold, isn’t it?” I was visibly relieved when she didn’t say, “Let me get my big knife, I’m psycho.”
So we slog back across the cold dark empty little parking lot to the office where, I’m happy to report, there wasn’t a single creepy stuffed bird on shelves on the walls like there was in the movie.
And after surviving the check-in process, which I must say was quite painless and only marginally scary, I pull my car right up to the door of my room. And I mean “right up to the door.” It’s been a while since I stayed in a room where the grill of your car is about three feet (.9144 metres) from the door. I stand in front of room 109 — an unlucky number if there ever was one — fumble for my key in the frigid cold and take a deep breath that nearly killed me by freezing my lungs, and bravely jam the key in lock.
The door won’t open. This is not a good sign.
So I’m back in my car, the heater full blast, the foggy headlights shining creepily on room 109 and I consider another trip to 105 and the Smoking Lady. But after sufficiently warming enough to move most of my fingers,
I decide to give the door another try. This time, I leave the car running and the lights shining on 109, and I wrench on the key and the door like my life depended on it, which I figured it did, and the door finally swung open and sure enough there was Norman’s Mother sitting in her rocking chair in the corner of the room.
Just kidding again, but while it wasn’t exactly the Ritz, if you know what I mean, there wasn’t anything excessively creepy in there. Except maybe the two pictures on the walls that were paintings of a design that the more you looked at them the more they looked like ugly ominous stuffed birds. Or possibly flowers in a vase. I’m not really sure — tried not to look at them, to tell you the truth.
There were two smallish beds divided by a little end table holding a crooked lamp, a small table with a plastic chair and at the far end, a countertop with a sink and a soap dispenser exactly like the ones you find in gas station restrooms. A TV the size of a phone book was nailed to the wall and there was a fairly modern thermostat with a scribbled note pinned to it saying: “Do not adjust.” It was locked on full blast, which meant it was fairly warm in there to the extent that the paint was actually peeling off the walls. Still it was better than freezing your lungs off out in the car.
The bathroom consisted of a small commode (aren’t they all the same size?) and, yes, a shower. No bath tub. Just a shower. I could hear the iconic Psycho screech screech screech soundtrack playing loud and clear and creepy as I shut the door to the bathroom and put the plastic chair up against it.
I will say the place was clean and tidy. No apparent bed bugs cavorting on the sheets, and no dead bodies under the beds (I checked).
And so I settled in, turned on the tiny TV and guess what? There’s a new TV series based on a certain scary movie. It’s called, what else? Bates Motel.
I slept with my eyes open that night.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.