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The Case of the Haunted Arcade

Updated: Jun 30, 2018

Neither my wife nor I are particularly good at sharing: I'm an only child, and we're both control freaks. For some time, decorating arrangements were tenuous at best. So we divvied up some rooms, each space being the exclusive domain of one party. She now has free reign of the living room, kitchen and bedroom. I took her old yoga room, and still have the arcade and the Transformers room. Just like that, both parties are content. And that's how you make a marriage work without resorting to drinking.

I faced the daunting task of finding space for the stuff that had resided in the living room for ten years of bachelorhood. I had some Pac-Man plush ghosts on the back of the couch, which were given to me as one of many little bonuses during my six-plus year stint working at a Time-Out location. (I made a widely-acclaimed documentary of that arcade's history, which you can see here.)

This classic photo shows the ghosts in question:

My legendary dating profile made use of this picture, taken reluctantly by my dad. (He had trouble with the digital camera.) My wife told me that she thought the photo was creepy at first, and that my profile was the absolute last one she checked out. I also had several women questioning its legitimacy, the shirt bearing a "Chris" nametag, while my screen name was "wowitsreallydave." No one ever got the ValuJet reference.

Once the yoga room was in my clutches, I made it into an awesome, totally-new setup inside of two weeks. This made Adrienne insanely jealous, as it takes her six months to hang a picture. (In fairness, she has made great strides in overcoming her "analysis paralysis.") The living room, once rife with testosterone, was now female domain. The plushies were ousted. But where to put adorable video game icons? The answer was obvious: They would find their new home in the arcade. I figured that it would be fun to have them hovering about the room. They are ghosts, right?

I bought some safety pins and hooks, and Adrienne aided me in cutting and tying the string. (My hands are too chunky for precision tasks.) She also put the safety pins into the ghosts, as I would have surely torn them to shreds in the process. I took black permanent marker to the safety hooks and white thread. (There was no black thread to be found, as that would have been too easy.) The safety pins were black from the onset, so that saved me a step. The end results are convincingly-floating ghosts:

Pac-Man ghosts hanging in a  home arcade.

Of course, it took a few tries to get them all to look at the camera. Ghosts have no sense of discipline, as they have nothing to lose!

Blinky and Pinky Pac-Man plush ghosts.

The above "House Rules" sign is a reproduction of signage from an '80s-era Time-Out, and the machine directly under it came from the location I profile in my documentary. You can see that the textured ceiling helps to hide the hooks. Seeing them "floating" there is almost eerie:

Frogger, Ms. Pac-Man, Vapor Trail, Roadblasters, Pole Position vintage '80s arcade games.

They somehow make the small arcade seem bigger:

Donkey Kong, Gorf and Missile Command and Street Fighter II: Champion Edition arcade games.

The parting question: Why did the ghost sing off-key? It left its sheet music at home! (Like most of my best material, that one came from a Laffy Taffy wrapper.)

As these photos focus primarily on the ceiling, the following is a virtual tour of the arcade. Unlike the ghosts, I won't leave you hanging!

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