This October I am celebrating Halloween everyday. I work during the week at Halloween CIty in Ann Arbor and I work weekends as a Scare Actor at the Terrified Forest in Pinckney Michigan as well. I have always loved Halloween and the fall in general. When I was a kid I was always terrified of everything and couldn’t sleep at night because I had such horrible nightmares, but at the same time it fascinated me. I loved the idea that ordinary people can deform when they put on a scary mask. I love how a friendly small town can be transformed under the shade of night into a sinister place filled with unknown monsters and ghouls.
Being a scare actor is a great job. Haunted houses are not meant for children younger than 9 years old because it is far too traumatizing. Anyone who is young at heart and can laugh just as easily as scream is a real thrill to scare in a Haunted Attraction. It’s so satisfying to scare the living crap out of a family or a group of thirteen year old kids and then hear them laughing when they exit out the back door. Haunted Houses are really fun, and it’s a fun environment to be scared in! I can’t believe how many people psyche themselves out even before they go in and don’t even walk in the door. We are actors, not murderers, we don’t bite!
There is a lot of art to really getting inside people’s heads when it comes to scaring them. You would think that jumping out of a dark corner in a mask screaming at them would work, but it actually is not that effective. You have to get into people’s heads because that’s where the real monsters exist. Rather then run up to people waiting in line and try to surprise them I have found that it is much more effective to linger along the edge of the woods (machete in hand) and freeze in place while staring down a group from a distance. If you freeze long enough the group becomes interested, wondering if you are in fact a real person or a prop that they imagined walking out from the woods. Instead of screaming “RAAAA” or “GET OUT!” I have found it much more disturbing to mimic whatever the guests say until it is deranged and nonsensical. Two boys came into my neck of the woods last year with two (I believed underage) girls. One boy pushed a girl into the wall and jokingly said,”Woah, do you want to have sex with me?”. I took this and repeated it in a croaking voice back to the boy: “Do you wanna have sex wit mesex wit me ex wit me do you wan hav sex wit me sexwitme sexwitme??” I caught a glimpse of his face and it was apparent I had shown him how disturbing it is to be propositioned by someone in that manner. Different people also have different things that set them off. One person might be really jumpy around loud sounds, so grab a lead pipe and start bashing in walls. Another person (cityfolk) might have a general disliking for drunken hillbillies so it would be better to talk nonsensically to them and hobble along. Others aren’t afraid of anything, so for them you are better off suprising them in order to get any response.
The only bad part of the job is you have to deal with all the drunk older kids (and adults) who think they own the place; they leave beer bottles everywhere, break props and walls, and generally try to hurt/make love to you when you jump out to scare them.
There are also a group of boys, usually between the ages of 13 and 18, that only are coming into the haunted house to show how tough they are. Let me break this down for you; you paid $18 so you could walk through a haunted house telling every monster “You’re not scary you little faggot!” You have wasted your money and proved nothing to anyone. You are insecure and therefore are making fun of costumed characters to make yourself feel better, and likely will not gain any thrill or actual enjoyment out of this haunted house. The tiny satisfaction you obtain from belittling others will fade, as the people you are name-calling are unrecognizable behind their masks, and you will continue feeling empty and angry after you have exited the maze.
I was told by an older actor that if they make fun of you it means they are afraid and out of control of the situation. They regain some of their confidence by making a snide remark – its simply a defense mechanism. I guess everyone handles fear differently.