IamA Scare Actor in a top voted Haunted House, AMA!
Hello! I am a first year haunted house scare actor. A few months ago I saw a Facebook ad that a local haunted attraction was holding auditions for scare actors. I had no acting experience whatsoever, but the ad said none was required so I said f*ck it and auditioned with a friend. I was extremely nervous, but we both ended up getting the job and here I am!
I have to remain anonymous for employment reasons, but I will say that the haunt I work at is a very high ranked haunt according to multiple sources, has been visited and positively reviewed by influential YouTubers and industry based media groups, and speaking with bias - FREAKING AWESOME.
We are currently in the height of the haunt season, the crowds are the biggest they've been and they'll be getting bigger the closer we get to Halloween. I love scaring the shit out of everyone and I'd say I'm pretty damn good at it, so, ask me anything!!!
Proof: Email: https://imgur.com/kHqC3s6 (I wish I could provide more proof, but unfortunately I would risk my job, and out of respect for the haunt's request of upmost confidentiality, I'm choosing to only provide this. I have no reason to lie about anything.)
They dedicated quite some time during training on how to avoid being attacked, what to do if you sense that a guest is going to hit you, and what to do IF a guest hits you. They did warn us that guests DO occasionally get inappropriately aggressive, for whatever reasons (drunk, unstable, think they're tough)
In my experience so far I have only been hit twice in the face, which were both accidents due to the guests reacting with their hands being thrown up in the air. It hurt, but it was an accident so I was more satisfied with the scare than I was bothered.
A few times I have sensed guests (mostly bored-looking, tough acting teenage boys, or frat boys with girlfriends that I scared) give me dirty looks and that "try me" stance, which with the actor training in mind, I would back off and "retreat" to my spot to avoid physical altercation. I think it's ridiculous that people actually hit scare actors, but testified by veteran actors, it does happen.
drunk, unstable, think they're tough
Have you considered that the general response to being startled in this fashion is fight or flight and that certain people reflexively might throw a punch of kick without being drunk, unstable or thinking they're tough? Personally when I get startled by something I have a tendency to pull my right hand to my jaw and circle away to the right, it's a result of martial arts training, I've actually intentionally avoided these kinds of things because I'm afraid I'd hit someone without thinking. But I digress, it's a little narrow minded to assume it's just those three things that could cause the problem.
EDIT: If you REALLY wanted to scare someone though, you'd have Nathan Fielder run it, NOW THAT'S a man that can scare you.
There is a difference between reflexively throwing your hands up and hitting someone, and outright taking a step forward, cocking your arm, and punching an actor in the face. It hasn't happened to me but I was told it HAS happened before. And the actor will press charges.
There is a difference between reflexively throwing your hands up and hitting someone
There's a significantly smaller difference than you may think dude, anyone that's taken like more than 5 boxing classes doesn't do it in three slow steps like that, it's basically one coherent action. You don't cock your arm, you simultaneously load your legs and throw your hand from wherever it currently is in that situation. I'm just trying to say it's not necessarily a malicious thing and you're painting with a broad brush, try to be a bit more empathetic dude, shit. The non asshole who reflexivly hits someone would almost certainly immediately be apologizing and trying to help you up of course but still, it's closed minded, Not everyone is a flighter.
Are you seriously telling me to be more empathetic?
I'm trained in martial arts too. Hi! I'm a black belt i'M sO cOoL. I would never reflexively punch someone. That is NOT a thing. A punch is an attack. A punch is coordinated, it's a conscious movement utilizing your muscles in your arms, wrists and shoulders.
A reflex, like you so bravely defined in another comment, is performed unconsciously. There is a difference lol.
Have you had a situation come up where you had to break character in front of the guests?
Yes I've accidentally hit guests a few times, some just gently and a few instances where I hit hard enough to injure. I broke character immediately upon contact to ensure they are okay. I haven't hurt anyone too seriously and everyone was perfectly fine and continued through the haunts with smiles :-)
What's your favorite technique for scaring the poop out of someone?
We're trained to know how to execute the many different types of scares. To name a few there are presence (intimidation), pop-out, emotional (why did they do this to me???), psychological (gross them out), threatening (make them think something is going to happen to them). And these different techniques can be combined and worked into each other to create even better scares.
My favorite for easy scares is popping out. That gets almost everyone every time, and there's little effort involved. But after my pop-outs I really like following them, or leading them to the next room working in my creepy lines and threats.
I also like using props like metal bats or shovels against the sets. Certain sets you can hit with props. It's hard not to get scared when someone is slamming a metal bat against a chainlink fence separating them from you.
Pop-outs don't get me and I don't think I've ever gotten scared in one of the more commercial haunts (I actually used to belong to an enthusiast club, so I've been to a lot). But the smaller haunts that have more of a DIY-feel seem to have more psychological scares (like feeling something brushing against you in the dark, the use of strobing/lighting to make someone disappear and reappear somewhere unexpected when the light's back on), which are more creepy IMO.
We kind of have a combination of both. My haunt doesn't utilize triggers as much as HHN does (the button that an actor presses to make noise and flashy lights when they pop out) so a lot of our scaring relies on what and how we say things after popping out.
We also have lots of actors that don't pop out, but do other things like you said, disappear and reappear, follow you, guide you, etc.
We're a comfortable mix between a mom-and-pop and a commercial haunted house.
What are the most stereotypical types of people/ responses you get from your scares?
This is SUCH a thing.
White people - White moms will give out a genuine lil shriek and throw their hands up in the air. White teenage girls will scream like you just murdered their entire family in front of them, or they'll roll their eyes in your face. White teenage boys will either tell you to "DO SOMETHING" or scream a swear word.
Black people - Scream. Scream, scream, swear, scream, laugh, fall to the floor, run. These people know how to have fun in a haunt.
Gay people - Similar to black people, will just have a fun overall time. Lots of flamboyant screaming and waving arms, and "no omg omg no omg nooo".
Drunks - You see a drunk coming up, you pop-out, and they either stumble into you, a prop, or a wall. Annoying and not fun.
Spanish people - They laugh HYSTERICALLY.
What was the funniest thing you've experienced so far?
There's a lot. Most people would probably find all the times I made grown adults drop to the floor and cry the funniest, but personally I found a small comment from a mother of a young child the funniest so far. Her child was visibly terrified and crying, and all she said was "It's make believe! It's not real!"
I had to go back to my hidey hole to break character and laugh. It really struck me funny because I remember as a young child first starting to go through haunted houses, that that's exactly what my mom would tell me to help me not be scared. And here I am, doing the same thing to young children who's parents forced them through my terrifying little playground.
Have you ever been the one that got scared?
LMAO Yes!!!! Actually this one guy broke off from his group while I was scaring them and went into my hidey hole. When I finished scaring them and went to go back to my spot he jumped out at me. He got me good, I jumped and laughed and broke character for a sec.
What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?
That I tailor my efforts stereotypically, but I'm almost always right. To clarify, why would I use up all of my energy on some uninterested guy in his 40s with his hands in his pockets when I can save it for the next group of screaming teenage girls? Screams are satisfying, so, if you really want a scary experience, walk through a haunt like you're scared shitless and scream at every little noise and the actors will tear you up, or at least appear engaged and interested. There's nothing more annoying than wasting a good scare on someone that's just going to blink in your face.
Ever felt bad about scaring somebody?
YES! I think this is something that not a lot of people think about. Most of the time after a good scare the guests laugh, but sometimes they'll give me a look that almost says "Why did you do that?" and it's hard to not want to apologize. I'm sure everyone has fun regardless, but there's a certain look that guests sometimes give me that makes me feel a little bad. Think puppy eyes but frightened, vulnerable puppy eyes.
But I don't feel bad for making kids cry.
What parts of your job you hate and what you love??
Hate - It gets hot. I sweat a lot. I smell. People insult me.
Love - Everything above I mentioned. It's a workout. I feel healthier. It's exercising made fun. Scaring people. Seeing them scream. Hearing them tell me "you got me good!" Hearing the comments "That guy needs a raise". Getting in character and staying in character. Being that character. It's stress relieving, it makes me feel like a kid again playing dress up and pretend. Going from my day job of customer service and smiling all day to my night job of telling people I want to rip their bones out one by one.
Can you give some insight on the "backstage works" of working in a haunted house? Like getting into costume, clocking in and out, secret doors, etc.
Yeah! So basically you clock in whatever time you get there, there's no strict schedule as long as you're there early enough to get into costume and makeup before showtime. So you clock in, and you see your assigned position for the night. Most nights you have the same position, but sometimes due to callouts or whatever they might change you up. So once you know your role you go to costuming and they give you your costume, you get dressed in the locker room, then you go get your makeup done. While the actors are getting ready, management is going through the haunt making sure everything is in place, checking for safety hazards, checking equipment, etc etc. Once everyone is in costume and makeup we all go to our rooms, the lights turn off, and we get one last walkthrough by management to make sure everything is okay, management is hooked up to radio so they communicate to security and ticketing staff. Once everything is ready, we open our doors to the victims!
Throughout the night they will periodically halt the flow of guests to give management a chance to walkthrough and check up on everything. Us actors are not hooked up to radio, so it's hard to communicate with management while performing. You'd have to leave your room to go get a manager, so management tries to check up on us as often as they can. Sometimes they even walk through with groups.
As for secret doors, almost every room is connected to backstage hallways where actors hide and pop out from. There's drop windows, secret doors, and emergency exits all connected to these hallways. It's why if you've ever been to a haunted house, you might notice that actors appear to move faster around the haunt than you do. It's because of these backstage hallways.
I'm imagining the manager walking through, following a group of people, and a mummy staggers up behind her and moans creepily, "Cannnn I haaave a bathrooooom breeeak?"
HAHAH We actually communicate in character sometimes! If we have to talk and there's guests in the room, we'll talk in character! This is actually a thing!
How long is the shifts? 8 hour? How much break do you get?
It depends on the night. Fridays and Saturdays we are open 6 hours, weekdays we're open only 4. If you take into consideration getting in AND out of costume and makeup, it can be an 8-9 hour shift. But you're only performing for a max of 6 hours.
So, breaks are a little bit different at a haunt than traditional jobs (maybe just my haunt). There are no structured breaks, for example you don't get a 15 for every 4 hours worked or whatever. If you need to use the restroom, you go. If you need water, you drink. My haunt puts groups through together, we're not a conga-line haunt like Halloween Horror Nights, so you get "breaks" in between groups. It could be a 30 second break where you only have time to take a few sips of water, or a few minutes where you could use the restroom or sit down for a few minutes.
They provide us handheld fans, cough drops, snacks and water, so they really do try to make it as comfortable for us as possible. It's just not realistic to schedule breaks for the actors because then there would constantly be empty rooms.
If we accidentally hit someone because we jump like a startled kitten and flail our arms when we're scared, do we apologize or act like it never happened as to not break the actor's character?
I've had this happen a few times! Sometimes they'll gently pat me on the shoulder and apologize, other times they laugh it off or say nothing at all. Doesn't really matter.
We know when it's an accident and it doesn't bother us at all when it is one.
Have you ever scared YOURSELF? Like been surprised by your actions or let yourself get too into a role?
This is a really interesting question!
No. I feel like I'm finding myself. Everyday I'm finding more ways to express my self and my creativity; I'm more confident, and I have made connections to the way I act in the haunt to the way I act in real life. Afraid of a social situation like a presentation? Act it out!
Do you watch scary movies / get easily scared or do you love it?
Curious as I'm someone who watched a few movies when I was younger, and I haven't watched something or went to a haunted house (and won't) in a while haha
I love scary movies! I don't get scared easily, but that's depending on what you mean by scared. Jump scares startle me, but I haven't been genuinely creeped out by a movie in awhile. Last movie that really scared me was Sinister (overall concept was eerie but there was one specific pool scene where you see the monster slowly appear under water, sent shivers throughout my whole body and I couldn't sleep alone that night. Watch if you dare.)
Help me settle an ongoing debate between me and my girlfriend, but really help me alleviate one of her irrational fears.
Imagine someone snuck in a mask and stabbed someone in the confusion. How quickly could you guys figure what's going on? Would the guy be able to get away in the darkness/chaos?
I'd imagine the lights would come on quick, and the staff knows each other so the hypothetical killer wouldn't get too far without being spotted, at least. But she's always like what if though.
I feel like this is one of those over exaggerated fears of a haunt, just like the fear of razors in halloween candy.
For one, anyone would probably be able to tell the difference between a real stabbing from a stagnant dead body prop made out of plastic, rubber and paint. Two, all of the actors are in constant communication with their neighboring actors, we get moments in between groups where we can talk for a second, and we also work together scaring the customers. I doubt there would be much of a delay in realizing something is wrong. We know our sets like we know the back of our hand, we can tell if a prop is misplaced, so we would most definitely be able to tell if there is a whole ass real dead body in our room.
How tall are you? Do you think being tall and large could benefit someone to help with the scare factor?
I am 6'7 / 225 pounds.. and love the idea of putting on boots to make myself taller, dressing up in something super creepy and scaring poor souls as they walk around a corner and run smack into a freakish tall "thing". haha
I'm not tall at all. They do a great job at finding a role that suits your body type. Big people are probably the easiest to cast lol. Big people make great clowns, cannibals, prisoners, hillbillies, werewolves.
My city has a pretty world renowned one and it's been going on since I was a teenager. I've never been to one before. I am a giant horror movie fan and devotee all year round. But I have never gotten the courage to go, despite trying to psyche myself into going every year for 22 years. But I always back out. I grew up in a household with uncles waiting to scare me behind every corner and it was a jumpy childhood. What can you say or tell me that can help me get over my fear and get me to wait in the 3 hour line to purposefully scare the ever living shit out of me?
As a 22 year old I don't think I have to tell you that it's fake LOL!
But if you really don't want to be scared, act uninterested. If you walk through timidly and show signs of fear they will go after you and I can say that I do this ALL THE TIME. I love prey.
As a middle aged man, is it true that you'll try to scare the 16 year old girl ahead of me instead of me?
Anyone pee their pants?
Is a haunted house something that anyone can enjoy, or are certain people incapable of getting into the right frame of mind? I walk through and I'm like "oh that's a cool decoration". "Oh, there's a guy in a clown costume" Not "Oh-My-God I'm so Afraid I'm going to die at the hands of killer clown"?
Yeah that's somewhat true but not always the case.
If you appear uninterested, I'm going to scare you with less effort than I would to someone who appears scared and engaged. It's not always but most of the time it's the middle aged men that look unfazed so the most I'll do is probably just pop out at you. I'm not going to scream my lungs out on someone that looks bored, and I surely don't want to bother you if you're not into it.
I haven't had any urine this year but other actors have, and plenty of times in past years. We've had poo and vomit too.
I think anyone that wants to enjoy a haunted house can. Like you said, some people are more entertained by the elaborate set design and special fx than they are scared by the actors. Some people are legitimately terrified of people in masks and makeup and run through screaming without taking much notice of the sets.
What does it mean when you say little one? A short friend went to a haunted house and that word followed her
Depending on their role, actors have to say things to belittle you in a non-offensive way.
I'm in my early 50s and not that interested in haunted houses but I've occasionally had to wander through scare zones at theme parks, and the scare actors literally never try to spook me. Is "don't bother with older/uninterested people" part of the training, or just something you pick up from experience?
Definitely not part of the training. In fact they tell us to try and make an effort to scare (or at least entertain) the uninterested people, because from a business point of view, they want everyone to have fun and come back.
But from a scare actor point of view, every scare takes up a bit of our energy. And we're working for 5-6 hours straight. So naturally, we're going to reserve our energy on certain guests, especially the ones that we know won't give us a satisfying scream.
Have you ever known any of the actors to grope people during? I know someone who refuses to participate because they don’t want the actors groping them.
Quite the opposite actually. Us actors have no interest in touching you, because there's always a risk of lawsuit from even the slightest touch. Guests, however, have touched me, grabbed me, pet me like a dog. Sometimes they think we're props and that we can be touched.
Is your haunted attraction a haunted house, forest, or corn maze? Where I live we have two of the top haunted attractions in the country!
We’re a “haunted attraction”. We have a few indoor haunted houses at our facility as well as live entertainment.
I haven’t personally but our haunt has had poo a few times in the past. And staff has to clean it up lol. It’s not common enough so there is no established protocol for it.
Do you like it when people engage in a conversation a little bit after their initial shock wears off or is it annoying or something?
No that makes my job way harder. I’m not good at improv. Most of the other actors are, but I’m still new at this so I’d rather just say my memorized lines and you keep walking.
Favorite ice cream?
(Sorry if this has been asked already.. and that these are a lot of questions, but-)
What costumes do you work in? Do you have one or multiple? What is your favorite costume to work in? Are there any negatives to working in this particular costume?
Your costume and makeup depends on your assigned position for the night. We have a variety of different types of costumes, we have really elaborate creepy dresses, we got ripped up bloody shirts, overalls, capes, gowns, vests. We have a wardrobe of almost every article of clothing, just ripped up and bloody.
Do you scare friends or family members in real life ? Is there any guests in the haunted house that loved being scared instead of being afraid ?
No, I never considered myself as someone who likes to scare or prank people. I’ve always just had a fascination for Halloween and horror.
I’d say that at least 90% of our customers enjoy being scared. That’s not to say that they don’t really get scared, but most of them laugh and have a good time. Very few of our guests get too scared to the point of them not enjoying it.
Have you ever been attacked by spooking someone too hard?
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