When I got the go-ahead to write a couple of Halloween themed stories for October, my head went to the obvious: movie reviews, haunted house reviews, costume ideas, etc. So, originally, this was going to be a review of Halloween Horror Nights, which I attended last Friday.
But here’s the thing: I realized I can offer so much more than just the usual, fluffy review articles due to my specialized expertise that some readers may or may not know about.
For eight years, I was a “professional monster.” A “scare-actor.” A “haunter.” A “slider.” I suited up at several different haunts, including Knott’s Scary Farm, Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare, Six Flags Fright Fest, and eventually ended my “career” at the 17th Door.
So instead of just saying where to go and why, I decided to go the more “How to survive route.” This week: How to survive that Haunted House you just bought tickets for.
First, be safe and contribute to a safe environment for you, other guests and the “monsters.”
Everyone at the haunt (actors included) are there to have fun. Still, it can be a bit chaotic with all the scaring, screaming, running, and chainsaw hacking.
Safety is the priority at every haunt. While scare-actors are trained, things can and do go wrong. The best way to avoid incident or injury is to not contribute any excess chaos.
Don’t “pregame;” if you must drink, stay as sober as possible. Always be mindful of the environment, actors, guests, and equipment (such as fog machines and props) around you. Do not try and be funny and scare another guest. And most importantly, never, ever touch the talent.
Secondly, leave your machismo at the door.
We get it, your girlfriend got scared. That doesn’t mean you get to chest bump the axe-murderer up against a wall.
You might not realize it, but it takes one individual with a bad attitude to soil an entire evening for themselves, their group, and scare-actor involved.
Worst case scenario, it takes one shove from a bad boyfriend to get escorted out of the attraction. In some extreme cases, full out brawls break out.
When it comes down to it, you and your party paid to come into an area and get scared. Each scare-actor is being paid (or sometimes volunteering even) to put on a horror movie-esque show. Don’t be upset when that’s exactly what happens.
Finally, remember that there’s a real person behind that mask.
School teachers. Contractors. Medical staff. Students. You’d be surprised how much people are different from their costumed personas, how “normal” they are under the rubber, latex, and makeup.
For many haunters out there, working these events isn’t so much a job as it is a hobby. Many of them make up the horror fanatics and misfits of the world. Haunting isn’t a paycheck, it’s a bit of a lifestyle.
Many of the masks, costumes, and props that you may encounter may very well be home-made or customized to each individual, to show a bit of personality between each monster. Dedicated scare-actors are known to put hundreds of dollars and hours of their personal time into their looks and gear.
Did a “slider” just fly past your feet? He spent $70 on his knee pads. That zombie-girl’s mask was custom made by a professional mask maker, and it cost her over $100. That crazed clown hand-painted his puppet prop.
Shifts are long. The wear and tear on a haunter’s body is great. The sleep deprivation is real. And the pay isn’t all that great on top of it.
Every scare-actor you encounter is a person first, and a “monster” second. Make sure you remember that the next time you decide to show off or fool around with them for a cheap laugh.
Halloween and haunted houses only come around once a year. Have fun and enjoy them! Just make sure the experience is good for everyone, and you should have no problem “surviving.”