Months before the spooky season begins, haunt actors like me are training and preparing for some wicked weekends.
In just a few months, I’ll be back in costume preparing to scare for a halfway to haunt event happening in May.
October 2023 marked my first year as a haunt actor. A group of friends and I portrayed sinister clowns at Spooky’s Haunted Attractions, an indoor event held at Our House Games, 1211 S. Monroe St.
I created a creepy clown named Malo. Dressed in a black and white jumpsuit splattered with paint to look like bloody handprints, Malo carried a circus horn in one hand and a prop knife in the other. Needless to say, he was a real cut-up with the crowd.
I spent two weekends making guests scream.
It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re scaring people for hours. Your throat can get dry very quickly, making it difficult to yell. Without a voice, it’s tough to scare folks.
I quickly learned from my peers in the haunt industry there are a list of dos and don’ts, such as don’t stress over it, not everyone is going to be scared so just move on to the next group. Another important don’t is not to scream in someone’s ear. You don’t want them going deaf halfway through the attraction and let’s be real, it’s annoying.
And then there are the things to do:
Do stay out of punching range, you don’t want the blood on your costume to be real.
Do pay attention to problem guests. There are times when guests can be too aggressive. It’s a good rule of thumb to get a description of this person and share it with the other actors so they can be prepared.
There’s so much that goes into a night of haunting. It takes a great deal of energy to jump out of the shadows and spook your guests while trying to be successful as an entertainer. Your job is to scare people – lots of people, from children to adults. I have to admit, one of the most rewarding aspects of my first haunt was seeing grown men cry.
As weird as it may sound, you need to be prepared for rude people and those trying to scare you, so it’s important to stay in character. People will call you names, curse at you and might even try to touch you. Keep moving and focus on the scare.
When people get frightened, their bodies release adrenaline and that often gives them an energy boost. They get in a hurry to exit the room or they stand in the middle of it, so scared they refuse to move. One girl was so afraid, she literally jumped out of her shoes and hid behind her four friends. That level of fright gives this haunt actor a scary sense of satisfaction.