“I really hope you don’t get any splinters,” said the large man dressed all in black standing next to me. “I think I can find you some gloves,” he said kindly. This might have seemed like a pretty mundane conversation except that I was a zombie. Not really, really tired…a literal zombie. I was dressed in a white dress shirt, which was torn, burned and covered in blood, covered by a dilapidated pin striped suit coat. On my head perched a beaten down derby hat. Blood streamed from my ears and my face was a pallid white and grey with black circles beneath my eyes. The offending object was an old shovel which I liked to drag around behind me while chasing unsuspecting civilians through the site of an old mine disaster, through the trees and across a creaky old bridge.
It goes something like this. You climb out from an underground tunnel into a smoke-filled graveyard with a crashed airplane on fire in one corner. As you emerge, the bloodied and crazed pilot chases you into a narrow passageway. You run. A short wall faces you with entrances at each side and as you approach a chainsaw wielding madman pops out from one side. You run screaming in the other direction, which funnels you just far enough to the side that Mr. Chainsaw pops out right behind you, chain saw whining and smoking. You run screaming into the night with nothing but the moonlight to guide you until you find yourself on a long path in the woods next to an old mine. A dark figure stands still, leaning on a shovel – you stare at him as you run past.
“That’s a real guy…I am telling you that’s a real guy…” Suddenly “the guy” begins to move surprisingly fast, dragging a leg and his shovel behind him. “It is a real guy it’s a real guy…run run!” Then you run…further into the maze of the haunted house.
What Is the Work Like?
The haunted house where I worked has been around for more than 30 years. It is an elaborate, indoor and outdoor affair with many hours of set design and cool technology. I was just a short term fill-in monster but many of the actors worked for a full 5-week season.
When I arrived the “monsters” were all milling around half in costume. It was an interesting group, sort of a half theater nerd/half goth mixture of folks. You are given a character and your outfit (and mask if needed) is picked from a huge rack of costumes. You then wait in line as two cheerful makeup artists quickly transform 40 people into horrible, bloodied monsters. A final squirt of blood to my ears and I am ready to go. Back passages are used to quickly get all the actors to the appropriate part of the set. The work is pretty physical. Every 5 minutes or so you are chasing and screaming and generally acting crazy. It is fun but when you are done for the night you feel like you had a workout. One of the most amusing parts for me was when the park closed all the monsters lined up and exited the park through a secret door. It has to be one of the most unique versions of punching the time clock in modern business.
The people I worked with and the folks who were managing things were super kind. Many of them were tired from many long nights at the haunted house but all were enthusiastic about making sure everyone had a good time.
There seem to be three types of folks who come to haunted houses:
1) The tough guy/girl: The Tough Guy: seems to have the idea that the actors at a haunted house want to fight him. Bumps you, pushes you, says stupid things to you. Fortunately, this is a relatively rare specimen. The Tough Girl: Looks you in the eye and rolls her eyes…says “you are not scary.”
2) The “I have spent good money to be here, I am suspending disbelief and going to have a good time” guy/girl: Most common, lots of fun, screams and has a great time.
3) The truly terrified guy/girl: Pinballs screaming and running from one thing to the next. Fun to be around unless they accidently run you over…
How Do I Get a Haunted House Job?
I have always had a soft spot for haunted houses. For years a big event at work was to find a haunted house we had not been to before and go out for a few drinks and then visit the haunted house as a group. It is actually a great team builder and you get to see everyone be themselves.
I knew I wanted to try working at a haunted house, at least for a short time. I found all the local ones from their websites and reached out to them. However I was late and they had done all their hiring. You should start looking early September, if you do you will likely find it pretty easy to get a gig. Many folks are working day jobs and also working each night at the Haunted House which sounds exhausting. That is probably why there also seem to be considerable openings for replacement positions as Halloween approaches. One of the bigger operations that I had reached out to weeks earlier now had short term openings for replacement monsters.
No experience is required, although some of the actors are pretty terrific. You will be costumed and shown what to do. You don’t have to come with special “scaring” skills. If you are new by the time you see the customers they would jump if a puppy walked by.
Should I Try This?
Heck yeah! Fun atmosphere, nice people. You get to be part of an elaborate show even though you can’t act and didn’t have to do any of the work to prepare it all. That said it is long hours and more physical work than you might imagine.
Job: Haunted House Monster Fun: You are in a show! Fun people, lots of running and yelling though Learning: Get to see how a big operation like this works. You will be better at putting together your Halloween costume next year. Pay: $15/hr Side benefits: Don’t have to pay to go the Haunted House this year! Worth doing: Absolutely Resources: Craigslist, local haunted houses websites