My father, my husband, and I have owned a family business since 2014. Last year, we decided (after years of planning and meetings with others, work, blood, sweat, and tears, etc) to open up a haunted trail. My dad owns the property where our business is located, and we have the advantage of a lot of wooded areas and land to use for the trail.
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How It Happened
Funny thing, I have never been an actor in anything, especially a haunted attraction. Originally, I was supposed to be the customer service operations manager. It started out that way, and it was lots of fun getting to meet people and see their reactions as they came off the trail. Little did I know.
However, midseason, many actors that we had started becoming unreliable and it was hard being a brand new attraction to find dependable workers to replace them with and on such short notice. Hence, here I come, an actor!
I was literally sitting, greeting customers and I get pulled aside. My husband tells the trail manager, “Anna can do it!” The trail manager looks at me, tells me to do a mini-scene on the spot, and the next thing I know I’m in costume and makeup headed to the trail.
What It’s Like Working at a Haunted Attraction
After the first night of acting, everyone wanted me to stay in as an actor for the rest of the season. I surprised myself- I really got into the scenes and scaring people. It was something completely new to me and out of my comfort zone, so I just went with it. I am glad that I did, it was a lot of fun. Though it’s not always roses in any job.
- I got to sit out in the woods and scare people.
- The other actors are amazing and we developed friendships.
- Break time we all (quickly) gathered to scarf down food and get back to it.
- It’s fun helping contribute to new ideas for costumes, acting, props, and more.
- The people loved it! Our first year was a great success.
- It was really cold some nights, especially when it was raining too. And you have to sit in the cold woods all night.
- Slow nights could get a bit boring.
- Pay is variable depending on how many customers and how many nights that you work.
- Unpredictable crowds. Sometimes we had to act the same scene back to back to back for all of the customers continuously coming through, you get the idea.
- The biggest con is when the season is over.
I have heard several stories, and it actually happened to one of our actors, of customers getting physical with actors. Someone punched an actor and I have heard that happens quite a bit. Luckily, I didn’t get punched or harmed in any way. There are always a few people who are rude and obnoxious, but we didn’t encounter that too often.
We had a great trail manager and trail lead as well as an on-duty police officer, so any issues that we had were squashed pretty quickly.
Tips if You Want to be a Haunted Attraction Actor
- It’s okay if you’re shy, you can still be an actor. We had many shy folks (I’m actually somewhat shy myself) and it’s so different once you are in costume. No one will ever know that it’s you and you can completely become the character you’re assigned to be.
- Make sure you are available most evenings and nights, especially on weekends. And most definitely on Halloween night. Reliability is key in this industry.
- While reliability is key, life does happen. If something is preventing you from coming in on your shift, let the owners or manager know as soon as possible so they can create a game plan. The show must go on!
- Have hot hands and hot feet packs (you can grab them at Walmart or Dollar Tree) on cold nights. If your character can wear gloves that’s a plus.
- If you are allowed to buy costumes, Amazon has many items to chose from in a pinch that is also affordable. Thrift stores are also great places to find costumes and props.
- Attend any meetings that you can. It helps to form a team and it helps you practice and learn more to better yourself.
- Be on time for every shift!
Wrapping It Up
Working as an actor at a haunted attraction is a very unique experience. It’s hard work and long nights. But it is worth it. The abrupt end of the season is a bit tough too. It’s hard saying goodbye to everyone and to everything you’ve been doing the exact same for several nights a week for two months.
The good news is if you enjoy acting there’s always the next season! Also, many haunted attractions have year-round events, not just Halloween! This is something we were planning to do but has been postponed due to life circumstances at the moment that is beyond our control. So whether you’re outgoing or shy, if working as a haunted attraction actor is something you’ve always dreamed of doing- go for it!
One last thing. There are many jobs you can do to be part of a haunted attraction if you really don’t want to (or can’t) act. They include prop building and design, makeup, costume design, customer service, and more. Talk to your local haunt a few months before the season if you’re interested in working for them. Volunteering is a great way to get exposed and see if you’re a good fit without too much commitment.