If you haven't been to a haunted house recently, you're missing out on something truly unexpected: At some point they actually became scary. This isn't the dangling plastic skeleton and "Jello mold shaped like a brain" shit they put on for the kids. This is an intense form of full-contact live theater intended to make the customer piss their pants (and we mean literally: they have to clean up piss from their floor).
To get an inside look at what we figured has to be a thoroughly weird job, we spoke to two experienced spook mansion performers, Lillian Sharrow and Alexander Kraft, who told us about all the real blood, mutilation, and terror shit that goes into making these haunted houses worth the price of admission:
The Customers Punch and Sexually Harass the Performers All the Time
When startled, it's normal for the human body to instinctively go into full fight-or-flight mode, when you have to decide in a split second whether to hammer-punch a perceived threat or run away shrieking like a poltergeist. Consequently, it's equally normal for haunted house employees to end their workday covered in knuckle-shaped bruises after intercepting a few too many "fight" responses to the face from frightened customers. Literally one of the first things covered in a haunted house employee handbook is what to do if/when a customer physically attacks you.
The customer then gets to meet the scariest monsters of all: lawyers.
"Getting punched is basically a job hazard in this field," says Lillian Sharrow, speaking from experience. One fellow performer was almost crippled this way. "The customer freaked out and physically threw him across the room, where [my co-worker] hit one of the statues and kind of crumpled to the ground." Yeah, that's the thing -- unchecked terror rage kind of gives you super strength.
"I don't know about this, Betty ..."
"It'll be fun, Bruce. What's the worst that could happen?"
The other performer we spoke to, Alexander Kraft, had it a bit easier. At his job, the customers were placed in handcuffs for an enhanced fright experience before they ventured into his scare area (scarea), because being led through a dark maze with your arms in restraints is tons of fun for any Halloween fan looking to re-create the experience of being in a haunted military prison. Still, he took the occasional elbow to the chest from male customers, because his character was tasked with obsessively touching the guests, and nothing triggers an aggressively heterosexual guy's fight-or-flight response (and a spew of homophobic slurs) faster than vaguely implied homosexuality.
Sitting in the dark while being called a f****t all day? It's just like being a professional gamer!