I Survived “Hell Week”
Written by: The Dragon
This is Dragon chiming in, this year I decided to join the Bat in haunting at Las Vegas Haunt’s Hotel Fear. I’ve only ever gone as a patron as I love the idea of getting scared… I say idea because it’s very rare for me to get scared, so getting a chance to be the one scaring others seemed too good to pass up. On top of that I felt getting the ability to see the behind the scenes would be incredibly invaluable information, definitely for the blog but I can’t help but see it as just adding to my library of knowledge. Also I plan to try and write this with as little spoilers as possible.
Now let me start this with I had A LOT of fun scaring people, given the responses I got from a lot of the patrons they enjoyed my scares more often than not. Some would shriek, run, and/or drop to the floor, others would laugh over the things I’d say, sometimes I’d even find myself getting into an impromptu dialog that would normally be considered dark or morbid but they’d move on commenting over the creativity I’d have. There were of course those I failed to scare or are like me and don’t scare easily/at all, which was honestly a bit of a buzz kill, I guess I can’t scare everyone but I can die trying… Okay terrible joke aside I thought I’d share my takeaways as a first time haunt actor.
I didn’t really know what to expect as the Bat hadn’t had to do an Audition in years so this was new to both of us. It was an interesting experience I got to meet a lot of new potential actors and some veterans as well. We did some improv acting and they had us scream and also sharing something we could do that was unique, I opted for my crazy maniacal laughter as I could keep it going for a long time (yay for learning to breathe while laughing). I got a call back so yay! Time to scare!
My First Night
I was anxious and a bit nervous, while understandable as it was a new thing for me, on top of that was my concern if I’d feel comfortable with what was deemed as acceptable in terms of COVID-19 safety measures. Those concerns were thankfully put at ease once I got to see them, so all that was left was my first day jitters.
I got put in a room, given a brief idea of what to do and I was off to scaring… There wasn’t really much training, initially this confused me and left me feeling unprepared, thankfully this isn’t the first time I’ve been thrown into the proverbial deep end and expected to swim (thanks dad). I realized as the night started after I was a few scares in a lot of the training is learned by doing and even now as I write this I can’t think of a better way to do that aspect of training.
The Other Nights
Throughout the season I got to do a bunch of different aspects of the haunt as an actor which I thought was amazing. I loved being able to explore the different roles and even had fun taking tickets, the banter I got to have with the guests while they waited was well random and all over the place but amusing for both me and the guests. I did noticed I had to catch myself with the kids who were afraid while I was out front as a few of them I got close to well scaring enough to not want to go in… Having my own kids came in handy because apparently I had tips in the back of my head of how to shift focus to put them a little bit at ease, but only a little heh.
As I said in the beginning my background is more business/corporate in nature so the management structure at the haunt was weird and at times bothered me. I wasn’t looking to change things or stir things up, I came to learn about the behind the scenes and try out scaring so I kept my mouth shut most of the time… There were times where they contradicted themselves and it was confusing, eventually I figured it out on my own thankfully.
I did find it amusing that we were told it wasn’t a competition but then they did actor of the night… Well most nights, so I guess it wasn’t a competition if there were nights where no one won? While I did win actor of the night once throughout the season I was confused what the basis was to be deemed the actor of the night so instead I chose to focus on getting more scares and laughs from the customers than whatever system may have been conceive to determine actor of the night. Also on helping my fellow actors because as the season went on I got a decent feel for how to setup a group for the next scare regardless of my success/failure to scare them.
Besides scaring the customers the best part of being at the haunt was all of the friends I made along the way. I did find it interesting that some of the other new actors started to ask me for advice in terms of scaring and how to do rooms. Bat said it likely stems from how much I pay attention, try different things, and my natural ability to teach. I don’t know if I necessarily agree but I guess if the shoe fits… Although after standing for hours maybe I need comfier shoes.
I understood the notion of “Hell Week” outside of a pandemic but I didn’t understand why the management would keep talking about it as a big deal. After all ticket sales were supposed to be capped and guests were time slotted. We sold out a few nights earlier in the season so I figured this wouldn’t be a big deal. I “think” somehow there were more people despite the earlier statement, I didn’t count so honestly I could have just felt that way. One thing I did notice was there were more assholes going to the haunt… I don’t understand why someone would go to a haunt then yell at the actors for scaring them… that’s literally their job and yet I got threats of being killed for scaring children or threats of being punched. I kept my distance from those customers and opted to give them well a lack luster scare… if they were so easy to set off they should have just asked for “no scare” or “light scare” both of which were options as other customers had asked for those.
I had a lot of fun scaring but I did find myself wondering how to build scares differently and even coming up with ideas of my own for various other potential projects. I’m excited to see where this will go as time goes on in the coming months.
I don’t understand why someone would go to a haunt and then get mad at the actors or successfully scaring them or someone in their group. I understand people react to fear in different ways but if someone starts off with threats beforehand it just seems like someone looking or an excuse to be an asshole and somehow haunts get a pass? I wonder if I’ll ever understand that…
The last big thing that just screams “why can’t this be better?” is pacing… I don’t know what could work in terms of pacing the guests to ensure they all get their value and the actors get their kicks over having had time to scare people without having too much time to lose energy. I wonder if I’ll find anything besides something like forcing the guests into a cart type of thing similar to how many theme parks do attractions…