What It’s Like to Work as a Halloween “Scare Actor”

Oct 06, 2014 at 12:57 PM ET

With theme parks around the country getting ghoulish for Halloween, Redditor apks10 recently shared some stories about his time as a Fright Fest “scare actor” at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. Now a fifth-grade teacher in Wisconsin, he spent one memorable October roving the park as a terrifying zombie cop. Here are the juiciest behind-the-scenes details from a Reddit AMA that was equal parts unsettling and hilarious.

In general, apks10 says he had a great time with his co-workers, who ran the gamut from comedians and actors to students and teachers themselves. But the worst part of the job, besides the long hours in inclement weather, was the occasional “asshole” visitor who got violent—and not as a reflexive response to fear.

“I was punched twice in the season that I did it. …We keep two to three feet from nearly every customer. If we are closer we are liable for ourselves. Both times that I was assaulted, the individual came from behind me and administered a blow to the back of my head. [They thought] it would be great fun to hurt me.

“What’s funny is that I was a police officer as my character. I would ‘break character’ and escort them over to the Gurnee Police Department cops that were there. Assault is assault. If you punch a person in the park, you are arrested and banned from any Six Flags park for life.”

Should you scare children? Apks10 says that’s a personal choice.

“We stay family friendly until around 6:00 p.m. We have characters out before then (not scare actors). Pretty much anyone is free game. That being said, most of us aren’t jerks. We’re not going to horrify a little four-year-old.

“It depended on their age. …There were times that kids came through and got scared without us even doing anything. We have staff members around that we can quickly run to and ask them to escort the customer out if need be.”

If kids do get spooked, it helps to remind them that, underneath all that fake blood, you’re still a regular person.

“A little girl was crying there with her mom from some of the other monsters. I took off my gloves and showed her my wedding ring. I explained to her that I was married and had a wife. I told her I was a teacher and that I was just playing a game of dress-up. She thought that was so funny, and they were able to exit without any more incidents.”

When it comes to Fright Fest’s grown-up patrons, you quickly figure out how to pick your targets.

“Girls scared the easiest. Also fun to hide and pick out the men and boys that you could make scream like girls. The general way you carry yourself when walking through shows us a lot. If you’re cocky and confident, we’re not going to waste our time directly. In that case we will try and sneak up on you. If you are visibly trying to hide behind someone, we will come right up to you knowing that it’ll be an easy scare.”

Just how scared do people get? Really scared. Like really, really scared.

“[Scare actors] had what we called ‘yellow cards‘—this entailed people urinating themselves. It was easy to tell the difference between a teenager screaming about it, and a genuine person who started crying and had to hide in the corner until they figured out how to take care of it. We also had brown cards.”

In case you’re considering a career as a scare actor yourself, apks10 calls the audition process—yes, there are auditions—both “weird” and “fun.”

“You sat in front of a panel of three to four people, and they gave you different situations. ‘Give me your best scream.’ ‘Be a scary clown.’ They know what scare actors they are looking for, so they give you the different scenarios based on that to see what you would fit.”