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View Full Version : Some of the vetrans please post your ideas: a haunting manual



Damien Warwick
12-03-2008, 04:22 PM
Greetings. Let me start out by saying that i may be new to the haunting industry (just finished my 2nd year) but I have been acting for 13 yrs (out of 17). I have recently decided that I want to put together a small booklet for new haunters that decide they want to work at my haunt, a manual if you will. In it I would like to talk in detail not only about theory and haunting ideas, but also about etiquette, security, sexual harrassment, etc (you know cover all my bases). The only issue is, I'm not sure what all I should cover. Now I know some of you have huge haunts and are very highly regarded in the haunt industry and you have books for your haunt. I was hoping some of you could give me some ideas on what to put in my manual. Thanks for any help any of you are willing to give. Gracias!

Jim Warfield
12-03-2008, 11:04 PM
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."
We tried to simplify it for our illiterate, reluctant employees by putting out a video tape, 15 minutes long and yet many of them could not find the time to watch it!!??
Finding a warm body that will show up and do the most minimal tasks can be very difficult around here often times.
Some of my best helpers drive 70 miles to get here.
I have seen some very bad advice given in some media concerning how to haunt.
I really do not want any of my helpers to get their teeth knocked out while attempting to scare someone. (And whose fault would that be?)
A scream into your face is a scream in your face. A small sound..was that a scratching? Is it a rat? A spider? A maniac? There! I saw a shadow! What was it?
There, the mind becomes engaged because it was not something as obvious as someone simply screaming in your face. Startle? Yes. Frightened, scared? Not really just some missguided person thinking that something so incredibly obvious can be a scary thing.
You need some "Mystery" to make it really happen within their minds.
Very young customers seem to be seeking the loud and stupid , obvious things.

Damien Warwick
12-04-2008, 09:45 AM
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."
We tried to simplify it for our illiterate, reluctant employees by putting out a video tape, 15 minutes long and yet many of them could not find the time to watch it!!??
Finding a warm body that will show up and do the most minimal tasks can be very difficult around here often times.
Some of my best helpers drive 70 miles to get here.
I have seen some very bad advice given in some media concerning how to haunt.
I really do not want any of my helpers to get their teeth knocked out while attempting to scare someone. (And whose fault would that be?)
A scream into your face is a scream in your face. A small sound..was that a scratching? Is it a rat? A spider? A maniac? There! I saw a shadow! What was it?
There, the mind becomes engaged because it was not something as obvious as someone simply screaming in your face. Startle? Yes. Frightened, scared? Not really just some missguided person thinking that something so incredibly obvious can be a scary thing.
You need some "Mystery" to make it really happen within their minds.
Very young customers seem to be seeking the loud and stupid , obvious things.


lol IDK Jim I am in indiana lol I agree with your statements completely once i fully understood them. However, (this is just my opinion aint ran it by the boss and it probably won't happen) I believe that any new haunters should have to take a written and role playing test over haunting theory, security, safety, all the important things and if they don't pass it they don't haunt...I don't know maybe thats being too harsh...I'm sure the boss will probably think so lol...btw if you read this boss i'm not bein harsh towards you...I love you...don't fire me...lol

Jim Warfield
12-04-2008, 10:12 AM
We even offered to pay the employees for the time they would spend here getting instruction and they won't show up when we are paying them to stand (or sit) and merely listen.
this last season was different here. I saw numerous adults come loking for the jobs, be all enthused, promise to work, eager to work, then not show up and not call!?
We called one such person who was bringing their husband to also work here and the cell phone delegated our calls to cell phone limbo..and they just live 4 blocks away?
Another highly enthusiastic potential employee who would have made a great tour guide, not afraid to talk, be an entertaining person kept beggong off one night at a time when originally he said he could work every October night except one!??
I guess I just have trouble understanding this stuff because most of my life I HAD to have Work because I needed the money to live on.
Maybe another reason I can't understand this is because I have done alot of very demanding, crumby jobs (for the previously mentioned reason) and I did not quit in the middle of the work or simply "forgot" to show up for the work.
Is $10.oo an hour not enough to inspire anyone to show up? Plus gas money we paid this season because of the high gas prices.
My first unbelievable thing I discovered many years ago in the JCs was that so many people couldn't find the fun in this scary stuff!???? WTF? what do people want? Just brain chemicals?
Funny thing is, Brain chemicals cost money too!

AnandaHexen
12-04-2008, 02:35 PM
This touches on a subject that is at the heart of some of the inherent problems in the haunted attraction industry.
Are we employees? Is this about creative freedom or a job that happens to involve stage blood? Should people under the age of 18 be involved in a job that encompasses emotional instinctual moments that can possibly end in someone being injured? Should we expect less from people because they are volunteers and therefore helping us, not doing a "job"?

Yes, I think haunts should have employee manuals and/or basic rules. Whether you are working at the haunt because your friends are there, because you like the horror aspect of it, because you want to do make-up, because you are a freak and want to meet other like-minded freaks, IT DOESN'T MATTER.....DO YOUR JOB and remember how your job affects other people!!!!!

Jim is correct about the difficulties of getting people to pay attention to the rules. Even those who have been in this business for years tend to forget that it is a business and behave accordingly. It is time for haunt owners and managers to take charge and expect more from their actors/make-up artists/whoever else is helping. It is time for haunt employees and volunteers to understand that while this is fun and we are indeed fortunate to be able to work in something that feels like play, IT IS STILL A BUSINESS!

I don't care if you think you're a unique character, if your childhood was horrible, if you are raging against the machine, WAH WAH! Welcome to life, the rest of us all have reasons for being here too.

Make a simple straightforward SHORT manual. Make easy-to-spot signs to hang in your make-up room. I wouldn't focus on a test, frankly, you wouldn't have many employees by the end of that....
Hopefully, common sense and respect will edge out arrogance and stupidity and easy business practices can walk side-by-side with the creative aspect of this industry.



Grassroots efforts! It has to start somewhere...

Jim Warfield
12-04-2008, 08:36 PM
To do my part to help solve on on-going employee problem.
I had a nice young man working here doing a really good job..then on one busy night he fell in "Love" (or was it lust?) A little strange cutie winked and gave him a few "Cooz!" "Coo, coo.Like a love bird.
He forgot everything and followed her around through the house abandoning his post, we had no idea where he went?
Sooo... the next season I told several young men working here who seemed to have the same problem in varying degrees, that in order to possibly eliminate their need to be overly friendly with total stranger/babes I would put up a fair sized bulletin board out front and have their pictures and pertinent info on it, so any girl interested could just play it cool and so could he , then she could call him sometime later, like maybe December!?

AnandaHexen
12-05-2008, 07:42 AM
That is a whole new industry idea. A haunted dating service!!

Ew, nevermind. *shudder*


So, did it help at all? :cool: You could probably patent that and sell the idea to other haunt owners.

Damien Warwick
12-05-2008, 09:29 AM
This touches on a subject that is at the heart of some of the inherent problems in the haunted attraction industry.
Are we employees? Is this about creative freedom or a job that happens to involve stage blood? Should people under the age of 18 be involved in a job that encompasses emotional instinctual moments that can possibly end in someone being injured? Should we expect less from people because they are volunteers and therefore helping us, not doing a "job"?

Yes, I think haunts should have employee manuals and/or basic rules. Whether you are working at the haunt because your friends are there, because you like the horror aspect of it, because you want to do make-up, because you are a freak and want to meet other like-minded freaks, IT DOESN'T MATTER.....DO YOUR JOB and remember how your job affects other people!!!!!

Jim is correct about the difficulties of getting people to pay attention to the rules. Even those who have been in this business for years tend to forget that it is a business and behave accordingly. It is time for haunt owners and managers to take charge and expect more from their actors/make-up artists/whoever else is helping. It is time for haunt employees and volunteers to understand that while this is fun and we are indeed fortunate to be able to work in something that feels like play, IT IS STILL A BUSINESS!

I don't care if you think you're a unique character, if your childhood was horrible, if you are raging against the machine, WAH WAH! Welcome to life, the rest of us all have reasons for being here too.

Make a simple straightforward SHORT manual. Make easy-to-spot signs to hang in your make-up room. I wouldn't focus on a test, frankly, you wouldn't have many employees by the end of that....
Hopefully, common sense and respect will edge out arrogance and stupidity and easy business practices can walk side-by-side with the creative aspect of this industry.

Grassroots efforts! It has to start somewhere...

amen lol I'm so happy that I started this post...I STARTED A VALID DISCUSSION...yey...I personally love trying to find people...we are one of the fastest growing haunts in the state and therefore I am constantly trying to grow the quality of our show, especially through the growth of our actors talent...unfortunately (even though there are 10 of us who are passionate about it and try and do better), a majority of our actors have no work ethic and just constantly whine...yes you are volunteers but if you are just going to show up, say you want to work, then whine when you have to work THEN GET OUT I DON'T NEED YOU! Some of the people working here are 40 years old and I'm more mature than them (and I'm 17 lol). One of them hates me because according to him and his whole family the artistic director and I (as his assistant) treat him like a five year old....WELL THATS HOW HE ACTS; he can not take directons, he won't follow orders regardless of how many times you have to tell him. I'm sorry I had to get all of that off my chest lol...Now I'm really looking for real actors with previous experience in stage and motion picture acting...so far it is not working overly well...oh well I've got about 9 months before we open....yey...I SHOULD WRITE A MAGAZINE ARTICLE ABOUT HOW TO FIND GOOD HELP!

Oh and by the way Jim...if you are paying 10 dollars an hour...how bout you take a dedicated worker from the JCs and bring me out there lol 13 yrs acting experience baby lol

AnandaHexen
12-06-2008, 07:10 PM
Isn't it nice to have a discussion that isn't a flame war and actually has something to do with running a haunt? ;)


Finding a consistent acting and make-up staff is a daunting task. Some of the teenagers are indeed more mature and dedicated than a few 40somethings out there, but then many of the teenagers think haunted house = party zone. Getting volunteers to want to dedicate that much time and energy can be doubly difficult. My husband and I did a seminar at MHC '08 about how rewarding your staff and encouraging them to be part of the show in a variety of creative and unexpected ways can really increase the value of your actors, even the veteran actors.

Finding stage and screen actors can be helpful, but remember that whether scripted or improv, haunted house acting is a completely different animal than theater or stage.

Remember too that not everyone is going to be passionate about the haunt, and they don't all have to be. Consistency can go a long way. Don't be afraid to start with the basics, even with your older actors. That isn't talking down to them, it's simply making sure everyone is starting on the same page.

Jim Warfield
12-07-2008, 01:50 AM
My 39 yr. old son is a very impressive actor..on a stage..with an audience sitting on the other side of the footlights, memorising lines and stage movements.
People that he knows from work can't believe it's him up there performing so incredibly...yet he has never acted in my haunted house.
I feel confident when I say that if I was on that stage it would be a miserably embarrassing experience for not only myself but most of the audience having to bare with my attempt.
Plop me down in a small room surrounded by 15 people of any age and attention span with no costume no props and I will keep them entertained and 10 seconds before I open my mouth I will have not a clue what I am going to say or do.

AnandaHexen
12-08-2008, 09:50 AM
That is it exactly!

I've done theater and, obviously, haunted attractions and they are so completely different!! I get stage fright for both, horribly, but they are two different feelings of ick for each, just the the acting techniques are different.

Damien Warwick
12-08-2008, 03:49 PM
lol then I am going to become the self-proclaimed lord of acting lol jp jp all...I've been theatre acting for 13 yrs (I've even lost my stage fright which is really the worst thing of all)...Haunt acting also came really natural to me. In my first yr I learned timing outrageous quickly and began doing effective psychological scares (I also filled in for our icon characater one night when the actor couldnt show up). For my second yr (this past season) I became the owner and architect of the Warwick Hotel, Damien Warwick (I'm hoping to turn him into an icon character now if the owner feels like it's a good idea).

Jim Warfield
12-08-2008, 05:53 PM
If I ever had to fill one out they would think I was lying.
"Nobody in a Haunted House setting "acts" for 90 minutes straight through, using numerous voices and eating up 90 minutes worth of material!"
(While running up and down and way down throughout the place also physically interacting and physically doing everything that has to be done or get done, sometimes racing around , in a track meet, needing to win every footrace, blatantly cheating if need be.)

"Acting"?
I don't know?
It is very hard to seperate "Thee" from "Me".
Sometimes when I feel I'm being very much me, myself, I somehow scare the customers more.
I tell them the house's extensive haunted history, limited by their general level of intrest and my own speaking ability. I never tell it all to any group because it would make the tour much longer than 90 minutes.
I try to use ample amounts of humor in it's telling to soften the effect it might have on some of them when they gradually begin to realise that everything I'm talking about ....actually happened..just the way I said.