Photo by Janice Sodoma

Tessa Highly scares customers during her spooky shift.

… to work at a haunted house

I work at Evil Intentions Haunted house. My cousin, who is about 20 to 21, has been working there for like five or six years now. And so it’s always been something I wanted to. And this year, she brought me into the casting call. My manager and my cousin took me around and introduced me to everybody. And that’s kind of how I got into it was during the casting call, like my cousin brought me.

[Casting] depends on what haunted house you work at. But for mine, as far as we go it’s kind of an audition. The managers watch you, the veterans watch you, but nobody really gets cut. Because along the way they watch you, but they also help you. We do a lot of testing calls and practice days. And it’s basically just like, earning experience before the hunt season actually started.

They’d either assign you a room or you could choose a room depending on like, what they think of you. And it’s like, we practice and you split up into two groups as well. So like, split up into groups depending on where you are located in the haunt. And usually that group is cut in half. Half pretend to be customers walking through and then half are the actors and that’s kind of just like practice.

How to be in character. How to stay in character. It’s all improvise so they give you lines that you can use. A lot of what I was told, because I was in the schoolhouse, was, because we are family friendly, “Watch your language, you’re in school.” Or just like small, snappy lines, if you want to be a talking character. It really depends on you as a person. Because you’re going to be improvising and acting. It’s basically just getting into your character and getting into the field of what you have to do. 

When you’re practicing, you know you’re not going to scare these people. All the old haunters, they’re hardcore, like they’re laughing. They’re not being scared, and you’re not in costume and don’t have makeup on.  

My first night, I wasn’t even working in a complete room. For customers, yes, but it wasn’t fully decorated. And so going through all these practices, almost every time I came to the haunt, my room was changed. It was somehow different and kept getting added to. So I had to continue to adjust my location. And on the first night, it’s such a difference because you get this shock of adrenaline like “Oh my god. There’s people coming to see me today.”

My character started off as a student and I was supposed to be a demon child. And so that’s kind of how everybody was. My story kind of evolved throughout the season. I like to call my character Posey. She was a child. Throughout the season, I kind of developed this story of she has like, flipped personalities, kind of like an actual child and a demon side. 

When I got into her, it was, it felt like I was letting out my childhood. It was like I was going back, because things happened in my life. And it was kind of like a rewrite for me. When you’re a character, it’s still part of you. So it was like going back into my childhood. When I became Posey, Tessa banished. It’s weird. It sounds weird to say but it’s true. It’s like I don’t really know how it happened. It’s just when you’re in such a different atmosphere. But it’s literally like a flip of the switch in my brain. Because I’m around all these people who know how to improve and know what to say to customers.

This is a worldwide community. And it’s such a big community like there’s conventions. There’s the Midwest Haunters Convention coming up. Where like, the haunt itself is my location, Evil Intentions. We call it the haunt because that’s kind of just one of the terms we referred to. That makes me love it even more. It’s scary and intimidating, but they;’re still the sweetest people I’ve ever met.

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