Across the globe, the pinnacle of many Halloween celebrations is the local haunts. Knott’s Berry Farm is one of the best haunts in Southern California, and their Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt is fantastic. Some people may debate that the highlights of these haunts are the mazes, the late-night park visits, or the spooky vibe, but what really helps set the mood for these haunts are the scarers. Haunt scarers (also known as scare actors), come in many shapes and forms. Whether they are maze actors, regular scare actors, sliders, jumpscares, stilt walkers, roamers, crawlers, and many more but what does it take to be them?
A haunt actor’s journey begins at the audition process. Although not the same for all haunts, Knott's has a very simple audition process. First, a group of 1-5 people enter a room with judges. They’re told to introduce themselves, their haunt background (if any) and an icebreaker question. Once they’re done with introductions, the judges will ask their groups if they have any special talents they should be made aware of, such as contortions, gymnastics, or any fun skills for more specific roles like making balloon animals. Later, the judges and haunt directors will begin to ask their groups to showcase how they’d act out specific scenes or characters. It is common for them to ask their actors to act out traditional monsters, (Zombies, vampires, werewolves, witches, clowns, or even in some instances–maniacs!) and later some very specific scenes, anywhere as simple as an army man during a security breach to as complex as a heartbroken, lovelorn groom mourning his now-zombified bride. At some haunts, after this process, a representative is sent into the room and the actors-to-be have to attempt to scare them and follow all rules of a scarer; don’t touch, don’t push, etc. Once the audition process is fully over, the actors will be told to either wait outside or go home, as they wait in anticipation to get either an email of approval or getting called in to receive the good news. If they pass, they get sent to “Ghoul School” or “Scare Training” to learn how to be scary and most of the basics. From what many of the haunt actors and directors have said, the audition process is one of the most embarrassing moments of the haunt journey, but it’ll be worth it, feeling silly for a short audition is a small price to pay for a month of terrifyingly fun haunts.
Tim Barham is one of the lead costume designers at Knott's Berry, Scary, and Merry Farm. Barham says that he puts a lot of attention into the costumes that he develops for his scarers and actors, Scary Farm or not he says that he puts a lot of effort and thought into their costumes. He acknowledges the environment of the actors, whether it's in a maze with bad ventilation or out on the streets sliding around on their knees, and even their scare zone. Barham takes account of things from the color scheme of an area (In Forsaken Lake for example, the same tones from the area around them such as the Silver Bullet Lake and the gloomy surroundings.) Then there’s more specific things such as what the actor is doing. If the actor is sliding a lot and rubbing against the concrete, Barham uses the same material as drapes for their sturdy nature, to prevent rips. If it's in a compact low-ventilation maze, he produces outfits with less layers to prevent their actors from overheating during their shifts. To compliment Barham’s genius in the costumes, the makeup designers take a crucial role in haunts, for they make it all come together. Many makeup artists in the Knott’s Berry Farm Costume Department can help transform regular looking people into ghouls, zombies, or malevolent clowns.
The job of a scarer may be under-looked, whether its fearsome Ghouls of Calico in a maze or the sliding Clowns of the Boardwalk Carnevil, they’re incredible actors and actresses. In order to get the full effect of the haunts, these haunt actors are crucial, but we need to acknowledge all the effort that goes into their training on behalf of the costume and makeup designers on the Knott's Berry Farm team and their courage to audition in the first place. These actors help fuel the haunting energy of many attractions, and wouldn’t be the same without them.