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Behind The Mask is a column for expressing my views and opinions as they relate to the haunt industry. My opinions come from 12 years experience working and helping build haunted houses. These, however, are just my opinions, and may not refelct everybody's views. Please keep this in mind as you read on.
Halloween... A time for ghouls, goblins, things of a macabre nature, and....of course.... haunted houses. Why do people like them so much? Why do the workers and crew strive for nearly 2 months, if not longer to bring their creation to life for the awaiting public? With 12 years setting up, working, and tearing down haunted houses, I share my point of view in answering these questions.

While there are so many haunted houses out there, and certainly no shortage of patrons who enjoy them, why do people like haunted attractions so much? Is it the scare that people like to get their adrenaline pumping? Perhaps its the elaborate sets that are constructed for these events, taking guests away from reality, and into another world, even if only for a few minutes. No matter what the reason, you can't deny that haunted attractions are "living art". Maybe a better way to think of it, is that you are part of a "live movie". While there certainly aren't any cameras or directors, haunted attractions are in fact, a show; of which you participate in. Running from zombies, and creatures from beyond. Narrowly escaping a maniac with a chainsaw. In the subconscious of your mind, you know that these monsters can't hurt you, but your adrenaline and instaincts take over, and you feel you must run away in order to escape "certain death". Some haunts are interactive, forcing you to interact with the actors, making you truly feel like once you enter, you MUST complete the mission. You become the main star.

Some haunts exist soley for one reason: to scare you, and to do it effectively. After all, isn't getting scared what you came to a haunted house for? To get frightened, maybe even startled. To get your adrenaline pumping and to feel the sigh of relief when it's over and you're outside wondering what you just put yourself through.

On the flip side, we should also look from the actors' point of view. Why do they put their efforts into working at a haunted house? What makes them want to scare people? Is it some sick, twisted idea in the back of their head, where they can get away with terrorizing and acting out their aggression on unsuspecting guests? While some may claim this as their motivation, For most actors, the answer is simple. It's fun! Scaring people, under the guise of a monster is fun. Why is it fun? I suppose there are many different reasons for this. Seeing a grown man fall to his knees in terror while his kids stand behind's funny. To most actor's terrifying guests can be funny and rewarding. At the end of the night, sometimes actors compare their 'scare stories'. See who had the best scares on that particular night. Others get joy out of seeing people scream and run in terror and fear for their lives.

With that being said, we must turn our attention towards production and crew. Many times, we only recognize the actors who are terrorizing guests within the walls of the attraction. So often do we forget to think about all the people who worked hard to bring their productions to life. Their work goes unrecognized. Sure, people see the nice sets, but often more than not, don't even think about the people who worked to bring the attraction to life.The crew is usually made up of volunteers, sometimes it's employees getting paid to setup. These tireless men & women dedicate their time into building sets, designing maze patterns, hooking up electrical wiring, and creating the whole haunted attraction, many times from the ground up . Why do these people do what they do? Alot of workers like building sets and rooms, because it's their way of creating living art. A room they spent extra time in, to create an excellent atmosphere, could be the room that everybody talks about. To most people, having your work behind the scenes acknowledged by guests is, in itself, rewarding. Sometimes, the crew is comprised of people who not only setup and tear down, but also act inside the attraction.

Now, comes the last part of a season for a haunted attraction. While steup may be rough, and acting may be fun, definitely the worst part of the season for most haunters, is when we have to tear everything down and put away their terror until the next year to pull their creations out once again to unleash upon the public. It can be a sort of depressing time, having to say goodbye to all the fun you had during the fall month(s). For others, however, tearing down, can be a sign of relief, with all the hard work nearly over. A time for rest, until nexst season.

Personally, in all my years working haunted attractions, I somewhat liked setting up. It was fun at times, but at other times, it was long, tedious and demanding. I LOVED acting, and tearing down was almost heart wrenching. It was like saying goodbye to a friend who was moving. Having to say goodbye to all the fun I had the previous month scaring people. Literally more like being taken from a fantasy world where I could be any creature that I wanted to be, to being thrown back into the real world. I guess it's never easy to say goodbye to something you love so dearly, even if only for a year. One month is too short of a time for something that brings so much anticipation year-round.

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