Aside from costume parties, trick-or-treating and movie marathons, haunted houses are a staple of the Halloween tradition. Every year, corn fields and abandoned buildings alike remodel themselves into labyrinths of horror. Like a stage play, a haunted house is a theatrical production, staffed by a cast of actors and artists. These dedicated men and women are committed to providing their audience with the fright they paid for.
One such actor is Eli Glenn, a first time “Walking Zombie” at the Fear of the Dark haunted house.
“Its an exciting thing,” Glenn said. “I didn’t think I was going to like it at first, but it is more than I thought it would ever be.”
Fear of the Dark is a unique haunted house and laser tag mash-up hosted by Chipper’s Lanes on Horsetooth Road. The two story venue promises to “scare the pants off of you” with “all sorts of nightmares” hiding behind every corner, according to their Facebook page. After the fact, survivors are offered the chance for revenge. They are given laser guns and let back into the maze to tag as many zombies and clowns as they can.
Glenn describes his zombie alter ego as a “psycho person who hops over things.” Between his time spent jump scaring people and getting shot in the laser tag arena, Glenn enjoys what he does and gets paid for it too.
“It’s a good paying job.” Glenn said. “It’s not bad. You get to scare people.”
His colleague Trevor Huppert likes the job too, saying, “(acting) is a lot of fun. I really enjoy it. I think it’s cool we incorporate laser tag.”
Huppert, a Fort Collins native, plays the “chain zombie,” a restrained monster thrashing about in a dark corner of the house. When patrons walk by, “they hear the clashing of the chains,” Huppert said.
Throughout their daily five hour shifts, these actors are responsible for scaring the hundreds of people who walk through their halls. Some of the responses they receive are more memorable than others.
Glenn recalled a time he leapt out from the shadows in front of a frightened couple.
“Snapped my neck at the girl, snapped my neck at the guy, the guy books it,” Glenn said. “He ditched his girlfriend.”
After closing down, Glenn said he saw the reunited couple outside.
“He got in so much trouble,” Glenn said. “I kind of felt bad, but still, I get paid for it.”
Huppert also got a reaction he felt less than proud of.
“I jumped out at someone, and the girl just turned around the corner,” Huppert said.
Pleading with him to stop following her, she broke down into tears. Despite feeling bad, Huppert said, “she was our best reaction so far.”
While professional haunted house actors do exist, most of the staff at places like Fear of the Dark are just normal people off the street dressing up for the night. For this event, Chipper’s Lanes recruited directly from their customers.
Before crushing relationships, Huppert was crushing the competition. A junior bowler at Chippers, he was in the middle of a game when he was first approached with the job offer.
Many of his colleagues were employed in a similar fashion. In fact, most of the haunted house staff are just the manager’s family and friends. The operation’s casual, friendly atmosphere lent to it feeling more like a “family business” than a haunted house, according to Huppert.
Behind the masks, haunted house actors are just your “average Joes” trying to make some seasonal wages with a fun job that provides many memories.
Fear of the Dark will be returning to Chipper’s Lanes next year.