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Bringing Halloween to life

I shiver as a flurry of raindrops pelts my scarred face on a cold, mid-October night.

Nature’s shower attempts to wash the massive amount of blood off my face. It runs down from my forehead into my eye lashes, forcing me to blink to keep it out of my eyes.

Blood rushes over my nose, down my cheek, over my lips and onto my chin before it drips onto my oversized jacket.

I look at the ground to see more blood drip onto the wooden walkway beneath me. 

Then I hear laughs.

My eyes snap forward to look through the wooden pallets in front of me. That’s where I see a group of six unsuspecting teenagers – my next victims – walking confidently toward me, unaware of my presence.

A couple seconds pass by, and I leap through an opening in the fence while letting out a bellowing roar.

Half of the group screams before jumping into the wall next to them, and another one turns and runs back the other way. 

The other two burst out laughing. After all, this is just for entertainment. 

The scars and blood on my face are just makeup, my scream is just a performance and my victims are just another group of guests attending Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Escape. 

I, along with dozens of other scare-actors, have the best job in the world and it seems like nobody knows about it.

“You get to scare the shit out of people for money,” said Alex Testani, a fellow scare-actor who works in the same haunted house as I do, and who I’ve become very close friends with.

This is the second year of scare-acting for Testani and I, and we both love it more and more with each passing weekend.

Testani loves it so much, in fact, that he drives three hours from Clarkson University just to work Saturday night before going back to college on Sunday. 

“I hate that they aren’t doing Fridays again … I would’ve actually been able to work Fridays and Saturdays, but now I only get to do Saturdays,” Testani said.

On the topic of driving, Matt Bates, another scare-actor, drives an hour out each day just to scare people.

“I’ve been coming here for years with my kids and I always thought ‘I could do that too, and I could do it better,’ then I saw the ad last summer and I got in,” Bates said. 

There’s an endless list of things to love about our job, but one of the coolest is simply getting to look at your makeup after you get it on.

Usually when I hop into the makeup chair, I just tell the person doing my makeup to “cut me up,” and use a ton of their fake blood spray. Even when they’re done, I’ll most likely tell them to spray more blood on my face. This has earned me the title of “the blood guy.”

To simulate the cuts, they just use black and red sprays, but some people like to use latex to go above and beyond and add a really gnarly texture. 

Fright Fest veteran Tom Ruffing has a particularly interesting story about gaining experience with latex.

Prior to becoming a scare-actor, Ruffing spent 20 years in the military. He spent a lot of that time doing moulage, a practice where Ruffing “had to do latex makeup that made people look like they had wounds from explosions and car accidents so responders could act on them properly,” he said.

Ruffing applies that knowledge to his costumes each year by making a mask out of latex.

“The one I’m using this year took me three and a half months of planning it out. Putting it together is easy, what’s difficult is getting it sized up properly. If you mess that up, you have to rip it up and start over again,” Ruffing said. “Each weekend, the mask gets bigger and heavier, because we keep adding more latex and more paint to it.” 

That’s another part of what makes this such an amazing experience to be a part of – you get to build and improve on everything as the season progresses. 

“You can’t just walk in and scream at people and think that that’s all you have to do. That’s not gonna scare everybody, and over the season, people catch onto it. So, you have to adapt as the season goes on,” said Maddie Gaiser, another Fright Fest scare-actor. 

“You gotta come here every night ready to change something about the way you do things, otherwise it gets monotonous, and you really start getting tired of it,” Ruffing said, agreeing with Gaiser’s statement.

You really do get bored of doing the same routine over and over. A lot of us, myself included, like to move around, try different spots and even work together to get some sick team-scares. 

“It’s fun as hell to scare the life out of people, and everybody’s really nice here, so when you and a friend team up to get people it feels awesome,” Bates said.

Team-scares can help reduce the boredom problem, but there are other problems that you just can’t escape. As awesome as this job is, it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. 

“A huge drawback is some of the costumes,” said Patricia Harrington, who spends time doing stage shows in the summer, in addition to working at Fright Fest in the fall. “Some of those costumes are huge and they get so hot sometimes that you actually hyperventilate. In the early parts of fall, they get really hot and a lot of people don’t realize that,” Harrington added. 

For me, my scare-acting experience has always taken place outside, so I can’t confirm that. My hands always go numb halfway through the shift. However, there are a few issues that everyone agrees on.

“I never expected the physical toll it would take on me,” Testani said. “Also, your voice gets destroyed by the time the night is done. I wish I knew that.”

There is not a single scare-actor at Fright Fest that gets through a night without losing their voice. It’s hilarious when we regroup at the end of the night and we all sound like smokers.

“Sore feet and sore throats suck. Also, having to deal with awful guests,” Ruffing said. “It takes a different breed of person to show up, get makeup slapped on you that takes an hour to get off and go out there and do this,” he added.

I have to agree. When you get home, your feet feel like they’re about to fall off, but you still have to stand in front of the mirror forever to get the damn makeup off. 

As much as I love being “the blood guy,” it sucks having to miss out on sleep because you have to clean the extra blood off your face.

Despite these few downsides, the experience of working at Fright Fest is 100% worth it.

“It’s the most fun thing you could ever do. It’s an experience you can’t even imagine until you’ve done it,” Harrington said.

It’s true – working at Fright Fest is easily one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. And now I know what to say when teachers ask me for a fun fact about myself.