Confessions of a Former Haunted House Actress

Several things in life are inevitable. Kindergarten is inevitable. Eating grilled cheese is inevitable. Paying taxes is inevitable. These are things that we accept. These are things that we know will happen at some point in our lives.

But how in the world, did I, a girl who slept with the lights on for a week straight after watching her first horror movie, end up in a grimy basement dressed in a zombie nurse costume scaring strangers for hours on end for the mere sake of their personal entertainment?

It all started with a phone call.

But not just any phone call. A phone call from a post-graduate New York City boy that my best friend, Danielle, and I shared a mutual love for. We were 17 at the time. And when you are 17 and a post-graduate New York City boy calls you then you pick up that phone with zero hesitation and excessive amounts of unbridled joy. Let’s call the guy “Dave”

It went a little something like this…

Dave: “Hey girls (I think he thought of us as a single human rather than two separates but it’s fine) would you be interested in-
Dave: -being performers in a haunted house that I am hosting in a few weeks?
Us: ……..*mutes phone and stares at each other but then we finally say…*
Us: Yes, of course! We love haunted houses! (false) We have performed in one before! (false) We love you! (true)
Dave: What?
Us: NOTHING. We can’t wait.

First Rehearsal

Dave assigned us our roles. We were to be a “scary nurse” and a “scary doctor”. We were excited by that announcement because we had no absolutely idea what that meant. The panic and dread had not yet set in. We were in an overwhelming state of sweet, ignorant bliss.

Dave: *Leading us to a back room* Okay! Here is your room! We are going to do a run-through so that you can practice your performance! I’ll be back in five.

We looked around the room which consisted of:
1. an old couch
2. a creepy vintage television
3. an old surgical chair.
4. a broken drill
Suddenly we realized. We, the girls who never even made it through a singing recital duet without bursting into accidental laughter on stage, had to scare people. We, the girls who constantly got asked “why are you so happy all of the time?” had to inflict fear on innocent civilians. We, the girls who spent our evenings baking spaghetti squash and watching Backstreet Boys music videos, had to make strangers run away in terror.

So naturally, we turned to each other and let out an awkward “hahahahahaha how are we going to do this” and then devised a plan.

Imagine the most painfully uncomfortable people you have ever encountered. Multiply by 10. That was me and Danielle during our first run-through.

Dave invited three of his college-aged friends to walk through the haunted house so that all of the performers could practice. And just to make matters worse, they were attractive.

When they first entered our room I’m pretty sure I said something along the lines of “Ah yes, there you are, the doctor will see you now!!!” in a poorly-executed impression that was unsure if it was Gollum from Lord of the Rings or maybe Stephanie Tanner from Full House. I didn’t have my costume yet, so I was suffering from an identity crisis.

They stared at us.

We stared at them.

They stared at us.

We stared at them.

No one spoke.

No one flinched.

It was at this point that I closed my eyes and silently begged the universe to wake me up from this nightmare. The universe screened my call.

We then proceeded to try and scare them. I cannot express to you enough how important it is that you understand we had NO IDEA what we were supposed to do. So, we tried to use creepy whisper voices, awkwardly blindfolded them, and picked up the fake drill. We attempted to use it, but a piece fell off and broke. At that moment, I think I started crying. Meanwhile, the three guys looked so uncomfortable and not because they were scared or frightened or anxious. They looked uncomfortable because they were just uncomfortable.

After the run-through…

Dave: *politely* Girls! That was so good!
Us: ………..What? You thought that was-
Dave: -But maybe next time…don’t be afraid to go all out! Really embrace your characters and make everything more dramatic!
Us: *with fake conviction* Yes, you’re so right. We won’t let you down!

Opening Night of the Haunted House

“We’re going to let him down,” I thought to myself as I poured my cereal. It was like any other day. I woke up. Ate some Cheerios. Watched ABC family. And then, I went to an abandoned theater and put on a zombie nurse costume with a rabbit mask. I had no idea why I had to wear that rabbit mask, but Dave said it added dramatic effect so I said okay I’ll wear the rabbit mask.

I had never actually been through a haunted house. I had tried to go five times before, but all were failed attempts.

Yet there I was, on the opening night of a haunted house, standing in a dark closet alone. A dark closet that smelled like moth balls and bitter dreams.

No really, I was standing alone in a dark closet because that was part of my character’s scene. The creepy clown one room over from me would lead the person going through the haunted house down a corridor and say “open that door! hehehe!” And low and behold, I was standing behind the door and would abruptly jump out at them.

But here’s the thing…the closet was super hot and I was sweating a lot which made the fake rabbit fur on my mask itch my face so badly. Sometimes, I had to wait in that forsaken closet for ten entire minutes before someone tried opening the door. When they did in fact open the door, I was more scared than they were. So, it was just weird EVERY TIME.

They would scream. I would accidentally scream. When I finally regained composure, I would muster up the strength to say “follow me muahahah!!!” and lead them into the “doctor’s room”.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 5.08.40 PM
The Zombie Nurse Wearing a Bunny Mask and the Doctor.

Here are some of my favorite moments..

Rude Little Girl: I’m not following you, you stupid rabbit.
Me: I’m not a rabbit…I’m an evil nurse!!! The doctor will be mad at you now!!!!
Rude Little Girl: Why are you wearing a dress if you’re a rabbit?
Me: I’m not a rabbit.
Rude Little Girl: Ya well then are you wearing a rabbit mask???
Me: ……
Rude Little Girl: ……
Me: It’s for dramatic effect.

While in the doctor’s room….

Danielle (playing the doctor): AHHHH GOOD THE PATIENT IS HERE.
Me: *leading in the patient* SIT IN THAT CHAIR AND DON’T MOVE MUAAHAHA.
Person in chair: I really have to use the bathroom.
Person in chair: No, seriously like can I please use the bathroom? It’s an emergency.
Me: *back to normal voice* Oh sure sorry. It’s around the corner by the clown’s room.

At first I was using a loud voice for my character, but then I started panicking because I had to sing the National Anthem at a political convention the next morning.  I wanted to save my voice, so I switched to a creepy whisper voice instead.

Me: *creepily whispering* The doctor doesn’t like it when you’re late….
Preteen Boy #1: What?
Me: *creepily whispering louder* The doctor doesn’t like it when you’re late…
Preteen Boy #2: What is the rabbit saying?

Later on in the night when drunk people started showing up…

Me: Sit in this chair and the doctor will see you soon!!!!
Drunk guy: *singing and trying to hug me* OOPS I DID IT AGAIN, I MADE YOU BELIEVE WE’RE MORE THAN JUST FRIENDS.
Me: Friends? What is “friends”?!! I don’t understand that word you are saying. BECAUSE I AM EVIL.
Drunk guy: *in a little kid voice* I know you are but what am I?
Me: You are….out of luck!!!!! Because the doctor is coming now!!! Muahaha!
Drunk guy: …You’re weird.
Me (entering the little room where Danielle was posted up): Hey, what’s up?
Danielle: (whispering) How many more people are coming??? I’m tired.
Me: Me too. I want food.
Danielle: Do you think we can just leave him in there for a few minutes?

The haunted house was supposed to end at 10PM. But, as fate would have it, so many people came that we had to extend until midnight. MIDNIGHT. This meant that I, the scary nurse wearing a rabbit mask for dramatic effect, had performed the exact same 5 minute performance for 6 hours with no break or food or cell phone or love or comforting smile or contact with the outside world. At one point I thought to myself, “what if I am stuck inside of some strange nightmare where I am doomed to make feeble and unsuccessful attempts at scaring strangers for the rest of my life?”

Just as this daunting thought was crossing my mind, I heard someone walking down the hallway. This meant that I needed to jump out from behind the closet door and scare them. So I did.

Dave: Hey!!! Great work tonight!!! You’re all done!

And in that moment, I believed in miracles.

We proceeded to eat pizza and tell funny stories about our night.

Processed with VSCO with b5 preset

This experience taught me a few things:

1.Never judge a person by what they looked like. Outside, I was a zombie nurse with a bunny face wearing a dress stained with fake blood. But inside, I was just a high school girl hoping to give people a worthwhile fright.

2. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is intimidating, but in the end, it’s so worth it. Through the blood, sweat, and tears (all of those were actual components of the experience) I made hilarious memories with fun friends. Danielle and I still reference this experience like once a week.

3. Once you are an actor in a haunted house, you become pretty famous. To this day, I will still have people stop me on the street and ask “Weren’t you that zombie nurse with the rabbit mask during the Halloween season of 2012?” And to that, I will calmly reply, “Yes, yes I was. But now, she’s just “somebunny” that I used to know.”












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