So, what’s your pleasure? Be it beast or bastard? I’d like to start with the latter, so let’s discuss difficult, no-fun customers.
WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?
It’s a fair question and maybe it has a lot of answers but as an actor at a haunted attraction I’m sometimes baffled by the attitudes of some people. I think some individuals simply take themselves too seriously or want to be combative and others still are just trashy, insecure people who create drama just so they have a story to tell. These people are boorish and ignorant and they’re not worth your time or effort.
The vast majority of my experiences at SIN this Halloween season have been positive, but a few unpleasant and odd exchanges do standout. As Vermin, I introduce myself to a lot of people and subsequently offer a handshake. Most people get a kick out of it — maybe it’s the funny name or maybe it’s the slightly ominous greeting or innuendo that accompanies the introduction. Whatever it is, it’s generally met with some form of enjoyment.
One Saturday, I was talking to a pair of young guys who probed Vermin with some curious questions — they seemed to dig the character and wanted to know more about him. There was a woman of about the same age beside them so I included her in the conversation and offered her my hand. She seemed skeptical which is fine, she’s not alone. Lots of people have refused the handshake and I have responses prepared for just such an occasion.
No big deal, it’s all in good fun. Except in this particular instance, a woman with an entirely different group turned and said, “This isn’t the 80’s. You don’t shake a woman’s hand. You shake a man’s hand.” Uhh…what? She looked genuinely affronted. Maybe she was drunk. Maybe she holds some very strict guidelines on inter-gender social interaction that applied only to the 1980’s. She then invited the girl to stand with her group as if my handshake posed some serious threat that only she and her unmatched haughtiness could neutralize. The two young guys looked at me apologetically and added that they didn’t know this school marm of 80’s etiquette. I didn’t dwell on it because I do not suffer fools.
The most frequent negative experience comes from young males that range from late teens to mid-twenties. The tough guy posturing that comes from this crowd is insufferable and I always find it amusing that the worst offenders aren’t exactly in peak physical condition. More often than not they’re either scrawny and dressed in oversized clothes or short and porky with bowl haircuts. It’s as if they possess zero knowledge of a haunted house and cannot fathom why a weird character is trying to creep them out. In some instances I’ve even overheard other members of their group tell them to calm down or chill out. I don’t understand where these people come from or why they exist.
I don’t make a point to interact with these people much because they aren’t interested in having any fun and I’m not impressed with their baggage or undeserved sense of self-worth. It’s nauseating. It all comes back to body language and verbal feedback. I’m here to have fun and entertain people just as the guest is there to have fun and be entertained. If you can’t open yourself up to that then I’ve got nothing for you.
TEN FEET TALL AND BULLETPROOF
Interestingly, but probably not surprising to anyone who took high school psychology, truly intimidating and physically imposing guests do not typically exude combative or aggressive behavior. I love to engage these people and then pick on them in front of their friends, dates and spouses. Think about it. Guys who approach or exceed six and a half feet tall are used to being deferred to and it’s probably been that way for them ever since they hit that crazy growth spurt in middle or high school. They’re big and people just assume not mess with them.
One night there was a run of giants in the house and about three of these monsters were in haunt zero simultaneously. One by one these oddities traipsed in like a freak show on HGH. Vermin dashed to confront them and immediately issued comical insults which their respective groups enjoyed. I don’t imagine they see these people approached so forcefully or spoken to so bluntly very often. I like to speculate on their abnormal size and usually label them Bigfoot, Sasquatch or otherwise refer to them as some sports figure who was freakishly tall like Manute Bol. Google it, kids.
So, there I was in haunt zero with a packed room that already featured two walking anomalies when a true mountain of a man lumbered into the room and dwarfed even them. He was 6’6″ and had to weigh 400 lbs. or more. He was, as we say in the common parlance, ginormous. He also smelled like he had just smoked a blunt but that is neither here nor there. I stared up at him and hurled some barbs his way. He said his name was Antoine and he probably could’ve crushed me with relative ease, but Vermin is not concerned with such pedestrian matters. Antoine seemed a jovial fellow and contentedly high so I poked and prodded his stunning stature and he took it all in stride.
I suppose the point of all of this is to instruct haunted house actors to be fearless in the face of odd, imposing and intimidating people. Get creative with your interaction and mess with expectations; don’t fall into the trap of always preying on the weak link of the group. I think you’ll find that it becomes more enjoyable for you as a performer as well. I know that’s been true in my experience.