Archive for SIN Chronicles

Of Health & Havoc

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by bluefall8

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

I was feeling under the weather when I arrived and didn’t plan to stay for the entire duration of the night. There was a gauntlet to be run over the next five nights and I had no desire to push myself to the limit on a Thursday and leave the tank empty for the homestretch of haunting that included Devil’s Night and Halloween. I hung around until quarter to nine and then bowed out for the night, but before I departed I was a part of a couple of memorable moments.

I must say that I’ve been mightily impressed with Danielle’s evolution during this haunt season. She’s been forced to wear a lot of different hats behind the scenes at SIN and that has made it difficult at times for her to go full throttle with her signature character, Dr. Giggles. But not on this night. Dr. Giggles was a mason jar of piss and vinegar. She stalked the front of the house with a renewed menace and brandished that machete like a professional hit man. The good doctor even held sinister conversations with a pumpkin of all things. I thought it was a nice, new wrinkle for the character.

Some time not long before I departed things took a wild, unexpected turn in the stomping grounds referred to only as haunt zero. Dr. Giggles cracked her machete against one of the metal poles that served as a barrier for the line, a moment later she knocked that pole to the floor. With demons of his own to exercise, Vermin turned and booted a second to the floor. Suddenly, the scene transformed into a high stakes tag team match; it was the penultimate moment. The gold was within our grasp and we knew it! We clawed down deep in search of that finishing maneuver — posts, ropes and buckets clattered to the floor as we kicked and swatted our way to a championship.

When the chaos had ended, haunt zero resembled the aftermath of a smash and grab at a jewelry store. The following morning another member of the haunted house crew shared a Creature from the Black Lagoon montage that had been edited for comic effect which summarily nailed the regard Dr. Giggles and Vermin held for haunt zero on this night.

Cinnamon & Sloth

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , on October 25, 2016 by bluefall8

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

I entered SIN roughly a half an hour after open and changed into costume — Vermin’s trademark flannel and tattered jeans. Once at the front of the house I found that there were no customers so I worked my way through the maze and discovered that a core of regulars were absent for the evening. It bummed me out that many of my favorite people weren’t there but I believe in making the best of things so that’s what I set out to do.

It ended up being a slow, mostly uneventful night but one group comprised of local high school football players afforded Vermin an opportunity to bare his teeth. There were four of them but one refused to exit the back seat of a car and for that he was ridiculed. The other three entered the building, purchased tickets and entered haunt zero. The players attended Roosevelt which is the high school in Wyandotte for you non-locals, each sported hoodies or other paraphernalia that identified them as members of the varsity squad.

I had already heard that the football team had lost to Woodhaven on Friday night, but those boys didn’t know that — not yet anyway. I built them up for a minute, lured them in and then smacked them hard with an insult over the recent loss. I saw disappointment and, dare I say, shame in their eyes. It was a thing of beauty and it amused me greatly. If there’s one thing on this planet for which I have absolutely zero interest or need it is high school football.

The players entered the attraction but we would cross paths once more when fate intervened — in the form of a bathroom break of all things. I was needed to cover for the actor in the Bundy room so I decided to whip up something special for the student-athletes. I tapped into Vermin’s well of the anger and instructed one of the boys to sit in a chair while I delivered a haunting monologue about loss and regret. I told him to remember the moment and to recall it in a time of regret. I told him to understand it as truth and urged him to appreciate the gravity of regret. As the trio departed, the one would had sat in the chair stopped and said, “That’s actually really good advice.”

He was right, it was good advice. The kind of advice that only one who has known regret can deliver. I like to think that some day he’ll think back on that moment and be supremely weirded out.

Revelers & Mischief Makers

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2016 by bluefall8

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Friday, October 21, 2016

I arrived at the house at 5pm — two full hours before the doors were set to open, but I needed to use that time wisely. My good friend, John, and I had planned to wire the house with five security cameras so that I could capture some video of the cast in action for use in the documentary about SIN. I stood in the parking lot and chatted with Grace while I waited for John to arrive.

CLOWN LIVES MATTER

John did arrive shortly but not before an unexpected arrival. A slim dude in full clown regalia walked purposely toward Grace and I. He had bright blue hair and a billy goat beard. In his right hand he clutched a piece of paper and in his left was a yellow, rubber chicken. How could this not be interesting? I have no fear of clowns. Nope, not even with the recent spat of clown related strangeness that has taken place across the country. I actually find the clown archetype a fascinating character study. What does creep me out, you ask? Dolls, man. Dolls are unnatural, evil little posers possessed by the worst kind of malice. Fuck those guys.

But back to the clown. Grace and I stared silently at the approaching stranger who stopped at a distance just outside of my personal bubble and asked for the person in charge. Hey, at least this clown was direct. Having just arrived myself, I wasn’t sure who was even inside the house yet. The clown expressed an interest in working at the haunted house and it turned out that the piece of paper that he held to his heart was the waiver form required to work at the Jaycees Haunted House. Unsure who to direct him too and somewhat bemused by the whole encounter I asked, “You got a name, clown?”

It turned out that he did have a name. It was Adam. The clown’s name was Adam.

John had arrived with the hardware so he, Grace and I made our way inside the haunted house with a clown named Adam in tow. After a bit of searching, I located Danielle inside of the ticket booth and explained the impromptu meeting with Adam the Clown. She looked at me skeptically, even incredulously, and said, “Are you serious?” I was serious and so was Adam the Clown. He did have his form filled out after all. The initial weirdness faded and Adam was welcomed into the fold as the latest edition to the SIN family; he worked the clown hall and proved an enthusiastic, competent scareactor.

ADVENTURES IN VOYEURISM

With Clowngate in the rear view mirror, John and I set about the task of installing a series of security cameras throughout SIN — a process that was expedited by the aforementioned Danielle. Thanks, Danny! It required the better part of an hour to install all of the cameras but when we were done John was stationed in the back of the building with a live feed of all of the activity in the following rooms: Ripper, Clown Hall, Manson, Holmes and Gein. John just finished converting all of the video to a user-friendly format so I haven’t yet screened any of it but he did report the existence of quality reactions, most notably from inside the H.H. Holmes room. Way to be, Gracie!

The cameras did cause a few hiccups through the night but nothing that caused too much of a headache. The one stationed above the clown hall lost power which was an easy, quick fix. More challenging was the camera inside Ripper’s White Chapel District that had some how come loose from the mount and was found dangling by a cable. That required a fair amount of attention as I crawled about the floor in an attempt to locate the screw that secured the camera to the mount. I found it and dropped it three times; much profanity ensued.

A couple of times I had to retreat to the space connecting Ripper and Borden because groups were coming through the attraction. I considered exiting to the back of the house through Borden but then realized I was still holding the drill I was attempting to fix the camera with, so I decided to improvise and use the power tool to my advantage. When patrons exited Ripper I muttered gibberish, tugged at my hair and brandished the drill in a threatening manner. It did the trick until I was able to fix that troublesome camera.

COME ALL YE CHILDREN

Every third Friday of the month, downtown Wyandotte is host to a special event and on this day a parade of costumed revelers descended onto Biddle for trunk r’ treat. On the plus side, the occasion provided us a built-in audience albeit one that skewed considerably younger than the usual target audience for a haunted attraction. However, in order to safely organize the event, Biddle Avenue had been blocked off at Eureka and Oak. Naturally, this would strangle off any exposure SIN would ordinarily get from passing vehicles. In the end it was a fairly steady night and the trade off may very well have been a wash.

DRUNKEN SHENANIGANS

The night concluded with a visit from a lively group whose members ranged from buzzed to severely intoxicated. One fellow seemed friendly enough but he was hammered and as Mr. Sea Legs was already bumping chests with Dr. Giggles, I thought he might prove an issue so I immediately confronted him. He slurred that his name was Chris. It was his birthday. He was from Lincoln Park. “Well, hello Ch-ch-ch-ch-chris,” I mocked. His friends howled with laughter as a couple of them propped him up. I insulted his drunken state and his hometown (which is actually my hometown for those interested).

As nicely as I could and while still in character I told Chris that his intoxicated state made his behavior suspect and that I wouldn’t tolerate any mistreatment of my brothers and sisters. He didn’t seem like a bad guy, he was just drunk as all hell. I followed the group through the entire house, lurking in the shadows. Chris popped a squat in a few rooms and did agitate a few workers but he never harmed any one or got out of control. He eventually gathered his wits and staggered to the next room until his spaghetti legs carried him out of SIN.

Turf Wars

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2016 by bluefall8

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Monday, October 17, 2016 marked the end of the Michigan Haunters Association Haunt Swap and it was time for SIN to play host. All in all it wasn’t a bad showing as groups from Clio Manor, Exit 13, Hush, The Realm of Darkness, Rotten Manor and The Scream Machine each paid us a visit.

It was certainly a different vibe than an ordinary night of operation, after all haunters are a different breed. A couple of visitors even opted to remain in character just as they had been presented at their respective events; some balanced that approach better than others and it was a bit tricky finding the right chord with those individuals.

The folks from The Scream Machine had the largest contingent are were my favorite group with which to interact. They went back and forth with Vermin on all matters taboo and delighted in an exchange of sexual innuendo. Three young ladies even presented Vermin with snipped lockets of hair — what a sexy treat that was!

Jaycee alum, Blue-eyed Clyde made an appearance and had his prized head tossed around.

Beasts & Bastards

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , on October 20, 2016 by bluefall8

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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.

Sinful Sunday

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , on October 18, 2016 by bluefall8

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It’s no secret that Sundays are much slower than Fridays and Saturdays but ticket sales were up noticeably from one week prior and a couple of noteworthy groups kept things interesting. All in all, it wasn’t a bad few hours of haunting.

Once again I was charged up upon arrival and beat a hasty path to the front of the house but discovered no guests present at the ticket booth nor inside haunt zero. However, I did note that Brother James was not at the entrance of the haunt, his usual post. Instead, we were joined for the evening by Sister Nena whose lashing tongue and no-nonsense attitude were a welcome addition to the SIN brood.

SCARE TACTICS

Devoid of playmates, Vermin forcefully exited the front of the building and dared somebody to look at him. This is one of the routines I love to employ when the house is empty. I bust out the front doors with purpose, like a man on fire and the first person to look into my eyes becomes the target. In most cases the person in question first has a look of apprehension and fear in their eyes and then they retreat a few steps before attempting to clarify my status with the haunted house.

I think it works well for three reasons, the first is the crazed state — I can draw up real anger and I think people sense that. The long, wild hair whipping about my face doesn’t hurt either. The second reason is my costume or more accurately, my lack of a traditional costume. I’m basically in street clothes so it’s reasonable to believe that I may just be another customer or some unknown guy who’s upset about who knows what. Third, and this is key, the customer cannot yet have interacted with me. I’m a total stranger looking pissed off and unkempt and I’m coming right at them. I think people know fairly quickly that I’m likely a part of the show but when combined the aforementioned elements are enough to plant that seed of doubt and that’s all it takes. It’s a rush to pull off this scare.

BEING VERMIN

Daffodil was already engaged with a group of three, two tall males and a female who all looked to be in their early to mid 20s. One was quiet and standoffish while the other two were talkative, affable and primed to be scared. Vermin was all piss and vinegar, issuing insults and commands. I specifically targeted the tall, dark-haired male who talked too much for his own good. He compared me to the character Jesus from The Walking Dead as he spoke to his friends as if I wasn’t present and after a few iterations of the comment I got in his face and said, “Call me Jesus one more time, boy.” He was nervous but I could also tell he was enjoying the whole routine and wasn’t likely to swing at me which isn’t true of all customers. After some additional interaction from Daffodil and Vermin the trio entered SIN.

When they had exited the attraction, we picked up where we had left off. Daffodil introduced a gagging bit in which she coughed up blood and then ran off frightened. Two of the three expressed genuine concerned so of course I just played along. Truth be told I was momentarily confused myself because Austin, the actress behind Daffodil, has had a sinus infection in recent days. By the time she had run away I was certain it was all an act but the knowledge of her recent ailment did give me pause if ever so briefly. Regardless, she pulled it off well and then reemerged and chalked it all up to an absurd condition called, Clownitis.

As it was slow at the moment, we continued to entertain the trio. I inquired about a necklace that Jabber-Jaw was wearing and he began to rattle off facts about something that vaguely registered as anime. I’m not a big anime fan so the reaction to come was one of genuine boredom and borderline contempt. I held my right hand near his face, cut him off mid-sentence and said, “Stop talking.” His friends laughed as if they too found his love of anime tiresome.

The tall quiet one was getting a bit antsy, he was named Malik. I dropped his name and he seemed surprised. The female in the group reassured him that I had probably heard them use it which was of course how I knew it but they didn’t know that. She turned to me and with a hint of pleading reassurance said, “That’s how you knew it right?” Whenever I can I like to use the neither-confirm-nor-deny strategy because I feel to simply imply something is much more unsettling than plainly answering a question. I issued that strangled Vermin laugh and said, “Yeah, let’s go with that. Whatever makes you comfortable.” People are supremely weirded out when you possess knowledge that they think you shouldn’t know. It’s a beautiful thing.

I proceeded to take a thoughtful, purposeful look at the license plate of their car which drew a reaction and then ripped an impressive chunk of my hair from my head and gave it to the female as a memento. It freaked her out, she asked me to stop while the act was in progress and even stepped back several paces. As I handed it to her she questioned the authenticity of it. It was real and it was more hair than I had planned to yank out of my head. I don’t believe I’ll be doing that again.

The group paid Daffodil and myself a lot of compliments and I was flattered but I wasn’t about to let it show on my face. Talking Tommy repeatedly asked about our accents and seemed determined to examine the folks behind the characters but to pull back that curtain so cavalierly would only have been a disappointment and neither of us seemed inclined to oblige. We took a picture with two of the three (mousy Malik snapped the photo) and then they departed. I liked them, they were good people.

ENTER THE TWILIGHT ZONE

The night was drawing to a close when a group of five turned up. I was just inside the door of haunt zero when I spotted them at the ticket booth; four girls and one guy. I estimated that they were all in their late 20s to early 30s. I sauntered over as only Vermin can saunter and I eyed them creepily, the way a mangy wolf might look if you substituted hunger for perversion.

Ready to savor the interaction I noticed an attractive brunette among them and as I looked closer I became slightly unnerved and then fascinated. Why, you ask? Good question. I managed to remain in character but the scene spooked me. This woman was the spitting image of a good friend of mine; it could’ve been her twin sister. Granted, her build was slightly different but the hair color was the same as was her complexion. She had the same eyes, same smile; she even possessed a few shockingly similar, minute mannerisms. It was freaky as hell. I thought I was staring at my friend and it was definitely not my friend for those of you who may be wondering.

As Vermin I informed her of the striking, spooky resemblance and even dubbed her, Doppelganger. I stalked circles around her so that I could examine her features from all angles. I was legitimately mesmerized by this woman who said her name was Lena. When her group had emerged from the house after being chased by Edward and his chainsaw that is — I examined her face further and elaborated on her unbelievable resemblance to my friend.

She and her friends prodded me for more information and I joked that I would contact them through social media. You see, they’d already let slip their names, employer and the city in which they lived. When I strung all of that together and flatly stated that it was more than enough to find them, they exchanged amused but slightly concerned looks as if it had just dawned on them that indeed, the information was likely sufficient to track someone down.

As I write, I’m not convinced that this Lena and my friend were not separated at birth. The resemblance was truly surreal and it gave me goosebumps.

Hot Box

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2016 by bluefall8

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Saturday was a long, exhausting night at SIN. I’d estimate that we had more crew members than any other night thus far. Zack, the male cheerleader, from last weekend even returned with his tall friend to volunteer — the pair worked the dining room and Zodiac respectively. We would need all those crew members too because the bars in Wyandotte were hosting a zombie pub crawl and those drunken meat bags shambled into SIN.

I’m not sure what time the house began to get busy — 8pm maybe 8:30pm but once it started it didn’t stop until Midnight. Haunt zero was packed with warm bodies and as the temperature rose I began to regret my decision to wear two flannels. I did venture outside from time to time to cool down and steal some fresh air but the vast majority of my night was spent with the horde of patrons just inside the doors of SIN and what an interesting amalgam of humanity they were.

FREAKS, FRIENDS & DEGENERATES

There several different types of guests at a haunted attraction and I think I witnessed the whole gamut last night. There’s those who react predictably, that is too say frightened and nervous such as a pair of petite Indian women who snickered and cowered any time I was nearby. These people are harmless and want to be scared; the consummate customer.

There’s also people I’ve found who are genuinely pleasant to interact with but I don’t know that until I’ve conducted one of my various ice-breakers. Usually, once I’ve got a vibe from them I downplay the creepier elements of Vermin and allow more room for comedy or relatively lighthearted banter. Such was the case with a young couple from Grosse Ile (yeah, we’re getting a lot of folks from Money Island). The young man happened to be wearing his girlfriend’s varsity jacket — a point that both myself and Daffodil took issue with. There was also a younger sister or friend with them named Emma and she was frosty for most of the wait in line but did eventually warm to Vermin. They seemed like good people and I was legitimately sad to see them disappear through the entrance of the haunt.

The same can be said of a young woman named Cassidy who I interacted with on several occasions while she and her lone friend waiting to enter the attraction. These people aren’t so different from the first group really; they want to be scared too. The difference is that they’re entertained by both the character and the person behind that character. It’s a nice change of pace actually, it’s exhausting trying to creep out and scare every last guest. Typically, when I’m confronted with these kinds of groups and individuals I like to crack jokes and flirt. It’s good clean fun.

There’s a third type that’s simply enamored with the whole experience. They’re more likely to give a character a hug than to be startled or scared; these people want to work at a haunted attraction and I’m always on the look out for them because the act must be adjusted for these people. The more you try to freak them out, the more they will latch on to you as their new best friend.

There was a sweet 13-year-old girl named Logan in line with a group of friends and she fit the profile perfectly. She deflected all of Vermin’s strangeness with a serene smile and spunky attitude. Indeed her colorful braces and plentiful freckles made for a face so adorable only a true maniac would want to see her so much as frown. She asked to braid my hair, she asked for a hug, she asked if she could work at the joint. The girl was fearless and I admired her for it.

Unless I’m doing the creepy smell-my-hair bit I don’t encourage customers to touch me, it can be a slippery slope. But Logan really wanted to braid Vermin’s hair and the kid had a heart of gold so I allowed her to put that braid in my hair. It’s all improv when you get down to it and I try my best to keep people entertained. I love to see people smile.

Another guy who fell into this category was Kramer, yeah, his parents named him Kramer. He was there with his sister Avery and a couple of her friends. Kramer seemed quiet at first perhaps even a bit of a stick in the mud but then he lit up like a Christmas Tree and engaged in a series of out-of-the-blue masturbation jokes. Never to be one caught off guard, Vermin went right ahead with the conversation and it was a bit of fun that we revisited a couple of times while Kramer remained in line. He even presented both of his hands at one point, palms up and discussed his relationship with each. I informed him that he was indeed a brave soul to hold his hands in such a fashion beneath a black light; a line that drew much laughter for all involved.

OTHER ODD AND INTERESTING DUCKS

There are others of course who fall into the various categories or even over-lap into several; most of them too are enjoyable to interact with in their own way. I had a conversation with a young guy who worked construction in Ohio, his name was Darryl. He was curiously accompanied by a gaggle of attractive Russian co-eds, not sure what that was about but probably an indication of good things for Darryl. He and Vermin worked out a deal on cement shoes and agreed to keep the whole thing hush-hush. When he passed Vermin again later he reiterated the deal and then at nearly the same time we each placed an index finger to our lips, conspiratorially. You can’t plan that kind of stuff, it just happens.

Yet another interesting pair came in the form of Zombie Pub Crawl participants. A young, skinny dude was dressed as undead Elvis while his friend was a sprite of a man who sort of resembled Popeye or maybe Popeye’s less impressive cousin. They were both drunk both not obnoxious drunk, just drunk enough to act foolish and have a good time. Pint-sized Not Popeye informed me proudly that his name was Typhoon Tommy, he even produced a credit card as proof. That credit card read: Typhoon Tommy. The hell? I later learned from Grace who was again stationed in H.H. Holmes that the duo tried to playfully chomp her. Some people, man.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

There are a few other types I want to touch on, but this entry has gone on long enough so I’ll save those for a separate post. Just to whet the ole whistle, that future post will concern combative, rude customers which is something anybody whose worked with the public has dealt with from time to time. But perhaps more interestingly, it will also address how I like to approach physically imposing guests who are a unique challenge altogether.

Blur the Line

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , on October 14, 2016 by bluefall8

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It was another slow Thursday at SIN punctuated by a large group that was a mix of elementary aged children and young teenagers. Their reactions ranged from amused to frightened and that’s about how it should be in a group that size. One of the poor kids dropped a $20 somewhere in the attraction and by chance I spotted it under the black light of haunt zero. Vermin may be a creep but he’s an honest creep.

I ran all of my usual bits inside and outside of the haunted attraction, without incident. It was a fairly uneventful night by haunted house standards, but one passerby made sure that it wouldn’t stay that way. I had a message from the chairperson of the haunted house this morning which stated that a complaint had been made about Vermin. I often wander outside of the haunted house when it is slow or dead to interact with people who happen to walk by the haunted house and tempt them into buying a ticket. One of my standard bits is to simply say, “Hello, what is your name?” Which is exactly what happened during the incident in question.

The pair of women who I judged to be in their early 20s never broke stride and when they were probably 10-15 feet away I called after them bemusedly, “What? Your mommas didn’t give you a name?” That was the end of the interaction, but in the age of social media things are easily and often exaggerated. Apparently, one of those young ladies was so unnerved she couldn’t get the moment out of her mind all night and characterized the figure in question (myself) as “rapey.” A flood of comments and laughable moral outrage ensued by a cavalcade of brave souls who weren’t even there to witness the non-event, of course.

There is without a doubt a fine line that haunt actors walk and I take pride in walking it very well. I read body language constantly and I have often backed off of a patron when they seemed indifferent or simply not into the experience. I understand that not everybody is in love with haunted houses like myself; a lot of people are dragged to these attractions by friends or significant others. I want them to have a fun experience and I want to enjoy my interaction with them. If that isn’t happening I move right along to the next person. But I’m not going to apologize for being effective in my role and I’m sure as hell not breaking character because someone fails to recognize context clues.

It’s October. You’re walking in front of a haunted house. Creepy guy. Funny accent. Yeah, context clues. Had I used profanity or been vulgar I’d understand the complaint. Had I invaded their personal space or blocked their path I’d understand the discomfort. But when the interaction outlined above is characterized as “rapey” it’s time for some people to be reminded of context clues and common sense. It’s also worth note that no one else, either inside or outside the haunted house has complained. Does the act creep some people out? Absolutely, that’s what it’s supposed to do. But if all you have is a strange looking guy outside of a known haunted attraction asking your name you don’t get to take to social media and stir up baseless faux-outrage. What you need to do is grow up.

Cold Ash

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2016 by bluefall8

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Sundays are much slower than Saturdays in the haunted house industry; that is an indisputable fact. That alone was enough to alter the vibe in the house but we also had noticeably less staff members than the previous night. In fact, aside from a couple of queue actors; we had just enough to place one person in each room. It’s amazing how much that can impact the dynamics of the show, but with that said it wasn’t a bad night.

By the end of the night we had double the amount of customers who had toured SIN on Thursday, so when framed in that context I suppose those numbers aren’t so bad for the second weekend in October. We had one group who had patronized the haunted house on Saturday return on Sunday, led by a goofy but likable young man named Zack. He was particularly taken with Vermin and Daffodil. His enthusiasm was unaffected even as we insulted him and offered backhanded compliments after he proudly revealed that he was a male cheerleader. He even performed a back flip on the sidewalk outside the building. He took the ribbing in stride and seemed to genuinely enjoy the entire experience just as he had on Saturday night.

Another notable group was in town from Philadelphia for the Lions/Eagles game; apparently it was one of those rare instances where the Lions didn’t find a way to lose. The father in the group had lost money on the tilt; information that was joyfully relayed to me by his niece. She elaborated that this was the second straight year in which her uncle had lost money on the game and I just couldn’t resist the urge to turn the screw. He was a good sport about it though and I really got a kick out of interacting with some out-of-state visitors.

Around 9:15-9:30pm a group of three teenagers pulled up to the curb outside and inquired about closing time. A conversation ensued, the female driver seemed curious, if not amused by the proceedings, a male passenger in the front of the car was quiet. From the back seat a scrawny male served as the peanut gallery. Things were well enough at first but then he began hurling insults at a co-worker that were tinged with just a little too much vitriol for my liking. There’s a difference between going back and forth with the character in front of you and harassing the person beneath the face paint or mask. You see the same thing at sporting events all the time when some drunk or wannabe tough guy takes liberties with a team mascot.

I don’t suffer the ignorance of fools lightly so as Vermin I turned up the heat a bit and insulted him with a volley of barbs that clearly got under his skin. His friends in the front seat seemed to enjoy every minute of it which served as a good tool for me to be sure that I hadn’t crossed the line from theater to reality. I think that’s important for haunt actors to remember. You can target and ridicule one person in a group as long as their company is laughing and generally enjoying the interaction, but if what you’re saying or doing seems to have put an entire party in a bad mood then you need to back off.

The kid was obnoxious and rude and possessed little to no understanding of social cues or context clues. Near the end of the exchange he was so delusional as to say, “I don’t think you know who you’re talking to.” I managed to stay in character but the laugh I issued was purely authentic. I reiterated several of my earlier insults and then bid the group farewell; after all if they wanted any more of a show they needed to come inside and purchase a ticket. Plus, I had no intentions of going to jail.

House of Fire

Posted in SIN Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2016 by bluefall8

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I arrived at SIN last night around 8pm and shortly thereafter the house would be rocking for the next three and a half hours. There were so many instances of quality interaction that it’s hard to keep them all straight so I’ll plunge into the highlights momentarily.

But first, a few notes on the cast and crew. When I arrive, if possible, I like to go through the house and get a feel for the vibe. As with any volunteer effort there can be a fairly significant change in crew from night to night and week to week. It is typically during this walk through that I release Vermin and I will interact with everyone as that character. If I’m not familiar with someone I might introduce myself (as Vermin of course) or else I’ll take the opportunity to mess with them.

There were a few new faces throughout the haunt but each seemed excited to be there and committed to the act. I never did get a good look at the kid in the dining room, so I’m not sure if he was new or not, but he was a frenzied ball of energy when I escorted a trio of jumpy ladies though the attraction not long after my arrival. The hallway following the Gacy room featured several notable additions which included a green laser, a neon-colored sign that read “Clown Lives Matter” and of course, public enemy number one: clowns. Three or four big, intimating dudes considerably shrunk the available space and transformed a boring transitional passage into a high-water mark of SIN.

THE SHEARING OF THE SHEEP

I learned a lot of names last night, discovered where people lived and found that the vast majority of people I smelled had a pleasant scent. For some reason a lot of people ask if I’m wearing a wig and when they do so I encourage them to touch my hair. Sometimes I even offer them a smell although most decline the opportunity it doesn’t stop me from expressing my interest in smelling their hair and that is something that a lot of people are pretty uncomfortable with.

One quartet was from Monroe, a place I’ve lived at two points in my life, so I drew on my familiarity of the area and cracked tasteless jokes about the Custer Statue and the heroin epidemic that has plagued the county. Yeah, Vermin has no shame. I try to make a point to introduce myself to every guest waiting in line and due to wait times I generally have the opportunity to interact with the same group two, three or four times which requires a lot of improv and on occasion it affords me the opportunity to elaborate on Vermin’s checkered past.

Sometimes, I like to slip in facts about my own life to lend more authenticity to the performance and boy does that work like a charm. If you watch the body language of people and the position of their eyes, it will reveal a lot. I love to see a change in their demeanor when I go a little bit darker, cut a little bit closer to reality. You can almost see the gears in their head turning, wondering how much of this is purely shtick. It amuses and pleases me to no end to have so many customers seek clarification on my position within the haunted house and question whether or not I officially work there.

No doubt the highlight of the night came when Daffodil appeared and we worked haunt zero in tandem, we would later be joined by Dr. Giggles as well and then we really had the room jumping proper. Some teenager playfully insulted Daffodil and the no nonsense, Brooklyn girl brought her grievances to Vermin who promptly and angrily confronted the young man. I wouldn’t say the kid was scared but he was undoubtedly uncomfortable as I delivered my demands with force. We isolated him in one corner of the room and made him apologize which he did quickly, too quickly. He was then told to drop to his knees, it was there that the apology would be delivered.

There was a pregnant pause in the room, all eyes were on this poor bastard by now. He hesitated to comply and every second he delayed was further fuel for either Vermin or Daffodil. One of us was going to shred this kid in front of the whole room so I watched and waited while I blocked his path back to his friends and that’s when Daffodil went for the jugular. Without remorse, without even a hint of speculation she stated as fact that the young man should assume the position in which he undoubtedly had spent so much time. The room exploded with “oohs” and “aahs” like it had suddenly transformed into The Jerry Springer Show. Daffodil snapped her neck, popped her hips and watched that kid sink to a knee as he kissed her offered hand as an apology. A superbly timed scene that may have caused me to hide my smile behind my long locks.

SAY WHAT?

In my mind, Vermin has a New Orleans accent and some people have commented on how convincing it is, but others have compared it to a long list of celebrities and fictional characters which I find interesting, amusing and, at times, disappointing. Last night alone the voice was compared to Bill Clinton, Forrest Gump, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone.

I think the Walken comparison is a stretch although I can see where someone would make the link. Clinton and Gump do sometimes come through with certain phrases and I try to limit that, but the Val Kilmer one stuck. I hadn’t thought of that myself, but I was okay with it not only because the cadence was undeniable but also because Doc Holliday was one cool son of a bitch in Tombstone.