Behind the Scenes at Halloween Horror Nights with UCF's Shauna Turnmire

Shauna Turnmire is an event manager at Halloween Horror Nights who is in charge of escorting "scareactors" safely through the park and the Monsters Cafe. She is a theatre/event management double major at the University of Central Florida, as well as a sister of Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

  • Can you describe a typical night working as an event coordinator during Halloween Horror Nights?

A typical day for me as the dining coordinator is always a little different. I get to interact with guests and my cast is always trying new things, which makes it fun. I have a cast of five performers that I escort to the Monsters Cafe where they walk around to each table and take pictures with everyone. I make sure they are safe and that they are also seeing every table. I answer any guest’s questions so I get to interact with them as well which is something I love to do. It's fun to watch my performers because they're always trying something new. Sometimes they may add a grunt or walk quicker to each table so that they become more menacing. It's always different and it's always fun. Once the dining experience is over and my actors have gone home for the night, my night isn't over. I report to my supervisor to see if any coordinators or assistant stage managers need any help. I could be sent to any scare zone or any house. I stand in for coordinators who need a break or need to take care of a situation that requires their immediate attention. I'm constantly meeting new people and learning new things. I also get to see how the event has progressed throughout the run. The actors on the streets and in the houses are also trying new things and adding things to their characterization, which has been extremely cool to see. 

  • What is the most challenging part about your job?

I'd say the most challenging thing about my job is having to be on your feet for a long period of time and always having to be on the lookout for anything that might go wrong. You always have to be paying attention to your actors and make sure they are safe. It’s easier to prevent a problem before it starts so you have to constantly be watching everything and making sure that everyone is safe so that everyone can have a good experience. 

  •  How has your UCF experience prepared you for the working world?

I'm in a sorority at UCF and I think that is what really prepared me for the working world. First of all, my chapter brought me out of my shell and has helped me hold conversations with anyone. That's helped me be able to talk to guests. I've also held multiple positions within my chapter and it's taught me how to work with others, how to follow a deadline, and how to work with a budget. I was also a Rho Gamma and I've compared that experience a lot to working this event. You have your group of girls going through recruitment and you take care them, answer their questions, make sure they're safe and having a good time. This works the same way with my cast. Being a Rho Gamma also taught me how to make fast decisions in tough situations which is also really beneficial to being a coordinator. Overall, Greek life really made me who I am today and I'm so grateful for everything they've taught me and continue to teach me everyday.

  • Who is your favorite character to work with? Is it because they're the scariest, or because they're a nice person behind the mask?

I love my whole cast and there's no particular character I favor over the other. They each have their own little quirks about them. Some of them add this to their character, which also makes it like a little inside joke to me, and I love it. Other times they become a completely different person, which is also fun to see because I know who they really underneath the mask. I love all the characters. I love that they’re scary and I love who they are behind the mask.

  • What is your advice to guests who have never been to Halloween Horror Nights but want to go and survive the night? 

My advice to anyone who wants to attend Horror Nights is to give it a try but also know your limits. If you know you get scared easily, bring a friend to hold on to. If you know that one particular house is probably going to give you nightmares then maybe avoid going through that one. The great thing about Horror Nights is that you can kind of make your own agenda. You don’t have to go through every house. You don’t have to walk through every scare zone although all of them are fantastic. It’s about knowing what you can handle and what your comfortable with. If you decide to go and you know you’re really nervous and probably going to cover your eyes through every house then bring a buddy you can hide behind and cling to. The bottom line is you will get scared at Horror Nights so be prepared for the scare.

  • Does knowing the scareactors personally make Halloween Horror Nights less scary for you or ruin any Halloween Hollywood magic?

Knowing the scareactors actually makes it more fun for me. Since I get to visit every zone and every house I’ve gotten to know many of the actors and become good friends with some of them. It does make it less scary because I know them and their characters but it makes it more exciting because I get to see how they change it up with their characters. They still try and scare me every now and then and they do get me from time to time because half the time I’m not expecting it. When it comes to the houses, they sometimes work harder to try and scare me as I walk through and every now and then they get me really good. This experience hasn’t ruined any Halloween Hollywood magic. If anything it’s heightened it. I’ve gotten to experience Halloween for over a month now. It’s my favorite holiday so I’m glad I got this much time to experience it.

  • What has been your favorite part about working at Halloween Horror Nights?

I could go on for days about everything I love about working Horror Nights because every part of this job is my favorite. Every second I’m there I’m loving it. Yeah, there are times when I’m tired, or my back aches from standing so long, or I’m hungry but my break isn’t for another hour. But being a part of the magic of this event makes all of those moments seem trivial. The greatest thing about working this event has really been the people. I’ve met so many amazing people. Whether it’s the scareactor in that one zone who does a secret handshake with me when we see each other out on the streets, or the coordinator who always gives me a hug and makes sure I’m having a good day, or the assistant stage manager who answers my never-ending questions about what they do in their position and why they’re here working Horror Nights. These are some of the greatest people I’ve met and some of the most talented. The actors are constantly developing their characters and their storyline and the coordinators and assistant stage managers are always prepared and have your back in any situation. We all look out for each other and we’ve become this ginormous family of weirdo’s who just really freakin’ love Halloween and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. 

 

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