Scary Tales: A Day in the Life of a Halloween Horror Nights Scare Actor

Every year, Universal Studios holds a world-renowned event called Halloween Horror Nights. Guests are invited to explore the theme park's eerie scare zones and spine-chilling haunted houses for the entirety of the fall season. This year, HHN features killer houses that include iconic characters from Stranger Things, Ghostbusters and Us. I work as a "scare actor" at Halloween Horror Nights and will be writing a series of articles to share my experiences. 

  1. 1. Walking & Clocking

    Depending on where you're cast, your breakroom and your scheduled “in times” are different. As someone who is Cast A in the Us house, I clock in at 5 p.m. I enter through the Islands of Adventure exit turnstiles and take a shortcut through Seuss Landing to reach my breakroom at Soundstage 19, a.k.a the Blue Man VIP Lounge. Scare actors from the Us, Stranger Things, Ghostbusters andYeti: Terror of the Yukon houses all share this space.

  2. 2. All Made Up

    After acquiring my staple red jumpsuit, I head over to the makeup tent and wig trailer to get in character. I play Elisabeth Moss’s tethered counterpart, Dahlia. First, I put on my gelled blonde wig and then I hop in line to wait for makeup. We don’t have assigned artists and go to whoever is open to save time. When you're directed to an artist, the head makeup coordinator will give them a reference sheet with a picture of the scare actor in full makeup alongside a picture of the character they’re playing.

    All scare actors playing tethered counterparts get their eyebrows blocked and get burgundy and grey airbrushed under their eyes. Jordan Peele and the producers at Monkeypaw Productions requested that I have the blood on my face specifically painted on. They stated that the blood on Dahlia’s forehead is supposed to represent botox she did on herself while mirroring her counterpart, Kitty. We assume that the blood dripping from her lip is supposed to look like lip injections.

  3. 3. The Actual Job

    Every house has two casts referred to as “Cast A” and “Cast B.” We take turns playing each other’s roles for 45 minutes each. Those 45 minutes we're in the house scaring are referred to as “sets.” Depending on if it’s a 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. close, the number of sets we do will vary, but it’s always five or six sets. Because the line is open until the exact minute of closing, there are times we are required to stay in the house past our clock out time. We call this "extending." 

  4. 4. Spoiler Alert!

    I'm going to talk about my specific role so if you would rather experience it yourself, stop reading! As I said, I play Dahlia, Kitty's tethered counterpart. The scare actor who plays Kitty and I "live" in a narrow hallway in the Tyler Cabin. Our room has everything from their exact lamps to our own version of their "Ophelia," which is the Amazon Echo or "Alexa" in the Us universe. Kitty steps on a pedal called a trigger and lip-syncs the words "Ophelia, call the police."

    The Ophelia then responds "Sure," and the very beginning of NWA's "Fuck the Police" plays before it's cut off by a slashing sound. That's where I come in. With my iconic golden scissors (Don't worry, they're fake!), I pretend to kill Kitty, just like in the movie. It isn't all that scary, but we still get great reactions since it's a fan-favorite scene of the movie. 

Being a scare actor has been a wild ride and I'm barely halfway through the run. Stay tuned for more spooky articles! 

Images: 1, 2, 4. Image 3 provided by the author.