While chatting with Max, the Drunken Severed Head on the phone (he uses voice dial and a headset, of course), I was surprised to find out he worked as a spooker in a haunted house attraction. This was back in the days when he had a body. Naturally, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn all about it.
Which haunted attractions did you spook in, and when?
In the St. Louis attraction "Dr. Zurheide's Asylum", (built inside a very old, former brewery), I was the title character for the first season, and part of the second season. (I think this was in 1995 and 1996; I'd have to unearth my performing resume to be sure, and that might take a good bit of time.
Also in '96 I was a variety of characters for another attraction, whose name escapes me,which was set up outdoors as a maze. Of course, this was all before the circumstances that left me a drunken severed head.
How did you come be involved with it?
Dr. Zurheide's Asylum had an ad I responded to, I think. And as I had previously played a mad scientist in a locally staged horror movie spoof, "Monster House Party", I had pictures that convinced them to use me. ("Zurheide" was the name of one of the owners of the attraction.)
As for the outdoor attraction, I went to them and applied. I had not been happy with the working conditions at Zurheide's.
What were the working conditions like?
They are typical conditions in many attractions: stuffy and smoky from the "fog" pumped in from time to time, breaks were too rare, the sound was loud, and the hours were long. The owners themselves were nice people, but had never opened their own place before and didn't expect how rough it was gonna be.
What part did you play in scaring the paying customers?
Well, as Dr. Zurheide I was a scientist in a large operating theatre, where I had fake corpses to "experiment" on (with scalpels, hypodermics and other such props), and lots of fake body parts. I spend much of my time cackling, muttering, cursing (without profanity), and pretending to do all kinds of nasty stuff to the stiffs and the various amputated parts, including pretending to eat them.
In the outdoor attraction, I played different masked monsters, but the most vivid memory was one night wearing an "Alien" costume. That's right; 5'6" me was in full rubber Alien drag (a professional, beautiful costume), and playing an 8 foot tall character! I think I was frightening in the dark outdoors, but perhaps I was scary only to the very shortest customers! I do remember that I had to wear a vest ringed with ice-packs because the costume was so hot, especially with that large wienie-shaped headpiece that I had to wear. The costume was something assigned to as many actors as possible, because wearing it was such a chore. It had overlapping pieces, which is the reason it could fit people of different sizes.
I've spent all my life daydreaming such stuff! Watched monster movies ever since I was a child. My mother was a horror movie fan. And in "Monster House Party" I had been "Dr. Stein", a Karloff-inspired, wild-eyed nut-job that came in handy when playing another wild-eyed nut-job at the Asylum. I'd also done improvisational comedy with a few different troupes, and improvisational murder mysteries.
What wacky stuff happened to you?
You had to watch out for people who wanted to grab you. Teenage boys and drunks of all ages liked to try it. In the Asylum, most "scenes" had bars between the actor and the customers, so it was much easier to prevent that. No one ever bothered the masked actors who wielded chainsaws. Of course, the saws have no chains on them, so they can't cut anyone, but you can't tell that in a dark attraction, and I think many people were genuinely afraid of being accidentally hacked to bits if they got too close. In the Asylum attraction I did have women surprise me by flashing me their breasts! So, despite the low pay, the job had some benefits!
What other interesting tidbits about your experience can you tell us?
Good weather was important. Rain would drive down the number of customers a great deal, even for indoor attractions. I also remember that at the Asylum the music played over the speakers actually creeped me out. They played the title music, from the film THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. It's very spooky. Even though I heard it over and over, it gave me goosebumps every night.
Would you do it again?
In a heart beat! A very loud, maddening heart beat...
Thanks for running this!
I should have mentioned that hours and hours of dimness and strobe lights were no fun either.
The best (usually the longest-established) haunts don't use actors for long without relief.
But for hambones like me, it was, overall, fun and makes for some good memories. Seeing people scream and then giggle, or jump and laugh, or even look disgusted, was a grand fringe benefit.
Posted by: Max The Drunken Severed Head | November 01, 2007 at 11:20 PM