I scare people. At an imposing 6-4, 220 pounds, first impressions typically aren't my thing. And my bellowing vocal intonations often send small children cowering. It is what it is, I suppose. Sometime around my late teens, I began embracing these realizations, shedding my awkwardness and owning my daunting physical tendencies. I can almost dunk. People don't fuck with me at bars. Not all bad.
So when the opportunity arose to fully embody my intimidating demeanor and work as an actor at Spooky World for a night? It was a non-decision, really.
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Arriving at the New Hampshire haunting ground near dusk Saturday, I was quick to learn my assignment: "Freak Show in 3D," a dizzying labyrinth of corridors, accented by fluorescent graffiti work and a bludgeoning industrial soundtrack, featuring rave send-ups of the worst mall metal imaginable. Truly terrifying stuff.
Hoping for a Leatherface-like ensemble (with a chainsaw obviously, so I could really fuck with people), I was initially underwhelmed to learn I was going to be a clown. That was before I got into costume. Outfitted in a soiled rainbow jumper and looking like Heath Ledger if he'd drawn on his Joker makeup with a highlighter, I felt like the type of clown that could swill a pint of cheap vodka and not have any reservations putting a cigarette out on your snot-nosed kid if he got too close.
Following a brief lesson in scare — don't go for the first person in the group because they're generally the bravest, and don't lunge too dramatically at your victims because a drunk person will probably punch you in the face — I was placed in a Z-shaped hallway and told to have at 'em.
Well, it didn't take long to realize that scaring is truly an art form. The first couple attendees through the attraction were greeted by something ranging from "YARRBEDDEJJAHHHR" to "Boo," before I settled on the silent stalker approach — totally creepy, and the face paint afforded me a cover for my surely blushing self.
Mercifully, after an hour of struggling to find my rhythm, they moved me to a foolproof scare spot: a cubbyhole set in the wall, with breakaway doors masked as a galaxy mural. Fuck. Yes.
Let me tell you, if you've never gazed through a peephole less than an inch in diameter, assessed the fear of an approaching group of people from 10 feet away, then lunged at the most vulnerable looking of the lot, you have never lived. I can only imagine it's comparable to what 'Nam was like.
It was here that I was best able to channel my inner deranged clown. I would bust through the doors with a cackling "HEY GUYS!" then mutter a sadistic laugh that only Gacy's mother could love.
Following four and a half hours in the box, my body count looked something like this: dozens of grown adults sent running in panic-stricken circles, two people left so paralyzed that their legs gave out from under them, and one lady who actually called me a "fuckerass." Also, a set of heavily bruised lungs and a pair of cut and swollen mitts from punching the doors open and beating the walls. Much appreciation to the faculty of Spooky World for both their graciousness in accommodating my rookie self, and for having the mental chutzpah to do it night-in and night-out. Taxing stuff on every level.