By Zephyr Goza age 16 (October 2006)
Family life on the road has many perks, but it can also have a few downsides. One of these are the lack of jobs (or so it seems) for the teens. Perhaps you are looking for some cash, or you simply want to gain experience in whatever line of work you're interested in. This is not as difficult as it seems, once you're willing to approach it from the right angle. For instance, take my obsession with haunted houses...
When I was nine years old, my parents took me to the Museum Guild's Haunted House at the Indianapolis Children's museum. I was actually somewhat of a scaredy-cat at the time and ended up holding onto my mom's sweater for the whole thing. Once I ran out the exit door, however, I realized how much fun it was to be scared (or at least to have survived being scared) and reasoned that the only thing more fun could be scaring people. I instantly began designing a haunted maze that I planned to build out of cardboard. Like a great deal of my schemes back then, it didn't work out, but I had already been possessed with the urge to scare people.
My parents took me back to that haunted house for the next few years. I was amazed by the creativity of the changing theme and how the special effects worked (in fact, I even started getting too busy looking at all the details and whatnot to even get scared). Before too long, I started hanging out in the Halloween aisle at Party City (which is at its most glorious at the beginning of October, though one can still admire a few meager masks and bottles of blood year round) and picking up a few masks and a fog machine of my own.
I also discovered Haunted Attraction Magazine, where I read with ghoulish delight about a place called Field of Screams, which I hoped to visit someday. One year, I even managed to put on a Haunted Thanksgiving by haunting my grandmother's house with some lighting effects and a few masks I had picked up. For such a rinkydink operation, I did collect quite a few screams. Next year, my relatives changed the location of our annual Thanksgiving feast at the last moment to a venue where, coincidentally, I would not be able to haunt. Pansies.
Anyway, my real break came when I was fourteen and we were on our way through Pennsylvania. I realized that I could actually visit the Field of Screams I had read about in Haunted Attraction Magazine! I managed to arrive several hours early and noticed a large group of people who looked like volunteers hanging around in front of the haunts. Mom suggested that I go up and ask if I could volunteer. I found the person with the clipboard and asked rather apprehensively about it. To my surprise, I was not only put to work, but got to be one of the well-known monsters at Field of Screams, Dr. Mal Practice.
I quickly discovered that haunted houses are perfectly willing to accept volunteers (and sometimes even paid employees) if only you ask. I have volunteered at several haunts now, and the number is growing. I even got paid at one of them!
Most recently I volunteered to do setup work for Twilight's Terror Haunted House in Washington. In fact, if you go through there this year, listen to the audio in the Saw room and you'll hear me as the voices of Jigsaw and Adam from the movie Saw. Which lead to design work on a haunted attraction for Science Works Museum in Ashland, Oregon.
Which brings me, after much meandering, to the point I was trying to make in the first place: finding work in whatever it is you want to do isn't as hard as it sounds...even if you're traveling. In fact, it can even help! Because I travel, I have become involved with a ton of haunts across the nation, and picked up their influences in my ghoulish designs.
So now I leave you with these...
Tips for Working in a Haunted House (or Hay ride)
- If at all possible, find haunts ahead of time and E-Mail them to ask if they are interested in volunteers. Most of the time they're happy (although somewhat bewildered) to accept. Many haunts even have applications for paid positions on their web sites!
- If you didn't arrange things ahead of time, find the person with the clipboard. They're usually running around with a flashlight and a roll of duct tape tending to any number of things. If you can't find them, ask who's in charge of managing the actors.
- Bring water! I'm not kidding.
- Bring food (although not food that smells...graveyards don't smell like hot cheese pizza) and throat lozenges, and something to clean your hands with. I'm not kidding about that, either.
- Don't break character unless there's an emergency! Occasionally, you'll get some idiot coming through making obnoxious jokes the whole time and thinking he's funny. Whenever possible, respond in character.
- Read up on the industry! You can read back articles from Haunted Attraction Magazine
- Get the whole family working. Seriously. One time I asked about a job at a haunt...and not only did I get a paid job scaring people, Mom ended up selling tickets and Dad became Security.
- If you need more tips, E-Mail me. I'm always happy to talk your ear off about anything Halloween. ZephyrGoza (at) yahoo (dot) com.
Zephyr is the author of the Tales from Under the Crevice series.