Scare Acting 101 - Surviving the night

Working in a haunt is incredibly fun, it's also incredibly exhausting. It's perfectly reasonable to expect the first person passing through the door to get the same show as the last group through at the end of the night. They all pay the same amount of money after all. This simply won't happen if all the scare actors are completely exhausted before the night is over.

There are more than a few suggestions on how to make it through the night and/or through the season. Unfortunately some of the advice out there is horribly, horribly wrong and even good advice is often debated. I have compiled a list of techniques used by the pros, and some are based on actual Doctor's medical advice.

So please give them all serious consideration since Doctors have years of schooling to educate them on how to keep you from dying, and your buddy handing you an energy drink probably doesn't.

Bruh, we were totally fierce for that first hour.

Don't Stay Thirsty my friends 

One thing that is universal to all haunts is to stay hydrated. Working at A Petrified Forest, in Florida, outdoors, means I am intimately familiar with how important it is to stay hydrated. But if you are in a state that isn't as hot as the ninth ring of hell (even in October) like Florida is, you still need to drink plenty of fluids.

Hydration is important for several reasons, you will hear it mentioned again later, first and foremost is because it keeps you healthy and aids in maintaining your energy level. Here are some additional points to consider:

- Drink fluids prior to working, even the night before, make sure you are properly hydrated before you start. If you start drinking when you get thirsty you are already too late, your body is dehydrated.

- Even if you're not sweating heavily your body still needs water. This happens a lot in cooler weather, people don't drink enough and dehydrate due to the physical activity. They just don't realize it because they're no wringing out their clothes.

Not only Onions and Ogres have layers  

Cold weather, I have heard of this phenomenon but I live in Florida. My friends from the great white north have passed on the following advice.

- Layers, this is just basic cold weather advice but it can be tricky based on the costume you are wearing. For example, if you don't have sleeves on your costume use several sleeveless shirts under your costume to keep your core temperature up.

- Keep moving, moving around will raise your body temperature, even if you have a break in the guests coming through keep moving.

- Alcohol is always a terrible idea working in a haunt, but just so we're all clear, alcohol actually lowers your body temperature.  So, don't think that sneaking a nip during your break to warm up will actually help anything, besides your mood.

This guy is scary in a bad way, don't be this guy! 

Energy Drinks, 0 out of 10 would not recommend

Some people swear by energy drinks, but they are a huge problem in most haunts (the drinks not the people). If you insist upon riding the sugar rollercoaster I won't tell you to stop, but you should know the following facts before you strap in for that ride:

- Energy drinks are simply not good for your health, period. Even if you are not physically active while drinking it. Large amounts of caffeine and sugar can lead to several health issues, some immediate, like higher heart rate and higher blood pressure.

- Higher heart rates, blood sugar and blood pressure levels can all lead to your body overheating more easily. This leads to heat exhaustion, which can be very dangerous if not treated properly.

- Some energy drinks contain up to 50mg of sugar in a single can, that's higher than the entire recommended daily intake for a male or female adult. Yes, one single can has more sugar than you should eat in a day.

- Energy drinks (as with any drink with high caffeine levels) are diuretic. This means that people risk dehydrating more quickly in the heat while drinking caffeinated drinks. That is the exact opposite of what you want to do.
Delicious beautiful caffeinated death

All of this information is based on medical science, this is not including the fact that you will "crash" some time afterwards. This could be problematic if that happens before your night is finished.

Maintaining your voice

This is strangely (at least strange in my opinion) a highly debated topic. Opinions vary greatly, you can't please everyone with one solution since people get better results from different remedies. I am going several suggestions, find the one that works best for you.

- Stay hydrated. I know you're probably thinking I'm beating a dead horse, but I only do that if it's a fake horse and gets a good scare. Moisture is great for your vocal cords, sipping water will help you maintain it.

- There is a very important difference between cough drops and throat drops. Throat drops in general are safe, especially glycerine based herbal brands like Ricola. Cough drops on the other hand are quite bad for your vocal cords.  Mentholated brands like Halls are drying and will strip moisture away from your throat, which is good for a cold but terrible for your voice.

- Some people swear by drinking hot drinks with Honey and Lemon. There is a lot of evidence that this is effective. But if you are straining your voice nothing works as well as resting your voice or reducing the volume to which you're speaking/screaming. 

- Butterscotch is a cheap and easy way to coat your vocal cords, a lot of theatre performers swear by it. Also, there is a herbal tea called Throat Coat which is popular with many haunters but it's not a cheap option.

To sum this all up, it is preferable to protect your voice to prevent problems before they happen. If you irritate your throat or vocal cords it will take time to heal and rushing to perform again too quickly can cause serious injury. So don't scream like a banshee...unless you're a banshee.

This is either a banshee or she missed out on the Szechuan sauce at McDonalds. 

Maintain your energy level

Pacing yourself is important. When the night starts it's easy to go all out when the excitement is high and the adrenaline is kicking in. But going too hard too early is an easy way to wear yourself out for the rest of the night.

This is a really simple fix, pace yourself. It's a marathon not a sprint. I prefer food analogies but this one works. Find a good level of energy that you can maintain for hours.

Kenneth Leary is the author of the Practical and Theatrical Scare Actor Blog. He has worked in scare acting since 2012 and is a year round student of scare acting and haunting in general. The purpose of this blog is to help others benefit from his research and experience in a humorous and informative way. He can be contacted at for questions and comments. He doesn't get paid for this, so he's not a total douche yet.


  1. This is so helpful! And fun, and funny. I'm going out for a scare actor role this year for the first time. Thanks for the info.


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