Scare Acting 101: Everyone has a "Type"

One of the first and most important steps when becoming a scare actor is determining what type of role works best for you. Typically, the haunt runner or cast director will actually determine what role is the right fit, sometimes as early as when you audition for the part. Actors will typically be drawn to certain types of role and are better at some than others. Knowing what works best for you is important, both for you and the haunt (or haunts) you work for.

As far as the actor training aspect goes, the actor's role is also important to distinguish. For example, advice for someone who works a queue line might be of no use to someone who is scaring on a set. 

Sadly, Teen Vogue doesn't have a quiz for this one.

There is an abundance of good information scattered around the internet about scare acting. Unfortunately, one of the most frustrating issues is how often the terminology is different depending on the author of the site. Specifically, there is no universally accepted terminology for the different types of scare actors and their roles. 

In fact, many haunts don't use the term "scare actor", you may hear haunt actor, character, or simply actors. To make things even more clear as mud, there really isn't a clear consensus on the roles either, some of the types I mention in this article may be subcategories on someone else's list or vice versa. I found some roles referred to by at least three different names on different sites. 

So, this is my best attempt to categorize the general types of scare actor roles and their typical part in the haunt. You may find your haunt has the same types with entirely different names, that's completely fine, my intention is for you have a better understanding of the roles and importance of each.

I have broken the roles down in two main categories, outside of the haunt (Front of House) and inside the haunt (Scene Actors).

Front of house

Front of house actors are outside the haunt, whether it is roaming the queue line or even in the parking lots. This a small group of experienced actors. I have broken these actors down into three separate types.
  • The Roamer - There are quite a few names for this type because they do quite a few things. Roamers typically are in the "front of house" wandering through the guests, queue line and sometimes before they enter or after they exit the haunt. These characters are typically very coveted roles that go to experienced actors due to the extraordinary amount of interaction with guests. Also, be prepared to pose for several thousand selfies. Most of the roamers that are around guests do not talk, this typically makes them considerably creepier. Those roamers that do talk have to be able to improvise lines expertly as their character interaction sets the stage for the entire haunt. A roamer that has a great costume and makeup but has absolutely nothing good to say when they talk is worse than not having them there at all. Honestly, it takes guests right out of the correct mindset and they would have been better off if the actor hadn't spoken at all.
  • Host/Narrator - This is a role that was much more prevalent in previous years but is not as common in current haunts. This role is the actor who goes over the rules as well as setting the stage and sometimes giving the storyline to the haunt. This is a very important speaking role and should only be for experienced speaking role actors. There will be improvising lines, as guest interaction is a common occurrence. They should also be able to get a good read on the guests and determine if any of them might be a problem inside the haunt.
  • The Specialists - This is the role for actors with an additional skill set beyond scare acting. All of which require considerable training to do it properly. Below are three of the most common, but there are others (fire eater, snake charmer, etc.):
    • Sliders - I am not referring to the tiny hamburgers...or the generally underappreciated 90's sci-fi series. Sliders are a specialized group of actors who literally slide, using knee pads and gloves or other equipment that spark when they slide. They are becoming considerably more popular especially for scaring and entertaining guests who are waiting in line for the haunt. It is a difficult role, both in skill and wear and tear on the body. 
    • Stilt Walkers - A great effect, especially for front of house and queue lines. There are several different types of stilts, some easier and safer to use than others. But regardless of the type, using stilts can be dangerous especially when walking in large crowds or over uneven terrain.  
    • Chainsaws - The chainsaw is so common in haunts it's typically expected and guest are disappointed if there isn't one. There is a misconception that anyone can use one but there is a proper way to use one for a good scare. For example, holding the trigger full throttle and holding it up in the air (where guests can see there is no chain) will ruin the effect. But revving the throttle and going low by someone's legs will get the bravest people running.

Scene Actors

Scene actors are inside the haunt, whether it is rooms or sets on an outdoor trail or maze. This a majority of the actors in a haunt. I have broken these actors down into five separate types.
  • The Jump scare - This is typically the most common actor in a haunt. This name is actually a good description in itself as they typically jump out at the guests (and hopefully do not say something like "boo" or "get out"). Their spot is often called a "boo hole". 
  • The Distraction scare - I want to point out that I called this the Distraction "scare" for a reason. Some people cast in this role feel that they don't get to contribute to the scare as much as the other scare actor on their set. They do the work and the jump scare gets the scare. That is simply not the case, this is a team effort and neither role is as effective without the other. Timing and communication are key for the scares to work properly. Most importantly, the distraction can get a second scare from the guests after the person they were distracting for. 
  • The Voice Actor - This can be a very versatile role. Actors who speak in the haunt can be scary, or creepy to add to the scare factor. But they are also important in helping to set the mood or continue the story that the host started. Most commonly this is a scripted role and improvisation is more often for the front of house roles. 
  • The Stalker - Intimidation, plain and simple. The stalker is typically tall and intimidating character that will invade your personal space and make you very uncomfortable. This role is similar to roamers in the front of house but they should not speak, this adds to the intimidation factor.  
  • The Creeper - See something that's probably not human crawling towards you in the dark? That's a Creeper, or it's a huge spider. If it's a spider, just burn the house down and consider yourself lucky. Creepers rely on body movement and body language to look as inhuman as possible. 


Just to be perfectly clear, these are the names of the roles that I will use in my articles. Just like everyone else in the industry, these are my opinion. My intention is to help those of you who are new to scare acting to understand the different roles that are most commonly used in the haunt industry. If you understand the role itself, it should be easy to pick up on which role someone is talking about regardless of what they call it. Hopefully this article will help.

Kenneth Leary is the author of the Practical and Theatrical Scare Actor Blog. He has worked in in the haunt industry 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 and will be happy to talk to you.


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