Scare Acting 201 - Dealing with Misbehaving Guests

One thing you can count on every year (sometimes every night) is the problematic guests that will come through your haunt. Talk to any veteran scare actor and they will immediately give you a list of people that have ticked them off, and they have some very colorful language to describe them. Not surprisingly the stories are often similar too. Some people think that spending money at a haunt gives them license to be rude to the actors and staff, some are already rude before they come in and it's just how they are.

The problem is often twofold because these people will frustrate scare actors and other staff in addition to being a general nuisance to other guests. 

Sadly, there is enough of these common complaints that I was able to compile a list of the most common offenders and how to deal with them. Rather than create a novel so long that Stephen King would be impressed, I'm going to do a series of posts on the different types of guests and how to respond accordingly.

This is the third in the series, we're going to discuss "Misbehaving guests".

A vast majority of guests that come through haunts are there to have fun and get scared. They are there for the experience and they enjoy it, and behave appropriately. Unfortunately some feel that paying the price of admission entitles them to behave like idiots. 

More specifically we are talking about the annoying and obnoxious people that:

  • Try to scare the actors or other guests.
  • Point out where the scare is going to come from.
  • Messing with items on the sets.
  • Touching the actors. 
They typically think they're very funny and (just as often) they're usually the only one who thinks they're funny. Unless you think Jake Paul is comedic genius, then you won't think they're funny either. 

"I'm sooo cool bro!"

The good news is that there are ways to deal with these people other than just getting security (although getting security might be the best option in some cases). I'm going to cover options in this post for each type of annoying guest.

Playing Devil's Advocate 

One piece of advice that I have and will always encourage, regardless of what scenario you are facing, is to consider why a guest is acting a certain way. Knowing their motivation will always make your response easier and more effective. Let’s consider the possible reasons for this behavior. 
  • They are actually scared – Often the person telling you "I'm not scared" and "you can't touch me" actually is scared. This is true for the "misbehaving" guest as well as the "aggressive" guests that I covered in my last post here
  • Is it actually intentional? – This is very unlikely, but there is a chance they are not intentionally behaving badly. A guest "sneaking up" to scare an actor might actually not see the actor and had no intention of causing a problem. I've also personally had a guest touching set pieces who was on the autism spectrum and had no intention of causing trouble he just felt compelled to do so.    
  • Trying to be funny - Some feel the need to impress their friends by showboating and acting out. While having fun at a haunt is typically what we are aiming for, there is a point where their behavior is a nuisance to actors and other guests. Some may just be having fun and there is no malice behind it, they're just getting a little out of hand.
  • They are trying to make themselves feel strong - Many rude people regard  themselves in a negative light. That attitude often affects the way that they regard others. People with low self-esteem often mask their own insecurities by being rude in an attempt to make themselves feel like they're better than someone else.

Before you interact with them

With aggressive people having a good come back can help with dealing with them and will stop their behavior. But misbehaving guests don't have the same motivation and have to be dealt with differently.

While it may seem counter intuitive, these annoying guests can be more of an actual "threat" than the aggressive ones. There is typically an intent to break the rules, it's not just making rude comments or insults, they are often going against what they were told was acceptable behavior, which typically indicates malice on their part.  

How to deal with it

Knowing it's likely one of the scenarios mentioned above will help with choosing how to deal with the situation. Let's consider the options for each type. 
  • Trying to scare other guests - I like to call them amateur scare actors. Some of the guests really get into the scaring and want to scare their group too. These are typically the least harmless of the "misbehaving" people in a haunt. Typically a simple reminder that it's not appropriate will work to get them to stop the bad behavior.
    • "Hey, that's our job buddy"
    • "Leave the scaring to the monsters"
    • "If you really want to scare people, come to auditions next year" 
  • Trying to scare actors - They typically trying to "get one over" on the actors. Getting a reaction out of you is even better. Remember that rudeness is a weak person's idea of strength, if you let it show that it effects you they will feel successful. 

    Don't take it personal and don't give them the satisfaction of knowing they can upset you. The best way to respond is to get security, if possible stay in character to do so. 

  • Pointing out where the scare is coming from - While this is rude it's likely more annoying for the other guests than it is for the actors. A response to let them know it's rude will likely get them to stop.
    • "You saw me! You must have great eyes, can I keep them?"
    • "Wow, do you always ruin the fun for other people or is a new skill you're working on?"

  • Touching set pieces - Use your best judgement when responding to these types of guests, if someone is admiring the set and gets a little overzealous touching set pieces simply respond with something along these lines.
    • "Look but don't touch, or we get to touch you." 
    • "If you touch our stuff that means we can follow you home and touch your stuff."
  • Touching actors - Unless you are certain that they only touched you accidently, remove yourself from the situation immediately. Back off and get a good look at the person, look for shirt color, height, or any noticeable characteristic that you can give to security to identify them. Details are very important, only telling a security guard that they were wearing a blue shirt is useless if there are a dozen people in the haunt with a blue shirt on. Get a good look and then get security.   


The ideal result would be to diffuse or de-escalate the situation and get them to chill out, follow the rules and enjoy the haunt. Sometimes their behavior won't allow for that. 

If they are being rude to deal with their own insecurities, that's for their therapist to work out, not a scare actor. 

It's important to always remember that we are entertainers and we want all of our guests to have a good experience. If someone's behavior is effecting other guests, then it needs to be resolved quickly. 

My purpose here is to give guidance, but these situations are dealt with very differently at different haunts due to their experience with these situations. If these situations are not covered in your training, I strongly encourage you to ask about how they would like to handle them. 

Kenneth Leary is the author of Practical and Theatrical Scare Acting. 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 too full of himself yet and will be happy to talk to you.


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