Scare Acting 201- Dealing with the "Don't scare my kid" person

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 first in the series, we're going to discuss the "Don't scare my kid" person.

It's an all too common event, a parent comes through the haunt shielding their young child and yelling "Don't scare my precious and fragile little cinnamon roll” to all of the actors. Ok, it’s typically “don’t scare my child” but the first one is what we actually hear.

How dare you scare my kid, let me speak to your manager!

Let’s consider the questions this kind of behavior raises: 

  • Why pay for a haunt if you don’t want to be scared? 
  • Why yell at actors who are literally doing exactly what they are supposed to do? 
  • Why ruin the experience for all of the paying customers in front of (and behind) your group when they hear you yelling at the scare actors? 
  • Shouldn’t they be at a retail store asking to speak to someone’s manager?
All of these are valid questions (maybe not the retail store one) but understanding why they are acting that way can be helpful. 

Sympathy for the Karen 

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. 
  1. The roller coaster effect – You might have never heard of this before, and that’s because I just made it up. The idea is that a child can be excited about doing something and change their mind when they get there. An example is when a child visits a theme park and emphatically insists on going on a roller coaster. But when they get there and see how big and intimidating it is in person, they chicken out and refuse to go on the coaster. It’s entirely possible that the child was insisting they can do the haunt and only after the parent has bought the tickets, they realize it’s actually too scary and don’t want to go through. The parents could very well have bargained with the child by telling them if they go they’ll tell the monsters not to scare them.
  2. Protective instinct – If things are going well, the parents are going to get just as scared as the child. In that case their protective instinct might kick in and they will instinctively protect their child. 
  3. They could simply think they’re entitled to tell the scare actors to tone it done just for them. This is the can of worms that Burger King opened with their “have it your way” advertising. Yes, it's important to please the customer, but the customers isn't always right.
  4. Some people see the warnings about age restrictions (which many haunts have) and ignore them completely. Most will see the suggested minimum age and decide to not take their kids that are under age, this is something called “parenting”.

How to deal with it

Knowing it's likely one of these scenarios will help with choosing how to deal with the situation. That being said there is no one good way to deal with these people. In fact, how to deal with them is hotly debated by many haunters, many with valid points. Let's consider the options. 
  1. Let them pass and respect their wishes. It is always important to stay in character when doing this, just hiss or grunt and step away from them to get in position to scare the next group. There are some lines you can use as well:
    • "That's fine, we only eat the big one's anyway."
    • "Aww, you're ruining all my fun"
    • "We throw back the little fish anyway"
    • "Ok, fine, goodbye, why are you still here?"
  2. Scare them anyway. This will not please them, but others guests who have been dealing with their behavior will likely appreciate it. They paid to get scared and that's what you're doing. You can also direct your scare at the parents and not the kids.  
  3. Ask if they need to leave. Again, stay in character and ask if they need to leave the haunt. Most haunts have a "Chicken road" of some type that can be used by guests to exit the haunt early. If the haunt is really rocking, you may have scared them much more than the parents expected and they simply need to get out. Some people don't know they can exit and think they have to suffer through the whole haunt. 

What is your haunt's policy on this? 

Before you make any decision you should talk to your cast director (or the haunt owner) about how they would like this to be handled. Typically, this is not a situation that is brought up in training, if it wasn't you should clarify it with them. If they prefer you back off but you scare them anyway, they will hear from the guests and not be pleased with you. On the other hand if they said to scare away, they can tell the complaining guest that the actors are doing what they were supposed to do, and maybe go to Chuck E Cheese the next time they want a good scare because those animatronics are creepy.


We will never know why these parents behave this way, but at least we can understand some of the possible reasons. Why bring a kid to a haunt who's too young to handle it? Why will they keep coming even if they have to ignore several warnings, often from posted online notices, signs and front of house staff? 

We can't make the right choice for them, but we can at least plan how to respond ahead of time. 

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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