Scare Acting 201- Dealing with Aggressive 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 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 second in the series, we're going to discuss "Aggressive people".

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. Sadly, and it seems to be more common in recent years, some people that come through are aggressive and belligerent. 

Typically, the most common offender is the pre-teen or early teen boy who is trying to look tough in front of his friends saying "you're not scary", "you suck" or some other form of completely mature feedback. But sadly there are also the older man-children who behave similar to pre-teen. The only difference is that the older version can be dangerous and also consider themselves to be "alpha males". 

"I'll smash you like the buttons on my PS4 controller!"

While I obviously can't remain professional and hide my disdain for these people, I do have some good news. These people are surprisingly much easier to deal with than you might expect and there are quite a few effective ways to do so. I'm going to cover several in this post.

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" is actually scared. They are making that statement out loud for themselves to hear as much as they are saying it to you. People are told as children to look fear in the face or confront their fears and some will take this in the literal sense. 
  • Peer pressure – As children approach adolescence the need to socialize becomes more important. There is a very good chance some of these kids are simply trying to fit in by showing they aren't scared, just like the other kids in their group. 
  • Showing off - Some feel the need to impress their friends by showboating and acting out. As teenagers are developing a personal identity, they may feel the need to assert their independence and this form of rebellion is not uncommon. 

How to deal with it

Knowing it's likely one of these scenarios will help with choosing how to deal with the situation. Let's consider the options. 
  • Subvert their expectations - If they are scared, they are likely trying to talk to you to get a response. Getting a reaction out of you is even better. They are trying to "bargain" their way out of the situation by showing they can upset you. The best way to prevent this is to not acknowledge that their comment bothers you at all. 
    • "Oh, that's cute, are you trying to be tough? I'm so proud of you."
    • "Is this how you think monster's flirt? I'm not that kind of ghoul."
    • "That was hurtful, who's the real monster here? You are!"

  • Respond with a comeback - While this is by far the most satisfying, it could make the situation worse, so you have to use your best judgement. If you get the person's group to laugh at your response the aggressive guest will most likely stop all together. 
    • "Sorry, I don't have enough middle fingers to respond to that"
    • "What's up with that shirt, was your mom mad when she dressed you this morning?" This is even funnier if they're not a preteen.
    • "I'm sorry, I can't take you seriously in that outfit"

  • Respond but ignore their comment completely - you can respond a "non-sequitur" comment, meaning it has absolutely nothing to do with what they said to you. This can be any range of comment but the point is to completely ignore their comment.
    • "You smell just like my grandmother… after they dug her up."
    • "You smell different when you're awake."
    • "I may look scary but I have the heart of a a jar in my room"
    • "You have lovely skin, I can't wait to wear it"

  • Don't respond at all - Simply make eye contact and say nothing at all. Smile or scowl, but don't say a word. If you're in an open area, follow them at a distance where they can see you. 

Before you interact with them

With aggressive people there are two golden rules to follow, and considering the fact that anything you say can be turned back on you, keep these in mind before you respond. 
  1. Never promise something you can't deliver - It's really easy to say "I am going to kill you" or "I'm going to eat your face" but what do you do when the guest turns to you and says "Go right ahead"? You can't kill them or eat their face (no matter how tempting it may be). It's an easy fix, by simply changing it to "I want to..." or "I wish I could...".

  2. Never ask a question unless you are prepared for a response - When you ask a question you are literally inviting the guest to respond. If you ask a question you better be prepared on how to handle a response because many people will answer you. If you stare at them dumbfounded and can't think of a reply, you just took that person (and anyone who overhears you) out of the haunt.


Responding to aggressive people properly can actually turn a bad situation into a win if handled correctly. If you are going to throw an insult back to them, always make sure it is something that is not personal. For example, make fun of their clothes or behavior, never make a comment about their personal appearance (looks not clothing), physical features or sexuality. You might strike a nerve that genuinely hurts someone's feelings or upsets their friends. It's not a good look.

The ideal result would be to diffuse the situation and get them to chill out and enjoy the haunt, if done right you might even get a return customer. We can't make these people behave like adults, 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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