Meet the UMass student who moonlights as a zombie
College student by day, deadly apparition by night
It’s that time of the year again when students start dressing up as zombies, hide in the woods, and scare the living daylights out of tourists. What…you mean you don’t do this?
Meet Kira, a certified bad-ass zombie schoolgirl, and a member of last year’s “Screaming Hollow” haunted house in Grafton, MA. Kira started working there last October as a part-time job on the weekends. She’s a smart and sweet young adult by day, and a deadly apparition by night. Here’s what she has to say about this unique experience:
What is it like taking on the role of a character that scares people? Do you find it difficult, just plain fun, or something else entirely?
For this particularly, it was difficult because Rick, the owner of the haunted house, assigned us to a specific part of the walk where we wanted to work in. I wanted to work in the psych ward, so he put me in there and basically was just like, “do what will scare people.” The first couple rounds it was tricky because I needed to find that spark of what scares people, so at first I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do as, you know, a psychotic child and then after a couple of rounds I found that just going in people’s faces and screaming was my best role.
What goes on behind the scenes?
About a month’s work of prep, for at least me! It was much longer for Rick and Scott, the owners; they have been planning this for at least six months. You have to go through the process of finding a place, and making sure it’s safe too, especially if it is going to be outside- you have to make sure you have a path that, you know, won’t kill people; then just putting it all together and making sure it works. During our first couple of run-throughs we were figuring out different things that needed to be adjusted. That was our guinea pig night. But throughout the whole month, we did several walk-throughs just to make sure everybody was on the same page.
How did you land this gig?
My dad is friends with the owner; they ride bikes together. Rick was telling my dad about it and my dad passed the information on to me, and said, “hey if you and your friends want to do this, I know it’s like an hour out but it could fun,”. I thought alright, it could be fun, plus I get paid…so yeah!
Is it difficult balancing college life and working at the haunted house?
A little bit, just because I had to prioritize when I had to do homework since I had to drive an hour out there, spend an hour practicing, and then drive back, so it took up a good portion of my afternoon when we were doing the run-throughs. Actually, performing the haunted house… I think I have balanced it out fine. It helps that I now know what times I will be leaving and getting back and such.
Are most people working there also in college?
We have a pretty big range of ages, just because it is the people Rick and Scott could get. We do have a couple that are between 9 – 10th grade, but only a few because when you are working with 14 and 15-year-olds they require permits for working as well due to state laws prohibiting them working over a certain number of hours; so you need parents permission and all that kinds of stuff, and they really didn’t want to have to go through all that paperwork. Plus, at that age, they goof off more and don’t take it as seriously; which, you’re supposed to have fun but at the same time it is still a job too. So we had a few that age and a lot of people in college, and then a lot of middle-aged people as well since they are friends with Rick and Scott. For the majority, it was people our age.
What is the funniest reaction anyone has ever had after you’ve scared them?
I got this one group of guys, they must have been in high school still and they were playing it off like they weren’t scared while one of my coworkers was trying to scare them. They thought it was funny trying to talk to her- you know laughing and everything. I really wanted to scare one of them for acting that way, so I went and stood right behind one of them. When he turned around and saw me, he just jolted and fell backwards. His eyes were so wide, and the rest of his friends were just cracking up. I was so proud of myself; that’s what you get for being cocky!
Any other fun stories?
I once scared the tour guide, Kelsey, by accident. I did not know it was my friends Kelsey and Kara as their tour guides because I heard someone start talking while I was hiding behind a tree. The tour guides have to bring them between these two trees, and I was hiding behind one and Kelsey didn’t know I was back there. When she saw me she also just dropped; like crouched on the ground. Yeah, so unintentionally. That’s the cool thing about being a tour guide. You can actually get scared too because we change it up so like you know the basic plot of it, but you don’t know where people are coming from. That makes it a little more realistic for the people going through as well because the tour guides are also getting scared; their not just walking through like- oh I know what happens, just pretending to be scared.
It’s definitely a learning process, working and meeting people you don’t know. You encounter many different types of personalities. I think they did a great job putting it all together, they put a lot of hard work into this. They went to a conference in Saint Louis in the beginning of the year for Halloween stuff and everything; I guess it was an intense conference too, like people are there for millions of dollars worth of Halloween stuff. So they have been planning this for a long time because this is their first large-scale thing- they used to just do it in their backyard. This is like big time where they need permits and location to make it bigger, and there are a lot more financials behind it too.
Would you recommend to a friend?
Absolutely! The whole process is a lot of fun, whether you are behind the scenes, or whether you are scaring people, or being a tour guide of sorts. And if it is your type of thing- go for it! I loved putting on all that makeup to scare people and you are allowed to express a lot of creativity in your role too.