ScareHouse co-owner Wayne Simmons
ScareHouse co-owner Wayne Simmons, creative director/co-owner Scott Simmons’ father, recognized his son’s unique interests very early.
“My wife and I just have one son, Scott,” says the elder Simmons, “and I’m not sure how he picked it up, but from a small child, he was always excited about Halloween and scary things and scary movies. Even when he was 10 or 11 years old, he started building haunted attractions in the basement of our house.”
While many kids lose interest in their childhood hobbies, Scott’s only grew. When he was a teenager, he volunteered to work at a YMCA haunted house, something he continued to do through high school and college. As the industry started growing, he decided to try to do it as a business, with his father on board as a partner.
“My involvement initially was driving him to the haunt only because he wasn’t driving yet!” Simmons laughs. “Then I just continued to help him with more of the construction aspect. In 1999, we opened ScareHouse.”
Both Wayne and Scott were working full-time jobs outside of their work with ScareHouse, but in 2009, the dynamic father-son duo decided to go all in on Scott’s dream, with Wayne retiring and Scott leaving his full-time job.
“Primarily I was the main construction person, helping build the sets. He’s always been very good at designing and coming up with all the ideas. My skill set was more in the operational aspect of it, building the sets and making sure they’re safe and secure.”
And that continues to be the breakdown they have now: Scott is the creative director who handles the promotions, media, and press, while Wayne is the behind-the-scenes guy who handles operations and financial aspects of the business.
How many people can say that in their retirement they’re running a haunted house?
“Working harder than I did before I retired!” says Simmons. “At the end of the year, we produce about 175 W-2s and 35 or 40 1099s for other subcontractors. It was down a little bit from last year, but we still have about 140 people on staff.”
This includes the people who they use for the build and construction, security, customer service agents, and makeup people. “It’s a fairly substantial operation.”
Before “retirement,” the Baldwin Borough native had a career in IT, working primarily for consulting companies that developed software products, which required a lot of travel. And just like his son has managed to make his hobby a career, in a way so has Wayne, whose construction for ScareHouse manifested itself from an interest in home improvement projects and remodeling the Simmons homestead. But Scott’s interest in the macabre is not a genetic trait. Wayne would rather watch sports than a scary movie.
“I am really not sure. He’s always had a very creative mind. I watch movies, but it’s more to help me with ScareHouse. It’s not my favorite. But I do watch them because you do get some ideas. I can’t say that I’m really a horror movie fan.”
In fact, even though most fans of ScareHouse go for the thrills, one of Wayne’s favorite things about the attraction besides getting to work with his son is the laughter.
“When it’s open and you hear all the screaming and laughter, we always enjoy that. We want them to be scared and frightened, but we also want them to enjoy the experience. So it’s always great when you’re walking behind the scenes and you hear the customers screaming, followed by laughter. We’ve achieved our goal if we do that.”