“Creepo actually loves children. That’s why he kills them.”
Tom Smith has been playing ScareHouse’s Creepo the Clown character for so long that he gets recognized even when he’s not in Pittsburgh.
“My wife and I were vacationing in New York state, and I happened to have a ScareHouse shirt on, and one of the guys came over and said, ‘Do you work at ScareHouse?’ My wife was like, ‘Yeah, that’s Creepo.’ And the guy was like, ‘Can I get a picture with you?’”
Even though he’s been working for ScareHouse as an actor for nearly 20 years, it wasn’t until 2009 that Creepo was invented.
“Creepo was a collaboration between Scott, the designers, and myself. It was Scott’s original idea. He said he wanted an angry, drunken, mentally-broken-down clown. He gave me that, and the makeup team put the face on for the first time, and it looks good … after they got the face on, Scott goes, ‘Smear it.’
And the makeup people were freaked out and said, ‘What?’ But we did it and I looked in the mirror, and I said, ‘Yep, that’s Creepo.’ Everything flowed after that.”
Smith was inspired by two “characters”: one, a real-life figure, and the other, one of the scariest movie villains of all time.
“The real-life killed who inspired Creepo more than anyone was Richard Kuklinski, the Iceman Killer. I had seen several of the interviews he did, and he’s sitting there and he’s talking about horrendous things he’s done, and he’s completely deadpan. So I thought, ‘Oh, I can work with that.’ I took a little bit of the showmanship of Hannibal Lecter, kinda blended those ideas together. He’s deadpan but he’s also putting on a show. Between those two, that’s really where that character came from.”
When he’s not Creepo, he’ll play whatever character ScareHouse needs. He started as a zombie, and then in 2007, he was the artistic mortician (“I work in flesh—would you like to see my works?”). In 2008, he was a character called “the Boiler Master,” and people would come through and he would harangue them (“Are you interested in employment? We have many short-term positions available”).
He utilizes his background in improv to experiment with phrases until he finds the right words to say.
“You kind of have to have set lines, but you need the character to find those lines and to give them meaning. When you yell at people, you’re not just yelling something; there’s emotion behind it. People clue into that.”
Like villains that have come before him, Creepo has an origin story.
“Creepo doesn’t hate everything. Creepo actually loves children. That’s why he kills them. He hates the adults that created the world that those children are going to have to grow up in. In his mind he’s saving them from all that disappointment. He was a clown and had a clown TV show. Meanwhile his personal life collapsed completely. Then one day, he just snapped. Creampuff the Clown was suddenly Creepo the Clown.”
While his day job is working for a title insurance company (something that may sound really scary to some!), the thing that keeps him coming back to ScareHouse is the thrill of it all.
“When you really get a group scared and you really see that reaction, it’s a rush. It’s like bang—instant therapy. You can let all of your aggressions out. You can say the most bizarre and evil things, and you’re rewarded for it.”
Maybe if more people worked at ScareHouse, we’d have a better world.