A Night in Scream School
As his employees chant “Cheese, cheese, cheese!” in unison, ScareHouse founder Scott Simmons says, “I may have accidentally created a cult.”
No, it’s not part of a new lactose intolerant haunt—it’s ScareHouse Employee Orientation! Before every ScareHouse season, the employees gather at Pittsburgh Mills to go over the rules for the new year—and of course fun things like the Cheese Wheel in the back of house (which is what all the cheering is about).
Like something you’d see at Comic Con, the orientation starts with a sizzle reel with highlights that include celebrity visits from Martin Lawrence, Elijah Wood, and Guillermo del Toro. Then, Haunt Daddy J.J. Byers introduces the leadership team where everyone cheers for each listed team member like it’s the starting lineup (which basically it is!).
Eventually the cheers calm down and Byers gets down to business, going over fire evacuation plans, pay dates, uniforms, call-off rules, and of course safety videos.
“ScareHouse is a safe working environment,” he says. “We strive for everyone to feel welcome.”
But Byers reiterates that they need everyone at the top of their game. “Don’t be a butt” is a phrase everyone frequently comes back to.
Scare Coach Allie Simms also addresses the group to not be a “butt” when it comes to cleaning up after yourself.
“We are the creatures creepy-crawling in the darkness,” she says. “We don’t need any other ones.”
Because so many ScareHouse employees are long-term ones, everyone seems to know the rules already.
“If you’re sick, don’t come into work,” says Byers. “What do you do?”
“Use the call-off line at least 4 hours ahead of time,” everyone says in unison.
Other rules for employees include no phones on the show floor as well as no posting photos of costumes, makeup, or even the haunt itself (you want to keep the guests surprised after all!). There are even specific rules if you feel threatened by a ScareHouse guest, something that not everyone might think of immediately when it comes to safety.
“Please don’t karate kick or sumo the guests,” says Byers with a laugh. There are special codes in place for employees to use to signal to security cameras that they feel they’re in danger.
Eventually the conversation turns to the importance of actors taking care of themselves on the job because of all the physical demands, including the strain on the voice.
“You really have to hydrate the day before you work to prepare,” pipes up one employee from the crowd.
“Hydrate or die-drate!” says Simms. “Today’s water is for tomorrow’s voice!”
Toward the end of the hour orientation, the group disperses into sections, with the actors sticking around to work on stretches and other activities to get everyone ready for the opening day. The activities include conga lines to simulate how guests enjoy the haunt and also screaming exercises that help actors maintain their voices.
Check out the video below to see just one example of how ScareHouse actors prepare for a new season!
@scarehousepgh Creepy Clown Class 🤡