The Woman Behind THIS Scary Woman
If you’ve been through the haunt this season, or seen any of the promotional materials for ScareHouse, you may have come across this woman with rotten teeth and a bandage over her eyes.
She stems from the imagination of another (less scary!) woman—ScareHouse Backstage Assistant Melary Stanko.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved Halloween and horror and Day of the Dead stuff,” says Stanko. “I was three when Beetlejuice came out and I’d make my brother, who was actually born on Halloween, put the tape in to watch. I was corrupted at a young age,” she laughs.
Before Stanko even started working for ScareHouse, she fell in love with the details and concepts of all the sets as a guest (“It’s mindblowing the work that goes into it”). So when she saw a call-out for auditions in 2018, she decided to give it a shot.
“I thought to myself, I’m in my 30s now, let’s try something crazy.”
To her surprise, she got hired as an actor, something she describes as completely different from her normal demeanor as a self-proclaimed, “very shy person.”
“When I’m acting, I’m a completely different being, character, person, whatever! Whenever I hear people getting scared or screaming or laughing, it fuels me.”
This past summer she decided to get more involved with the behind-the-scenes workings of the haunt and took a position behind the scenes, which is how she helped develop the scary woman in all the promos.
“When I first started doing the backstage stuff, Nicole Conniff (ScareHouse Design Manager) asked me to put costumes together for each character and they gave me short descriptions and designs of what they wanted. Then for that character you see in all the promos, she’s in a greenhouse, and they were like, ‘We want to use an old dress, kind of make her look Victorian.’ So I found an old, gray long dress that’s kind of puffy. I was looking at it trying to figure out how to make it unique. I threw some moss on it and put vines down her arms. The long black wig kind of made her look like the Grudge character. I put moss in her hair.”
But Stanko knew this character needed something else.
“How about we get rid of her eyes?”
ScareHouse Creative Director and co-owner Scott Simmons says he was stunned when confronted by this new nightmare. “Nicole and I had given Melary a very modest and somewhat vague concept and she elevated the final character into pure nightmare fuel,” he says.
Eventually, Scott and Nicole called her in to get the actors ready for the shoot and told her that they were going to use this new character she created prominently in the promos this year.
“I was like, ‘What?’ Seeing those promotional videos and photos—it makes my little black heart happy to see something I put together. I’ve never been part of something this big before. Seeing something I came up with out there is crazy.”
Having now worked as both an actor and backstage, Stanko says she’s realized all of the hard work the team goes through to put on an incredible haunt.
“The dedication and the talent is amazing.”
Stanko has grown so comfortable at ScareHouse, that there’s no place else she’d rather be.
“I battle anxiety and depression and have always been a really shy person, but being there helps with my demons, I guess! I’d rather be there at the haunt than at home most of the time. If they could just move me in already!”