Hey there HHNU readers, my name is Nicholas Cappelletti. For the past 2 years I’ve been fortunate enough to be a scareactor at Halloween Horror Nights. HHNU reached out to me to share some tales from my time as a Scareactor….
Halloween Horror Nights 26 was my first ever year attending HHN or any haunted attraction in my life, however, it wasn’t intentional that it took me to the 26th year of HHN to attend as a guest, or even perform. I had the opportunity back in 2008 to check out Halloween Horror Nights 18 with my family, but I saw a guest at Disney walking around with a Bloody Mary themed shirt, and as a young child I was so spooked by what I saw on that shirt. I unfortunately decided to keep to kid friendly activities. Pretty dumb in hindsight, especially considering the fact that the majority of the HHN community believes HHN18 was one of the event’s greatest years.
“Scareacting is an addiction.”
The rush one feels when they put the fear of potential death in someone is exhilarating. For my first year scareacting at HHN26, I made sure to listen to the returning veterans, as their advice really helped me find out which scare technique would be best for different people. Sometimes people would just look at me when I emerged from my “boo hole,” but most of the time I would either have people freaked out running to the next room, or my favorite when someone gets so scared they drop to the floor. I can remember cast members and I would tell each other how many bodies we dropped after each set was over.
I met so many wonderful and amazing people in my first cast. The chemistry we had when we first met can only be described as “lightning in a bottle.” Besides the wonderful friends I made in my first year, the moment that really took the cake was when we won House of the Year.
If the above picture didn’t give it away, I was part of the incredible cast of American Horror Story, playing Larry Harvey aka “Burned Man”.
As the season kicked off, the cast as a whole could tell that we were doing something special, and breaking the all time house attendance record TWICE was something that really gave the cast a purpose to create even more horrific nightmares for the guests. Us scareactors in the Season 1 area knew we had to set the tone for the rest of the guest’s experience throughout the rest of the house (season 4 and 5) and I feel we hit that goal every single night.
When auditions for HHN27 arrived I knew if I was selected, this would be my final year scareacting. Although I had hopeful plans, and dreams of going on until HHN30, those dreams were unfortunately squashed. We’ll get to that part later…….
“I couldn’t believe it!”
When I found out I would help in representing one of the greatest horror movies in history I honestly got quite nervous. When I found out my role before I showed up to costume fitting, I nearly fainted. I held the outfit of the great Jack Torrance in my hands, and I was literally shaking. Not only was I excited, but I also wanted to make sure to do the best job possible representing this character and the actor who portrayed him.
My new role in my second year was to be what I had looked for last year; a mentor. I helped any first years whenever possible, and even learned new scaring techniques myself along the way. If there is anything I took from scareactors who have been scaring for more than 10 years, it’s that you are constantly learning, improving, and enjoying this event in many different ways. Jack Torrance had the best scare out of both my years as a scareactor, in my opinion, because it was so well hidden. I could pop out with an axe, have a guest drop to the floor, and immediately vanish back into the hedges.
Probably the greatest experience out of both years came during HHN27. I was in a spot in the hedgemaze where I was the middle Jack in a series of three. Our timing had to be perfectly precise, since the Jack who popped out before me had 2 spots he could come out of, and 2 Jack characters could never be seen at the same time. Our Performance Coordinators were walking into the maze with guests in front of them as well as behind them. The first Jack popped out of his first hole and scared the guests surrounding the Coordinators; they freaked out and he quickly vanished. I emerged immediately, lifting my axe above my head swiping at the guests in front of me. After I quickly vanished back into the hedges, the guest in front of the Coordinators got so scared that they backed up and refused to continue moving. The guests behind them kept trying to push their way forward, screaming that they don’t know where Jack is coming from. Suddenly the Jack before me popped out of his 2nd boo-hole and had everyone fly against the side of the maze wall, and I took the opportunity to scare those same guests again as they ran back towards me. This back and forth scare continued for a solid minute, freezing the line in between our Coordinators because the guests surrounding them were too scared to continue on. That to me takes the cake as the best moment of HHN27 because my Performance Coordinators were there to witness our great timing, execution, and creativity as 2 Jacks who were downright terrifying. As scareactors, we pride ourselves for our great scares, but unfortunately no one really sees them besides the guests surrounding you and a few people behind them.
“So…do you think you could become a scareactor?”
If you’re a method actor like myself, this type of work can be quite fun. When I got hired for HHN26, I had never watched American Horror Story besides the pilot, but I went back and finished the entire season and fell in love with the whole series. When I was told my role, I practiced at home on how my character walks, talks, thinks, and feels. I even burned myself on my kitchen stove so I knew how it feels to be burnt alive, and how my body would react, which was a huge factor in my scare.
In my first day in the makeup chair, I talked to myself about my character’s wife, and how awful she was and how sorry I am for my daughters. Just about every day before we began while the que lines were starting to form, I had tea time with my kids; I miss those kids.
I had the same mental preparations for HHN27 for every set, and I would get into Jack Torrance’s head. Because of this, though, I became very depressed up until the half way mark of the event. At home, I would have fits of rage and instability. I had to eventually find myself again and try to hold back the crazy Jack.
I believe anyone can be a scareactor, I’ve seen it from my day job, to people on the street scaring their family when their family turns a corner. The part you as an individual will have to focus on is body language and movement. Try practicing without using your voice; you may not have an opportunity to speak in your role. Everything will come from what your body movement says, and over time you’ll find what works best for you, whether it’s a quick movement or a slow powerful movement (especially with a weapon). Personally, I would recommend scareacting, as you can put your heart and soul into any part you are assigned to.
“There is never a bad role”
So why am I not returning? Some of you may be thinking that 2 years as a scareactor really isn’t much, and I agree with that statement. I wish I could continue but there are a few factors that went into my decision to not return.
If you are in a relationship with someone, they more than likely will not understand exactly what work goes into scareacting. It mainly came down to the hours, though; the hours I worked vs. the hours my significant other worked. Being a scareactor can tear relationships apart and cause major rifts between couples. I saw it happen in both of my years performing. It doesn’t matter if their significant other was a scareactor at the event or not, this event can be a relationship killer. My best advice is to try to have some sort of support group before you jump into this line of work, and if your significant other can’t accept what you’re doing then you’ll need to really work out a gameplan with that person.
The second reason isn’t in the public eye all too much, but being physically assaulted, or worse, does happen at this event. This was honestly the main thing holding me back from returning for any further seasons. What I personally experienced this past year (2017) the final nail into the coffin for me. Although this does happen to many a scareactor, how they individually decide to deal with it is up to them. Just keep in mind that Universal Studios is an amazing company to work for, and they will treat you like family. They will be there for you for whatever comes your way as they want you to succeed in all aspects of your life.
I want to thank the readers of HHNU for their time, and their support to the scareacting community and Halloween Horror Nights. Your support means more than you know! We do see you, and we do love it when you return over and over again to the event. I also want to thank HHNU for approaching me to write this piece, and I look forward to seeing you all at Halloween Horror Nights 28!