By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
It's Halloween. Booooooo! Wooooo! Sorry to scare you, but it's for good reason. I came across an ad on Craigslist trumpeting the need for haunted-house workers in Marin and decided to get a job in the haunted-house scaring vocation. Why? To frighten the general public on many different levels, of course.
1 Black Cape
1 Pair of Fangs
1 Scary Attitude
1 Pseudonym (Franklin Stein)
With costume in place, I head toward a Marin shopping mall that has a huge white tent in the parking lot; this is the site of Nightmare University. Raising my cape in the air, Dracula-style, I approach a group of men hammering various scary items into place.
"I'm here for the haunted-house interview!" I say. (Since my fangs are too big for my mouth, sticking, sadly, half in, half out, they hear, "Rmmm rmm rmm rmm.")
"What?" replies a large man with his belly hanging out the bottom of his shirt.
"The haunted-house interview!" ("Rmm rmm rmm!")
"You must be here for the haunted-house interview," the large man concludes, adding, without a hint of a smile, "OK, you can take those fangs out now!"
Handing me an application, the large man, who apparently is the leader of house-haunting, says, "Give a scream when you're done."
"Should I make it a 'scary' scream?" I exclaim with a sly wink.
Because haunted-house workers are to be hired on the spot, with no time for checking applications for accuracy, I put down anything I damn well please. Under "Past Job Experience," I write:
-- The Teepee of Terror
-- The Haunted Canoe
Looking over my application, the one-who-is-leader asks, "What was Halloween like when you were little?"
I take a poetic approach, answering like a 17-year-old girl in a black turtleneck and beret.
"Much laughing. Costumes. Bags of candy. Running," I recite, pausing between thoughts and twirling my hair, "falling asleep with a smile."
The leader extends his large hand. "I'd like you to work for us."
I twirl my cape, reinsert my fangs, and proclaim, "I won't let you down!" ("Rmm rmm rmm!")
I'm late for opening night at Nightmare University. My haunting co-workers are already milling about in costumes. "I'm here to scare the bejeebees out of people!" I proclaim to the second in command, who's wearing a white lab coat and a Janet Jackson headset. "What character should I be?"
"THE CLOWN!" he and the surrounding people announce in unison.
Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. I'll be playing on some people's worst nightmares. Perhaps, for the younger in attendance, I'll cause major trauma that will stem into adulthood! Right on! Hand me that clown outfit.
"Can I have a knife?" I demand, adjusting the large, bright, polka-dot clown suit with enormous belly and the frightening clown mask with razor teeth and ill-fitting eye slits. It smells like a cross between latex and human sweat.
"Sure," exclaims the second in command. One is presented to me.
We are given important tidbits of advice: Don't go outside to the Porta Potti while in costume. No one likes to see a headless Frankenstein going to take a dump. (It breaks the "fourth wall.") Also -- and this is stressed -- never make fun of those with disabilities. Most important, don't grope people in the dark.
"Actors, take your positions!" booms the leader over a loudspeaker as the halls are filled with the background soundtrack of screams, loud heartbeats, and creepy laughing that gets on my nerves within minutes. "We're about to open the doors."
In my scary clown room, I'm situated in a large jack-in-the-box with a huge, ugly clown head on top and arms dangling from the sides; it's lit with an eerie, swirling light. When patrons enter, I push a button, which flips open a smaller box, revealing a scary clown lit by orange light. Then I fling open my larger box with a loud thud and jump out, screaming and wielding a large knife.
Yes -- scary clown!
I take my position in the clown box, which is behind a protective rail. A surefire way of making people scream would involve bursting out with no trousers ("I'M A BAD, BAD CLOWN!"), but an executive decision is made to retain pants.
I see a strobe light go on in the Scream Theater, so I know the first group is approaching. I storm out of my clown box.
I'm face to face with a bunch of bemused, middle-aged adults. They stare at me, waiting for me to do more, perhaps even scare them. I'm given a look that says, "Yeah, yeah, you're a big scary clown; so what else can you do?" After the initial shock of their nonresponse, I have to fill time until they leave. So I go mental, using my knife to maniacally stab the long, dangling arms of the fake clown and various other parts of the set, my arms flying and knocking things over while my legs are doing something that resembles Riverdancing. No go. The adults saunter lethargically to the next room.