Ever wondered who is behind the mutant, zombie or skeleton during Scarefest? Each year Alton Towers Resort recruits and trains hundreds of Scare Actors who have one job during October – to scare people!
Not many people know that scare acting is a specific performance discipline, like being a comedian or Shakespearian actor. There are various techniques that can be employed (it’s not about jumping out on people and saying boo!) to achieve the desired result of making someone fearful and playing on their primal fears.
Resident performer at Alton Towers Resort, Jack Lewis, 29, tells us about a day in the life of a scare actor at the UK’s biggest and most popular Halloween event, Scarefest.
How did you become a scare actor?
I remember going through the original Terror of The Towers at Alton Towers Resort when I was a teenager and telling my Dad I wanted to be an actor in a ‘Horror Walkthrough’. We used to make ‘home haunts’ and at the age of 16 I met the then Director of Fright Nights, Ollie Frith, who gave me great advice and encouragement on becoming an Actor.
The next year I passed the audition and performed at THORPE PARK Resort's FRIGHT NIGHTS in Hellgate.
Tell us about the scare actor roles you have done?
There are quite a few from a rotting sailor to an alien, and a neon coloured carnival clown dipped in toxic waste to an infected Phalanx Operative! Whatever character I am, I always imagine that the guests are the camera in their own personal horror movie. I’m the villain or whatever else I need to be to make it the ultimate, immersive experience for them.
What does a typical day as a scare actor look like?
A basic actor routine is around finding out and knowing your position for the day. Then you need to get into costume before applying the makeup to complete your transformation. My current team on new maze Project 42 saw me without costume or makeup for the first time the other day and found it really weird!
Fifteen minutes before opening we have a little group get together to do some warm ups, share some stories and generally get everyone pumped up for the day! Once everyone takes their positions there are additional things I do as a Show Captain, such as laps of the maze to ensure the cast are okay and to check if they need anything. I then follow guest groups through the maze and chat with my cast individually to ensure they are happy and answer any questions. At the end of the day we all get together outside the maze and have a sing song!
What are the challenges a scare actor faces?
If you do your job too well, people will potentially forget you’re an actor and it runs the small risk that a guest will instinctively react with fight rather than flight, but we have extensive training and are trained to always be aware of keeping a safe distance and how to instantly read certain behaviours. You have to adapt quickly and continually gauge your audience.
What are the best things about being a scare actor?
The reaction of guests appreciating your performance. It’s really rewarding when you know you’ve done a good job and got the desired reaction, whether that’s a scream, a jump scare or even a laugh. It’s like the round of applause a stage performer would expect.
What have been your most memorable spooks over the years?
As part of Freakshow at Scarefest in 2017 I painted myself Neon Pink and applied yellow contact lenses with some demonic contouring, then I ran around with a giant hammer shouting “crediiiiit CRUNCH!!”. Weird but true. It got a varied reaction to say the least, as people just weren’t expecting it!
What about any famous scares?
I once scared singer Pixie Lott, but didn’t know it was her until after.
Do you have a unique talent/party piece/signature scare you use as a scare actor?
I slide down a wall and do a weird spider crawl on my back, quite quickly. This is always a huge hit. People can’t quite get their head around what is going on when they see it. I can also do some pretty distinctive vocals too, that are like a crazy demonic dinosaur!