Scaring is therapy for this professional zombie

For the month of October Listing Toward Forty is Listing Toward Halloween, featuring a variety of Halloween posts including many by guest authors. This post is by Christine Mancini.

You Get Paid to Do What?

I’ve been working in seasonal “haunts” since the early 1990s. I’ve always loved all things horror movie and Halloween. I have a horror movie collection that spans from old, silent ones from the 1920s through present day. Back in 2012, I saw an ad for interviews for The ScareHouse and since I had taken a couple years off from haunting after a recent move; I decided that it was time to interview again. I had felt a bit twitchy in the previous two Halloween seasons and knew that working at a haunt again would solve that issue. I showed up for the interview and was hired to be a member of the zombie hoard in the “Pittsburgh Zombies” part of the haunt.

The ScareHouse is an awesome place to work. This will be my second season there and I’m looking forward to many, many more. I’ve always said that while getting paid to scare people is awesome, it’s more of a personal therapy for me.

One of the author’s seasonal co-workers at The Scarehouse

Years ago, one of my professors told me, “The Human Services field would be a great place to work if it wasn’t for all the *$&*@#$!! Humans in it”. Working with people can be difficult and frustrating in any occupation. Working with people who are having acute mental health issues, can be even more so. One’s anger, frustration and aggression must be kept firmly in check for therapeutic interventions to have a chance at being beneficial for the patient or client. When you’re at work, you can’t just randomly jump out and scream at someone because you feel like it (unless frequent trips to your Supervisor’s office are a fun thing for you). BUT, when you work in a haunt you can do it, are encouraged to do it; and are doing it to people who are paying for the privilege. It can be very cathartic, it’s fun and it’s a great way to make some extra money before the holiday shopping season swoops down on you to try to destroy your household budget.

Over the years I have found that if you don’t find a positive, constructive or beneficial way to deal with the everyday frustrations and annoyances of life; you will find a destructive way to do it. I have been fortunate to be able to find a two month window each year where I can terrorize people with no negative repercussions and get paid to do it. So when I’m having a difficult time with a tough patient, I can handle it with more ease knowing that later that week I’ll be scaring the snot out of someone at The ScareHouse. It also provides tons of fun and funny memories of “great scares” that I can recall for the same purpose when it isn’t haunt season. (Remember that night when I made the 6’5” muscle-bound bald headed dude scream like a little girl while he jumped up and back three feet? Good times.)

Luckily with The ScareHouse, there are always off-season opportunities to get “zombied-up” and have some fun, via the many fundraisers and promotional events that they do year-round. You can build new memories and have more fun all through the year, not just during the haunt season.

But, there is nothing quite like a haunt night.

You get there, get in costume, get your make-up on, get to your spot in the haunt and just immerse yourself in the environment. It’s dark, creepy and exhilarating…at least it is for me and the many, many, many other folks across the country and around the world that love doing it. Some people like to go to haunts, some people don’t. Some people love to work at haunts; some people can’t fathom why I love to do it.

It always reminds me of a quote from Voltaire that I’ve had hanging in my various offices over the years. “Men will always be mad, and those that think they can cure them are the maddest of them all.” So I get to use that little “twist” in my personality to my advantage at “my real job” and at The ScareHouse.

I love to see the look on people’s faces when I “get” them. It makes every frustration or difficult moment from the day melt away. When I’m at The ScareHouse, I’m not thinking of bills that need paid, housework that needs done, errands that I have to run, activities that our son needs to go to…none of that. I get several hours a night to just be a haunter and focus on nothing else. To have that time where you are involved in something that is so much fun to you without having any of life’s other “distractions” invading your thoughts is priceless and gives me a venue for release and relaxation that I’ve rarely found in anything else.

Some people do yoga to find their Zen…I find mine in The ScareHouse. Where else in the world can you get paid for your own personal therapy/stress relief? The ScareHouse has given me a venue to work with great folks, getting paid to do something I love; and for that, I will be forever grateful. The owners, Scott, Barb and Wayne Simmons have built an amazing thing at The ScareHouse, it’s been ranked by the Travel Channel as “One of America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions” and it’s not just because the sets, costumes and makeup are insane; it’s because they have built a “field of dreams” for those of us out there that live to scare the folks that love to pay to get scared.

Overall, I’ve managed to find several hobbies that I enjoy and have figured out ways to make some money doing several of them. The extra dough is a nice bonus. I get to hang out with other great people that love what we do and I’ve made friends that I will keep forever, long after my haunting days are over or they move on to another chapter in their life. The true ecstasy comes from the people that I get to hang out with on the cast and crew and the always excellent moments of making someone pee their pants…literally.

Christine ManciniChristine Mancini has been working in the human services field since 1997.  She has undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Philosophy and her M.A. in Psychology from Duquesne University, where she was a full-scholarship basketball player and a Red Masquer (the University’s theater troupe). Chris has been happily married for 16 years. She and her husband have an amazing 8 year old, who loves Halloween as much as his parents do.  In her “spare” time, Chris makes jewelry and has had some of her seed bead designs published in Bead & Button Magazine; and a book on bead designs from the same company. Her Etsy shop is FKBDesigns.

All Halloween posts from this series can be found here.

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