arts   |   community events

Behind the mask: What goes into Indy Scream Park



entscream102419-jpg2

Actors with makeup and costumes stand Oct. 23 at Indy Scream Park in Anderson, Indiana. The park features five different types of haunted houses, plus a separate midway area. Sarah Zygmuntowski Buy Photos

Down a gravel driveway, tucked away from the main road, stands a tall, red, domed metal hangar. Next to it, rows of picnic tables are encircled by carnival booths offering food, drinks and games. 

It’s 6:15 p.m. The sun is still up. For a haunted attraction, it’s dead quiet. 

Founded in 2009, Indy Scream Park is located in Anderson, Indiana, and features five different types of haunted houses, plus a separate midway area. 

The five haunts include Nightmare Factory: Blackout and Kilgore’s 3D Circus, Pandemic: Mutation, Zombieland: Unchained and Backwoods. 

“With having five haunts, the idea is to drive off of everybody’s fear — to find something that all of our guests are fearful of,” General Manager Todd Harmeson said. 

The newest addition to the park is Nightmare Factory: Blackout, which opened this year. The haunt is pitch black and forces participants to hold onto a rope to stay on the path. 

Compared to the other haunts, Nightmare has only five actors inside, with the rest of the scares being produced electronically. 

“On my phone, I have cameras all through the haunt so I can see the people,” Mike Dickey, head of haunt construction, said. “I get to watch on my phone to see how people are getting scared and going through to change the timing, so now not just the first person gets scared, but the eighth person gets scared.”

Nightmare also features break beam sensors to ensure that each person that walks through sets off every scare. 

The second-newest attraction, Kilgore’s 3D Circus, requires participants to wear 3D glasses since everything is painted to look like it's coming at you, including clowns painted with black light-activated makeup. 

The other indoor haunt, Pandemic: Mutation, was originally the site for indoor paintball before being converted into a haunt that details a story of people turning into plants and bugs. Pandemic was created two years ago, prior to Dickey joining Indy Scream Park. 

“Pandemic was already built, but everything else I built from scratch — from two-by-fours to the plywood to the ceiling,” Dickey said. 

Along with Pandemic, one of the outdoor haunts, Zombieland: Unchained, has the option of being interactive. If a participant decides to wear a glow necklace, actors are then allowed to touch their shoulders, backs and legs. 

“Typically what (the actors will) do is they’ll take you away from your group, separate you and then you’re interacted with,” GM Harmeson said. “Your security blanket of your friends are not there with you.”

Backwoods is the other outdoor haunt and requires people to walk through half a mile of woods using one glow stick as their only source of light. This haunt has been at Indy Scream Park since the park first opened. 

“Many of our actors back there have been four, five, six, seven years with us,” Harmeson said. “They’re a family because they’ve worked together so long. They get together during the off-season, and then when it’s haunt season, they’re right back into positions.”

To efficiently run five haunts and a midway, 180 actors are hired to play roles such as doctors, patients, clowns, zombies, prisoners and inbreds. 

Before being made up, 180 people wait behind tall fences and next to trailers, sitting by campfires, smoking and practicing their screams. 

The first trailer is run by “Ran-D” Pitts, a costume designer with 35 years of experience going back to his time in high school. His trailer included dressing rooms, a small desk with a sewing machine and two rows of hangers on each side of the trailer holding purposefully tattered clothing. 

“I have it all laid out,” Pitts said. “Each section is a different haunt. I have everything broken down.”

Parallel with Pitts’ trailer is an actor’s second stop: the makeup trailer. Inside, five women stand beside five vanities waiting for their first character to enter. Outside, screams and shouts can be heard through the trailer’s walls. 

“You just heard them holler, so we’ll have one or two people here in five minutes,” makeup manager Jodi Morgan said. 

Morgan has been doing makeup at Indy Scream Park “since the very first day.”

“The five of us make up over 100 actors in just under two hours, so we’re very fast,” Morgan said. 

The final touch for each character is the wall of blood, where one woman stands in front of the sheet of metal serving as the wall, puts the “blood” in her mouth and spits it upwards. 

“(Actors) stand there and they’ll take a jug and they’ll splash them with blood,” GM Harmeson said. “And no, it’s not real blood. Everybody always asks that question — I know, it’s not as exciting.”

Waiting to enter midway from backstage is a small group of clowns, asylum patients and mutants completely caked in makeup. They gather around before committing to their character for the rest of the night. 

“Stay away from the entrance — let (the visitors) in,” the group is told. “Other than that, let’s try and have as much fun as we can.”

As the sun sets and the air gets colder, more people walk in and sit at the picnic tables provided in the midway. Three clowns, Icky, Sticky and Bonzo, walk around jump-scaring those that aren’t paying attention as to who’s behind them. 

Icky, whose real name is Rory Solverson, talked in a high, giggly voice as he described his job and work outside Indy Scream Park. 

“I usually do theater and character acting,” Solverson said. 

Solverson has been character acting for six years and acting in theater for eight. This is his first year acting at Indy Scream Park. 

A group of friends gather by the large campfire in the center of the midway, laughing despite the scares surrounding them, the smell of fire slowly seeping into their clothes and hair. 

It’s now 9 p.m., and the sky is black. The park is alive with lights and voices filling the air. 

Upon exiting the park, walking into the parking lot and passing the hangar, screams can be heard coming from inside the haunts. In any other place, hearing screams on a weekday night might be alarming, but for Indy Scream Park, it’s just business as usual. 

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More in Arts



Comments powered by Disqus