Learn What It Takes To Actually HAUNT A House At Fear Camp!

Take a FREE Course in the Horror Business in Seymour, IN on August 4th!

Good Evening, my fellow River City creepers. It’s the Phantom of the Ville here, and this week we’ll be taking the bridge across the haunted Ohio River to the quaint little town of Seymour, IN to talk to the owner of FEAR FAIR, Brett Hays, about his FREE haunter’s bootcamp known as FEAR CAMP, which takes place next Saturday, August 4th from NOON until 6PM at FEAR FAIR.

Located in the former WWII Army Barracks in Freeman Field Municipal Airport at 800 A Avenue East in Seymour, IN 47274, FEAR FAIR is quickly becoming one of the best haunted attractions to ever spook the Louisville/Southern Indiana area. I was first lured into Brett’s web of terror three years ago, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a haunted house actor, make-up artist or set designer, this is your chance to get FREE training from the best in the business. Without further ado, let’s talk with Brett.

PHANTOM OF THE VILLE: Good evening, Brett. First, can you give us a little background on Fear Fair? What was your original inspiration and when did it first open?

BRETT HAYS: Fear Fair opened its doors for the first time in 2001. Our first two years were in an old High School gymnasium building that is still standing in Seymour. In 2003, we moved to our present building which we were finally able to purchase two years ago. I have always been intrigued with event planning and performance arts. Back in the good old days before the backlash against Halloween by churches, I hosted my Methodist Youth Group’s halloween party at my parents house. I believe I was in 4th or 5th grade at that point. With the idea of livening up the evening, myself and several other neighbor kids put together a haunted house in my parents’ barn loft. We had a blast and I guess that always stuck with me. I was a theater major for a while in college and I always need a creative outlet. Fear Fair is that outlet I suppose.

POTV: I understand the first train robbery in the United States took place in Seymour, IN. I remember your haunt originally paid tribute to that. Tell us about that.

BH: It’s always been important to me that our show have a local tie in. Our Haunt was actually named Fear Fair – Reno’s Revenge, and the first 1/3rd or so of the show for several years was a western theme loosely wrapped around the idea of the Reno Brothers. They were actually hanged by vigilantes, so it made for a nice starting point for a story wrapped around them coming back to exact their revenge on the community. We enjoyed it and I think it did well, but it was consistently not the favorite part of our show when we would survey customers. The reviews would always read something like this: “The western theme is difficult, but Fear Fair makes it work.”

I realized we were working with one hand tied behind our backs. If you start out with a theme that people don’t think of as scary, then you have to convince them otherwise. To our credit, I think we were able to do that most of the time, but we decided it was time to start out with a more scary theme and build on that. Still, it was important to have a local tie in, that’s where our new attraction, Hangar 17 was born. Freeman Field where our show is located was a WWII air training base. At the conclusion of the war, it became the foreign aircraft evaluation center. Hundreds of captured Japanese and German aircraft were brought to Freeman Field to be reverse engineered and evaluated by US engineers. So we decided, what if one of those planes held an experimental Nazi chemical that was designed to mutate soldiers… you can read the complete back story on our web site. FearFair.com

So, we’ve been able to keep the local historical tie in as well as move to a more dynamic, scary theme.

POTV: Tell us about Fear Camp. How many years have you been running that program?

BH: This will be the second year for Fear Camp. The idea was to use it s a recruiting tool for our own haunt as well as to just generally share knowledge and help everyone in our area take their shows to a higher level. I have always believed that a rising tide raises all ships. The better quality all of the attractions in the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana area can become, the more attendance we will all see.

I know that we wanted not just one or two, but all of our actors, makeup people, etc. to be able to attend training classes and improve their skills. It’s just not financially feasible for any of us (haunt owner/operators) to enroll all of our cast in seminars at Transworld in St. Louis, or Midwest Haunters Convention or Hauntcon and pay for hotel rooms, etc. So we thought, what if we brought together the most talented and brightest among all of the haunts in the midwest and packed as many learning opportunities as we could into a single afternoon, then all of our people could attend and the other area haunts could afford to have all of their people come as well. The most important aspect of Fear Camp to me is that we don’t charge any fees for the classes. That way everyone can bring as many people as they like and spread knowledge and tricks of the trade.

On a personal level, it’s exciting to me to see this happening. The talent of some of our instructors is just incredible and it’s such an honor to host them all at Fear Fair.

POTV: What kind of person makes a good haunted house actor? Can anybody apply?

BH: Sure, anyone is welcome. The best haunted house actor is someone who is not afraid to take chances and really ‘move in’ to their character. Once you’ve done it, you will know if its for you. If it is, and it’s in your blood, you’ll never want to stop acting in a haunt.

I think haunted house acting gets far too little respect. In conventional acting, you are acting from a script, just delivering the lines as they were written. With haunt acting, you have to actually become that character. Let’s take the example of a queue line actor, (as an aside, we have three of the best queue line actors I’ve ever seen presenting at Fear Camp this year. Bud Stross, who plays Jasper the clown at The Dent Schoolhouse, Scott ‘Tater’ Lynd, who’s character Granny is famous and Katie Lane, who travels the country professionally acting at haunted attractions from coast to coast each season).

In queue line acting, you are with the audience for a protracted time. It’s not like acting a room in a haunt where the customers come through and then leave, no not at all. I honestly believe it’s the highest form of acting. You have to be the character, react to anything the crowd might say in the way that character would, stay in character at all times regardless. A great queue line haunt actor deserves a ton of credit.

POTV: Are you also looking for make-up artists and set designers? Does Fear Camp train for that?

BH: Absolutely, we have makeup classes, costuming classes, scene detailing classes… you name it.

POTV: In your opinion, how does working at Fear Fair compare to working at other haunted attractions?

BH: One thing that’s a little different with Fear Fair is our movie scenes. We pride ourselves on being faithful to the films in both set design and acting. The actors who portray the slashers at Fear Fair study the films to get the movements of the characters down. Our goal is an immersive experience that truly makes you believe you have stepped (or been thrown) into the world of that movie. Our characters have to be completely believable or that doesn’t work.

When we made the decision to do movie scenes, we made the commitment that they had to be the best anyone had seen, that’s not something we take lightly.

Other than that, I would guess it’s a fairly similar experience to most other haunts, we are a big family and there’s a lot of loyalty among our cast and crew.

POTV: What are some of your favorite local haunted attractions outside of Fear Fair? What have you seen at other local haunts that you thought was really cool or inspired you in some way?

BH: I am a huge haunt fan, and I know I am going to leave someone out, but here goes. Some of the best detailed and believable sets I have ever seen are at Dent Schoolhouse, the level to which Bud and Josh develop their sets is mind blowing and has been an inspiration to us. The intensity level of the actors at Haunted Hotel in Louisville and Dead Acres outside Columbus, OH is epic!! I actually have a video of one of the actors at Haunted Hotel that we show in actor training as an example of what we are looking for from our own actors. For character acting and just amazing acting from all of the cast, Baxter Avenue Morgue is something everyone should experience. There are so many others, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately.

POTV: What do you think haunt fans can expect in the future of haunted attractions? What technological advances or new props/animatronics/gags have you seen this year? What’s trending?

BH: Well, the pressure is on, big time. We have the same people walking through the doors at our haunts who just saw The Dark Knight Rises which had a $250,000,000 budget. They don’t care that we are working on a budget that wouldn’t cover their catering; they are looking for an experience on that level. We see this every year, people are just harder and harder to impress, scare, entertain.

One thing I’m seeing, which I believe is a very positive trend, is getting the animatronics out of the corner and on to the actor. The giant costumes by folks like Kevin Alvey at Gore Galore, and the actor controlled props we saw at Transworld this year really help to make things more personal. Now that giant creature can play off of the audience and interact rather than just running through it’s set routine. Makeup is getting better and better. We have seen lots of new products in the past few years that enable faster and better makeups for actors. When you have about an hour to get 60-100 actors into makeup, it’s tough to maintain the quality you would like, but new products like the Zombie Skin product where you don’t have to use multiple layers of material and wait for all that to dry between layers are awesome.

Generally, look for us to raise the bar and improve each and every year.

The Phantom of The Ville

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