Ghost and goblin actors demand better labor rights from the Haunted Houses

Have you heard that there's a labor shortage? Yeah that's bullshit; there's a shortage in businesses who are willing to offer reasonable pay and protections to their workers. And according to The Boston Globe, even the Haunted House industry is suffering:

Like restaurants, retailers, and hotels, the nation's seasonal fright merchants are bedeviled by a shortage of workers. "Haunts," as they are called in industry parlance, are struggling to hire and retain actors while also trying to rebound from last year's pandemic-driven losses. Many haunts were forced to close last Halloween, while others opened to a limited number of visitors with scare actors performing behind plexiglass barriers.

And customers are noticing. Online reviews for some popular New England attractions are riddled with complaints about "hardly any characters" or "not enough people to scare you." For haunt owners and operators this Halloween season, there is nothing more terrifying than too few ghouls.


For most scare actors, the gig is part time and seasonal, and pays little more than minimum wage. The job is also physically demanding. Actors throw out their backs, lose their voices, or come down with the "haunt plague," a nasty cold that can keep them out of costume at the height of the season. And this was before the pandemic. Now the actors face new hazards: unmasked patrons and the threat of COVID-19.

Capitalism is scary, ain't it?

The Actors' Equity Association has been changing some of the ways they approach the industry for actors; maybe it's time for a ghosts and ghouls and goblins union, too?

Like every industry, automation is somewhat of a threat. But, as the Globe notes, not really:

Other haunts increasingly rely on animatronic puppetsand special effects props, said Larry Kirchner, publisher of Hauntworld magazine and president of Blacklight Attractions in St. Louis. At each of his haunted houses, Kirchner has added more than a dozen air canons so visitors are bombarded with sudden explosions of noise.

But haunted house purists argue there is no replacement for live bodies and the creepy cast of characters they embody. The unsettling music, flickering lights, lingering fog, cobwebbed sets, "bloodstained" floors — these are "anxiety inducing," said Coltan Scrivner, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago and expert on "morbid curiosity." But they don't provoke the sheer terror of an axe-wielding clown springing unexpectedly from a pitch-black corner.

In other words: the robots aren't really coming for your zombie job. Yay?

The labor shortage is spooking a new victim: haunted houses [Deanna Pan / The Boston Globe]

Image: US Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Joe Springfield (Public Domain)