Frankenswine, Mutant, Goliath and Big Bertha just rolled into town. The circus is finally here, but this time with a few twists.
It’s not the Wrangling Brothers, but the Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus, covering almost every fear. From claustrophobic walk-through tunnels to up-close-and-personal haunted actors, from pitch-black darkness to being run over by a train to the fear of obesity, the Draper Haunted Circus has it all.
Manager Devan Cahoon has his hands full, setting up shop in 28 trailers with a Haunted Circus, a Zombie Hunt and a special edition of Eskaped. This is his first season working at the Haunted Circus, and Cahoon manages 80 to 100 employees, including the cast and volunteers.
“It’s rewarding to help build something that brings joy to people,” Cahoon said. But his favorite part isn’t about the joy at all.
“People will bring young kids, and they barely make it through two trailers before they break down,” he said. “Security will usually catch them and bring them out. It’s pretty funny.”
Cahoon said there’s a lot of trial and error, especially with the new Zombie Hunt Paintball experience in its first year. “Haunted Forrest did something similar last year, but I think it was a bit of a logistical nightmare for them, so they didn’t bring that back this year.”
Josh Meek, 15, plays a zombie at the haunted circus. Meek was hit in the throat by a paintball for the first time. This was the only “chink” in his armor of protection. Meek explained the different pads and clothing the Zombies wear for protection: shoulder pads, thigh pads, chest guard and shin guards.
“There are some spots you really feel it,” Meek said. “Your neck, the top of your head — that really hurts.”
Cole Hartney, 15, can also add “zombie” to his resume as his first job experience.
“If you’re in a positive mood, everything is really fun,” Hartney said. “Sometimes we’ll run up right to the front to scare them. You know you’ve succeeded when you get a swear out of a 10 year old.”
However, Hartney said the weekend can get out of hand. “Saturdays are hell. You have 30 seconds to get ready between groups, and there’s probably 100 people shooting at you.”
Meek said the worst part about being a zombie is where he’s shot. “I got shot in the groin at point-blank.”
Alyssa Reglau, Abbie Bennett and Olivia Griffiths are all 14-year-old female zombies who signed up to be shot with paintballs each night. “The worst part is getting hit somewhere without pads,” Reglau said.
Griffiths complained that people can be rude to the zombies. “When you walk out, you just get covered in shots. When you die, you can’t move so people will keep shooting at you and you can’t cover yourself. They’re not supposed to do that.”
Bennett said being shot at each night only hurts for a second, but it goes away. “It’s pretty fun and zombies get more pay,” he said.
The zombies get hit 10 to 20 times in the chest, with three to four hits in the head before they “die.” All the teens specifically requested to be zombies, saying this job was more fun than scaring people in the “halls.”
Harrison Kasper is currently in his first year of working at the Haunted Circus. As a ticket taker, he is the face of all things scary.
“I love working here because I am allowed to be rude and sassy, within limits,” Kasper said, who smiled at the cast director and added, “and not get fired.”
Kasper said it was the “best choice” in deciding to work for the circus, and he will definitely be coming back next year. Dressed as a haunted clown, he often gets in people’s faces as they wait in line.
“I’ve been pushed, but they paid to be scared,” Kasper said. “Overprotective boyfriends — they need to learn to not be so defensive.”
It takes Kasper and the makeup artist about 20 to 30 minutes to get into his full costume and makeup each night. On the weekends they go all out, putting zippers and flesh hanging off of his face. “Bathroom breaks suck,” Kasper says laughing, looking down at his one-piece clown costume.
Kaelynn Moultrie is one of five make-up artists that dress up the 35–45 actors. “I love it,” Moultrie said of her second year working on the circus. “The majority of the staff are friends and family.”
Casting Director Natalie Cahoon is in her first year at the Haunted Circus. “I’m planning on coming back,” Cahoon said. “Halloween is my favorite time of year, so it’s like Halloween every day of my life.”
Cahoon said she believes most people who come to “scare” naturally have an acting background. Mostly coming from high school or college theater departments, they already know what to do and how to scare patrons.
“We have some volunteers as young as 12 years old,” Cahoon said. “And Wayne, an 80-year-old man who just loves it. This is his fifth year volunteering.”
The Haunted Circus is located in Draper and is open until Oct. 31.