What It's Like to Be a Scream Specialist
Amber Arnett-Bequeaith conjures quite the fright
When everyone is screaming, Amber Arnett-Bequeaith is laughing. It’s not out of spite; it’s her job. As vice president of Full Moon Productions, the company that runs the four haunted houses in the West Bottoms, she plays a big role in making the houses as frightening as possible. Using her background in psychology, she taps into the human mind and intimately engineers every aspect of the haunted houses — from the scents infused in the air to the sounds in the room to the exact moment of the scares — to send visitors’ heart rates up and their feet running. “It’s true theater, what we do,” Arnett-Bequeaith says, but it’s no easy feat.
· “Planning the haunted houses is a year-round process. We wrap up the season in mid-November, then we have a little holiday, then starting in January, we start thinking about new scenes, new costumes, new characters that will be hot for the coming year.”
· Arnett-Bequeaith has been in the haunting business since she was 5 years old. Her parents started Full Moon Productions, and she slept in coffins and played zombies for years. “That was my first job,” she says.
· Around 300 employees are needed to make the season run smoothly, and haunted house cast members must audition for the spot. “We’re looking for reality. Vampires, for instance, base their victims on the smell of their blood, so we’re looking for someone who can move like a vampire, who uses their senses and you see that reaction in their face.”
· Arnett-Bequeaith focuses on touching all the senses to create fear in haunted house visitors. In each scene, a progression of occurrences — a fan blowing, sounds of bugs chirping, earthy scents filling the air — slowly transcend the mind into that world, which makes the big scare all the more effective.
· “We use live animals because it activates you immediately. You see a live animal, and it may just be sitting there, but then you go to the next spot and a rubber snake drops on your head and you drop to the floor because for an instant, you believe it’s real.”
· The Beast pioneered the open-format layout of haunted houses. “It’s scarier because it’s the whole psychology of not being protected. You’re not walking in a path; you’re living in a scene.”
· Arnett-Bequeaith uses history and everyday life as inspiration for new scenes. “I go places, and things come to me,” she says. When she visits art museums, she takes photos of paintings that could be built as a costume or scene concept. She and her team build whatever costumes and scenes they can’t buy.
· “The haunted attractions are about excitement and making memories. I love going outside and feeling the electricity of the crowd waiting to get in. Yes, I enjoy scaring people. We’re going for the screams, but it’s always followed by laughter.”