Over the weekend several incidents involving scareactors at Halloween Horror Nights have sparked debate among the theme park fan community, and has called into question the safety of the actors at the event, and other events like it. Several actors at HHN at Universal Orlando publicly gave reasons to friends and fans why they were leaving, just one week before the event ended. In a word, safety. They don’t feel safe at the event after several guests physically, verbally and in one case sexually assaulted actors. So what is to blame here? Is the park doing enough to protect the employees and guests? Is it because alcohol is involved? Or is it simply because people tend to check their brains at an event like Halloween Horror Nights? Well, it’s not really as simple as a yes or no question. Then again, is it ever?
Halloween Horror Nights is an event designed to scare the living hell out of you. It does it’s job extremely well, as actors roam in dimly lit areas, brandishing fake weapons, and fake injuries to make themselves more grotesque and scary. The proper term for the actors at HHN is Scareactors. The scareactors are picked from a huge pool of candidates, and the ones that Universal feels will do the job best, are the ones that make the cut. They are very good at what they do, and they are all very talented at getting you to scream, run, and even wet yourself.
However, the one downside that isn’t talked about much is the abuse that they take on a nightly basis. Sometimes it’s from accidental bumpings, after all, it can be very crowded. Sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes the actors are hurt, on purpose by guests. It’s something that is inevitable, as we were told by several actors. Sooner or later, you’re going to get punched…or worse.
This weekend, attention was grabbed as several actors quit the event, and posted it on social media.
So why is this poor actor being pummeled by guests at HHN? Is it because there are no security guards? Nope, there are tons…everywhere. Not only security guards, but stage managers, coordinators and even Orlando Police Department are all on hand. Metal detectors are placed at the front gates nightly, and guests must empty everything out of their pockets.
So why is it still happening? Frankly, because people are idiots. That’s right, it’s probably not the “correct” thing to say, and definitely not the nicest way to say it, but the fact of the matter is that people are simply idiots.
They come to an event to get scared, then get upset when an actor does their job, or gets a little too close to comfort. We’ve even heard (and have seen) cases where parents get upset that kids are being scared, decks or goes after an actor…after they are told on the website, signage and advertising that the event is not recommended for children. In other cases it’s people who are trying to be funny, and do something to either “scare” the actor, or just harm them because…it’ll be soooo funny. In other cases it’s fueled by alcohol, which is called “liquid courage” for a reason.
The incidents are usually “drive by” incidents where the actors don’t see it coming, and by the time they realized what has happened the assailant is long gone. And don’t think that these incidents are specific to Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando. It happens at just about every major haunted attraction around the globe.
People react in different ways when it comes to being scared. Some people use the “fight or flight” defense. Either they stand and fight, or they run. Most people with fight or flight, tend to run. Some people, are reactionary and swing after they get scared. If that is you…you should not attend haunted houses. Other people deal with fear by cracking jokes, and trying to make others laugh. It’s not funny, especially when you start taking out your fear against an actor who is paid to scare you. Some people still, tend to drink copious amounts of alcohol, and their bravery comes out, often violently. This has sparked the debate that perhaps alcohol should be banned at these events, specifically at HHN Orlando. Alcohol is currently not sold at Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, and while the abuse isn’t as rampant, it still happens way more than it should.
So, how should events (and we are not singling out Universal, because it happens EVERYWHERE) handle these situations? Unfortunately, they are doing everything that is in their power to make it stop, short of putting the actors behind glass. When an incident occurs, it is reported, and if the person is found they are taken by police, and given basically a restraining order on the park…they can’t step foot on property, in most cases for life.
Banning groups of teenagers is another option, but that is singling out a group that may or may not have some jokesters in it. The other option is to ban alcohol. That would take the “party” atmosphere out of the event for a lot of people, and it won’t stop people from drinking in restaurants and at CityWalk before hand.
We’ve seen fans and other actors try to say “it’s part of the event, get over it”, and they really shouldn’t have to get over it, and accept that they’re going to get punched or worse. There really is no easy answer, so we turn it to you.
You need to be the responsible one. If you are a person who swings after they are scared, or you need alcohol to get through an event…don’t go. If you have teenagers who like to go with their friends, maybe you should chaperone. Theme parks are not babysitters, and sometimes kids can’t be trusted to go alone. We’ve been taking our kids for years to the event, but it’s been a family outing, and we’ve been trying to show our kids that these actors are people too, and they should be respected for the job they are doing. It is their job to scare you. You pay large amounts of money to attend these events, and you should only go if you want to get scared.
If you want to take a picture with an actor, or hug an actor, get permission first. They usually don’t mind. If they don’t then move on, don’t tap them on the shoulder, grab them or throw something at them to get their attention. That’s a great way to get yourself kicked out.
These events are meant to be fun for everyone, and not meant for people to get hurt. The actors do their jobs, and do them well. They don’t get paid to be a punching bag, and you don’t have the right to do as you wish simply because you paid to get in. If you can’t handle the event, then simply don’t go. It’s something that is simple, and you should have been taught in kindergarten…keep your hands to yourself.
Another scareactor has come forward, and is pressing charges after being kicked in the face on Saturday night while working the event. A 21 year old man from Fort Myers has been charged with simply battery after kicking an actor in the face. Again, the event is about fun, and doing these sorts of things make it not only bad for the actors, but others attending the event. Perhaps if the stories about the arrests come out, it will show that Universal doesn’t play around with the safety of it’s guests.