by Lenise Willis

Whether hiding behind the couch or waiting to surprise a friend around the corner, many of us have attempted to scare someone, and it’s likely that urge increases around the Halloween season. And though it might seem that scaring someone is easy enough, it takes real acting lessons to make it a profession.

The petrifying Woods of Terror performers are proof enough that scaring is an art.

“It’s not just jumping around and yelling, ‘Boo,'” explained David Moore, Woods of Terror acting coach. “We don’t use ‘boo’ at Woods of Terror.”

To be become a ghoul, murderer, or even a blood-sucking beauty at Woods of Terror, it takes six weeks of training, a 21-section character book for each personality and a “hell week” of rehearsals to fine-tune the craft of fright.

“Eddie’s big thing is startle, startle, startle,” Moore said.

Moore says that the actual move sequence that is developed and practiced depends on the monster’s personality and in which room it hides. Each character might have a few starter lines, but then it’s up to the actor to fully develop the villain. “I really want them to have creativity with it,” Moore said. “We don’t want them to stick to certain lines.”

The Woods of Terror’s scare tactic breaks down into five categories: Startle, Stalk, Seen, Hidden and Hidden/Seen.

Startle is when a character jumps out at you. From jumping off a bus to lunging at you from a bungee cord, Woods of Terror has certainly gotten creative with this maneuver.

Stalk is when an actor follows you around and invades your personal space. “We teach them about space and tell them to keep within 18 inches to 4 feet away (from the victim),” Moore said.

Hidden means a character scares you without ever coming into sight, meaning they simply bang on a nearby barrel or pipe. You can hear them but you can’t see them. They remain unknown.

Seen is a character that someone is already aware of; we can see them from afar and naturally want to avoid them. Examples of these characters are the WOT “midway characters” that walk around while customers are waiting in line to go through the trail.

Midway characters are experienced ghouls who not only work for months de veloping their character’s personality, look and backstory, but they’re also in charge of their own costume and makeup.

“It takes a lot of work and creativity,” said Callie Alday with green and black “souls” running down her lips. Alday, 22, who plays as Sally Slaughter, said it takes a lot of dedication to perform as a midway character, one of the top-level roles at Woods of Terror. “You have to love your job to do it,” she said.

The Hidden-Seen combo is when a character establishes his creepy presence and then disappears, letting you wait in suspense for the impending startle. For the experienced WOT explorers, the Jeepers Creepers character is a great example of the maneuver.

Of course, learning how to scare isn’t the only lesson provided by Moore. Actors must also learn how to work a crowd. Moore divides crowds into seven categories, including families, drunks, teenage girls and jerks. Each group calls for different tactics.

“You have to have thick skin (to deal with the jerks),” Moore said. The best tactic for dealing with this mean group is to respond with a pithy comeback of your own.

In fact, at the end of the WOT season, Moore has each actor complete an exit interview in which they can include the most commonly asked questions and smart remarks, as well as any clever retorts they developed.

Moore said he also warns against certain lines like, “I can see your neck throbbing,” to help actors avoid the inevitable dirty comments.

In the end, Moore’s coaching pays off, and is what brings the 11 attractions of Woods of Terror to life. It’s also what causes my muscles to go tense and my voice to go hoarse. I might be 27, but I definitely fall in the “teenage girl” group. !


Woods of Terror, 5601 N. Church St., is open select days Wednesday through Sunday, from now until Nov. 8. Tickets are $15-$50. For tickets and more information visit or call 286-9396.