I’ve always had this idealistic image of what working as an actor at Markoff’s Haunted Forest would look like. To most teens in the area, Markoff’s is a Halloween tradition, but as someone who lives and breathes all things autumn, I wanted to make sure I had worked on the trails before I graduated. In my opinion, the entire month of October is just a lead up to the best day of the year, Halloween. Naturally, working at Markoff’s was the perfect way for me to get in the holiday spirit.
Coming off a month of spooking, I wanted to share how my experience was nothing like what I had expected. While the process was both physically and mentally draining, my time at the Haunted Forest brought many fond memories.
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I would drive 45 minutes to the Calleva Farm, where Markoff’s is located. I was assigned to work as a haunted doll, which meant after my daily makeup session, I reported to what I eventually dubbed my “weekend home:” the dollhouse.
Markoff’s hires four makeup artists to turn the staff into an assortment of Halloween characters. Their rotating schedules meant my airbrushed face paint always came with a different flair: some days I’d be marked with a gaping fake gash painted across my throat while other days were more traditional, with colorful eye makeup, creepy vein lines, or dramatic eyebrows. Every night before heading off to my station, I was able to hold up a mirror to see the completed transformation. Each time, I felt the thrill of barely recognizing myself.
Most weekends, I had the “graveyard shift” (pun intended). On many occasions, I worked from 7:00 p.m.–12:45 a.m. To keep things interesting in the dollhouse, the two other actors playing dolls and I would constantly switch our scaring tactics. Sometimes, I would stand perfectly still on a ladder, pretending to be a real doll, until a patron walked up beside me when I would jolt upright. Other times I would hide behind a hallway in the dollhouse and pop out with a fake knife.
Having to stand still and wait to scare was by far the least entertaining part of my experience. As a customer, Markoff’s always entertained me because all the frights were designed to keep me on my toes; but when I was the one doing the scaring, I could be stuck waiting around mindlessly in the dollhouse for unforeseen amounts of time.
On the nights that ended at 12:45, I would get home close to 2:00 a.m. Luckily, Sunday nights didn’t usually go as late as weekend nights so I would get home closer to midnight. Yet, despite the long hours and dull waiting periods, I would go to bed satisfied. After all, in the spirit of Halloween, what’s better than knowing you scared someone?