Haunt creates ‘outrageously freeing’ atmosphere
October 30, 2022
Actors at 5th Realm, a haunted house in Cedar Rapids, found acceptance and comfort within the small community where performers scare adrenaline junkies inside Lindale Mall. Some actors dress up in costumes as a form of escapism from reality through the months of September and October.
When I’m at the haunt I feel like I can let loose if that makes sense. I don’t have to make small talk; I can scream and be wild and it’s not only accepted but encouraged. It’s a place where you don’t have to worry and if a customer is rude you get to go off at them. It’s very cathartic for anyone who has worked in customer service.
The reason why I feel there is no judgment is because everyone who works here understands. Almost everyone is a part of the LGBTQ+ community, is neurodivergent, or is struggling with some sort of mental or physical illness. We all know what it’s like to be rejected or not be accepted, so we accept each other for our weirdness and become friends.
I also do use dressing up as a form of escapism. I play “Dungeons and Dragons” and I cosplay. So, I’ve been using costumes and have been making different characters as a way to be someone else for years. I mean, have you looked at the world? I’d much rather be a sorcerer with three eyes who lives in the forest and opens portals to other realms than myself. I think a lot of people do, and it’s awesome to be with people who also understand those feelings and understand you.
I feel like there is no judgment at this haunt because we all think working here is fun, and we all want to do this. Being in the makeup and costume makes me feel more in character, which is just a fun way of self-expression. It definitely feels like an escape from reality, which is nice. It just helps me separate myself from what I think others want and just do what is fun. That also is something that can feel challenging. Sometimes I feel too tired to act insane, but the haunt makes it easier on those days. Working with the haunt and being in that community helps me be the best version of myself because I see a ton of different people and learn how to deal with different situations. The community gives me a whole different view I wouldn’t have seen without them.
When I’m in costume and scaring people, it feels more like me than when I’m at normal work. I get to be more open and I can say things I can’t at work. I love scaring people, the more scared they get the more fun I have. I wish I could scare people all year round!! It’s a lot of fun dressing up differently every year though and having different roles each year. I’m glad I have such an open and accepting haunt community and that the haunt community continues to grow each and every year. I’m also glad that the haunt is so open to change and that they aren’t judgmental at all, they all give suggestions instead of laughing at others’ mistakes, which makes us closer instead of people getting angry and leaving. In the end, the 5th Realm makes me feel at home and safe.
Robin Gustason (left)
In my personal experience, a performer is often limited by audience approval & comfort. You cater your performance to be digestible & enjoyable for an audience. In the haunt, the draw is almost the opposite. The reaction you want is discomfort, it’s fear, it’s scary. There is something so outrageously freeing as an actor to explore being outright off-putting.
Teagan Hackman (right)
Working in a haunted house made me feel comfortable and I could be myself. I worked with such great people, and everyone is helpful, making me feel like I fit in with the team. The haunted house has pushed me in so many ways it pushed me to come out of my shell and be more outgoing with people I don’t know. Being in a costume or having a mark on is kind of an escape from reality and I can actually be myself and not have to act a certain way because I’m not at work or in public, I get to use my voice and be loud when ideally, I’m a shy person, I made friends with people that have different backgrounds and interests as me. The haunt has also helped me overcome my fear of haunted houses.
Getting to work at the haunt is one of my happy accidents. I originally volunteered one night because they needed help and I ended up getting hired. Working at the haunt allows you to kind of express yourself through a different persona. Getting to be this different creature and mess with people is actually very therapeutic because you get to know you’re giving these people great memories. It makes you feel like you have a purpose in those 3-4 hours. It gives me an inner piece.
Honestly though who wouldn’t wanna make people pee their pants? Honestly, it just makes you focus on having fun, you don’t have to think of much else and it’s calming.