Reaper’s Revenge Haunted Hayride and Attractions is anchored by its namesake, the famous “Haunted Hayride,” which has received critical acclaim as one of the best “hayride” attractions in the country. A spectacle of larger than life scenes of horror, the “Haunted Hayride” is a staple at Reaper’s Revenge, the core attraction that shines brighter each year with immersive set designs and first-class acting. We had the pleasure to interview some of the talented individuals who bring this attraction to life this season, in this edition of the “Reaper’s Revenge Blog!” In this edition, we have the privilege of speaking with “Haunted Hayride” Attraction Manager Matt Adams, performers Kevin Kearney, Nicole Burks, and an actor that has asked to be referred to as “Tiny”! We hope you enjoy their unique insight into what makes this attraction so special!
Reaper’s Revenge Blog (RR Blog): What is your role or performance at Reaper’s Revenge this season?
Matt Adams (Adams): I am the attraction manager for the haunted hayride. Though I don’t get to act as often as I would like these days, I do dress in a cloak with an Immortal masks Vissago, to ominously watch my minions at work in the shadows of the scenes!
Nicole Burks (Burks): I perform as the “Lead Thriller” Dancer in one of the most famous scenes!
Kearney: Freddy Krueger!
Tiny: I keep it simple; I spew blood and eat feat! Sometimes throw things and love to eat my props!
RR Blog: How many years have you worked at Reaper’s Revenge, and in what capacity?
Adams: I was an actor for five years and am currently in my fourth year as a manager of the hayride.
Burks: This is my third year as a “Thriller Dancer,” second year as a Lead.
Kearney: I’m going on my fourth year, my first year, I performed in “Sector 13” with two other actors. In my second year, I played the role of mutant scientist before the transition into the role of “Freddy Krueger.” I am now the only “Freddy Krueger” on the mountain!
Tiny: This is my second year working there as for capacity, I try to have the guests focus on me. To give other actors time to get there scare in!
RR Blog: COVID-19 has poised many challenges for everyone; how have you worked capacity helped Reaper’s Revenge during these times?
Adams: Myself and my management team spearhead keeping our people safe. Teaching scare techniques that maintain social distancing sanitizing golf carts between actors, keeping scenes sanitized, and enforcing customers to honor our COVID safety procedures with mask-wearing.
Burks: Normally, we have prosthetics glued to the top of our faces; however, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and safety protocols, we have a unique zombie mask created by the amazing makeup team. The mask includes protective wear underneath the mask but still made to look like we are ordinary zombies.
Kearney: SANITIZE!!!! And wear a mask.
RR Blog: Can you describe a typical evening in your position? How do you prepare to “act” each evening?
Adams: I travel up the trail, setting our team up with the supplies they need for a successful night. Give some critiques to make their spots better when needed, as well as support to those who are doing an excellent job. We try to lead our people by being the hype we would want to see coming out of our actors; we like to embrace the energy from the moment actors are in place!
Burks: “Thriller Scene”- We start off the night getting our zombie mask, dresses, and makeup airbrushed on our face, and then our hair teased to be created into dancing zombies. Down at the scene, we put black powder over any area of skin showing to complete the look. The Thriller team gets ready by enjoying each other’s company and preparing for the rough, fun night ahead of us. I can’t forget that we eat food and drink Gatorade and water to prepare for a night of dancing. There’s no better way to get some laughs in, connecting with each other, and, most important, finding out how we are feeling. This is very essential for our scene so we can figure out who may need to take on specific positions on being on point in the dance, who can climb on the wagon, and who may need to take it easy that night. Communication is key.
Kearney: I focus on getting into character, a few wet dreams, and becoming “Freddy” Once I put the mask on, Freddy lives again…. HAHAHA
Tiny: A typical night for me. (This season). Is trying to time my scares. And get a feel for each wagon and flow of the show, then adjust. As for preparing, I drift off into my own little world and just imagine if I was the actual “character”… What I would do….Eat. Drink. Feel. Like becoming a different person. But still, be me…I guess!
RR Blog: What challenges do you face in your role? How have these challenges changed associated with previous seasons? (If you have acted or performed before)
Adams: COVID certainly adds a new level of difficulty. Everyone has their opinions, and we’ve lost some phenomenal people this year because they simply want to sit out to protect their families. Who can blame them, though? We support everyone’s choice, but we find ourselves teaching new people roles filled by veterans in past years that we’ve never had to worry about in the past. Wearing a face covering under a heavy mask adds a bit more difficulty, but I’ve found it to be tolerable, especially once you start landing scares. You begin to forget about the crazy world around us and get lost in your scene.
Burks: I’d say one of the challenges in the scene is keeping our energy up, which is why we rotate breaks so we can keep on dancing. I tell the Thriller team to make sure you bring food for the long nights, and Gatorade to keep your body hydrated. There is a case of water down at the scene for us, and we all sincerely appreciate that the Reaper’s Revenge management team does this for us. Of course, in our highly active role, previous injuries can act up and even may get hurt. We do prepare ourselves with wraps, wearing boots prior, and take medicine when needed. The EMS team is there for us just if something may occur, and our management team is quick to bring down an icepack if required and or cart us up to EMS to be checked out. I’m proud of my girls that fight through all of this; of course, they take it easy at first if injured, but they get right back on their feet to continue the night if possible. The love and passion we all have for the scene really keep us going.
Kearney: That would have to be timing because I have three spoken lines that go along with two pyrotechnic explosions and a water splash triggered by the wagon. And the speed of the wagon changes all the time because every year we have new tractor drivers, so I need to be mindful of timing.
Tiny: As for COVID it’s kind of a challenge for my performance… I can’t spew my fake blood or eat my prop. But I have found ways to work around it. And I just try my best to put a good show on for the customers. I can’t spew get in your face and scare you. Lick my foot… You have no idea how much I miss that part. That always gets a reaction seeing a person lick or suck the toes. They find it gross I find it hilarious, I love reactions!
RR Blog: What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your position?
Adams: Seeing someone who did not believe in themself in their role becomes a crowd favorite. The moment that it all clicks, and they become a haunter. Or finding an actor who hasn’t had success in previous seasons, but still determined to work, and helping them into a role that brings them success.
Burks: Family, we all become a family and welcome any new people that join us. There are no better words to explain it. With the hard work and love we put into the Thriller scene as a group, we really become one. Another reward on my end is seeing the rest of the Thriller dancers do a fantastic job dancing, getting some scares, and zombie walks. The overall scene comes together because every person down there is absolutely amazing at what they do; I couldn’t be more proud.
Kearney: Scaring the “men.” It so satisfying as I walk by a large man that has I’m not afraid of anything look or the one pointing to his girlfriend. So I pass them and then spin around real quick and shove my claws in their face, and they jump so hard they almost fall off the wagon or hide behind their dates!
Tiny: Performing with my friends, co-workers, and managers. Reaper’s Revenge management gives me a lot of credit and praise which I’m not used too. I just go out and be me to the best of my ability. Then seeing the reactions on the customer’s faces. Some I scare…. Some I mildly gross-out…. Some give applause… It feels good to just let your inner half out.
Adams: Just go for it. Whether you were a stage actor, someone who loves horror, or just someone who gets their kicks from scaring their family or friends, I promise we have a spot for you.
Burks: Find out about your role by watching movies and practicing your clown laugh, zombie sound, your lines, etc. and even trying to hold a straight face for when you scare someone. It’s sometimes challenging to keep a straight face when you get a good scare. Let’s say I’m thankful for the masks this year because I can hide my smile. For “Thriller,” we practice the dance, watch zombie movies to get tips for the sound, zombie walks, and of course, we have to watch the fantastic Michael Jackson Thriller music video to really get the feel of the Thriller vibe. His dancers are all on point, and we do our best to do that justice.
Kearney: Do not think about it, just do it.
Tiny:Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Let the inner you out sometimes. you be surprised at what you can do. Do it… Live in the moment!
RR Blog: What is your favorite overall part of Reaper’s Revenge?
Adams: The Reapers’ Family. These people have been there for me in my lowest times, and around me at my best times. We love and support one another and put on a fantastic show in the process.
Burks: I’ve mentioned it before, but I genuinely mean that we all become a family. The appreciation and care for each actor are fantastic. We are indeed taken care of as one family.
Kearney: That we are not just actors. We are a family, and we look after each other.
Tiny: I’m happy and overjoyed that I meet a new family I didn’t think I had. Reaper’s Family has made me feel welcomed as one of there own. That feeling never goes away, and I take that to heart.
RR Blog: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your insight. Do you have any more stories or feedback you would like to share for our readers?
Adams: There have been so many good times because of Reapers. Both during the season and outside of it. Going away to the conventions, picking things out, and be inspired to create something unique. Then the fall comes, and those ideas become realities, seeing the customers enjoy them and get scares as a result. It’s like the spirit of the actor inside of me gets to still live on, now getting shocks in new ways, and in more scenes, than the one, I acted in!
Burks: There are so many stories to tell, but one of my favorites is a team scare and really providing the customer with the full experience down at Thriller. Last season, we had three actresses scare one customer into an instant “team” scare effort! Zombies were in his face, others behind him, and everyone kept their eyes locked in on this terrified customer! We didn’t plan this, but it all comes together as two zombies crawl on the wagon and others surrounding it. We are an entertainment scene, but we absolutely love it when we can steal a good scare. Later we found he peed his pants, which is always a badge of pride!
One of my favorites, which continues to happen, many times crowds cheer and give us applause after the scene for the fantastic job we do, and it may not seem much, but it really brings us back to life when we feel exhausted. Guest reactions are motivational; often I hear, “Oh, this is my favorite scene!”, “This is Thriller!” The hard work of crawling, limping “dead” like a zombie getting scares on the wagon as it strolls slowly through the cemetery, then the music is triggered, and the disco ball lights up, people roar of excitement. Thriller! We are one of the favorite scenes in the hayride, and it’s so unique after all these years, Thriller is still appreciated!
Thank you all for your time!
Joe Rovinsky- Reaper’s Revenge Blog