Some of you may not know this, but I am an actor as well as a writer.
Well, sort of.
For the past few years, I’ve worked as an actor in the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern. I came across the job through a good friend of mine just as they were going through a transition in creative teams. He and his business partner took over the operations of the haunt, and I got in on the ground floor. (Quite literally, as a matter of fact. My first year, I was stationed in the cave portion of the attraction.)
For those who have not been, the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is, by far, the best haunted experience in Chattanooga. I may sound biased, but the truth is the truth. Among the people I have talked to who frequent haunted houses, it always ranks at the top of their lists — and for good reason. When you see the show put on by the guys from Fear Connection, you’ll quickly understand why the Haunted Cavern has earned the reputation it has.
[I mean, come on — 6th in the nation according to Rand McNally’s Best Of The Road? How awesome is that?]
This is the sixth year that Fear Connection has produced the Haunted Cavern, and, from what I’ve seen so far, this year is certain to stand apart from the rest. The production value has been raised considerably. The make-up work and costumes are unbelievable. The storyline is nice and creepy. And the actors, who can make or break a haunted attraction, are all completely and totally fired up about what they are doing. I am seriously working with some of the best in the city — probably the region, too.
The storyline has been released on the Haunted Cavern website, and I suggest you click the link above and give it a look. It features the recently-released spirits of a late nineteenth century traveling sideshow, as well as a whole host of cave-dwelling apparitions, all brought back into existence by the rediscovery of a long-forgotten book.
This year, I am portraying a character named Elijah Owens, known as “Brother Eli” among the rest of the sideshow. He is a carnival barker, and the games runner for Barnabus Hale’s Menagerie of the Macabre traveling sideshow. He has a bio on the official website in the Album section, mostly written by yours truly. I created his backstory and submitted over a page of background material, so it (understandably) had to be edited down by the staff.
[I always write too much, but I digress.]
What follows is a longer version of what is already there, plus a few extra details thrown in for good measure. (Those with sensitive imaginations might want to skip past the bullets.)
- He grew up with an oppressive mother who constantly told him he talked too much, “like one o’ them grease-tongued preachers on a Sunday mornin’.”
- He committed his first murder by sewing his mother’s mouth shut, decapitating her and stuffing her head inside of a birdcage for safekeeping.
- Feeling that life is a game, he tended to target those whom he felt took life too seriously.
- His M.O. generally included carnival games with no-win scenarios; one of his victims was found pinned to a wall with darts embedded in his eyes and throat, while another was found facedown in a barrel of acid, presumably forced to bob for apples.
Brother Eli is definitely the most fun I have had with a haunt character thus far. For being part of a haunted attraction, he isn’t necessarily scary. However, he is loud, he is flamboyant, and he certainly commands your attention — and that’s exactly what he was designed to do. Scaring the hell out of people is both an art and a science. There is a certain degree of creativity needed to pull it off, but there are also patterns and even formulas to consider when trying to get the best scare for each group that comes through. It’s not quite as simple as just jumping out and shouting “Boo!”
[As a matter of fact, anyone who thinks something like that would be scary has no business working in a haunted attraction.]
The cast and crew of the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern have put in a lot of hard work to ensure that it is the best haunted attraction you will find this Halloween season. So, if you’re in Chattanooga on an October weekend, make it a point to stop by. I can promise that you won’t be disappointed.