TRAVERSE CITY — Emily Grozenski and Chloe Schafer huddled together under the warmth of a blanket as they learned the ins and outs of “the scare.”
The best friends — and dozens of their classmates — attended an actors training night Sunday at the Ghost Farm of Kingsley. They’ll star in the seven-acre farm’s Terrorvision Haunted Walk in October. The attraction will raise money for an eighth-grade spring trip to Washington, D.C.
Around a campfire that warded off the chill, Operations Manager Desirae Dine taught the students and their parents the psychology of the scare, including “pop-up” and “character” scares. Common techniques include taking advantage of people’s natural fear of the dark and the woods, using distraction to set up the real scare, and targeting the “rock” at the front of every tour group.
“Each of us will have to do our part to break down that rock,” said Dine, whose family — including eight brothers and sisters — is putting on the farm-themed haunt for the fourth year. “Every corner he turns, every step he takes, BAM!, we have to be in his face. When the rock breaks, the group crumbles.”
Dine should know. She's a member of a growing online community of haunted house operators and completed an internship at Walt Disney World’s The Haunted Mansion, a tour through an eerie haunted estate.
She and her sister, Shanna Dine, use Disney’s guest services philosophy to train their actors.
“Pick a character and stick with it. No breaking character,” Desirae Dine told the actors. “If you have to make a trip to the bathroom, be in character the whole way. We’re asking people to suspend reality. In order to create that kind of belief, you have to buy into it 100 percent.”
Dine said the training is what helps make the eighth-graders, all students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Traverse City, as professional as adults in similar roles. In turn, the roles give them a sense of responsibility that translates into confidence.