Scare for a Cure is an interactive haunted house here in Austin. By interactive, I mean you don’t just walk through dark hallways and have things jump out at you. You have a goal that you are trying to accomplish and actors with whom you interact with. You are part of a story that unfolds as you go deeper into the haunt. Imagine something between a LARP and a “normal” haunted house. Each year there is a different theme. One year it was vampires, last year it was zombies. This year brought the most fearsome of nightmare creatures: clowns. While you can purchase a safe, toned down ticket, most patrons opt for the “red band” ticket. This turns your visit into a full contact affair where the actors can manhandle you and cover you in blood and gore. It is really the only way to fly if you visit the haunt. The “Cure” part refers to the fact that Scare is a nonprofit which donates the proceeds to breast cancer research. As they say, they are “putting the ‘boo’ in ‘boobies.'”
I attended the past two years as a guest, but this year I wanted to experience it from the other side. So, starting in August, I began volunteering for Scare. I wanted to do something outside of my comfort zone and to see what I was capable of. Every weekend I would drive out to the build site which also happens to be the future home of Britannia Manor v 3.0, the new castle Richard Garriott is currently building. Since it isn’t finished yet, he lets Scare use the foundation and grounds for the haunt. The build is basically all the heavy lifting, construction and painting of the haunt. Every year it needs to be torn down and then rebuilt, so we were starting from scratch. Before we could begin on the haunt itself, we had to build the base of operations. This consisted of a central meeting place (“the monkey hut”), a place to store tools, and a place to keep all the props and such.
So most of the work I did was carpentry-related tasks like repairing and building walls, reinforcing structures, sorting lumber and things like that. I’m somewhat handy, but I had never done anything like this. But I’m a fast learner and all the pros there were very helpful and encouraging. All of this was happening out in the blazing Texas sun. Most days we were out there in 90-100 degree heat. We took lots of shade breaks and kept hydrated. It may sound like grueling labor, but I had an amazing time. I would come home sore, tired and dusty, feeling fantastic. It felt like I was building something real, something that mattered.
Something else great came out of my experience at the build: Bess. I didn’t meet her at Scare, but I can say I met her because of it. I came home one day from the build feeling like anything was possible, like life only had good things to offer. I was feeling so happy and optimistic that I decided to go ahead and contact this girl I liked on OKCupid. I was just about ready to throw in the towel on the whole online dating thing. So I wrote her and we met that very day. We have been virtually inseparable ever since. A short while later, Bess started coming out to the build with me so we could work together.
In addition to building the haunt, we are both currently actors for most nights of the haunt. The theme this year is The Carnival of Lost Souls. We both work as carnival barkers on the midway, the staging area for guests while they wait to enter the haunt proper. Here they can spend coins to play the various games. I run a booth called “Connect Four” where you have to toss plastic baseballs up onto a grid so that four of the balls are touching. Bess runs a booth where you have three tries to knock down a stack of cans. So far it has been really fun, but also exhausting. Since the midway is usually understaffed, we are there the whole time, which can be from 7PM to 2AM. Fortunately, last night we had more than enough volunteers and we got to leave at 11PM.
We haven’t had a chance to experience the haunt itself. I know what happens in each area as I’ve read the script. I feel like I have read a Dungeons & Dragons module and I know all the spoilers. But I would still like to see the results of all that work. There are still a few nights left, though, so hopefully we will get a chance to run through it.
Overall, it has been a life-affirming experience and I would encourage any Austinites to volunteer next year.
For more information on Scare for a Cure, visit the official site: www.scareforacure.org