When darkness falls, brokers and CEOs turn into ghastly ghouls
By day, Beth Klint delivers food to employees in the clean, orderly headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not too scary, unless she serves up the wrong food.
But this month, as darkness descends on Salt Lake City nightly, Klint helps deliver fear to the folks in the dingy halls of the chaotic Nightmare on 13th Haunted House.
For Utah residents like Klint, 54, the Halloween season's fear business is a second quasi-career they relish.
Klint's coworkers at the church office building know that this time of year she dons a uniform different from the tidy black pants and tan polo shirt she wears while the sun is shining. "They think it's cool, and every day they go, 'So what happened last night at the haunted house?' " Klint said. "They think it's awesome that I do this job at night."
Geek by day, zombie by night • Utah seems to have a cache of Klints, those otherwise normal residents who seek a role in creating frightful fun every evening for a few weeks each year. People like Jason Lindsay, who plays several characters at the Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus in Draper. He's a computer geek by day, zombie by night.
Or Gary Grove, who has been dressing up at night every Halloween season for the past 20 years. He's Mr. Nice Guy on the phone at his day job, creepy and disgusting after the sun goes down.
"You can really be a part of something, that is, playing a little bit on the evil, dark side, and you can have fun with it," said Bob Tillotson, co-founder and partner of the Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus. He helped establish (and later sold his shares in) American Fork's Haunted Forest and Ogden's Haunted Hollow. "I think it's a huge release for some people."
More than half of the 110 or so people who work for Strangling Brothers are adults, most with real jobs like real-estate broker, CEO of a major corporation or psychologist. Tillotson, a landscape contractor by day, says he keeps hearing from the wife of an LDS Church mission president who wishes she could take part in the terror business. "Daily I get people calling and wanting to be involved."
Usually actors don't do it for the money, as the haunted houses don't pay much, when they pay anything at all. "I've been in the business for 23 years, and it always surprises me the type of people who absolutely love Halloween," Tillotson said. "I haven't figured it out. I don't understand it."
Getting that Zombie-ific smell • To wit, the church lady turned witchy woman. Klint, a Rose Park mother of two children, began professionally scaring people in 1989 at Wheeler Farm's Haunted Woods, which shut down in 2001.
In 1998, Klint started working for Nightmare on 13th along with her husband, Michael, who serves as a technical director of sorts, working to bring life to otherwise inanimate objects, all in the name of fun and fright.
She started out playing hair-raising characters but now heads the box office. On Halloween, she shows up to work in full witch's garb, which she believes is the best Halloween costume ever.
Those who work in haunted jobs say they pay great attention to detail. Jason Lindsay, the computer programmer who works at Strangling Brothers, bought a coat and shirt from Goodwill, dragged the items through the dirt and cut them up. And then, seeking a musty smell, he buried the clothes for two weeks and periodically watered the hole.
Yeah, costume-making is a different kind of problem-solving than what Lindsay, 42, does during his day job as lead software developer for the Lehi company NetSteps. "I am just a kind of Halloween enthusiast," Lindsay said. "I just love Halloween."
The funky-smelling dirty duds are for his zombie costume, while his other roles include ticket taker, doctor and cook. It's Lindsay's first year getting paid, albeit a small amount, to frighten people amid a cacophony of recorded screams, bloody handprints and "jerky" animatronics.
Certain unsuspecting patrons have been known to get a bit too petrified. Lindsay said he's known people to lose bladder control, run into doors, trip over themselves in trying to get away, or buckle at the knees.
Some nights, after working all day, he doesn't get home to his own temporarily haunted house in Highland until 1 a.m., long after his three boys have fallen asleep. But he said his wife understands his passion for Halloween, which this year is manifested as a temporary graveyard in front of the family's home. "She gets into it, but not as much as I do," Lindsay said. "She doesn't enjoy the goriness."
From grandfather to line ghoul • Utah as a whole seems to love Halloween, Lindsay believes. "I think it's just because of the demographic of the state," he said. "Halloween is one of the few times this conservative culture gets to cut loose."
Some people seem to have a knack for creeping out complete strangers. Gary Grove, 59, says he has just about seen it all over the past 20 years since starting to scare at what has become his regular haunt at Nightmare on 13th. Most nights now he plays a so-called line ghoul, entertaining those waiting to get past the witchy box office and on to the big-time thrills inside.
The everyday Grove is a married father of five, grandfather to 11 (with another one on the way), who works as a customer-service rep for a dental-supply company.
Five days a week, he and his wife carpool to work, she at a recycling company, he at a spartan cubicle inside a newer building near the Salt Lake International Airport, where he sits on the phone filling orders for "everything you see in a dentist's office."
Any other time of year at the end of the workday, the Groves go home to the same 1,800-square-foot rambler in a subdivision of West Jordan where they've lived for 30 years. At Christmas time, he likes to dress up as Santa Claus.
But in the weeks leading up to Halloween, Grove undergoes a more disquieting metamorphosis. It takes about an hour to transform himself into a zombie. "Surprisingly, it's fun to scare people," he said. "It's fascinating for me to watch people's reactions."
Twenty years ago, the act of scaring people was a family affair at Nightmare on 13th, then called Institute of Terror. Even his youngest, who was 6 at the time, would dress in white, stand on a grave and loudly whisper, "Beware!"
Dad kept up with it and now approaches those quivering in the queue outside the haunted house with politically incorrect jokes (but fit for a haunting, Grove adds) and requests for a kiss on his latex cheek as the character of a zombie trying to get a date. "'I've learned not to eat a girl's brain on the first date,'" he tells his rapt audience outside the haunted house.
It's easy to find a good haunt this Halloween season
Here's a selected list of Halloween attractions open around the Salt Lake Valley.
Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus
What • Trailers filled with the Big Top Tent of Horrors, and other scares. Also featuring Odyssey Dance Theatre performing works from the company's "Thriller.
When • Through Oct. 31; Monday-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.
Where • 98 E. 13800 South, Draper
Tickets • $20; $5 extra for a fast pass (discount coupons available at Wendy's restaurants). For deals and VIP tickets, see http://www.stranglingbros.com.
Castle of Chaos
What • Three locations advertised as a "Trilogy of Terror," featuring such attractions as Hands on Horror, and a 3-D Screamatarium.
Where • 1134 W. Riverdale Road, Riverdale
Hours • Monday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-midnight
Where •5576 S. Redwood Road, Taylorsville
Hours • Sunday-Thursday, 7:30-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-midnight
Where • 168 E. University Parkway, Orem
Hours • Monday-Thursday, 7:30-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-midnight
Tickets • $18-$33 (for Trilogy tickets); some attractions require those under 18 to be accompanied by parents or sign a waiver; visit castleofchaos.com for details.
Nightmare on 13th Haunted House
What • Attractions include "NetherBeast," "Cirque Du Fear" and "Zombie Apocalypse."
Where Â» 300 W. 1300 South, Salt Lake City
When Â» Through Nov. 3; Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-midnight; Monday-Thursday, 7:30-10 p.m.; extended hours until 11 p.m. on Oct. 17-18 and Oct. 31.
Tickets Â» $20 (with bounce back specials); at http://www.nightmareon13th.com
In the old Portland Cement Company plant, which its owners claim is haunted.
Where • 666 W. 800 South, Salt Lake City
Hours • Monday-Thursday, 7-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m.-midnight; visit http://fearfactoryslc.com for updated hours and discounts.
Tickets • $$20-25; with $30-35 VIP pass; visit
Info • http://fearfactoryslc.com
Walk through a real forest with scary surprises, as well as view two indoor attractions, "The Haunted Mansion Show" and "Psycho Manor."
When • Through Oct. 31; Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-midnight; Monday-Thursday, 7:30-10 p.m.
Where • American Fork City Hall, 31 N. Church St., American Fork
Tickets • $20; kids 6 and under are free. Visit hauntedutah.com
Attractions include a straw maze, Spook-A-Boo Walk Through, Psycho Dave's Salvage Yard, Fun House of Fear, Deception, Lockdown and Night Walk. No face make-up or costumes are allowed.
When • Through Oct. 28; Friday, opens at 5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.
Where • Lagoon, 375 Lagoon Drive, Farmington
Tickets • $28.95-$44.95, at 801-451-8000 or lagoonpark.com
When • Through Oct. 31; Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m.-midnight; Monday-Thursday, 7-10 p.m.
Where • XSI Factory, 4425 N. Thanksgiving Point Way, Lehi
Tickets • $20; at zombieutah.com