I have worked in haunted houses for eleven of the last fourteen years. I started in Nightmare on Grayson in San Antonio, and I got five seasons under my belt before moving to Austin and finding a haunt that became my home. Although, the first night I worked for The Nightmare Factory, I was not sure I was going to stay for more than the first night.
I had sent in an application and never heard back from the owners. Then on opening night in 2002 I got a call about thirty minutes before they opened, saying they were short handed and wanting to know if I could help.
Naturally, I jumped at the chance as it had been a little over three years since I moved to Austin and slightly longer since I got my boo on.
Even though I was a veteran with several years of experience I was still just a new guy to them. I had to prove myself. I later found out that anytime in the past that they had an actor show up from another haunt, it never worked out. They figured I would be no different.
So, to put me to the test, they stuck me in this scene that looked like an Egyptian tomb. They called it Chitchupaz, (pronounced chit-you-paz,… get it?) It was gorgeous. There were hieroglyphics everywhere and large hieroglyphic images from the Book of the Dead in spots. There was fake gold all over the place. Sand all over the place. A sarcophagus that was set up with mirrors so that it would fade back and forth between a view of the outside of the sarcophagus, to the inside so you could see the mummy contained within. There was also the torn up remnants of a bloody body on the floor.
I was impressed. I asked them what I was supposed to do in here. I was expecting to be a mummy or something.
The owner and his right hand man had been really into Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter that year, and they made this big, beautiful scene without thinking about what to put in it. And well… I think they used to smoke a lot of pot back then, or something, but they thought it would be great to have a Steve Irwin-esque, archaeologist being attacked by a mummy.
So they show me my costume. It was basically the Steve Irwin shirt and shorts, which looked even dorkier with my black work boots, and pale white legs. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot.
Then they showed me the “mummy.” It was a zombie mask that was stuffed and sewn on to a body that was made out of cloth. The arms were sewn together in a loop so that it could hang around your neck… like it is attacking you.
They told me when people come by to run out and pretend the mummy is attacking me, and tell people to stay away from the gold, because it is cursed. The idea of cursed gold got set up in the previous scene by Becky, a talking ventriloquist dummy who would tell bad jokes and also told people to stay away from the gold in Chitchupaz. (Like I said, I think they smoked a lot of pot back in those days.)
I tried it their way, as they suggested. And it looked as stupid as it sounds. I would hide in a corner and wait for a group to come by, then they see me come running out, looking dorky in shorts and work boots, with a stuffed mummy hanging off my neck, trying to act like I am being attacked and warning people to stay away from the cursed gold.
The looks of confusion on peoples faces were priceless.
The laughter stung a little.
Sometimes, I could not help but join the customers in laughing at the whole thing, as I knew how ridiculous I looked trying to act like I am being attacked or fighting off what was essentially a stuffed animal, while running around yelling, “Stay away from the gold! ARRRRGGGH! It’s cursed! Don’t touch the gold!”
After about thirty minutes, the boss came up to me and told me that they were getting something into fix the scene, (Oh, thank god), but it would not be in until the next week (Aww, crap). He told me he knew it sucked and to just… well… do the best with what I have.
I think I saw him stifle a giggle after he said that and turned to walk away.
Being a veteran of haunted houses, I said the hell with this, I want to actually scare people. So, I went back to hide in my corner and wait, just like I had earlier in the night. When a group came through my scene, I ran out, like the mummy was attacking me, again, just like I had earlier. But this time I came at customers fast, so that by the time they could process that I had a really fake looking, stuffed mummy around my neck, I was right next to them at the rail, and launching the mummy out over the railing at them, and shoving it in their faces.
I was actually scaring people, and even put a couple of them on the floor. (Hooray me. I’m like scary and stuff.) This even impressed the boss, that I was able to get any scares at all in that scene.
The next week, the owner did fix Chitchupaz. He ordered Anubis. Anubis is a Stalkaround, which is basically a puppet that you wear on your shoulders that makes you look about eight feet tall. Naturally the scene got a whole lot scarier, and to say I fell in love with Anubis is an understatement. I had crowds hitting the floor consistently, running out of the scene terrified, and I fed off the energy.
I got to keep Death, since I spent the most time in him, I helped to maintain and repair him and trained newbies on how to use a Stalkaround and not make it look stupid. Now Death lives in the corner of my computer room, and is sitting behind me as I write this.
Death does get out once in a while. He helped me to win the costume contest at work, and he also was a celebrity judge in the Zombie Apocalypse Talent Show. He also lives on in virtual reality, in City of Villains as “Mr. Death.”
But what happened to the stuffed mummy? Well, I am not sure who has him. But he lived on as a catch phrase that we all still use to this day: “A mummy around the neck”.
(Definition) Mummy around the neck – something that seems like a good idea, but once implemented is obviously lame.
ex. Do you think it is scary, or is it a mummy around the neck?
ex. Do you think Segways will change the way people travel or is it just a mummy around the neck?
ex. Was this an interesting and entertaining post about the haunted house, or was it a mummy around the neck?
Feel free to use and spread the phrase.