Fall is a season filled with traditions. There is one day in October which is circled on everyone’s calendar, but for the staff at Nightmare on 19th Street, Halloween is the pinnacle of the months of work.
The professional haunters at Nightmare on 19th Street have been scaring the Lubbock community for 10 years now and were voted the number three “must-see” haunted house in the state of Texas by Scarefactor. The haunted house has been open since Sept. 27 and will remain open until Saturday.
Haunted houses are worked on all year by the building crew so the acting, makeup and special effects crews can shine come spooky season. Stephen Kelley, the actor manager, and Rolando Rodriguez, makeup manager, talked about the work that goes into a haunted house and how they got their start in the business.
Kelley said he has been the acting coordinator for Nightmare on 19th for about six years. He began working in 2012 as part of the building crew, then moved up to acting before becoming the coordinator in 2014. Kelley said he had experience with haunted houses and was an actor for his own home-haunt where he grew up.
“Whenever I was growing up, I had my own home-haunt in the town I grew up in outside of Austin,” Kelley said. “It was my haunt, so I acted in there, but also had to get my friends to come be actors in there. I think we lasted one or two years, so it’s always been in my blood.”
All the actors he has worked with over the years are volunteers, and Kelley said the demographics of the actors are diverse, which is one reason why he loves working for haunted houses.
“We’ve had some people that have gone to school for acting or acted in high school doing plays and stuff like that. But it’s a mix honestly of every different clique, race, gender, you name it we’ve got it out there,” Kelley said. “That’s one thing I really love about it. It’s not just the ‘goth’ kids. There’s football players out there, there’s band kids out there, it’s a little bit of everything.”
Kelley said it can be difficult for someone who has not acted in the haunted house setting before to transition and keep up stamina throughout the night.
“We do our best, I’ve got about 40 people underneath me this year, and so it’s hard to give as much individual time I would like. Some pick it up real quick, real easy, they’re like, ‘Oh, I got this.’ Others it takes a little bit to find their scene, to find their character,” Kelley said. “The hard part is people don’t realize how hard it is. To stay in your scene and scaring groups that are coming down the hallway every 20 seconds and doing that for hours on end and they don’t realize exhausting it is.”
Rodriguez has volunteered for Nightmare on 19th Street for nine years doing the makeup for haunted house actors, he said. He got into haunting from one of his friends’ invitation to check out the work they were doing despite him having no experience.
“A friend of mine, she was a makeup artist (at Nightmare on 19th Street). She asked me to come out there and do makeup even though I had never done it before,” Rodriguez said. “But I have a pretty extensive art background, so she thought I’d be good at it. Turns out I was pretty good at it.”
Unlike Kelley’s volunteer actors, Rodriguez has the job of hiring and training artists, and most of them have an art background like himself, he said.
“Most of the people have been, not really art backgrounds, I think they were just interested in makeup in general. But the new people I’ve been hiring, I’ve been hiring people with art backgrounds cause I feel like they transition better and able to grasp the concepts a little bit easier,” Rodriguez said. “Doing makeup is just another form of painting and sculpting. So, if you have that art background it’s easy to develop your skills quickly.”
The preparation leading up to the nights they perform can be strenuous. Rodriguez said he has about three hours to do makeup for 100 actors. He has six other people he works with, but the task requires efficiency and speed.
Kelley said for people to have the best experience going through a haunted house, they should remain open-minded.
“The thing that I would tell people is, we’re paying to scare you,” Kelley said. “You’re gonna be entertained, but if go out there and you’re like ‘Oh, nobody’s gonna scare me,’ you’re not gonna have near as much fun. Go out there with an open-mind of getting scared and having a great time.”
Nightmare on 19th Street has three more days of operation before preparations begin for the 2020 season. Saturday is the last day of operation for the haunted house.
The haunted house will be open 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Halloween Night and on Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and Nightmare on 19th Street is located at 602 East 19th Street.