Brodie McDonald has been putting on makeup and carrying a chainsaw around for 11 years now at Bloodview, scaring the crap out of visitors and acting like a deranged psychopath. Eleven years is probably longer than you've done most things in your life, which is impressive, even more so when you factor in that it's a volunteer gig. With a couple weeks left to get your adrenaline rush before Halloween, we asked McDonald all about what it's like going to work with the hopes of making someone cry.
Vince Grzegorek: Why have you stuck around and done this for so long?
Brodie McDonald: I've been doing it for 11 years and the main thing in doing it for that long is just the fun of it. We get to get out and scare people and make people's nights, and that's a ton of fun. Also, it's for charity, so in our particular situation, we've raised something like a couple million dollars over the last 34 years. It makes you feel good as someone's crying and walking out to the parking lot.
VG: I was going to ask about that. I assume some people actually break down in tears.
BD: Yup. Quite a few actually. I know even last night, we had a couple of people that couldn't even finish. I'm in the gore house and I usually have a chainsaw, and I was revving it and a girl started crying and ran off. It happens quite a bit. I don't know if some people think they're going to Disney World or something, but they really get hit with this stuff and maybe it's not everything they expected.
VG: Do you have fans?
BD: A lot of us have fans. There's a pretty standard group that come every weekend, so as far as the customers go, a lot of us actors have our personal fan clubs. People will come and look for Lester the Clown or the chainsaw guy. And lots of people have been coming for so long they remember characters from way back in the day. We used to have one called Booger, and that actor still comes every once in a while to help out, and people will see him and yell, "Booger!"
VG: Why did you start in the first place?
BD: Well, first off, I really like Halloween. I used to pass out candy and set up things to scare trick-or-treaters. One of my friends worked at Bloodview, and his girlfriend at the time suggested I go there. It's all volunteers. We do this out of fun. I was a little intimidated at first, because you're working with people who are really good at what they do and very professional. But then you have a couple of people running away from you scared, and you feel better. And then you just get addicted to that feeling.
VG: Those volunteers, are they from theater backgrounds? I would assume that would be a natural fit for someone like that.
BD: Yeah, in our situation, you find that a lot of people have theater backgrounds, a lot come from Baldwin Wallace and a lot more were in theater in school. And in our situation, because we are freeform, we attract people from the theater world because they can use their experiences and apply them to this situation because we improvise. You don't get handed a mask or a costume and told to go to a room and do a specific thing. You come up with everything yourself.
VG:That's interesting. I assumed that people were just told what to do. You're a ghost, for instance, and you're going to stand there and make ghost noises.
BD: Yeah, that's a difference between some of the haunted houses. Some do a lot more actor-based stuff. You have someone who develops a character, for instance. We can change it up too. One night I might be the chainsaw guy and the next night I could be an asylum guy banging against the bars. It's a lot different than saying, "Here, you're popping out of Box No. 1 and you're wearing this."
VG: So what's your character like?
BD: We all have backstories. My main guy's name is Kaleb, and he's a chainsaw guy. He was developed when we started building our gore house in 2007. I was thinking about what sort of character would live there and I came up with a dog-boy who was trapped in this house and neglected. I mixed in some Mick Foley and some different laboratory stuff and he's got a muzzle on and he's covered up. At first, he didn't have a chainsaw, because chainsaws were kind of stigmatized back then. Old timers thought it was a cheap scare. But we brought it back and started seeing it elsewhere and so, what the hell, let's try a chainsaw.
VG: What are some of the more outlandish haunted house stunts that go beyond the run-of-the-mill scares?
BD: I'll give you one example. There's a place called Haunted Hoochie down in Columbus. The have an act that got national news. This guy does a mock suicide. He has a shotgun set up and it shoots and there's a splatter. It got some attention two or three years ago — some parent said that it looked like her son and her son was in the military (the character was in fatigues). They asked if they were going to ban the act and the guy said, "You guys are doing a story and there's going to be a line of a thousand people in line, so no." There's this thing in San Diego too, where you pay them to torture you for four hours. You have to sign all these waivers and it's crazy, but they torture you for four hours. People pay for that kind of stuff. The main thing we tell everyone is that people like to be scared. The people are paying you for that real life horror movie effect right in their face.