PICTURED ABOVE: Senior Hannah Sipes poses in her clown makeup and costume. Photo provided by Hannah Sipes
Haunted houses have been around since 1915 when the first haunted house, the Orton and Spooner Ghost House, opened in the United Kingdom. Now, there are over 1,200 professional haunted houses in the United States.
And if you take a trip to Bedford, Texas you will be able to visit one of these houses: Moxley Manor, where some Hockaday students work during the haunted house season.
Senior Hannah Sipes, who is a makeup artist and specializes in special effects makeup, has acted and done makeup art at Moxley Manor since December of 2015. She has also encouraged seniors Chloe Irwin and Julia Mitterer-Claudet to participate as actors as well.
“People often ask me why I do it if I don’t get paid,” Sipes said. “I do it because it’s fun, and sometimes the reactions are funny. Typically, if the guests are scared, they will try and chat with the actors, asking how their days are going and such.”
On the website, Moxley Manor explains the origins of its name: the three members of the Moxley family were found dead (at separate times) within two years of each other, and the Moxley mansion was feared due to tales of “murder, jealousy and deception.”
Moxley Manor, founded by Richard Alvarado, opened in 2010 and currently has 53 employees ranging from the ages of 17 to 50. A typical work day at Moxley Manor runs from around 4 p.m. to midnight. Alvarado shows up at 4 p.m. to turn on the lights and do a walkthrough of the house to make sure nothing is in need of fixing. Then, the staff members trickle in around 5 p.m..
“I try to keep it a “family” environment, so all the staff members are comfortable around each other,” Alvarado said. “Even though it is a business, I try not to enforce that side to make sure everyone has fun.”
Sipes and the rest of the staff members get ready two hours before the house opens. There are three makeup artists who tend to 40 actors, and everyone has to be in costume, makeup and in place by the time the house opens, which is at 7:30 or 8 p.m. depending on the day. There is a wide variety of characters at Moxley Manor: dolls, zombies, medical patients, clowns and vampires being a few. At Big Top Terror, the costumes are more carnival themed– think clowns.
“Sometimes we’ll do prosthetics, which take a lot longer, but airbrush makeup typically takes around five minutes,” Sipes said.
Sipes helps the staff members with makeup and then gets into her own costume, and she stays in character until the house closes. Sometimes, when the house is in the peak of the season, Sipes will only have 30 seconds to relax before the next group walks through her room.
“The rule is that we have to stay in character the entire time, and we’re not allowed to touch people and they’re not allowed to touch us,” Sipes said. “Usually, if someone says something rude, the rule of thumb is that the actor can say it back.”
However, if the actors sense that a visitor is overwhelmed during the haunt, they will immediately lead him or her to the nearest emergency exit.
Senior Caroline Hogg experienced the haunt firsthand in late September.
“Honestly, I was really nervous because I haven’t ever been to a haunted house before. I thought that I was going to get really scared,” she said.
After the initial shock of the haunt wore off, Hogg was especially impressed by the decor and costumes.
“It was really cool to see how well the makeup and set were done considering the fact that Moxley is fairly new,” Hogg said. “A large amount of the actors were around Hannah’s age and I thought that they all did a really good job playing their roles.”
If you’re scared, Sipes recommends to stay in the center of a group, so the jumpscares won’t be as frightening.
“One time, a group of middle-aged African American women came through the haunt. I approached one and told her that I liked her face, to which she replied “Thanks!” Then I asked if I could try [her face] on, and she booked it out of there.”
In addition to being an employee at the haunt, Sipes is one of the chairs for Halloween decorations this year.
“Working at a haunted house, I have learned how they run and what makes things scary which has helped me planning the Hockaday haunt,” Sipes said. “I do not consider myself more experienced than the other chairs as they also have backgrounds in haunted houses and other things that are useful to planning. The chairs are voted on by the class at the senior retreat.”
If you crave a night full of terror and tricks while also witnessing the work of Hockaday students, head on over to Moxley Manor, located at 510 Harwood Road, Bedford.
Moxley Manor is open from Sep. 23 until Halloween night; although it receives the most foot traffic on the weekends, it is also open on weekdays. It is also open on Christmas, Valentine’s Day and spring break, with corresponding themes.
Currently, there are two houses: the original Moxley Manor and the newly-opened Big Top Terror. One ticket, priced at $23 for general admission, will get you through both houses. Moxley Manor takes about 20 minutes to pass through and Big Top Terror takes around seven to 10 minutes.
Ponette Kim – Asst. News Editor