Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401


Happening Now
  • First Day of School for Students: Aug. 12
  • New Student Invasion: Aug. 8 from 1-4 p.m.
Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401


Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401



Photo by Sydney Webb
Communications senior Skye Lenkersdorf poses in costume as “Test Subject #001666,” the character she plays this year at Fright Nights. Each year, returning scare actors take on new roles and join new houses. “My costume is a hospital patient who was subject to abusive tests and medical malpractice,” Lenkersdorf said. “A lot of special paint techniques and fraying go into making the costume look as real as possible. I just pop in some scary contact lenses to make [myself] look creepier.”

As the 7 p.m. sun sets, a sea of visitors waits with tickets in hand behind the gates of the South Florida Fairgrounds. Inside, escape rooms, food trucks, and rides stand beside the main attraction: four new haunted houses and over 100 scare actors. Many of those actors, covered in shadows, makeup, and costumes, are Dreyfoos’ own students.

Since its founding over 16 years ago, Fright Nights has attracted thousands across South Florida and scared just as many. Some of those who visit Fright Nights are inspired to join the team behind the scares.

“I remember going [to Fright Nights] for the first time was like the coolest thing ever,” visual junior Alexis Hunter said. “I just wanted to be a part of it.”

Every year, Fright Nights releases a casting call on their website and Facebook page, inviting people to be a part of the annual event. Each scare actor takes on a specific role.

“Last year, I was a doll in a box,” communications junior Annaka Bourque said. “This year, I’m a half zombie. Every year, we have different houses and different themes. They just place you with your certain role in a house.”

Fright Nights, which takes place on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays during Oct. involves a lot of work behind the scenes. Dreyfoos students who participate in the event arrive at the Fairgrounds hours before the event to prepare for the night ahead.

“We get there at four, so I go right from school,” Hunter said. “We have to be in full makeup and costume before we can clock in.”

Although dress rehearsals begin early, scare actors are not fully clothed in costume and makeup for the first time until opening night. Makeup, along with the unique elements of each house, plays an important role in making scare actors feel fully transformed into a new being.

“You have to really jump into your character the first night,” communications senior Skye Lenkersdorf said. “It seems like most of the people are more comfortable when they’re in full makeup, the house is turned on, and the lights are coming through. It overcomes them, and then they’re in their characters.”

As groups of visitors walk through each haunted house, scare actors enter a mindset that poises them for success. They must seize each opportunity to terrify their guests.

“Every two minutes, a group will come through,” Bourque said. “You have a minute to fix yourself, and you have to plan everything. You just have to focus … and realize how fast time goes by when you’re doing [your scare] over and over again.”

Between constantly performing their scare on visitors and staying in the hot environment without air conditioning, scare actors use the few breaks they get each night to their fullest advantage.

“Breaks are only 10 minutes,” Lenkersdorf said. “You have to get a lot done in your break. You have to get water, relax, [and] sit down.”

The effort of scaring is shared among scare actors through a system of coordination and linked rooms within the haunted houses.

“It’s all a cooperative thing,” Bourque said. “Some people work together; there’s a zombie and I’m a half zombie. [We] work off each other. It helps take off all the pressure.”

Scare actors lie in wait for visitors to enter their houses. Sometimes they stay in the dark and heat, in uncomfortable positions for several minutes at a time. But when they pull off a genuine scare, it all becomes worth it.

“There’s nothing better than scaring someone really well, making someone cry because they’re so scared, or making someone pass out or hit a wall,” Hunter said. “I made someone scream so loudly one night that someone in another room said that they could hear it, and that was fantastic. I love that feeling.”

Fright Nights brings together people from many different backgrounds to share one common experience: sheer terror. Dreyfoos students who act there get to experience the feeling firsthand.

“You get so many diverse people coming through the houses, and everyone gets scared in a different way,” Lenkersdorf said. “It’s just really fun to find all these different, unique ways to scare different types of people.”

The crew behind all of the scares shares a bond of experience from all the nights spent scaring visitors together.

“Once you get to know everyone, it’s just like a big family,” Bourque said. “We all get along really well. In the end, it’s really worth it, despite how much work it is.”

In the end, transforming into something new and evoking raw fear in others is a life-changing experience. Fright Nights serves not only as a platform to pursue one’s passions, but also to pour out one’s soul.

“[Fright Nights] has gotten me out of my shell,” Lenkersdorf said. “It just makes you feel more outgoing and free. You get to let out all that energy and anger that you experienced all the day. You know, you go to school, and you have all this drama and stress, and then at night, you get to release it and go crazy.”

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About the Contributor
George Wu
George Wu, Editor In Chief
George Wu is a third-year staffer and a co-editor-in-chief of The Muse and is also the managing editor of Seeds Literary & Arts Magazine. He loves tungsten, learning foreign languages, succumbing to the YouTube recommendation algorithm by watching many TED-Ed videos one after another and being politically active. He knows the power and necessity of honest reporting and wants to do everything he can to champion it. If you want to contact this editor, you may reach them at [email protected]
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