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The key to being a good haunted house actor? Confidence.
“If you’re confident that you’re scary, you’re going to be scary,” says Morgan Tucker, an actress with Haunted Field of Screams, a 40-acre haunted cornfield attraction in Thornton.
Tucker, 23, speaks from experience: She’s been terrifying Coloradans for a decade in various roles.
Her first year on the job as a scare actor, Tucker played a girl imprisoned in a Hannibal Lecter-themed room. In the time since, “I’ve played clowns, I’ve played ringleaders, I’ve been a drill sergeant,” she says.
This season at Haunted Field of Screams, you can catch Tucker roaming as a cannibalist witchy cult leader who made a deal with the devil to gain the powers of necromancy (the ability to communicate with the dead). The character is “very nice and sweet even though there is that creepy, something’s-not-right-here aspect to her,” says Tucker, one of more than 100 actors employed by the scream park in 2022.
With Halloween less than two weeks away—and a handful of large-scale haunted houses operating in the Denver metro area this year—we chatted with Tucker to learn about her passion for horror, her own spooky experiences on the job, advice for haunted house-goers, and more.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
5280: You’ve worked as a haunted house actor for 10 years now. What got you into the industry?
Morgan Tucker: I’ve always been super-duper into horror movies. One of my favorite things to tell people is for my sixth birthday present, my parents gave me the DVD copy of Resident Evil because that’s what I asked for. And I’ve always been super into the spooky, creepy side of life. I enjoy all the aspects of it. I’m not one that can get really super scared myself.
One of the very first dates I went on was to Field of Corpses.(Editor’s Note: Field of Corpses was a haunted house attraction in Arvada that is no longer in operation.) And the guy that I was with was like, ‘Oh, I actually work here.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. I wish I could do that.’ And he’s like, ‘You could!’ And so the very next day, I worked there. I was 13. And I’ve been doing it since then.
I’ve told the Palombos (family) that runs Haunted Field of Screams, where I’ve worked for eight years, that I will do it until I’m physically unable to do it anymore. It is my favorite thing. I plan for it eight months out of the year, just making the costumes and the character ideas, going through and helping with props, trying to figure out different scenes and scenarios, helping train new actors, things like that.
Can you explain what draws you to spooky things?
Truthfully, I have no idea. My sister got married recently, and I took over a scrapbook to her. We were going back through it, and there’s a picture of me outside the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. And my mom had made a little note that said, “Of course, this is Morgan’s favorite.” I was two years old.
Part of it is, I am just good at it. I’ve always been super-duper light on my feet. I have three older siblings, and I sneak around corners without trying to and scare them. And it was just always that little jump in my heart, like, Ha! I got you.
Where do you find inspiration for your creepy characters?
I am a little-bit-of-an-everything nerd. So I love horror movies. I absolutely love reading Stephen King—one of my favorite stories is The Shining. And outside of that, I also play a lot of horror video games. I also dabble in some creative writing, where I come up with my own characters.
What’s it like to scare people on a nightly basis?
It’s very freeing, which sounds a little weird. But it’s a place to be myself without any weird judgment. Everyone there is so weird and eclectic. And we all love it for each other. So we have our moments of like, ‘You’re so weird.’ But we just always take it as a compliment, because what’s the point of being normal?
What do you do when you’re not scaring people?
I work the daytime corn maze. (Editor’s note: Haunted Field of Screams doubles as the non-scary Maize in the City during the day.) And I work at an emergency vet clinic in Westminster. I know several other haunt actors that have worked in veterinary before. One of my very good friends who is a haunt actor is also a paramedic. And another one works as a counselor for kids in high school. We come from so many different walks of life.
What’s the best thing about your job as a haunted house actor?
My favorite part of it is just interacting [with visitors]. Whether or not I get the scare, if I just get to have a really interesting, weird conversation with someone, then either way, I’m happy, and I’m having a good time.
What types of conversations are you having in a haunted house?
They’re very interesting. I’ve had quite a few conversations of how you can make human body parts into delicious meals. [Laughs.] I went to culinary school, so I know all the different aspects of things needed for that, so people get a little creeped out by that.
You mentioned that it takes a lot for you to get scared. What does scare you?
The only thing that truthfully gives me the heebie jeebies, and I for sure don’t want a lot to do with, is ghosts and paranormal things. Which is very funny because I am also a bit of an amateur ghost hunter. I’ve gone to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, [a former mental hospital in West Virginia], and done some amateur ghost hunting with a ghost hunting group.
I’ve had a few [scary] experiences at Haunted Field of Screams, since we are so close to Riverdale Road. (Editor’s Note: Riverdale Road is an 11-mile road from Thornton to Brighton that is long-rumored to be haunted.) There’s been several times that you can hear footsteps in the corn, and when you look down the rows, there’s not even anyone in there. Not even anyone close. There has been a sight of an apparition that no one knew if they were an actor or not—that was in the wooded area, and that was just this year. And so there’s been some things, nothing that’s like 100 percent, yeah, that seems very paranormal. But there are definitely some instances where we were like, I don’t think that was 100 percent natural.
What advice would you give to haunted-house-goers?
I have so many people that are like, ‘I’m so scared. I’m so scared. I don’t know why I’m doing this.’ And I’m like, ‘If you just talk to people, they’ll be nice.’ We don’t always want to hear the screams; we are happy to also just have a conversation with you.
If you go: Haunted Field of Screams (10451 McKay Road, Thornton) is open now through Oct 31. $30-$40. Find more information on tickets, hours, and more online.