top of page

“The Life of a Markoff’s Haunted Forest Employee”

By: Meghan Dower

DICKERSON, MD, 2 October- 5 November 2021-


For most people, at least within the United States, they think of Halloween, decorations, chilly air,  and colorful leaves when they think of October. However, when I think of it, I think of all of the time and effort I’ve spent as a seasonal scare actress at Markoff’s Haunted Forest in Dickerson, Maryland. It is here at Markoff’s where I have spent many sleepless October nights fighting the cold of autumn to bring our patrons the best interactive scare I could muster, and I am not alone. Year after year, many “average people,” or freaks as we call ourselves at work, come back to Markoff’s ready to transform ourselves anew every weekend for the whole month so that the public can experience their own house of horrors. After years of working here, I realized it isn’t the forest, sound effects, makeup, or the sets that make Markoff’s what it is today; it is the dedication the staff puts into their work every night that makes this place so addictive. Many of us, like Traci and Eric, have been working here ten plus years despite the many incidents that can and have occurred on the job. That being said, even though this job may look like all fun and games, it is a real job and can have real-world implications, which many patrons don’t realize when walking through. 

Given this, my photo essay follows what it’s like behind the scenes in a day in the life of a Markoff’s scare actor. In this essay, I walk you through what a typical day looks like for me as I share the situations and people I frequently encounter. To start, it is important to note that we as staff are very separated by choice, mainly based upon how long you’ve been working there, how well other actors perceive you to be, who you know, and what area of work you are based in (such as makeup, front circle, town, trail, ticketing, etc.). Despite having worked here for only five years, I am fortunate enough to be considered one of the “senior trail actors” among the staff, given that I have worked closely with Jeremy, a Markoff’s legend that many patrons know by name due to his insane backbends, in the Church scene. Thanks to Jeremy, he has introduced me to other senior trail staff such as Traci, Eric, Qua, Chad, and Olivia, along with Sabrina (a makeup artist and tickets person), who are all people I interact with each weekend. Each night each individual is assigned a “call time” based on where they need to be in the forest; however, Jeremy and I always show up early to try and attempt to get our favorite makeup artists. From there, we suit up in our costumes and walk the trail without anyone in it so that we can get a feel for each scene. During this time, Jeremey gets fully into character. After that, we and the rest of the staff head to the front circle by the fires for our “front circle” meeting before the night officially begins, where the staff discusses various topics such as what to look out for, how many people are expected, and so on. Then it is off to the races until the end of the night, in which we conclude it with another “front circle meeting” where people are recognized for doing well and the inevitable issues that occurred. Usually, when the rest of the group is talking, Jeremy, Traci, Sabrina, and I discuss the worst parts of the night that typically include racist, sexist, and homophobic comments people decided to call some of us solely based on our appearances. Finally, we are all sent home to recharge for our next night of work. We do this each weekend from the beginning of October all the way through Halloween. Then, to celebrate, the Markoffs hold a staff party on the first weekend of November in which we all get paid and are given a chance to get to know one another. Usually, during these parties, the staff intermingles with other work zones and discusses how their season went. Fortunately enough, this season only had a few physical altercations and fewer than usual offensive comments. With that in mind, I would like you all to remember that the next time you interact with a live actor or actress, we are humans too trying to provide you with a service, so we would appreciate you treating us like we are ones.

bottom of page