WEST HAVEN, Utah — Haunted house employees increased safety measures and urged visitors to be respectful after a groping incident turned what is meant to be a scary environment into an unsafe one.
Chainsaws, screams and monsters are the things scary movies and nightmares are made of.
"Machetes that have been dulled, knives, we have baseball bats," listed Haunted Hollows employee Autumn Satterfield.
What makes the environment frightening is just as much mental as it is physical.
"The psychological things we do to scare people, like having different colored lights, having it go indoor, outdoor, indoor, outdoor changing constantly, fogs, lights, sounds—it can put a lot of stress on you if you’re not used to it," Satterfield said.
But between all of the costumes, decor and gore: "Makeup really dehumanizes us," Satterfield said.
It can be hard to tell what's fake, and what's reality.
"I have an ax that I carry with me just because I can,” smiled Maddy Stewart, a fellow employee who acts as the head makeup artist, onsite EMT and security.
Unfortunately, these two claim putting yourself in harms way is just part of the job.
"There’s always going to be that random chance of getting hurt,” Satterfield said.
Over the years Satterfield has spent working in haunted houses she has been threatened, hit, spat on and most recently, groped.
"He just came up, grabbed my breasts and started leaning on me," Satterfield said. "I shoved him to the ground, told him not to touch me... and then he was out of there in the blink of an eye essentially."
Since then, management at Haunted Hollows has amped up their already high security measures.
"The biggest thing is security, we have all of our security officers, we all have walkie-talkies, I could walk through this thing with my eyes closed, like it’s memorized," Stewart said. "If something does happen, which eventually it will, we can react quickly and efficiently and learn from the experience so it doesn’t happen again."
At the end of the night, the employees said it comes down to the visitors knowing the rules, and following them.
"If everybody just walked through and did whatever they want, we wouldn’t stay open," Stewart said. "It makes it harder for us as the actors, the makeup artist, the security company, knowing that every night we come here something might happen."
As long as visitors follow the rules, the only scary thing will be the haunted house.
"At the end of the day the makeup comes off, the costumes come off and we have normal lives just like everybody else does," Satterfield said.
Satterfield did tell law enforcement about the man who groped her. She said he was caught on surveillance footage and she is hopeful he will be found.
Despite the groping, Satterfield said nothing could make her quit.
"Just knowing I can bring that kind of joy, and fear to other people… it makes me happy," she said. "And it doesn’t matter how many times I get cussed at or spat on or whatever, I’ll always love working in haunted houses."