I Worked At One Of The Creepiest Haunted Houses In The World And It Was Terrifying

I Worked At One Of The Creepiest Haunted Houses In The World And It Was Terrifying

Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a hardcore fan of all things morbid. Whether it’s Halloween time or the middle of April, I’m always down for a spooky time.

One of my spooky passions is haunted houses. Over the years, I’ve visited quite a few (and have a long list of others to visit), but this year I wanted to try something different: I wanted to be *in* one.


Here I am after experiencing a show in the Chicago suburbs. Please note my broken necklace, which happened somewhere between entering and exiting the house.

Luckily, last year I met the owner of a haunted house near Chicago called Realm of Terror. When I reached out to him about my dream of being in a haunted house, he was 100% supportive.

Instagram: @annacatkopsky

Here I am last October, experiencing Realm of Terror as a guest. I loved it so much that I walked through not once, but twice!

Steve Kristof, who owns Realm of Terror, worked with me to determine a date. I expressed that I’d always dreamed of getting spooky makeup done professionally, because my past endeavors on myself have been… less than impressive:

Instagram: @annacatkopsky

He said all of their makeup artists were fantastic, and we settled on October 5th for my special day. His only instructions were to wear clothing that could potentially get ruined, along with comfortable shoes. Then, I patiently waited for my big night.

Since Realm of Terror’s show starts at 7:00 p.m., I arrived at 6:00 to go over logistics before getting my makeup done. We walked through the space before any actors were inside so I could get my bearings.

Photos by Anna Kopsky, haunted house by Realm of Terror

Even though it was still light outside and no one was trying to scare me, the house was TERRIFYING. I jumped and screamed several times. That’s how you know this place is a masterpiece: Realm of Terror is scary without the actors, and is absolutely terrifying with them.

To start, I was introduced to Odie Schaefer, who’d be one of my go-to leaders for the night. Then, the magic finally started when I met casting director Sandy Howard in the costume room.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed, Photo by Anna Kopsky, haunted house by Realm of Terror

The show was about to start, so the costume area was fairly empty. Sandy sifted through a handful of outfits before laying eyes on this fake blood-spattered Calvin Klein dress and just saying, “Yes. This is for you.” I was HONORED. I mean, LOOK AT IT!!!

After changing, I met my makeup artist, Nick Fischer. I told him no amount of makeup or gore was off limits.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

As Nick prepped my makeup, another artist a few chairs over informed me that Nick actually has a pretty snazzy resumé, from being a contestant on Season 12 of Face Off, to makeup artistry on Teen Wolf, to art for shows like Chicago P.D. — so, basically, I was in the presence of greatness.

Then, we began. Nick started my bloody makeover with best brow gel I’ve ever had on my face: a glue stick!!!

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

It made my brows look even more fabulous than the $18 stuff I use daily. Can you believe?!

Next, he flawlessly airbrushed my entire face, neck, and arms, until it looked like I’d crawled right out of Evil Dead.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

He made airbrushing skin look effortless. I felt like a sculpture in an art museum.

And though Nick’s airbrush artistry was truly a magical sight, he didn’t stop there, because he’s a pro. I believe his next words were, “your teeth are too pretty,” and then he did this:

Instagram: @annacatkopsky, Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

Though it looks like I drank 89 cups of coffee and didn’t brush my teeth for four years, the truth is actually that Nick painted my teeth with something simply called “Teeth Dye.” Cute, right?

Of course blood is an absolute must when working a haunted house, so I closed my eyes and basically allowed myself to take a shower in it.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

The blood did not dry for hours… or maybe I was sweating too much. Who’s to say?

And finally, to top it all off was a conditioning hair protein to make my hair goopy, wet, and dry, ALL AT THE SAME TIME:

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

All for the final product. The big reveal. The most magical moment:

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

HOW INCREDIBLE OF A JOB DID NICK DO?! I truly looked like I crawled out of a grave, which was the goal.

After what was really surprisingly only about 30 minutes of makeup and getting dressed, it was time to start scaring. I began around 7:45, and told myself I’d only scare ’til about 10:30 p.m. before heading home. Little did I know how addicting the experience would be.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

I was introduced to Jeff Standeven, who’d be showing me the ropes for the night by bringing me to all the best scaring spots. We started outside near the ticket booth, where I practiced my scariness by standing behind people and growling at them.

Since there is no script at Realm of Terror, I was encouraged to say or do whatever felt therapeutic or creepy. My family loves to make fun of my cackle-filled laugh on a daily basis, so after growling at people, my laugh was my go-to noise for most of the night.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

I experienced scaring in about five or six different locations in the house — including one room where I literally stood among fake hanging body bags while I danced — but one spot stood out to me in particular, and that room was actually a hallway.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

It looked like an ordinary hallway, but three or four feet up the sides were wooden planks running along the wall, just wide enough for each of my feet. I stood up on one of the planks and hid behind the door, so when people came through the hallway, I would LOOM over them, and they couldn’t pass unless they crouched.

This was the most fun part of the house for several reasons:

👻 I could literally follow people the length of the hallway, cackling and making them listen to the laugh my brother loves to make fun of me for.

👻 It was seriously the best workout I’ve had in awhile, because I had to hold my body up on each plank and run, and sometimes squat.

👻 One woman actually lay on the ground when I screamed above her head. I felt like a pro.

Soon I realized I’d lost track of time because I was so engaged in everything going on. I ended up staying until closing time at midnight (so almost a full five hours!), even though I’d initially said 10:30 was my cutoff time.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

I was actually very thrilled that I’d made it to the end of the night, because that meant I could meet other people and get some makeup removal tips.

Instagram: @annacatkopsky

I was exhausted, sore, sweaty, sticky, and 100% exhilarated. After relaxing, I ate pizza that was kindly ordered for the cast. Then some of the makeup artists showed me how to remove my makeup by using something called isopropyl myristate and spraying it onto a baby wipe. The process took about 10-15 minutes plus a few baby wipes. I was pretty devastated to remove my makeup, because I probably could’ve proudly worn it forever. Plus, I was so sad to go home.

After all was said and done, I finally got home around 2:00 in the morning. Here is the face of a tired woman who’s had her dreams come true:

Instagram: @annacatkopsky, Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

It’s been a little over a week and I have told every person I know about this experience. As a fan of all things dark and twisted, it’s been one of my absolute dreams to get all made up and goopy, and to just scream my lungs out without consequences. Plus, knowing that people paid to hear us all scream that night is wild to me.

I also have an incredible amount of respect for people who work in this industry, from those who start with a concept to those who run around all night long, in front of and behind the scenes. If my legs were sore from one night here, I can’t imagine the pride and exhaustion of people who work here on a regular basis.

I think I’ll always be nostalgic for this experience, but luckily, I’ve been invited back, so I may take them up on their offer. If ever you cannot find me, please just assume I have run away and joined the haunted house industry.

Nicole Gronek for BuzzFeed

Special thanks to:

Realm of Terror in Round Lake Beach, Illinois, for scaring me and welcoming me; Steve Kristof, owner of Realm of Terror and overall rad person; Nicole Gronek, my photographer and absolute best friend; Nick Fischer, my makeup artist who impresses the heck out of me; Jeff Standeven, for being my leader throughout the night and being patient with me; and Odie Schaefer for being one of my go-to humans for the night. You all rock!

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