Jesus Nunez gives new meaning to the phrase “odd job.”
He works in a swamp that teems with lizard women and animatronic frights. Beyond the butcher shop, past the crowd of feasting cannibals, near the crackling electric room where victims fry—that’s where you’ll find him.
It’s a fifteen-minute tour of terror. Guests only visit Nunez’s domain for about thirty seconds, but he always makes an impression.
He’s the Man with the Pipe—a scarred, growling creature, one of the numerous performers working at Scarywood Haunted Nights—and he loves it.
“I get paid to scare people,” said Nunez, 21, biology, Cartagena, Colombia. “It’s awesome.”
Nunez initially auditioned to be a clown, but he ended up in Blood Bayou.
“Not to brag,” Nunez said, with a sly grin, “but it’s the most popular haunt.”
While he might not be the most physically imposing person around, Nunez said, his costume helps in that department: His jumpsuit, makeup and mask give him an instant air of menace. Stuttering strobe lights turn his haunt into a surreal netherworld, adding to the effect. But the scares don’t just come from Nunez’s surroundings. His guttural growls, wide-eyed stares and head movements are what really sell the scare.
If guests could glimpse Nunez between groups, they’d be surprised. When he has no one to scare, Nunez occupies himself by practicing sign language and dances around with his pipe, twirling it like a cane.
Nunez said that Scarywood performers have some training sessions, though they don’t focus on how to terrorize guests. Instead, they learn how to avoid getting injured by frightened, flailing guests. (Nunez has been elbowed and head-butted during his time at Scarywood, but he hasn’t sustained any serious injuries.)
It was during the “dry run” week before Scarywood opened to the public that Nunez started discovering the persona of the Man with the Pipe. Employees from one half of the park visited the haunts of the other half, and vice versa, sampling the scares and practicing their technique.
As for his technique, Nunez says that he just “wings it.”
“I just kind of switch it on,” he said. “‘Time to be scary.’ That’s all I think.”
Scarywood performers are told to keep their eyes peeled for “suspicious behavior,” Nunez said—people who appear to be drunk, or who look like they might become violent. But the guests sometimes surprise him.
“I’ve learned not to judge people,” Nunez said. “Sometimes it’s the opposite of what you expect. The people you think are nice can be the rudest.”
Scarywood Haunted Nights was scheduled to close Oct. 27, but, due to popular demand, will remain open Nov. 2 and 3. For more information, visit www.scarywoodhaunt.com.