SALT LAKE CITY — A haunted house is only as good as the actors working inside, and the Fear Factory is going the extra mile to make sure visitors are frightened this fall.
It's the site of the old Portland Cement Factory; built in the 1800s, the location is ideal for a haunted house. Operators brought in a professional stage mentalist, Paul Draper, to teach the cast members how to size up guests and determine what scares them.
"They're actually looking at each customer individually and interpreting each interaction with them, what would be the best way to scare that person," said Heidi Dunfield, casting manager at the Fear Factory.
Draper calls himself a mentalist anthropologist. He does stage and TV shows while also working with leaders and CEOs at big companies.
"I teach people how to have super memory, how to tell when people are lying and how to read people's body language," Draper said.
He held a workshop this week with actors at the Fear factory, teaching them to focus on the individual customer. He specifically taught the haunted house's actors how to look for little things and then capitalize on them.
"There's a wide range of fears that people have," Draper said. "What I want to work with the actors to do is help them pinpoint what the individual fears, so that they can continue to experience that and energize that on the haunt."
Draper said there are core fears humans have, like loud noises and monsters.
"We're afraid of things that are going to eat us, things that are going to attack us, sounds that are coming from nowhere," he said.
Actor Scott Maddix said just listening to a group of people as they work their way through the dozens of rooms can help create a big surprise.
"We have our own areas and zones we're in, but we can keep an eye on them and track them," Maddix said. "Sometimes we can run through the back secret corridors and whisper in someone's ear."
The Fear Factory opens Friday Sept. 13. The haunted house said it's still looking for actors — as many as 150 actors haunt visitors each night of the season.