If death, ghouls, body mortification and severed heads intrigue you rather than make you want to vomit, you may want to consider a career in the horror industry.
There’s something bizarrely rewarding about scaring the bejesus out of someone – imagine that hilarious and smug feeling, and then think about getting paid for it.
Tempted? We speak to three people who do just this for a living as creepy tour guides, gross-out merchants and in the legitimate (spooky) theatre…
Peter Davis, Ghost Bus Tours
Having started out in the industry in his twenties, Davis has already worked in horror for a decade. He says he’s had a fascination with the genre ever since he would stare at slasher movie covers as a kid and wonder what was inside.
“When I was 15, I went to the London Dungeon and thought, ‘I want to work there!’” he recalls. “After I’d been to drama school I auditioned [for the tourist attraction] and worked as an actor there for a few years – it was the perfect job-in-between-acting-jobs.”
Davis is now the creative director of a horror tour that takes tourists on a frightful ride around London’s haunted sites and burial grounds in a black double decker bus.
“It’s a comedy-horror show, so there are a lot of laughs to be had in among the scares, and that often gets the best reaction,” he says. “You lull someone into a false sense of security with the comedy, then try to scare the crap out of them!”
Someone in this line of work earns £18k-22k a year. Davis explains the best way to get a career in horror would be to “just jump in wherever you can”. He adds, in trademark sinister fashion: “Once you’re in… there’s no turning back.”
Cue evil laugh here. Davis enjoys that he works in an industry that is full of eccentrics.
“[The public] think I’m a tour guide who’s a bit of a weirdo… they assume that I just have fun all the time,” he says. “Which to be fair, I kind of do.”
Ayesha Hussain, body torturer
A rare breed, Hussain gets paid to shock people and make them wince, and she absolutely lives for it.
“My job is pretty fucking awesome,” she says. “I travel the world, and generally get paid to abuse myself.”
Hussain got a taste for the macabre when she worked at a Playboy club and saw ‘specialist’ acts performing.
“I thought they were cool,” Hussain says. She sought advice from Preacher Muad’dib (world record holder for holding a lawnmower on his face) and four years of performing later she earns a crust putting broken glass and other things up her nose.
It sounds like Jackass all over again, but the shocks are delivered as part of a glamorous show. She’s even appeared on stage with Busta Rhymes and Kayne West.
Hussain admits the pay – enough to “cover the bills” – may not match the risks involved with her work, but it’s worth it: “It takes thick skin to be in the horror industry, in my case in more ways than one,” she jokes.
“Some of the routines and the props I use are very dangerous: it’s ‘don’t-try-this-at-home’ kind of stuff.”
But she insists there’s nothing better than getting “paid to do shit that I love”.
Stewart Pringle, Horror Festival
Gore-hound Pringle is not only the producer of the London Horror Festival; he’s also the co-artistic director of the stage group, Theatre Of The Damned.
He used to make horror films with his friends at school and spent the majority of his spare time scaring himself silly: “I was always buried in a musty old book of Victorian or Edwardian [era] ghost stories or watching Peter Cushing beat seven shades of shit out of ghouls in a Hammer Horror film.”
Now he turns those out-there ideas into stage works: “You live for the moments when the audience is jumping out of their seats and fainting in the aisles.”
Putting on the festival doesn’t pay Pringle “a penny”, but he says it’s not about the money, and adds you’d be hard-pressed to find a more sociable genre than horror.
“Ideas are hatched over a few pints at the pub, and then you get to watch them develop as they make their way to the stage. Hopefully people enjoy it, or they’ll dismiss us as sick weirdos – either is fine by me.”
A good way to get experience in the horror industry is to volunteer at a zombie chase.
The post-apocalyptic scenario games – where people pay to be chased about by zombies – are popping up all over the country and companies such as 2.8 Hours Later offer the chance to be one of their undead.
Apply on the website and attend a zombie trial. If you pass, you’ll get kitted out in costume and make-up and chase for three hours a night. Work one night and you get a free ticket to play the game another night. Bonus!
Photos: Anna Soderblom; Ayesha Hussain and Proud Cabaret
This article is taken from the TNT Archives.