Jennifer’s Story: Interview With A Haunt Artist

Meet Jennifer Burns. Prop maker. Full-time Scene Designer. Body Paint Model. Dark Artist. Mother of two boys who love Halloween just about as much as she does. Interested? Read on…

Were you excited about Halloween/Haunted Houses/Scary Movies as a child? What do you remember about those early years?

Yes. Extremely excited as a kid. Before the age of 10, I remember going to a huge Halloween party with my parents and my sister. We all had costumes and my Dad, dressed in a black robe, took one of our baby dolls and filled it with pea green something. LOL. When he squeezed her belly, it would fly out of her mouth….it was great.

I remember seeing the exorcist as a kid, it’s the only movie that really scared me…..and I still have a hard time watching it.

I never went to haunted houses as a kid, but I remember going to the “land of make believe” with the family.They had a building with just a black and orange pumpkin silhouette painted on the outside. On the inside it was pitch black….no actors. My sister seriously froze. My dad had to push her through until the end. I laughed the whole time.


How did you get interested in the art of make-up and building props?

I looked into doing props when my ex wanted to get his haunted hay ride started about 5 years ago. I did research online and at the library for about a year and a half before he opened. I still do a lot of research and I built my first official haunt props at his haunt with‘great-stuff’ skulls, a monster mud lady with my mom’s old wedding dress mourning on a big headstone, and Paper Mache tombstones. I love simple old school materials!


Where do you work now? Is Halloween your full-time career?

I am currently at the Dorney Park Haunt. It’s my 3rd season and I usually start in late January and work until November 1st. It’s my main job and I love it. The people I work with are absolutely wonderful and they have all taught me soooo much.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge in the Haunt Industry today?

This is a tough one. Other than the weather, which challenges everybody, I would say….fire codes. Which I believe (I know some people won’t like this) that it is better to be safe than sorry. No matter what- customer safety first.


How do you keep your creative inspiration alive?

Movies, music, the news and history- anything about the past or present. The news and history are the most horrifying but I love realism.


Do your children enjoy Halloween and Haunting?

Yes and yes!!! Both of them have acted at my ex’s haunted hayride last year, which they were incredibly awesome and scary. I am proud to say that my little guy (9) would sit outside in front of a port-a-potty and act like he was crying and lost his dad. When concerned guests would try to come to his aid, my older son (14) was hiding inside and would kick the door open! While running and yelling as loud as he could! Worked every time. They did very well together as a team. Porta- Potties are gross but they are boys…they do stuff like that.

We all get into character to go to the local parades…even though we aren’t in the parades. We just sit on the sidewalk -havin’ fun and gettin’ the candy!!! The down part is…it’s my busy time doing the make up on the weekends that doesn’t let us enjoy hayrides or haunts as much as I would like to….sacrifices.


What has been the most challenging work in your career as a Dark Artist?

It would have to be, without a doubt, the interactive haunt I participated in with Mike Krausert of Nightmare New England and his wonderful crew at Transworld 2011. It was a 6 room haunt in 4 days on the show floor. I flew out there, checked into my room, changed my clothes, and then right to work. We started by painting all the walls black and worked until about 1a.m. I thought that was crazy, but it got crazier. One of the best times in my life. It was so worth every minute, and I can’t wait to see if we can do it again !!!


What was it like being a Body Paint model?

I have done that twice now. Once about 20 years ago….and at the Midwest Haunters Convention 2011. It’s funny how you can’t see gravity, until you look in the mirror. It was still fun and I met some great people and awesome artists. Matthew Seel is a great artist and I would love to work with him again, even though airbrushing can be extremely cold to the skin.


What does the future hold for Jennifer Burns?

Hopefully a lot. Mainly I have been wanting to do some scene work for horror photography…I have a few twisted ideas in my mind.


Name 3 of your favorite horror or haunt websites/books/shows?

Hauntspace: first website I found. I learned all the basics there and then some. A great group of creative and talented people hang out there and I have met quite a few of them at some of the conventions.

Stephen King Books: I grew up on those books…

The Walking Dead: they brought us the revolution of the zombie…how can you not love that ??? You never see zombies climbing fences in older movies.


Please give the readers some words of inspiration on becoming a leader in the Haunt Industry?

Start learning, keep learning , and then learn some more….live it, love it, and never stop.

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