For every freak drawn to Full Moon Productions' annual haunted-house auditions, there's at least one geek. At an August open call, one young man, his long hair tucked inside a do-rag, an even longer beard left uncontained, paces back and forth in front of Amber Arnett Bequeaith and her small staff.
"Do you have a character that you like to perform?" someone asks him.
"No, not really."
"Can you play dead?"
He drops to the floor.
A woman with two-toned hair and tight jeans steps to the front.
"So what can you do?" asks James Dumas, who manages the Beast.
"I can totally sing," the woman says. She begins a fully committed version of Patsy Cline's "Crazy."
Dumas interrupts her: "This isn't American Idol." There's giggling.
"Right, yeah," the woman says. She's not laughing. It turns out that her English accent needs work, too.
The West Bottoms haunted-house operation, Bequeaith says, is a big undertaking.
"We're getting 250 people into makeup and costume every night in two hours or less," she says. They also must hire employees and wrangle volunteers to handle the parking lots, the concession stands, the ticketing. "The theme is carried all the way through," she says — there are supposed to be jolts and chills at every stage of the customer's experience.
"If you aren't going home without a voice or a sore throat, then you aren't doing your job," says Rachel Steen-Hatchet, a performer and makeup artist from Raymore. At 26, she's in her fourth year performing here, working this season at Macabre Cinema for Full Moon Productions. She has always been into drive-in-style onscreen gore, so a haunted house designed to bring horror movies to life is a dream nightmare job. (It's also a nonprofit, and all of the proceeds from admissions go to the Dream Factory.)
To get here, Steen-Hatchet worked her way through the ranks at Full Moon, learning makeup and eventually specializing in latex, prosthetics and detailing. (She makes a mean bruise.) "Rachel is very physical," Bequeaith says. "She leaps around, hangs in doorways, over doorjambs. People don't even know where she is most of the time."
When she isn't leaping about and vamping, the lithe, neon-green-mohawked performer has yet another skill: fire breathing. At regular intervals throughout her shift, she swigs from a 20-ounce bottle of lamp oil and mouth-sprays it into a lighted cloth at the end of a piece of wood.
On this night, the lamp oil dribbles down Steen-Hatchet's chin and onto her thin torso. "It's easier than it looks."