Hangman’s House of Horrors nearly hung up the noose for good in 2013. That year, former owner D’Ann Dagen was preparing to retire and asked Scott Laughlin to play the role of the Hangman for what fans thought would be the haunted house’s final year. Of course, Laughlin said yes.
But, thanks to local demand and Allen Sturgeon stepping in to become the new owner, Hangman’s didn’t close. Instead, it remained open, moved to its current location on Blue Mound Road, and is now celebrating its 30th season of bringing scares — and raising money for local charities like a Wish with Wings and Victory Therapy Center.
And, still playing the title role is Laughlin — firefighter by day and haunted house actor by night. He stopped by the Fort Worth Magazine office to chat about life as the man behind the mask.
Q. How much time does it take to get into the costume?
A. Not much. Clothes, makeup, mask, noose, gloves. Ten to 15 minutes.
Q. Your character is a little different from the others, in that you’re not confined to a single room in the haunted house — you can show up anywhere. Do you have a strategy when it comes to scaring?
A. I start while people are standing in line for tickets. If I know I’ve gotten a good scare on some people from the get-go, I’ll keep my eye on them all night long. I’ll catch them off guard. Sometimes I get off track, and I lose them; then I’ll catch up with them somewhere. They’re like, “How in the world? Are there more than one of you?” There are different back hallways, so I can pop in and out.
Q. Have you ever broken character?
A. There may be one or two times that I’ve broken character, like it’s a friend that I saw, and they didn’t know that I was the Hangman, so I broke character to say hi to them.
Q. Has working for a haunted house changed the way you visit haunted houses?
A. Yes. I look at the design of the haunted house and how well the actors play their role. For Hangman’s House of Horrors, we use lots of live actors; we have a theme that goes along throughout the whole house. There are other haunted houses that may have animatronics — they use machines to try to scare people. Those are neat, but whenever you’re in a haunted house with live actors, then you go to one that’s got animatronics, it’s just totally different. It’s a different scare. When it comes to a haunted house, not many times do I ever get scared, because I know. I’ve got my head on swiveled 360 all the time, and I know my surroundings.
Q. Has there ever been a time you were scared at your own haunted house?
A. There was one night I walked through the clowns’ room, and one of the clown actors popped out of an area that I know is definitely a common pop-out place. He caught me off guard and scared me. There have been a couple times when a customer’s come up, caught me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. Other than that, I don’t get scared all that often.
Q. What does scare you?
A. In real life, I guess, I’m terrified of snakes.
Q. So you’re like Indiana Jones?
A. Yeah. Terrified of snakes in real life, but in the haunt business, there’s not much. I do the scare, and they don’t scare me.
Q. Do you have a day job?
A. I’m a fireman for Erath County Fire. Then I volunteer for Spring Creek Fire Department, which is south of Weatherford. I also work in the emergency room at Harris Methodist HEB as an EMT.
Q. Any advice for aspiring scare-ers?
A. Find a character you would like to be and practice playing the role of that character. There are actors’ training workshops at Hangman’s that you can attend.
1. Noose. Can’t be Hangman without it.
2. Original Hangman’s mask. The original mask had a simpler look that mimicked the executioner masks worn during Medieval times.
3. Leather mask. Jason Aston, a fellow Hangman’s actor who runs around with a chainsaw, created the leather mask that the Hangman wears.
4. Baseball cap. When he’s not in costume, Scott says he’s almost always wearing a baseball cap.
5. “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th.” Scott’s favorite horror movies.
6. Gloves. Scott’s own from home.
7. Drawstring bags. Where he keeps it all.