Jillian Mansolino, 21, and Jack Horne, 24, appear to be normal, everyday people. By day, Mansolino is a student at California State University - Fullerton, works at a restaurant and has an internship at a daycare. Meanwhile, Horne spends much of his time hunting for jobs and hanging out with friends. However, they have one secret they haven’t publicly shared until now: they’re both monsters at Knott’s Scary Farm.
Knott’s Berry Farm turns into Knott’s Scary Farm on designated nights where it provides guests with horror festivities. On these nights, Mansolino and Horne arrive at 6 p.m., get their makeup done and adopt a new persona as a monster. When the park reopens later in the evening, there’s a different vibe as monsters wander around the premise, mazes tempt daring guests and shows with blood and gore come into play. Ghost Town is drenched in fog, cobwebs decorate much of the park, and some rides are revamped with frightening decorations.
Mansolino and Horne usually work all four days, eight hours per day with a half hour break. They are both tricksters, which is a new kind of monster Knott’s Scary Farm has to offer this year. As tricksters, they are allowed to touch guests lightly and have the freedom to roam around the entire park. They can even going on rides.
Horne described tricksters as “brats you didn’t want to be seen with that cause mayhem and trouble. We’re the kids who go around toilet papering houses and stuff.” These monsters don’t have a hard time scaring guests because, as Horne explained, “When you get your makeup on, if you wear your mask, you can be whoever you want.”
Monsters arrive two hours early to get ready for the park’s opening. Knott’s provides professional makeup artists that apply makeup and prosthetics to the actors’ faces, making them look completely different. “My friends don’t even recognize me when I’m in character,” said Mansolino.
At the park, Horne dresses in a full, one-piece skeleton outfit. To describe his character, he said, “I’m a bully. I go around and ruin everyone’s fun, and [I] don’t like having fun. I’m always straight faced. I’m always serious, always. You get in my way for the most part, I’ll shoulder chuck you out of my way. It doesn’t matter to me. We’ll take maps, straws, rip them up in front of you just because I don’t care.”
Mansolino laughed as she described her sexier character. “I’m pretty much El Vira, but purple, so I have a slit on my dress all the way up to my upper thigh. I’m a vampire, so I have teeth, and we’re like undead zombies.”
Mansolino originally became a monster at Knott’s Scary Farm because Knott’s needed to hire someone who looked like her friend’s mom, an entertainment employee. Horne, on the other hand, said, “I was dragged into it by my best friends.”
The application process to become a monster has changed since Horne’s first year as a monster. He said, “It used to be if you could work the hours…and you had a clear background, they had no problem working with you, and they’ll give you a spot. Now, there are actually auditions.” There are several different positions to audition for, and each audition varies. To be tricksters, Mansolino and Horne had to perform a monologue and improv a scenario. With their experience in acting in a theatre, this was no problem for them.
A typical night for all the monsters involves venturing together around the park, interacting with guests and creeping them out. Mansolino explained, “We’re acting-based because we don’t focus on scares. We’re not really meant to scare.”
Even though these “acting-based” monsters aren’t meant to scare, they occasionally do. Horne recalled his most memorable scare when he was working as a clown on the boardwalk: “I’ve actually had someone wheeled out in a wheelchair. Like, she wouldn’t move because she was psychologically scarred.”
On that night, a couple of guests came up to Horne and asked him to scare one of their friends. He snuck up behind the friend and whispered her name. When the girl turned around, she was so scared that she started crying and froze. She then proceeded to curl into a ball and lift her legs. Horne recalled, “She had the most amazing ab workout because she wouldn’t move for an hour.”
Sometimes, celebrities even grace the park to get spooked. “I got to hang out with Neil Patrick Harris,” said Mansolino. “He’s adorable. I didn’t scare him last year. It was good to hang out with people.”
Although scaring people usually produces laughs and screams, it can also make guests react unpleasantly. “You don’t want to mess with that one person who’s just going to come up and deck you in the face,” said Mansolino. If the monsters provoke and scare the wrong person, things can take a turn for the worst.
Horne revealed, “I’ve had a knife pulled on me before.” As scary as that might sound, he and Mansolino both agreed that sometimes you just have to take risks as monsters. “…People throw punches at me, kicks, some people try to tackle me. It’s all part of the game, though,” he said.
Even with the risks, long hours and preparation it takes to become a monster, Mansolino and Horne thoroughly enjoy being tricksters at Knott’s Scary Farm. For any college student looking to make a little extra cash next fall, work on their acting skills or just have fun scaring people, he or she should consider Knott’s Scary Farm.
“Now, some people, they’ll be a little bit shy. They’ll get used to it…once they start getting into character, that’s when it’s a lot more fun,” said Horne.