A Scare is Just a Scare - Bruce Lee's Tao of the Scare

Rate this Entry

I am always thinking of how things are interconnected, how fundamental principles apply. In haunting, I have heard several haunt owners declare that the "patrons are the enemy". It is a battle to dominate the patron to a desired end - scaring the fluids out of them.

In developing and teaching 截拳道 - Jeet Kune Do - Bruce Lee espoused 5 ways of attack, which I paraphrase here as:
Simple Direct attack
Attack by Combination
Progressive Indirect Attack
Immobilization Attack
Attack by Drawing

"So what?" I can hear you say. I can't exactly start punching patrons. "This isn't Moron Manor. We're not sociopaths". To which I respond that perhaps you cannot attack them physically, but haunting definitely allows psychic attacks.

In combat a Simple Direct Attack (or single angle attack) is just hitting or punching the opponent. Nothing to it. If the person is not expecting it and offers no defense, it works just fine. In a haunt, this is the pop scare with no setup, no follow up. I see these in haunts. You go into a room, a drop panel bangs open and the monster pops out. Bang! And done. It works.

Attack by Combination (ABC) is a little more sophisticated, It's a one-two punch. The drop panel slams down, the actor pops out, then a previously unnoticed actor pops out from the other side, and gotcha! Of course, it could be ankle whips first, then the drop panel. It does not have to be just two, either. Combinations can stack as deep as you have patience for. There is a point beyond which the combinations lose effectiveness, so few go past 3 scares. I should mention that just like boxing, a combination does not have to be rapid fire. A 1/2....3! or a 1...2/3! Timing can be very effective to keep the patron off balance mentally.

A Progressive Indirect attack (PIA) basically means faking them out and hitting them from somewhere unexpected. This is misdirection. For example, you set up and animatronic to pop out and scare people. Animatronics aren't usually too scary. They hiss and clang and get people's attention. Then an actor can take advantage of their distraction and scare them from another angle! A more sophisticated scare is when the actor pretends to be an animatronic. With cheap MP3 players and amplifiers now, it's easy to make mechanical sounds and tinny sound effects appear to come from and actor moving in a mechanical way. When the guests are sure it's a harmless machine, the actor suddenly pops up or jumps forward, scaring the bejeesus out of them!

An Immobilization Attack is a bit harder. In combat, stepping on someone's foot and smacking them in the face is an example of such an attack. Likewise, pinning an arm so the cannot block and punching them is an example. But, in a haunt? Am I reaching here? Well, maybe not. The essence of the attack is to make sure they cannot escape or defend themselves from the actual hit. So, most scares in a haunt involve this.

Attack By Drawing (ABD) is giving your opponent an opening they think they can take advantage of. In many ways, it's related to PIA, but in PIA, you give them an attack to respond to, then take advantage of that response. ABD is subtler. You provide them a way to attack, while you are actually ready to use that against them. The best example I can think of from my own experience is a drop panel. In a haunt I went through, there was a picture frame that turned out to be a drop panel. Bang! And done. One with the haunt. A little while later, the hall ended in a corner. I could see on the opposite wall a frame exactly like the drop panel in the first room. So I was sure I saw a weakness there. Fortunately, the haunt designer had put that there specifically so I would think it was a drop panel. There WAS a drop panel, but on the opposite wall - the one I could not see until I turned the corner. I would not see it even then, because I was watching the fake, sure I was going to catch them. They got me!

Another scare that would fit into this is the Camouflage scare.

This might be an actor dressed in a pile of stuffed animals, or in a clock costume, or anything that looks innocuous and makes them think they are safe to pass, then BAM! Scare.

What do you think? Can your favorite tactics be categorized in one of these 5 ways? Am I really stretching just to fill up cyberspace? Let me know where I went wrong.

Happy haunting!


  1. Godzilla's Avatar
    You are spot on Jim.
    I wish I was visiting the site and your blog for the last 2 years. I know writing these takes time and effort.

    Thank you again.
  2. JustJimAZ's Avatar
    Many thanks for the kind words. I am gratified you find my ramblings useful!