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Haunted House Scare Actress Shares Her Favorite Haunted Houses in San Diego

During the Halloween season, it’s custom to want to be scared or at the very least a little disturbed. Horror movies have fallen into the same cliché routines as romantic comedies and feel-good movies. Scary stories just don’t have the same fright to them anymore.

The absolute best way to get scared is to experience fear for yourself. There is no better way to experience it first hand than to go through a haunted house. However, most haunted houses are meant to be kid-friendly. Teens and adults have 2 great options of getting that awesome fearful pleasure in San Diego though. Read below my 2 Best Haunted House San Diego options.

Beautiful fountain on a sunny day in Balboa Park with the cathedral in the back
Balboa Park fountain

The best haunted house San Diego has is actually two haunt experiences, The Disturbance and the Haunted Trail. I’ve touched on them in a previous post about Things to do on Halloween in San Diego but I think it’s best I go into depth.

Top Tips from A San Diego Haunted House Expert

I understand that some blogs may have research-based details on these locations. The Haunted Trail was actually featured on the Travel Channel at one point but, as I said, nothing is better than the first-hand experience from someone who not only has been there but actually has worked as a scare actress in both (as well as others in California and Texas).

Now, I am fascinated by things that most would consider scary or creepy. My favorite time of year is fall and I’ve done years of research on the origins of Halloween as well as paranormal occurrences. I’ve gotten so into Halloween that during the season I work as a scare actress. I’ve worked at both The Disturbance and the Haunted Trail in San Diego.

Creepy towering mansion on a sunny day with bushes athe bottoms
Haunted mansion

In my time working there, I’ve gotten familiar with the setup and the other actors that work there. I also know first hand just how terrified visitors can get as well as the thought process behind the different areas of each haunt. So let’s get into it!

What Is The Disturbance and The Haunted Trail?

They are both mazes that feature frightening scenarios and rooms to create the optimum scaring environment. Every year there is something different to experience and a new room or themed maze to terrify visitors.

A few fan and employee favorites remain year after year such as the school bus in the Haunted Trail or the zombie elevator in the Haunted Hotel part of the Disturbance.

Terrifying grimmy doll with matted hair and shadowed eyes, staring right at you
Creepy haunted doll

What Are The Themes of the Rooms?

Those vary every year, as I’ve said before but some come back every year.

2019 Themes To Expect

Kill-Billy Alley brings the southern nightmares to light. The 3D Freak Fest tests your courage against circus freaks and clowns. The Haunted Hotel is a place to be cautious as it’s been contaminated by a zombie virus. Expect to have a bit of claustrophobia in the famous Ghoul Bus too.

Are Haunted Houses Safe?

Of course they are! Some think these attractions are like the carnival; quickly put up and quickly taken down. This is not actually the case. Both locations are like huge stages with multiple scenes going at the same time. Every part is meticulously puzzled together as any theater set is.

The entire staff takes pride in making the experience both safe and scary at the same time. Yes, at times you may fear for your life. But, your life is never actually in danger.

Ominous woods with an eerie light shining through from a creepy house
Ominous forest

On top of the set being well constructed, the crew is seasoned in set up and take down of the sets so it can be relatively fast. The Disturbance is newer so it takes a touch longer to put together and take apart than the Haunted Trail.

What Will The Scare Actors Do?

They will scare you. Surprisingly, it is in their job description to scare the pants off of everyone that comes in. We are also there to entertain our visitors though. If we can’t get a scare then we will settle for a laugh instead. Yes, we are getting paid for it but we’re also having a lot of fun too.

To scare you, we may jump out at you or make a loud noise. Remember we still have your safety in mind. Scare actors are not allowed to intentionally touch you but we will get as close as possible to unnerve you.

Disturbing shadows going over an otherwise empty room with a rocking chair and shining light
Haunted House

What Should I Expect Out of The Haunted House?

You should expect to get scared. I won’t give anything else away because that’ll just give it all away. If I give it all away, you’d have no fun at all.

Who Is It Appropriate For?

They can be appropriate for people of all ages if they’re brave enough. I’ve seen older visitors and I’ve even seen kids come through. However, there are no pregnant women, infants, or children being carried allowed. I don’t recommend this to kids younger than 10 years old unless they are super brave.

We have those rules because the children can be traumatized, pregnant women should not be that stressed out or scared, and nobody WANTS to make a baby cry.

Three pumpkins with a face, a bat, and a cat carved into them

Where Is It Located?

The Haunted Trail is located in Balboa Park near Downtown San Diego. It has more of a hiking feel, like you’re in the woods. It sets a horrifying mood. The trail isn’t hard to miss as signs are posted in the surrounding areas to point guests in the right direction.

However, the Disturbance is on the other side of town. Right now, in 2019, it is located in the Mission Valley area. Specifically it’s in the Mission Valley mall stationed at the front end of the Target parking lot.

Both are highly trafficked areas so you can easily put them into your app and go on your way!

Abandoned hospital room with an old bed frame and leaves all over the ground
Abandoned hospital

What Are the Hours of Operation?

Opening Hours Haunted Trail

The Haunted Trail operates from October 2nd to November 2nd. Every week starting on Wednesday at 7:30pm, you can expect the most terrifying experiences available until 10:30pm. But on Friday and Saturday, hours of operation are 6:00pm to 11:00pm.

Opening Hours The Disturbance

The Disturbance operates from October 5th to November 2nd, Wednesday through Sunday as well. Once again 7:30pm to 10:30pm except on Fridays and Saturdays when it’s 6:00pm to 11:00pm.

This also means that you can get in a full visit at both if you’d like.

Ghostly woman dressed in white with a veil sadly draped over her head as blood drips from her forehead
Scare actress playing a dead bride

When Is the Best Time To Go to a San Diego Haunted House?

If you want to fight the crowds and not feel like you have to rush through, then you shouldn’t go in the middle of the month. The best time to go is in the first weekend when nobody has noticed the attractions are there. More specifically, you should go on the first Sunday of the scare season.

If you can’t go on the first weekend, then you can go during the week, on Wednesday or Thursday when people still need to get up the next day for work. The scare actors hate the downtime, we want to be scaring you guys. So come in bunches!

Surprisingly, on Halloween too. Toward the later hours, everyone is busy at parties or out Trick or Treating with kids. It’s relatively dead and not in the good way. It is by far the best time to come.

Creepy doll sitting at an otherwise empty table for a tea party
Creepy doll tea party

When Do Ticket Sales End?

We sell tickets throughout the night until closing time on the dot. However, we will not turn you away if you buy your ticket a minute before the official closing time. We let you go through the haunts at your leisure. We don’t clock out and head home until everyone is satisfied with their visit.

How Long Does It Take To Go Through?

Well depending on if you’re running or leisurely walking, it takes about 20-30 minutes to get through at both locations. The Haunted Trail is self-directed so you have a little more freedom. The Disturbance, while also self-led, is also more hands-on. Before each haunted house, you’re told the rules of each haunt before every single haunt.

3 cutie pie dogs with a sheet over them for a ghost costume. They have a little jack-o-lantern in from of them
Spooky ghosts

How Can I Buy Tickets for the San Diego Haunted Houses?/How Much Are Tickets?

You can either buy tickets online or you can buy them on site. Tickets start at $24.99USD for both places. The Disturbances, however, offers a fast pass that includes all three haunts. This fast pass costs $39.99USD. If you are using a card at the ticket booth, availability depends on the working WiFi and you are subjected to a service charge. There is no refunds available, even for kids too scared to go through. Sorry!

Book Disturbance Tickets Here

Secure Haunted Trail Tickets Here

What Else Can I Do After or Before My Visit?

As a native San Diegan, I can see a whole bunch of stuff to do around town. If you plan to visit one or both of these haunts then you can also find plenty of restaurants around and activities.

If you’re at the Haunted Trail Haunted House, then you can explore the nightlife of Downtown San Diego. Balboa Park is a short walk from Little Italy where lovely restaurants and bars await your exploration.

Since the Disturbance is by the mall then you can catch a late-night or early evening movie showing. This is also a great place to go window shopping as there are shopping areas all around. If you’re from out of state or country then I highly recommend trying the famous In-n-Out burger place. Forewarning: the fries are not salted so add some.

Witch holding a deer skull surrounded by pumpkins and candles
Witch ritual

What Haunted House Discounts Are Available?

The following discounts are available at both locations. For 20 tickets or more, you are subject to a group discount. Group tickets are available for order and pick up through our office. They are good for any night we’re open excluding Halloween.

Military receives $5USD off tickets up to two with valid I.D. You can also get $5USD off with our Goodwill coupon. You cannot combine any coupons or discounts.

Is Working At the San Diego Haunted Houses Fun?

Yes! Oh my goodness, it is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I’m still fairly new but I have spoken to veterans of the company who’ve been coming back year after year for decades. They also absolutely love it. To me, it’s a great non-violent stress relief when life gets hard.

I get to scream and scare people without hurting them or receiving a lawsuit. I can also be free with the characters I play since there are no lines to read or specific stage directions.

Even the crew, from the make-up team, to wardrobe to set, they all get to have fun with it too.

Mystical forest setting with plump pumpkins all around
Halloween holiday pumpkins

Why Did You Start Scare Acting?

Well, as I said earlier, I absolutely love this time of year. Since I was little, I’ve been fascinated with the dark and depraved. I’ve never gotten scared while watching horror movies and I find myself hypnotized by the gruesome stories of ghosts, murders, and other weird stuff like that.

On the other hand, the history behind Halloween and the origin of some of our long standing Halloween traditions interested me as well. I felt so comfortable reading and studying about the Celts and Samhiun as well as Wicca. I wanted to be more involved with it.

Since there aren’t a whole lot of Celtic activities around and I have an extensive background in theater, I thought being a scare actress was exactly right for me.

I started in 2018 at the San Diego Haunted Trail but I was scare acting back in Texas since 2016. I hadn’t thought about it until I moved back to San Diego in 2018 when I needed some extra money. I hated my job at the time and found it extremely stressful so I thought, “Why the heck not?” I applied in the middle of the season so I wasn’t given a lot of shifts but either way, I liked scaring people so I applied early for 2019.

Scare actor dressed as a faceless grim reaper in the dark
Scare actor

What Are Some Of The Things You Hear Most Often From Visitors?

I am normally the person in a special effects mask. I sweat a lot and rub my face so makeup doesn’t stay on my face very long. I like the creepy weird masks that disturb people from the moment they see me. A lot of the time I hear the following:

  • “Oh wow that’s cool!”
  • Some kind of profanity
  • “That’s the scariest thing here.”
  • “How can you see?”
  • “Where are your eyes?”
  • “You must be so hot in that thing!”
  • “I can see you!”
  • “Aww so pretty.”
  • “Work it girl!”

Yes, it is very hot in those masks, that’s why I’m not running around like everyone else is. In the masks, I can see just fine, they aren’t designed to impair my vision. I just can’t turn my head or stretch my neck much. I also can’t see out of my peripherals. But, I really like them because I’m not relying on jump scares like most actors. I rely on my creativity to creep people out and leave them with a sense of disturbance.

Scare actress in a special effects mask that twists the skin over the eyes and accents the gross yellow teeth
A SFX worn by the author

What Is The Weirdest Interaction You’ve Had As A Scare Actor?

That’s an easy one. I was wearing one of the aforementioned special effects masks, scaring as my job entailed. A larger group of teenagers came in so I did my bit where I act like a dummy then start lurking toward you. Most of them were freaked out which is expected. I reach the end of the group and this guy, probably a foot taller than me (I’m 5’5) smiles down at me and says, “Awww.” Then he proceeds to kiss my latex head and chuckle as he walks out.

That is by far the weirdest thing to have happen to me while scaring. But it also made me feel all warm and fuzzy. So, forehead kiss boy, if you’re out there, I appreciate you had such a good time and enjoyed yourself!

What Is The Vibe In The Haunts?

Okay, so here is where I reach a complicated topic. As I’ve said before, I love horror, it fascinates me and I like scare acting. However, most of the rooms have the same vibe to it. The scenery is creepy and the sound effects are on point to set the scene. They have if set up perfectly for some real out of the box scaring.

Here’s where it’s complicated..they only jump scare. Most haunted houses rely on jump scares because you are most certainly going to get a reaction out of somebody but it takes the originality out of it. So the vibe is very creepy but most places don’t take advantage of it and use older forms of scaring rather than using new weird ways to creep people out.

Yes, both the Disturbance and the Haunted Trail kinda mix it up every year, but they rely on the same scare tactics. I would rather have new scare tactics in reused rooms than the other way around. But if it work it works, I guess. They’re both very good haunts to visit.

Dark creepy forest trail with tall trees and thin fog
A haunted forest trail

How Can I Scare Act?

That’s an easy one. Scare acting is still a job and it requires a creative mind. For these particular haunts, you just need to apply either via Indeed or email. It doesn’t require any previous acting experience but if you have a passion for it then that’s all the more reason to apply.

For further details, please click here.

I hope I answered your questions and provided you with good information. Working for the Disturbance and the Haunted Trail is the most fun you can have on the job. I highly recommend visiting one or both of them to get into the spooky mood for Halloween.

Best Haunted House San Diego – FAQs Answered by a Scare Actress was written and edited by Emmalie Roberts. You can follow her Instagram here.

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