Mentalist trains Utah actors in the fear factor

Fear Factory brings in Utah native and Las Vegas performer for a training session.
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The haunted-house season is still weeks away, but the actors at Salt Lake City's Fear Factory are already getting tips on how to scare your pants off.

The haunted house in the old Portland Cement Works factory recently brought in anthropologist and stage mentalist Paul Draper for a training.

Draper worked with the actors to help them predict people's fears and target the most vulnerable individuals. It's a skill Draper uses during his "Mysteries of the Mind" show at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

"My goal is to transition the actors from being self-focused to audience-focused," said Draper, a Utah native.

Draper suggested the actors pay attention to the audience instead of the monsters they are portraying. He said ghouls and ghosts need to observe and see what scares each individual instead of assuming the costumes will petrify them.

One of the ways to do this is to have the actors in costume scare the customers in line. Managers could watch people to see who is afraid of what, then tell actors inside to target those specific people.

During the workshop, Draper shared anthropological knowledge that can be used to catch people off guard, such as blind spots in vision, as well as fears that have been passed down through generations.

"The things we were afraid of on the savannah are the same things we are afraid of today," he said.

That means loud noises, footsteps and objects that quickly transition from still to fast.

Besides his Las Vegas show, Draper performs at corporate events around the country. He mostly uses his mentalist — or people reading — skills to teach hospital staffs to better care for patients and employees at Fortune 500 companies to better understand the needs of their customers.

The Fear Factory's staff is the first group Draper has taught where scaring others is the goal.

"I'm excited to give a group of actors a new perspective on haunts," said Draper, who attended Weber State University and studied the Spiritualists in New Orleans.

Since then, he has appeared as an expert on the History Channel, WB, A&E, HBO, Hallmark and HGTV and has been featured in numerous publication from Psychology Today and Glamour Magazine to Becker's Hospitals Review and Disney's Family Fun Magazine.

Scott Maddix, Fear Factory zone manager, believes Draper's training sessions will help the actors at the haunted house, which opened in 2012, offer a better Halloween show.

"You have to pick the best target, the person who's going to be most scared of the monster you are," Maddix said. "If Paul can help us do that, it will take our haunt to the next level." —

Fear Factory

Where • 666 W. 800 South, Salt Lake City.

Opening night • Friday, Sept. 13