The Haunters Spotlight is a series focused on presenting an inside look into the world of those who dedicate their lives to the haunt industry. Each piece will focus on owners, actors, and staff who have deep passion and love for haunting. With this edition, we take a look at the career of Eric Strohl, a five-year actor and builder featured at the Halls of Horror, in Palmerton, PA. Each season Eric has played a variety of different “characters” and this year has developed one of the most memorable scare-actors in any haunted attraction. “Uncle Touchy” is Eric’s most exceptional work, and this odd freak of nature is a multilayered demented soul who we suggest you get to visit sometime this year!
Describe your history in the industry including what roles you perform at your haunt. I was approached by one of the owners and masterminds of HOH, Charles Knight to come and be a hype man in front of the haunt. I started out playing an evil preacher character in my first season. The next season saw the birth of “Fury.” He is a jack of all trades. He’s been known to be the hype man out in front, sell “Product” in Hillbilly Hollow, and generally, terrorize in various rooms. After that, I played a psychotic butcher and this season I gave life to my newest and most disturbing character,” Uncle Touchy.” He is an androgynous all-around creep. He hosts a dance party from your worst nightmare. He indeed has no limits, no inhibitions and feeds on your discomfort. It’s a real departure for me because all of my previous characters were hyper-violent and “Uncle Touchy” is just disturbing on a whole different level.
What made you want to work in a haunted attraction? What first interested or inspired you? Being a lifelong horror fan and having an interest in acting made working in a haunt a no-brainer. Knowing the people involved in HOH before I came here also made it a no-brainer.
What is the source of your creativity? What drives you? Being a musician, I have always been creative. This is just another avenue for me to explore my imagination. In the haunt, I’m driven to make sure that no matter what, our guests get the most bang for their buck. Without them, there is no us. I do this for two reasons. Firstly, I thoroughly and genuinely love what I do and love the people I get to work with. The HOH crew is a family. Secondly, I like to entertain. No matter what, I refuse to give our guests less than 100% of my effort. It doesn’t matter to me if you are the first group or the last group of the night, I along with the rest of our staff will give you everything we have. Our guests deserve nothing but our best. My take is simple. If you aren’t physically and mentally spent at the end of the night, you did it wrong.
What do you enjoy most about your position? I get enjoyment from seeing our visions come to life and from seeing our guests appreciate what we give them.
What are the most significant challenges you face every season? The most notable problem every year is to keep things fresh. We like to change up a few zones each season and expand as much as we can within the footprint we have. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a lot of creative and imaginative people. The ideas are continuously flowing. We are already planning new things for season 10.
If you could tell your customers one thing, what would it be and why? I would tell my customers to leave your inhibitions and hang-ups at the door because we will push your boundaries and your sensibilities.
Do you have any stories you would like to share? Stories…. Well I know last year I was personally responsible for several pants wettings but my oldest son Randy who plays “Mr. Krinkles” the man-pig actually had a guy crap himself in his cage. We have had people tap out after one room, question if the blood and poop we use is real, you name it we have seen it. In previous years, one of my favorite things to do was punk out any guy that was hiding behind a girl. I would make them apologize for their lack of manhood. That was always fun.
Where do you see the industry in 10 years? In 10 years, I see the haunt industry heading toward the direction I think we have pioneered. More physical, more extreme, more interactive and fewer boundaries (while still maintaining a controlled, safe environment). I like to think that we are ahead of the curve on this and will continue to innovate and push the envelope.
Any advice for those who may want to enter the industry? My advice to aspiring scare actors is simple. Don’t limit yourself. Push your boundaries and go out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it works, expand on it. If it doesn’t, retool it and seek the help of your more experienced staff members if you’re having problems creating something. Above all, remember that our guests are why we do this. Without their support, we couldn’t do this. Every guest deserves your best every time out. Don’t half-ass things. I’d you do, you are ripping off your guests, your boss and yourself. Strive for excellence.
I’d like to thank Chuck Knight, Linda Pierera and Earl Buss for giving me the chance to do what I do without putting me in a box. They allow me an incredible deal of autonomy to create and make my characters my own. I know “Uncle Touchy” would never fly in most haunts. That’s what makes Halls of Horror so special. We are a family run haunt that we take great pride in. Our set pieces are built by us, we never rely on outside consultants for ideas. That’s all us in there and I thinks that’s why we are so passionate about our little slice of Halloween hell. Our reputation is growing year after year thanks to hard work, quality people and tremendous support by our fans. I can’t thank our supporters for understanding the magic in HOH and spreading our name.