Raycliff Manor houses ‘Disney villan’

Matthew Meyers, MSSU theatre costumer in Disney Villian attire.

Matthew Meyers, MSSU theatre costumer in ‘Disney Villian’ attire.

Alexandra Nicolas

The parking lot is littered with the dead, the rotting and a Missouri Southern instructor, dressed in drag.

Theatre department costumer Matthew Myers, who dons a corset, fake breasts, a red wig and heavy make-up for his role as Miranda Starling at the Raycliff Manor haunted attraction is just one of the many who prepare extensively to frighten and amuse patrons every weekend in October.

“You’re looking especially bloody tonight,” said actor Meg Berrian to Myers referencing the artificial slashes across his ample cleavage, created by duct tape and a corset he made.

Raycliff Manor, owned and operated by Kelly Allen, uses large-scale set dressing, special effects, and illusions along with actors known as the “fright team” to provide what Allen hopes is a step above any standard ‘spook house’ experience.

“We try to take it beyond,” he said. “We really want to raise the bar on haunted attractions.”

Hours before guests arrive at the haunt, the fright team rotates through the small second floor make-up room, stuffed with costumes and vintage horror movie posters, where they are airbrushed, costumed and decked-out by the staff of student make-up artists.

While some actors have been trained to apply their own make-up, others undergo elaborate makeovers done by Nathan McCallister, junior studio art major, and Katie Vestal, senior theatre major. Using liquid latex, contact lenses, toilet paper and both stage and airbrush makeup, the artists work their way through the cast.

“It’s kind of like painting a model car, only it’s a person,” McCallister said.

Vestal does her own detailed make-up including peeling latex to simulate burned skin in addition to working on other actors.

“I probably put too much on, but I love it,” she said as she cringed, peeling latex ‘skin’ from her forehead.

Allen prefers the fright team in make-up instead of masks, however in the interest of time McCallister, who airbrushes actors up to opening time, dons a form fitting silicon mask for his part as ‘the butcher.’

“It’s easy to slip on and it looks like you’re in make-up,” he said. “We adapt well. Time is money in Hollywood.”

Amidst the half-costumed, fog from the airbrush and music blaring from a radio older than some of the actors, Myers adopts a corner of the makeup table with his own 1950s age-speckled lighted mirror.

Myers will wear a full-length black and red gown over his corset, faux breasts and hips though he said the transformation is not typical.

“I’m a dowdy, quiet, mousy little man,” he said through pointed prosthetic teeth. Similar to a mouth guard, the teeth are fitted to the wearer and can be difficult to remove, as Myer found out on his first night wearing them.

“That was the scariest part of the evening,” he said.

In addition to the outfit, he will wear a curly red wig, fake lashes and rim his eyes in black and blood red. Using liquid latex, stage make-up and paper napkin, sometime printed with Christmas snowflakes if it’s the only thing available, Myer creates violent, bloody slashes across his ‘breasts’ and face.

“We call Matt our Disney villain,” Allen said.

While Vestal and McCallister work specific rooms inside the haunt, Myer slinks around the carriage house entertaining customers waiting in line to walk through. ‘Line entertainment’ actors must establish customers willingness to be frightened, playing of expression, body language and nervous laughter along with making sure their overall appearance is thorough so as to maintain the illusion.

“It’s better to do makeup in more light than you’re seeing in,” he said, “I’m in the light so it’s important I look polished.”

As the haunt prepares to open cars fill the parking lot and the fright team takes it’s place.

Berrian smiles wickedly as young students buy their tickets and Myer transforms from ‘a mousy little man,’ into a sinister villain, slightly hunched, stalking patrons and asking if he can have their hair, ‘when they’re done with it.’