See also: 10 Best Haunted Houses in Metro Phoenix
"I always throw some comedy into it, because you can't always scare everyone," he says. "And if you can make 'em laugh and enjoy it, they're always going to enjoy the show."
And Reverend Fish Crackers has been making people both laugh and scream for going on 25 years now. A native of Kansas who moved to Arizona back in the late 1980s, he's worked as a haunted house actor for more than two decade's worth of Halloweens.
These days, when the reverend is scaring people out at the Scream Park, one of the top haunts in the Valley, it's usually as one of three different characters he portrays. There are his aforementioned mental patient and pink bunny personas, of course, as well as a macabre maintenance man dressed in blood-spattered coveralls and a work shirt.
"It usually depends on what type of mood I want to be in. If I'm in a fun mood, I'll throw on my straightjacket and the bird cage on my head and I'll start searching for my bird Petey. I still haven't found him yet," he says. "And when I wear the bunny suit, that character tends to be very sloppy and disgruntled."
Like many in the business, the Reverend Fish Crackers started out acting and working at haunted houses as a teenager and became addicted to the thrill and fun of the job.
"I'd volunteered at a couple haunted houses and had some fun and saw an ad in the paper that one house was looking for actors. I got the job and got hooked," he says. "It's just so addictive and so fun. I mean, you're allowed to get in people's faces, you're allowed to threaten them, they don't press charges and you get paycheck. It's awesome."
It's also taken the Reverend Fish Crackers through some of the Valley's most infamous haunts and fear factories, enabled him to travel to the other side of the globe, and even will help him achieve his dream of someday owning a props and effects shop. Plus, he also met his wife, a fellow haunted house veteran who goes by the stage name Bug, through his pursuits.
While he's has been at the Scream Park, the longest running haunted house in the Valley, off and on since the days when it was known as Darkside in the late '90s, its far from the only place he's worked as either cast or crew.
Ask Reverend Fish Crackers about his history of dressing up as kooky and spooky characters while terrifying teenagers and he'll rattle off a list of famous bygone local haunts that he's appeared at over the years, including Panic Park, The Nest, Bedlam Manor, Alice Cooper's Nightmare, and Silo X. And several years ago, he got to travel down under to work at a haunted attraction at Warner Bros. Movie World in to Australia.
Its one of many interesting stories that Reverend Fish Crackers told Jackalope Ranch during our recent interview. And believe us, he's got a lot to tell.
There's the tale of how he became an actual ordained minister through the Universal Life Church ("When I did it like 15 years ago, it was back when you had to mail in your stuff, you couldn't just get it over the Internet") and well as how he got the moniker of Fish Crackers. ("It was one of the first names I got while working at a haunted house," he says, "I would run up to people and started sniffing 'em and go, 'Do you have my fish crackers?'").
And he may or may not have his own cult.
"After I got ordained [and] was up at a haunt in Salt Lake, I cracked a joke with the cast about it. 'Yeah I have my own cult, its called 'Children of the Fish. And I showed them my tattoos, which are actually Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers," he says. "So anyone who's a member of my cult has one of these tattooed on the back of their neck. And some actors actually had some fish crackers tatooed on their necks. I was like, 'Sweet, they're in my make-believe cult now.'"
Then there are his stories of scaring certain people so much over the years that they've had an accident. For reals.
"It's kind of gross," he says, "But it does happen."
In fact, Fish Crackers says that the old Darkside haunted house used to give out something called the "D.U.S.T. Award" (as in, defecation, urination, spit, and tears) to the cast member who could spook patrons strongly enough to cause the emission of all four bodily fluids in a single season.
And while the award hasn't been given out officially for years, and isn't endorsed in any way by the Scream Park or its management, the reverend took it upon himself to unofficially resurrect it, rewarding $50 to one of his fellow actors who pulls off the unpleasant feat.
Its one of many things we discussed with Reverend Fish Crackers during our interview, which also covered how he gets some of his strange and unusual outfits, a new character he's currently working on, and what sort of things truly scare him.