The bare-chested flat-headed fellow in the middle is actor Boris Karloff. Obviously, he was never in the running to play Tarzan. No, he portrayed the title character in the 1931 film Frankenstein. Wait, that's not right. An actor by the name of Colin Clive played that particular role. The confusion is understandable. Even Universal Pictures sometimes got it wrong, such as when they came out with Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein in 1948. Bud and Lou met no such person. They did meet, or at least ran in the opposite direction of, a monster played by Glenn Strange. But Karloff portrayed that monster first, and best. In the 1931 film, Clive/Frankenstein is intent on creating life in the laboratory, as if the planet wasn't overpopulated enough all ready. Maybe the idea was to help childless couples. Anyway, the result is Karloff. As you can see, he has a face only a mad scientist could love.
Certainly people do get scared when they go to those places. But I wonder, are the scariest haunted houses the ones where actors have the most convincing makeup, or masks? I once went to one where someone dressed like a--well, I'm not sure what exactly, but it was scary enough. Except I knew it wasn't real. I was in one end of the room, and the goblin or ghoul or whatever was in the other. He (or she; couldn't tell) came up to me and went AAARRRRGGGHHH!!!! and then followed me out of the room, down a hallway, and right out of the haunted house, AAARRRRGGGHHHING all the way! I'm like, dude, I get your point already. But the make up was convincing.
Unlike real haunted houses, assuming there are such things, fake haunted houses operate under a tremendous disadvantage. People who willingly go to one know, as I did, that it's fake. If they didn't, they probably wouldn't go. I mean, if it's a real haunted house, the monster kills you, right? What's the fun in that? Yet the paying customers do want to be scared, but just safe and secure in the knowledge that no physical harm will befall them. Frankly, it's a rather contradictory thing to want, but I suppose some psychological theory about getting your catharsis off can explain it. Except make up (or a mask) no matter how good, isn't going to do the trick by itself. Instead of fear, it may just inspire a certain admiration for a job well done.
The key, I think, is the element of surprise. Not that surprise is all that easy is a situation where people are walking around snapping there fingers going, "C'mon, c'mon, it's a haunted house, I want to be surprised. Coulda gone and seen Fast and Furious 17, instead I came here." But it can be done. Just make sure their mind is somewhere else. Ever do that? I don't even mean on purpose. I mean, you know, someone's wrapped up in their own thoughts, you innocuously say "hi" or whatever, and they jump back and scream, "Oh! You frightened me!" At which point, you rush to the bathroom and check your face for acne. Fright begets fright.
If I had a haunted house, here's what I would do. I'd give everybody who walked in a Rubik's cube. Let them walk through the place trying to figure out how to solve it. When they're deep into it, then you scare them. The house wouldn't even have to look haunted. It could be brightly lit, with pictures of baby chicks on the wall. My actors would look equally unsuspecting. Instead of monsters, they'd be dressed like Jehovah Witnesses. I envision them sneaking up on unsuspecting Rubik's holders and saying things like "Have you read the latest issue of The Watchtower?" Trust me, people would jump right out of their flip-flops. And the cubes would remain unsolved.
Getting back to movie monsters, there is an exception to the anything-scary-in-a-movie-could-be-fake-in-real-life rule. Stop-motion or digital animation creatures. That can only be faked on the screen. So, if you happen to see a fifty-foot ape in a real-world setting, you have my permission to wet your undies.
All this talk about stop-motion or computer animation makes me wonder. Suppose you saw a run-of-the-mill animated figure in real life. I don't mean someone dressed up as a cartoon character, like you see at Disneyland. I mean, a hand drawn cartoon. Wouldn't have to be a monster. Could be the most benign, friendliest cartoon character in the world, yet if you saw it walking right up to you on the street, I bet you'd be scared. I bet you'd run. Or, if you were cornered, I bet you'd reach for your crucifix.
Or your Scooby snacks.
There's one last picture I want to show you: