Interview: Tom Knabe from Fright Factory!
Tom Knabe is Urban’s web developer by day and Fright Factory's manager by night. He took us on a tour of the haunted house before it opened and then let us hang out with the creepily clothed cast and crew!
Interview by Ally Mullen
Hey Tom! Tell us about your two separate lives!
My name is Tom Knabe, and I’m a developer at Urban Outfitters. I work on the website. At Fright Factory I’m one of the lead managers and creative directors. I design, build and run the entire haunted house—it’s a 25,000ft warehouse located in South Philadelphia.
How long have you been working at Fright Factory?
I’ve been working here for five years, but I’ve been doing haunted house for about eight or nine years. I was an actor prior to managing. I worked at Eastern State Penitentiary and a few hayrides in New Jersey.
So tell us about the FF!
There are multiple themes throughout the haunt but in reality it’s all one haunt. A lot of haunted houses do separate themes, but we’re breaking away from that. It’s a mix. It flows in a way—you’re going from a house to outside to a cemetery to outside but there’s no main theme.
What makes the FF different from your competition?
A lot of haunted houses in this area are really family friendly and no gore, and we try to be an adult-themed haunted house. We’re all gore. We try to get pretty close and snarl in your face, which most places won’t do.
What’s the scariest part of the tour?
We have this massive creature, I can’t really say much about it, but it blows through the wall. That seems to be the biggest scare. You can check videos out on our Instagram or Vine.
How scared do people get?
We’ve had people cry, people pee their pants, people throw up. We have roughly a dozen plus walkouts a night. We’re no refund, which people get upset about, but you get what you paid for! You came to get scared and we scared you. This is entertainment!
How do you find your actors?
We reach out to Craigslist and use a lot of actor’s forums and message boards. Then we have one-on-one interviews and then we have them act just as they would if they were auditioning for a play. They have to play multiple roles and prove they can do improv, because that’s a lot of what they’re doing here.
Have any of the actor ever been attacked by someone scared fighting back?
When people are really scared they do two things: they fight or they flight. That’s not a joke, and you can’t really hold it against them. We’re really scaring them and if they throw a punch at you, you can tell it’s because they’re terrified and trying to get away from you.
How do you keep the actors safe?
We have a dozen or more off-duty police officers throughout the haunt and they're stationed all over the place, always within 30 feet of each actor and it’s settled right there! Every person that enters the haunt is patted down and fully searched; we’re really strict on safety.
So how long does it take to get all of the actors in costume and ready to go?
They start showing up around 4:00 and they’re all done by 7:30. They know what to do, they all have very consistent spots. We do a little talk before putting them out and let them know what media is coming. The Travel Channel might come tonight.
Wow, the Travel Channel?
Yeah! We’ve been featured more than once and they just did their 2013 “Scariest Haunts in America” and put us on the list again.
So give it to me straight: is this place haunted?
This building is old; it’s got to be getting close to 110 years old. It was the old Kindy’s factory a long, long time ago. I don’t know of any deaths here but there’s this weird occurrence we’ve had between actors. We’ll have one set of actors come through and say they see something, and then years later a group of actors from the same spot will say the same thing.
People say they see shadows and a little girl. These are the two things people always say they see. I kid you not… I’ve had people three years ago say they saw a girl in this one corner and three years later, people who have never spoken to these people say, “I think I saw a little girl over there.” It’s a really weird coincidence...