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Fear Factor

Local Trey Smith masterminds Fright Night with the help of wife Traci, who’s in charge of makeup and costuming for the more than 200 actors. Photographs by Megan Green & Rachel Justiss

october 30, 2009

Fear Factor
Meet the husband-and-wife “hauntrepreneurs” who put the scare in Boone Hall’s Fright Night

Written by Anna Evans


or Mount Pleasant couple Trey and Traci Smith, Halloween is about more than just tricks and treats; in fact, they’ve built their lives around its horror-inducing drama and theatrics. In June, Trey begins erecting inconspicuous structures in the woods and cornfields of Boone Hall Plantation. Soon after, Traci makes the first of many trips to local thrift stores, filling trash bags with clothing to be ripped and bloodied. As summer turns to fall, the sets are dressed; the lighting perfected; the exorcist girls, cage people, and dead hillbillies hired. And when the first thrill-seekers come hollering out of Bloody Mary’s Manor on October 1, Trey and Traci know that Fright Night—their monstrous labor of love—is a scary success.

Since 2004, the Smiths’ company, Dream Vision Entertainment, has taken this Halloween extravaganza from small-time spooking to elaborate scream-fest (nearly 2,800 people showed up one Saturday this October). And that’s no job for amateurs. These two are pros—“hauntrepreneurs,” as they’re called in the biz—and they’ve earned their chainsaw-wielding chops over two decades of horrific-attraction-building, Halloween-trade-show-attending dedication.

It all began when Trey realized he could make money by turning his Nashville recording studio into a haunted house. “A buddy helped with the makeup and special effects; now he does all the dead bodies for Bones and Heroes, so as you can imagine, it went pretty well,” he says. The event’s success soon led to full-time “haunting,” with Trey bringing his nightmarish creations to larger venues while sharpening his skills in set-building, anamatronics, and pneumatics (i.e. the mechanical creatures designed to startle at just the right moment).

And just as every horror flick has an element of romance, so does this scary story: Traci joined the haunted house crew as an actor in 1990, and somewhere amidst the creeping zombies and psychotic clowns, “I ended up marrying into the profession,” she laughs. A Charleston vacation inspired the couple’s 2002 move to Mount Pleasant, and Dream Vision Entertainment took on the job at Boone Hall. Though Traci points to her husband as “the genius behind it all,” she’s the Morticia to his Gomez, managing more than 200 seasonal employees, crafting costumes, and airbrushing makeup onto 70-plus actors every night (a feat that takes 45 seconds per person).

“Luckily, our five-year-old son likes Halloween, because the masks, props, and paraphernalia basically take over our house this time of year,” says Trey. But it’s not so much the gore and goulishness that this couple loves—“it’s the theatricality of it all,” says Traci. As for Trey, who spends the off-season producing other Boone Hall events like the summer concert series, “I love to see people enjoying what I create, just like an artist wants viewers to admire his paintings. My audiences tend to show their appreciation a bit differently though,” he chuckles.

For more details on Boone Hall’s Fright Night, which runs through this Saturday, October 31, click here.

Fri, 10/30/2009