Grandma gets gory

Meet Indy Scream Park’s longtime makeup manager

Indy Scream Park actors pose with makeup applied by the park's makeup team Sunday. Actors cycle through the makeup trailer each night, grouped by the type of makeup they need, such as zombies, maniacs, doctors and clowns.

On the last night of September, in a white-paneled makeup trailer, soon-to-be cannibals sit placidly as Jodi Morgan, with the help of her team, transforms them into monsters.

One girl has a baby doll arm glued to the side of her mouth. Another man has a false ear strung around his neck. The ear brings a grimace and a “gross” from Jodi, a short-haired blonde grandmother of two who calls herself “of uncertain age.” She’s busy blending out age lines and fake freckles on a cannibalistic granny in her makeup chair.

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Jodi Morgan, head makeup manager at Indy Scream Park, applies blue eyeshadow to an actor playing a granny this past Sunday. Morgan has developed techniques to quickly transform actors into each character in the park, and often spends time teaching other makeup artists.

In the midst of the chaos, a stool falls over and hits the ground with a loud bang! Jodi jumps, her hand flying to her throat, before she realizes what happened and laughs.

“Well, that was frightening!” she says, trying to catch her breath. The cannibals laugh, and she grins and turns back to the blood-covered actor in front of her.


Jodi is an office manager, grandmother, holiday movie-lover and the head makeup manager at Indy Scream Park, which has been voted number one best haunted house in America by USA’s Best Haunted Houses from 2017 to 2021. Every day the park is open, she drives away from her normal life in favor of the extraordinary. She’s been at the park since day one and has designed the looks for every attraction.

Now, over 150 actors in black gather outside the makeup trailer. They cluster together around picnic tables — laughing, snacking, talking quietly. In the next two hours, each and every one will become gaunt, bloody and on the verge of death beneath the brush of Jodi and her team.

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The sun sets Sunday behind the wall of the backstage area of Indy Scream Park, where actors gather to hang out and get ready for an evening of scaring. Jodi said earlier sunsets mean earlier deadlines for her team, because the park can open its outdoor attractions earlier.
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The exterior of the red makeup trailer where Jodi and her team transform Indy Scream Park actors into monsters is shown Sunday evening. Each actor cycles through an identical costume trailer to change into Halloween-themed attire before heading into the makeup trailer.


Stepping into the makeup trailer, the early-evening chill lifts. The unit is heated and air-conditioned, one of many changes since the park was founded. Inside, dirt-scuffed, faux-wood flooring makes way for nine plastic carts — one for each of Jodi’s team and Jodi herself. Each cart is filled with sponges, brushes and containers of face paint and grisly-named makeup.

On one cart, a pink plastic paint brush sticks straight out of a clear container, marked “Fresh Scab,” that's half-full of a dark, thick red jelly that, Jodi assures her victims, will easily come off with hot water and a baby wipe. Next to Jodi’s purse, which is massive, taupe and fringed, there’s Ben Nye in Cadaver Grey and Death Flesh. Jodi is visibly excited as she starts pulling out makeup “wheels,” which have a variety of colors to achieve different effects.

A makeup artist shows off a photo of a giant fake bruise she made recently. About eight artists work together each night the park is open, led by head makeup manager Jodi Morgan.
A tub of goopy red makeup called "Fresh Scab" sits on a shelf in the makeup room. Jodi uses Fresh Scab to transform actors into creepy zombies in just a couple of minutes.

“To make a bruise,” Jodi said. “You’ll go around the wheel and add all the colors, bit by bit, until you have…” she finishes patting the creamy makeup down, “...a bruise.”

Her hand is now marked by a fake purple-blue-yellow-green-brown bruise that looks like she whacked it, hard, against a table. It’s gone with a couple swipes of a makeup wipe.

Jodi’s been doing makeup for a long time. By age 10, she was gluing on false eyelashes for dance. Later, at Purdue University, she took a class in stage makeup. She said she’s a theatrical person and liked learning how to make someone look like something else.

Jodi poses next to the makeup trailer where she transforms actors into monsters each night. Morgan has worked at the park since it first opened in 2010.

She called starting at the park a fluke. She was looking for something different, and she saw the job posting on Craigslist; she knew stage makeup, so she applied. Within the first year, she’d become the team’s manager. When she was having trouble getting staff, she trained family members and friends. She would pack them all into her car and drive them up with her.

“I was their mom, so they had to do what I said,” Jodi said. “And I knew they were going to be on time, because they were in my car.”

Recently, her 6-year-old granddaughter saw her getting ready to wash a bag of bloody brushes. Jodi told her they were from the park, and her granddaughter paused for a moment, then said she wanted to learn Scream Park makeup.

When Jodi sent a photo of the fake-bloody “cut” her granddaughter had given herself to the girl’s mother, she got a text back: her daughter-in-law had gasped before realizing, “oh, yeah, I forgot she was at your house.”


Group by group, actors start filing in. The first group to need full-face makeup are clowns, who Jodi says people already think are creepy. They don’t even need blood. As her steady hand paints wide strokes of white across an actor’s forehead, he asks her if she’s seen “Hocus Pocus 2” yet. He stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch it. She says she’s impressed.

Jodi takes a step back and nods, satisfied. With flicks of her brush, she’s given him an over-exaggerated, neon-pink smile. She grabs a small spray bottle from the cart.

“You ready?”

The clown gives a quick nod and sucks in a breath. Jodi spritzes once, twice, ten times, then thwack! She snaps open a lacy, blue handheld fan, and the breeze ghosts over the clown’s grim smile.

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After applying neon clown makeup to an actor's face, Jodi fans her work with a blue folding fan she keeps at her makeup station. Jodi said her interest in makeup began as a child.

Jodi’s team for the night consists of eight girls. At first glance, they don’t look similar: ranging in age from 17 to 23, buzzed hair to long curls. They wear short plaid skirts and huge sweatshirts and band tees. But they have a few things in common: the candy-colored aprons they wear, the concentration that seeps into their brows each time an actor sits in their chair and a love for the creepy, scary and gross.

The makeup team members come from all over. Some are in school to become aestheticians, some are what Jodi calls “home chefs” and practice with their own eyeshadow and Elmer’s glue. Some are just artistic.

Regardless, at the beginning of the season, they learn the grossest tricks of the trade. How to make a cut, that latex and Kleenex together on a cheekbone gouges out a chunk of skin. That oatmeal on skin looks like it’s flaking off, and that grains of rice look like maggots when they’re placed right.

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Jodi's team for the night of Oct. 23 prepares and chats in the makeup room. Most nights, there are eight artists working together to transform more than 140 actors into zombies, clowns and monsters to scare park visitors.
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An Indy Scream Park makeup artist reaches for supplies. Each artist has their own station in the small makeup trailer.

Even with training, Jodi says the first night is usually pretty overwhelming.

“You can tell them it’s fast,” she said. “But there’s no way for them to understand that until they experience it for themselves.”

On the wall behind Jodi’s chair, the September and October schedules are taped onto the wall. Each Friday and Saturday in September and every day in October, looping block print spells out the artists on shift. Each artist’s name is a different color.


Pink, teal, green — Jodi says her colored pens are how she cons herself into liking scheduling. Her own name, though, stays simple black ink. After all, when your name’s on the schedule that consistently, every night from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31, you don’t need a fancy color.

“My husband calls it his ‘scream park bachelorhood,’” Jodi said.


At this time of night, the wind blows cold and moonlight slants over wooden walls. A man is slinging fake blood at made-up zombies for the final touch. Jodi’s left him with bruised eyes and three gashes across his slick, shiny red face.

His name is Joseph Lee Myers, and he’s been there for 11 years. He sees Jodi multiple times a week. She helps him get into character, he said, and it gives him energy.

“Don’t tell her what to do. Don’t be bossy towards her,” Myers said. “She’ll give you what she wants to give you to fit the part.”

The park keeps its visitors off-balance, Jodi said. Between flashing lights and the expectation created by a haunted house, the anticipation gets people.


But she thinks it’s so popular, not only because it’s scary, but because it takes people out of their everyday life. The makeup is a crucial part of that.

“You’re not experiencing people like you’d see them at Walmart,” Jodi said. “People aren’t dripping with blood every day.”

Making the actors look like something else is part of their character development, and it’s what helps them be scary. It’s like escapism — for Jodi as much as the visitors. In everyday life, she works in an office. She’s a grandmother. Faces aren’t falling off.

The park is different; it’s outside of day-to-day life. She keeps coming back, despite the hour-plus round trip and the late nights and the 13 Halloweens her kids have spent without her there. To Jodi, there’s something addicting about it.

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A sign reads "I survived Indy Scream Park." The haunted attraction in Anderson, Indiana, was voted number one best haunted house in America by USA’s Best Haunted Houses from 2017 to 2021.


As the cannibals trickle out, there’s one last zombie to make up. He’s been organizing people, rallying them, and as he comes in, all he says is “just beat me up.”

Jodi’s team taps bruises under his eyes and score cuts along his face. He runs out. As the door closes, his voice rings out, “We appreciate you ladies!”

And just like that, the night is done. The artists start packing up: bloody sponges go in the “ick bag,” unused latex gets poured back in the bottle.

Some of the girls plan to go through the haunts. They invite Jodi to join, but she turns them down gently. When she does go through, the actors find out, and she thinks they sometimes leave the other visitors alone to scare her.

Besides, she has dinner with her husband to look forward to, and there’s always the half-hour drive home to think about. She’s been listening to audiobooks; they help pass the time.

Tonight, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is waiting for her. She’ll pass the park’s sign with its grinning clown, wind through the backroads and hop on I-69, back to ordinary life until the next October night.