Big Bad Ray, a Giant among Zombies

Cutting Edge Haunted House’s Makeup Director, Ray Don, or “Big Ray” as his friends like to call him, is something of a gentle giant. At 6 foot 3 and 270 pounds, he could probably squash most haunt-goers like a latex prop. Instead, this soft-spoken, genial grizzly bear of a man prefers to explore his creative side; he’s an artist.

More specifically, Ray is an artist with a sinister bent. He obsesses over all things creepy, dark and dangerous. “I’ve been doing Halloween since the beginning of time, it seems like.”

Ray is one of the full-time crew at Cutting Edge. When he’s not doing makeup you can find him with a hammer or a paintbrush, building and painting the eerie, disturbing sets that furnish the colossal haunt. In his free time he also paints murals and faux finishes, designs movie sets and takes on whatever artistic odd jobs come his way.

Cutting Edge is a maverick in the haunt world, one of the few haunts that opens up at different times throughout the year, for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and every Friday the 13th. This year Friday the 13th occurs in September and December. It’s April, however, and there’s a buzz of activity at Cutting Edge today.

“It’s HauntCon,” says Ray. “We’re one of the spotlight tours.”

The Haunted Attraction National Tradeshow and Conference, or HauntCon, is an expo and convention “designed by haunters, for haunters” held at different places around the country every year. Last year it was Pittsburgh; this year it’s Dallas-Fort Worth, and Cutting Edge is scheduled to provide a spotlight tour to convention goers Friday night, April 26.

As with every other show night, Ray and the 8 to 14 makeup artists he supervises will work in shifts, to makeup Cutting Edge’s 150 to 200 actors. They will keep going all night, retouching as necessary until there is no more need for them. By the time Ray gets through making sure the makeup is put away and the makeup room cleaned, it’s usually 1 or 2 in the morning.

“That’s early,” he says. “Many of the actors are often here until 5 or 6.”

It’s a strenuous job at times, but one Ray wouldn’t trade for all the chainsaws in Texas. “When the show is running, it’s probably the best time of my year. It is so much fun. We have a blast!”

For Ray and the others, one of the best parts about working at Cutting Edge is the camaraderie among the cast members. “It’s a big family, you know. I love them. These guys are crazy, but they’re loyal.”

Still, after a solid month of haunting, it can get to be a little bit exhausting. “By the time October 31st gets here, we’re so over it. (Head Makeup Artist and Set Designer) Frances and I have been best friends for 20 years, but we don’t want to see each other for about a month!”

Rest well, Ray; you’ll get exactly six weeks before Friday, December 13th!