From Anna to Taser Girl: The remarkable journey of a Greenbrier Valley icon

By Matthew Young, RealWV

For the better part of a decade, visitors to Miller’s Nightmare Haunted Farm in Lewisburg have been entertained by the one and only Taser Girl, the creepily-adorable clown with the big personality. So when she wasn’t there for most of the 2023 haunting season, her absence left a void felt by not only visitors to the attraction, but also by her surrogate family of haunt actors. 

Taser Girl needed a break, because Anna Knapp – the woman behind the character – needed a break. 

“I took a hiatus, pretty much,” Anna told RealWV on Friday. “I still worked (at Miller’s) one weekend – I worked the weekend of Friday the 13th. The rest of October I visited other haunts since I had the opportunity to explore different places for the first time in seven years.”

Anna visited the Haunted Majestic in Huntington and the Haunted Hollows Hay Ride on the grounds of the West Virginia Renaissance Festival, as well as several attractions in Virginia. And for the first time in her life, Anna got the chance to experience Miller’s Haunted Farm as a customer. 

“I’ll be back at Miller’s this year, but probably in different ways,” Anna said, referring to the attraction’s 2024 season. “I’ll probably still haunt sometimes, but physically it’s getting very hard for me to do it. People don’t realize how physically demanding haunting is.”

“The one weekend I did it (in 2023), I think it took me about two weeks to fully recover,” Anna added. 

Haunt actors typically perform in some fairly difficult conditions. Pitch black darkness, flashing lights, cramped spaces, and bad weather are just a few of the obstacles that must be overcome to provide visitors with an enjoyable experience. And as the season wears on and the adrenaline wears off, it starts to get mighty cold. 

But for Anna, there are also the obstacles that very few ever see.

Spina bifida

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Spina bifida is a type of neural defect that impacts the spine. It is typically identified at or before birth, and is estimated to affect one-in-2,500 newborns around the world. As it turned out, Anna was that one-in-2,500.

“I was born in March of 1995,” Anna said. “That year, West Virginia had a really big snowstorm. My parents told me that when they left the house, they left without jackets because it was warm. By the time I was born around 11:30, there was thunder snow outside and a blizzard had come through.”

“As I came into this world, I had nerve endings and all kinds of stuff hanging out of the base of my back,” Anna continued. “I was born in Beckley. They had shut down the interstate, but they opened one lane to take me to Charleston that day. Then they closed my back a couple days later.”

With most types of Spina bifida, a fluid sac protrudes from an opening in the baby’s back. Contained within the fluid are a damaged portion of the spinal cord, as well as damaged nerve endings. 

“I have Spina bifida Myelomeningocele,” Anna noted. “That means my legion is at the base of my back, and it was open completely when I was born.”

With her condition came several developmental delays, and Anna did not develop the ability to walk or talk until much later than other children. However, those developments themselves were somewhat remarkable, as doctors had originally told Anna’s parents that she would never walk at all.

“With Spina bifida you have nerve damage,” Anna explained. “I wear leg braces that go up right below my knees, and I don’t have any feeling in my feet. I’ve had over 10 surgeries. I don’t remember the exact number, I’ve lost count.”

“I’m very lucky, and I’m very blessed,” Anna said, adding that some sufferers are confined to a wheelchair. “No two cases of Spina bifida are the same. I take care of myself, and I’ll live a normal life.”

While Anna has spent most of her life overcoming the physical obstacles created by her condition, the last year has been about learning to overcome the invisible obstacles that don’t reveal themselves so readily.

Neurodivergence

“I’ve always known that I probably have ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder),” Anna said. “When I was younger, I was diagnosed with ADD, but that didn’t really stick.”

Anna’s suspicions were proven correct last April, when, after testing, she received her diagnosis.

“Just life in general as being neurodivergent is difficult, but my physical disability has made me learn how to cope,” Anna noted. “Just the journey now of learning how my brain works, a lot of things make sense now that didn’t make sense before.”

“People think ADHD is just not being able to pay attention and fidgeting,” Anna continued. “Actually, we have the most attention. We just don’t know where to put it. I can hyper-focus and get things done, but there are a million other things that are more important than what I’m hyper-focusing on. People with ADHD, we don’t know how to put that where it needs to go.”

“It’s also just the other issues that come with having ADHD, and being in a world that’s not built for people who are neurodivergent,” Anna added. 

Since being diagnosed with ADHD, Anna says it’s been about “unlearning everything I had to learn” in order to cope. 

“A lot of the coping becomes masking and putting on a facade when you’re in social situations so you don’t make other people uncomfortable,” Anna said. “The biggest thing for me has always been eye contact.”

“It’s hard for me to make eye contact with people because it physically makes me uncomfortable,” Anna added. “I’m thinking more about keeping the eye contact so that the other person thinks I’m paying attention, but in reality I’m paying less attention if I’m looking at them. If I’m able to look away and not keep direct eye contact, I’m able to pay more attention.”

Taser Girl

Over the last seven years, Anna transformed her coping mechanism into an artistic outlet. The facade remains, but the masking gave way to the creation of one of Miller’s Haunted Farm’s most celebrated characters – a character for which Anna was named one of the four best haunt actors in the world at the 2021 ScareActor Spectacular.

“The majority of those in the haunt community are what people call ‘the outcasts,’ or the ones who have issues and struggles,” Anna said. “They use haunt acting as a kind of therapy because in a sense, it is. When I started, I was able to put on this face. Nobody knew who I was – nobody knew that I was disabled. They only knew that I was this clown girl with a taser, and it’s empowering.”

“The empowerment that I feel when there are men twice my size who are scared and run away from me,” Anna continued, failing miserably at concealing her laughter. “I’m a small girl. Nobody knows when they come into the haunt – every rational thing in their brain just goes away, and they think you are actually this clown, and not a real person.”

As for Taser Girl’s future, Anna says Miller’s Haunted Farm will always be home. And with the attraction’s 10th anniversary on the horizon, owner Berkeley Miller couldn’t be happier about that, even if he didn’t originally think she would last.  

“At first she didn’t seem like she’d be the type to enjoy it,” Berkeley said of the woman who has become one of his franchise characters. “It can be a very physically demanding job, especially for somebody with a disability. Now people are always saying something about Taser Girl. They’ll ask, ‘Is Taser Girl in there?’ It happens fairly often.”

“I guess the word I would use to describe Anna would be ‘icon,’” Berkeley added. “She’s an iconic character at the farm, and she’s obviously one of the most recognized faces there. This year she wants to help out more with the other actors. That’ll be good because we have a lot of younger people acting, and she’ll be a great influence on them.”

As for Anna’s future, that’s a bit more uncertain at the moment. After recently finishing a semester of school with a 4.0 GPA, Anna came to the realization that college wasn’t for her. She loves to haunt, she enjoys writing, and she’s discovering the value of leaning on her life experience to help others find smoother paths through rocky times. 

One thing, however, is certain: Anna will not be deterred by her obstacles. And much as she did with the creation of Taser Girl, Anna will undoubtedly transition those experiences into the next great adventure of her life. 

“Society has a very damaging narrative when it comes to disabled people and neurodivergent people,” Anna said. “We hear a lot of ‘you’re lazy,’ or ‘you’re trying to take the easy way out,’ and that is the farthest thing from the truth for most people.”

“If you’re struggling,” Anna continued, “My advice is to give yourself grace because we are only capable of so much. We shouldn’t have to feel like we need to meet the standards of an able-bodied or neurotypical person.” 

“We are only given one life to live,” Anna added. “We should enjoy it no matter what society says we should or shouldn’t be doing.”

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