Halloween NYC 2013: Backstage at a haunted house

We ask professional scarers from haunted houses what it’s like to work at a frightening Halloween NYC attraction.

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We went behind the scenes at two haunted houses—Nightmare: Killers 2 and Blood Manor—to talk to the actors as they got ready for a night of scaring the bejeezus out of you (or as they call it, work).

RECOMMENDED: Complete guide to Halloween, NYC haunted houses, and costume shops

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Charnele Crick, 24
    Nightmare: Killers 2

    What role are you playing? I’m a crackhead zombie girl. One of the killers, [Harrison] Graham, was a hoarder. He would entertain kids with a puppet, but when he wasn’t doing that, he was killing crackheads and stuffing them in [the walls of] his house, hoarding them with all of his junk. I’m one of the bodies. I fall out and twitch and come at people. It’s really fun.

    What’s the best part about the job? My favorite reaction is when people fall down out of fear and surprise. Some people drop to the ground faster than I would have thought humanly possible, then they get up half-screaming, half-laughing, and run to the next room with their friends as fast as possible. That’s the best because I know they are having a great time and I’m doing my job right.

    What’s the worst thing? Some people come in to not be scared: “That’s not scary, I’ve seen scarier stuff in Disney movies.” That kind of buzzkill. It kills the fun for everyone that’s in the group, and the actors. If you’re paying the money, enjoy it!

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Nathaniel Barber, 23
    Nightmare: Killers 2

    What role are you playing? I’m playing a person called Ed Gein. He lived in Wisconsin, killed two people in the ’60s, was a grave robber and dressed like his mother.

    What drew you to this job? It seemed like a pretty cool idea for a haunted house—it would actually be scary. Mostly, I feel like haunted houses aren’t scary at all.

    What’s your most memorable experience so far? We had Neil Patrick Harris come through. He was a little creeped out by me. That was fun.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Kayla Sackler, 18
    Blood Manor

    What’s your occupation outside of this? I’m a full-time student and I work as a children’s party hostess.

    What cool about the job? I’m terrified of haunted houses; it’s kind of ironic that I’m working one. It’s actually a lot of really good improv work. It gets you into character in ways you wouldn’t expect, because each group reacts differently and you just have to work around it.

    What’s difficult about it? You get very tired. You wouldn’t expect it but it’s very physically demanding. I’ve never drunk so much water before. They provide us with a ton of water and they have vitamins, just to keep us through the night so we can give as good a performance as we can.

    What’s the strangest reaction you’ve gotten? One woman was like, “I’m wet down there.” I said, “You know, if you peed yourself, you get a free T-shirt.” And she’s like, “Oh no, I didn’t pee myself.” She just loves Halloween that much.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Christian Soriano, 18
    Blood Manor

    What role are you playing? Tonight I am the steam master. I burn people alive with steam.

    What drew you to this job? I enjoy scaring people.

    What’s the best part about it? The priceless faces you get and the fear, the fear of grown men. Yesterday I was playing a dog under the table in a different room and I scared a big, brawling man. I caught him by surprise and he fell on the floor. It was hilarious.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Lorenzo Evan, 26
    Blood Manor

    Is this your first time working in a haunted house? No. I’ve been doing this for almost seven years. This will be my fourth year with Blood Manor.

    What’s your most memorable experience so far? The first time I really got up close and scared someone. When I saw them really freaking out, [I thought] Okay, this is good. I’m getting a rush out of this.

    What’s the best part about the job? You have all these resources at your disposal to transform yourself into an amazing character that’s scary and thrilling. People come and they’re transported into this world—and you provide this entertainment for them.

    What’s the worst thing? The worst part about the job is leaving. If I could do this 365 days a year, I really would. To do this type of work is an amazing opportunity. Unless you’ve done it, you don’t know the thrill that it really is.

Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Charnele Crick, 24
Nightmare: Killers 2

What role are you playing? I’m a crackhead zombie girl. One of the killers, [Harrison] Graham, was a hoarder. He would entertain kids with a puppet, but when he wasn’t doing that, he was killing crackheads and stuffing them in [the walls of] his house, hoarding them with all of his junk. I’m one of the bodies. I fall out and twitch and come at people. It’s really fun.

What’s the best part about the job? My favorite reaction is when people fall down out of fear and surprise. Some people drop to the ground faster than I would have thought humanly possible, then they get up half-screaming, half-laughing, and run to the next room with their friends as fast as possible. That’s the best because I know they are having a great time and I’m doing my job right.

What’s the worst thing? Some people come in to not be scared: “That’s not scary, I’ve seen scarier stuff in Disney movies.” That kind of buzzkill. It kills the fun for everyone that’s in the group, and the actors. If you’re paying the money, enjoy it!


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