ROBERT SMITH, host: It is October, which means the country's supply of fake cobwebs is getting dangerously low. The reason, of course, commercial haunted houses are open for business, filling the night with the screams of terrified teenaged girls.
Ah, there's so much stuff.
Oh wait, that's actually me.
Oh, this is terrible. They said there would be no clowns.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. They lied to you. Oh, my God. What is that, a microphone?
SMITH: Yes, I brought a microphone to Blood Manor in New York City. And from the name, you would never guess that it's actually on the second floor of a downtown office building. Probably used to be a hedge fund. I stopped by this week before opening night because I've always wondered something: who are these people who are willing spend an entire month covered in fake blood chasing kids through the dark?
JIM FARO: It's hard to explain. You either have it or you don't.
SMITH: Jim Faro has been running Blood Manor for seven years. Here's the audition process: Faro looks you in the eye and throws out a challenge.
FARO: You're a demented demon child or you're a zombie stalker or a serial killer or whatever. And a certain personality has it.
SMITH: OK. I want you to be honest with me. I'm going to do a demented demon child...
SMITH: ...and you tell me if I got it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)
FARO: Don't quit your day job.
SMITH: No, really? I don't have it?
FARO: No. Listen, you have to be willing in front of these people to go, oh, how are you tonight? You have to be willing to do that. You can't worry about being self-conscious.
SMITH: Faro gave me the run of the place before they opened the doors, and so I went up to the cramped and very noisy makeup room. There are two makeup artists spray-painting the zombies green. They actually use those little airbrushes. And at the next chair is KJ Hanna flicking blood splatters onto a cannibal.
KJ HANNA: There's a blood that I created. It's a coagulated blood, which is a little thicker. You put little coffee grains in it. Nicer smell, actually. I think you liked the (unintelligible).
SMITH: It woke me up.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
HANNA: That one, it gives you a little more depth. Also, these cannibals, the coagulated blood works a little better than the ooey-gooey blood because we all know it doesn't really look like that after a little while.
SMITH: I'd like to say that it looks scary, but nothing's that scary under florescent lights. The makeup room looks like just a bunch of out of work monsters waiting patiently in line to get their faces done. Well, monsters on one side and victims on the other. Amy Ast will spend her night bound and gagged. She's getting her bruises and burn marks painted on now, and her tortured character has quite the dramatic range.
AMY AST: Scream, cry, you know, ask for help. But mostly crying, yes.
SMITH: How many hours will you have to scream and cry straight?
AST: Wow. At least six, seven hours, probably.
SMITH: Do you have vocal exercise that you do, like scream exercise to warm up?
AST: Yes, I do. A lot of water, also a lot of cough drops.
SMITH: Amy is an aspiring model and actress. Hopefully, some producer will notice victim number three in the fake torture room and give her a call. Mostly, though, being a success at Blood Manor means you can move up the ladder of evil. Look at Christopher Mitchel. He's an actor - played the werewolf last year. This year, he's headlining as a caged cannibal.
CHRISTOPHER MITCHEL: I don't like to act. I like to become. I like to imagine myself as if I was a cannibal and...
SMITH: No, no, no. Wait, wait, wait. How do you imagine that you are a cannibal inside a cage in a state mental institution? How is that possible?
MITCHEL: Well, I'm actually in a cage in a room, so that's the easy part. Then all of this makeup, I get to see myself beforehand, so, you know, you're pretty much looking at yourself, blood all over your body. I'm in this hospital gown.
SMITH: He's about to demonstrate his best move when the boss comes in.
FARO: Listen up now.
SMITH: Jim Faro likes to pump the kids up before the doors open.
FARO: Everything needs to be primo. Makeup to the max, attitude off the chart, all right? God bless. Good luck. All right. Let's do this.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
SMITH: With that first scream, Blood Manor is officially open. And, you know, it would be very easy for me to make fun of the haunted house, especially since I've seen them all without makeup. I know they're just actors. I know what's coming. I mean, what's so scary about some bloody cannibal sneaking up behind you in the dark?
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)
SMITH: It gets me every single time.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.