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We are mere weeks away from Halloween - trick or treating, ghouls and goblins and haunted houses. Now, lest you think that the one-eyed werewolf who leaps out from under the staircase is just some schmoe with nothing better to do with his time, listen to our next piece about what it takes to make it in the haunted house arts. Beth Accomando of member station KPBS takes us to haunted auditions in southern California.

BETH ACCOMANDO, BYLINE: Every job requires a special skill set.


ACCOMANDO: Yep, screaming is one of those skills. Also being certified on a chainsaw.


JENNIFER STRUEVER: That's correct. We do have chainsaws throughout our attraction and we're always looking for folks who have a passion for wielding a chainsaw while wearing makeup and costume and just scaring the heck out of people.

ACCOMANDO: Jennifer Struever is the event manager for Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. She's conducting interviews inside the Scream Zone's tented maze in a room that could be Leatherface's kitchen with a slab of meat hanging from the ceiling and impressive cutlery on the wall.


ACCOMANDO: Over at the haunted castle end of the Scream Zone tent, a huge green demon salivates over potential victims - oh, I mean applicants - as they wait to be called into their interview.


ACCOMANDO: Geraldo Figueroa reanimates for me.

GERALDO FIGUEROA: I'd like to be a zombie. It seems like it would be really fun, especially with the new attraction.

ACCOMANDO: Zombie paintball safari. That interests Autumn Maize who's eager to display her undead expertise.

AUTUMN MAIZE: Well, since zombies can't really breath or anything there's not really much in the way of sound that they make except for maybe some guttural gases coming out of them. So, it's just kind of like...


ACCOMANDO: Maize is exactly the type of person Struever is looking for.

STRUEVER: Looking for folks who have a passion for Halloween and any theatrical or athletic experience.

ACCOMANDO: Or lung power as Samantha Topacio demonstrates.

SAMANTHA TOPACIO: You know, I haven't screamed in a while 'cause no one really recreationally screams for just fun. But, you know...


TOPACIO: That was a little.

ACCOMANDO: Topacio performed better at her audition.

TOPACIO: I did two. I did one as like a victim type thing.


TOPACIO: And then the other one was more like a creepy antagonist type character.


ACCOMANDO: The screams landed her the job and got her a high-five from Ashley Amaral, who's been working at the Scream Zone for years. The petite, perky blond Amaral takes wicked delight in her job.

ASHLEY AMARAL: It is so awesome to see big, burly men crumble to the ground. You think they're so tough. They come in like, oh, you're just a girl, like, please. And they will run out of this and say, like, oh, blank, no, like, I'm out of here.

ACCOMANDO: Each time someone flees for an emergency exit, it's a bloody feather in Amaral's or her co-workers' cap. There's a scoreboard where they keep a tally of victims who don't make it through the House of Horror. Last year, it was 523. It gives a whole new meaning to customer satisfaction. For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando.


MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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