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For This Job, You Need A Creepy Voice And A Fabulous Scream


Halloween - we know it's a long way off, thank God. But those in the haunted house business are already pricing the cost of severed limbs and ordering supplies of fake blood. They've put down deposits on fog machines and coffins. Auditions for this year's zombies and cannibals are underway. NPR's Lucy Perkins meets aspiring thespians perfecting their bloodcurdling screams.

LUCY PERKINS, BYLINE: When you go to a haunted house, the people acting as bloodied zombies and demonic clowns aren't just there by chance. They've got to audition for the roles. Field of Screams is in Olney, Maryland. They've got a haunted house and a trail of terror. And they need actors.

ELLEN LEMBERGER: You'll hear a lot of screaming later 'cause I will do group screams, individual screams. We are at the Field of Screams.

PERKINS: That's Ellen Lemberger. She and Mike Lado are running auditions today. The tryouts begin informally. Lado tells the potential actors that as soon as he points to them, they've got to make a scary noise.


PERKINS: Then Lado points to another person.


PERKINS: And then this girl - brace yourself - this is going to be loud.


PERKINS: That impressed Lado. To get to where we are now, you walk by a huge pile of coffins to this small building in the words. This is where Lemberger starts the group auditions. She sends the first group into the building. Inside, the would-be actors follow the narrow, twisting hallways. Eventually, they end up in a dusty room called the morgue.

How everyone in the group plays off each other is key to getting a spot in the show. Casey Dorfman (ph) just finished her group audition. When she was inside, she banged on metal tables and used her signature scream.

CASEY DORFMAN: Run, run, little piggy, run, run.

PERKINS: Dorfman worked here last year, and it shows.

DORFMAN: I really love working here.

PERKINS: What do you love about it?

DORFMAN: I like to scare people.

PERKINS: But scaring people is tough.

LEMBERGER: Some people are amazing clowns, and they can't do a zombie to save themselves.

PERKINS: So Lemberger has tips.

LEMBERGER: You can say don't go there. Stay away.

PERKINS: But sometimes the best strategy is to just ask a scary question.

LEMBERGER: Like my rat? This is a really cure rat. Want to hold it? Things like that - OK? - it freaks them out.

PERKINS: Most people who audition do make the cut. And in return, they'll make a bit more than minimum wage, depending on experience. The actors who get hired are really effective at scaring people.

LEMBERGER: A lot of people - and it's true - they come out here, and they're so scared, they actually pee their pants.

PERKINS: When you go to your local haunted house, that zombie chasing you might just be a high school kid, and the blood is definitely fake. But that doesn't mean you won't scream. Lucy Perkins, NPR News.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Team work everybody - Frankie, Natasha, Boris, the werewolves. We'll dig together, you silly fools.

GOODWYN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.