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It's A Bloody Business, Being A Demon

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It's October, which means the country's supply of fake cobwebs is getting dangerously low.

The reason, of course, are the commercial haunted houses opening for business, filling the night with the screams of terrified teenage girls.

Wait. That scream was actually coming from me — at Blood Manor in New York City. From the name, you would never guess it's on the second floor of a downtown office building. It 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 to spend a whole month covered in fake blood, chasing kids in the dark?

"It's hard to explain," said Jim Faro, who's been running Blood Manor for seven years. "You either have it or you don't."

Here's the audition process: Faro looks you in the eye and throws out a challenge.

"You're a demented demon child. Or you're a zombie stalker. Or a serial killer. Whatever," he said. "And a certain personality has it."

I wanted to know if I had it. I tried out my demon child scream.

"Don't quit your day job," Faro said.

Really? I don't have it? "No."

Faro gave me the run of the place before the doors were opened, so I went up to the cramped and noisy makeup room. There were two makeup artists spray-painting the zombies green. In the next chair, KJ Hanna flicked blood splatters on a cannibal. It's his own blood, too.

"There's a blood that I created," he told me. "It's coagulated blood, which is a little thicker. You put a little coffee grains in it." That makes it smell nicer, he said.

Nothing seems that scary under fluorescent lights, so the makeup room looked like a bunch of out-of-work monsters, waiting patiently in line. Well, monsters on one side. Victims on the other.

Amy Ast would spend her night bound and gagged. She was getting her bruises and burn marks painted on. Her tortured character has quite the dramatic range.

"Scream, cry, you know, ask for help," she said, listing her tasks. "Mostly crying." For six, seven hours a night. What's her secret? "A lot of water," she said. "A lot of cough drops."

Amy is an aspiring model and actress. Hopefully, some producer will notice Victim #3 in the fake torture room and give her a call. But mostly, being a success at Blood Manor means you can move up the ladder of evil.

Like Christopher Mitchel. He's an actor who played the werewolf last year. This year he's headlining as a caged cannibal.

"I don't like to act," Mitchel said. "I like to become. I like to imagine myself as if I was a cannibal." He's already in a cage, he said, so that part's easy. He was about to demonstrate his best move when the boss came in. Faro likes to pump the kids up before the doors open.

"Everything needs to be primo. Makeup to the max. Attitude off the chart. Let's do this."

All around him, monsters and their bloody victims cheered.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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