MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir, welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today we're bringing you our annual haunted D.C. show. And thus far, we've heard some very personal ghost stories. Tales told by people who encounter the other worldly right in their own homes. But now we're going to shift gears a bit and hear about people who pay good money to be scared, away from home. This month, a record number of Americans, more than 42 million Americans are expected to visit some sort of haunted house for Halloween. And these businesses will rake in about $1 billion.
MR. MATT MARKOFF
We'll have like 3,000 to 4,000 people on our busiest nights. So it's a huge money maker. It does very, very well.
Matt Markoff and his two brothers operate Markoff's Haunted Forest, one of the D.C. regions longest running haunts, now in its 20th year of professional scaring. Last year, ticket sales brought in more than a half a million dollars. Money the brothers use to fund a non-profit that does outdoor education. But like many Halloween fanatics, they say their business isn't really about raising money or turning a profit. No, it's about scaring people. Scaring people silly. Jacob Fenston went to Poolesville, Md., to talk with some of the ghosts and ghouls behind the scenes and he sent us this audio postcard.
MR. PAUL BRUBACHER
My name is Paul Brubacher. I'm the vice president of operations for Markoff's Haunted Forest. Right now, we have a little bit of managed chaos going on. Within the next hour and a half, we will have between 60 and 100 actors just getting hustled through. It's about a five minute per actor process of getting their costume and then another five minutes for the makeup.
MS. KIRSTEN AUGUST
More blood or less blood? Do you want a lot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1
Not so much tonight.
Not so much tonight?
You think that? All right, don't worry I can do that. I'm just adding the blood, giving a nice head wound and making his nose bleed a bit. We use a lot of dark colors around the eyes. So it gives that really sinking look and death and decay. That's his bullet hole from being shot.
Yeah, I got shot.
The management staff right now is checking electrical systems in the woods. Air pressure is making sure all the props work, everything is ready to go. Propane gas is being turned on for all the things that go boom. A couple hours beforehand, everybody's running with their heads cut off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1
All right, trail two, you ready?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1
If you don't know where you're going, stay here. If you do, get in the woods and have fun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2
You know what that is? That's dueling banjos from "Deliverance." I'll be back to check on you. I'll be through before they start (unintelligible).
Electricity's not working in this little room. The electricity, the chandelier's not working.
MR. KEENAN SMITH
My name's Keenan Futz (sp?) Smith and I've been doing haunted forest scaring for the past seven years now.
MR. VICTOR VISSARI
I'm Victor Vissari V-I-S-S-A-R-I. I started back in, I think, 7th grade, volunteering. My older cousin introduced me. I just fell in love. It just got me hooked. And then they started paying me. And that was the point of no return.
Tonight, I am dressed up as a deranged Hillbilly and from the looks of my scene, apparently the character that I'm portraying enjoys ripping the faces off of people.
Well, it is a big adrenaline rush. Because you're scaring people, they don't know you're there.
Being obsessed with horror movies and being obsessed with scaring people and knowing that you're good at it, it's like you get a thrill after seeing someone freak out. It's almost like an ego boost.
It's like some people sky dive, some people do base jumping, some people go mounting climbing and I scare people.
MR. CHUCK FARKAS
My name is Chuck Farkas, my character is a snake and my costume is pretty basic. It has a snake pattern to it. My head is painted, looks like a snake. My face looks like a snake. My arms look like a snake. There's flowing pieces of fabric off of me, so when I move, you don't really see me.
My only real strategy is to not only get as in character as I can but get as out of me as I can. I almost remove the human element from my thoughts and keep it very primal.
I look for people that are either hiding behind somebody or they turn their head as soon as they start to see me or think they start to see something. Those are the ones you know you're going to get good screams out of.
I feel I'm good at scaring people because I do a lot of voice acting mostly. I do a whole lot of voices that just freak people out because they don't expect it to come out of me because I'm a lanky dude and I'll come out with a sling blade type of really deep voice or when I do my clown drag, I will do a really high pitch voice and all of a sudden fluctuate right back down to really low. Don't be such a nervous Nelly, I'm going to cut. In your belly. Some people, they find out that they really don't want to be scared.
I've seen guys that are 6'5", 300 pounds quiver on the ground and scream like school girls.
And they are breathing super shallow, you might hear a quick sob and sometimes, sometimes you know, you'll feel sorry for them and you can maybe ask if they want to leave, you escort them off the trail or make them pee their pants.
Why else would you come if you didn't want to be scared? And if we're not scaring you, it's because we're not doing our job.
Those were actors, makeup artists and staffers at Markoff's Haunted Forest in Poolesville, Md., speaking with WAMU's Jacob Fenston.
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