A pretty spooky side gig

Zombie stripper Brooke Martino. (RJ Mickelson/amNY)


Zombie strippers don’t have personal-space issues. They don’t mind full-body makeup or latex prosthetics. And they love to scream.

In fact, everyone at Blood Manor, a haunted warehouse in Chelsea, loves to scream: decomposing cowboys, bloodied butchers and maniacal clowns. And leading up to Halloween, these seasonal workers love to make other people scream.

 “It’s a blast,” said Brooke Martino, who has worked at Blood Manor for five years. “I get scared very easily myself. It’s more fun when it’s the other way around.”

Scaring visitors senseless
Actors start arriving at Blood Manor is 5 p.m., with tours kicking off at 7 p.m., Thursday-Sunday from the first week of October to the first week of November. Each actor is assigned to a themed room, such as Doctor Shock, the Beauty Parlor or the Dungeon.

Some rooms feature characters with complicated costumes and makeup, which are whipped up by five staff artists. They use airbrushing and latex wounds, gashes, and burns to create the look of the living dead.

From 7 p.m. to midnight, Martino and her co-workers jump out of corners, sniff, scream, jump up and down, moan, bang things and generally torment those who come through their doors. They horrify at least 1,000 visitors a night.

“You have to keep the energy alive all night,” Martino said. “When it’s over you’re exhausted and ready to hit the pillow, but you go back because it’s an amazing experience.”

Accustomed to the gore
Backstage, deranged little girls and possessed beasts chat about their weekend plans. “After the first weekend, it’s not weird anymore,” Martino said.

More than 80 percent of the staff returns year after year, said Jim Faro, one of Blood Manor’s co-founders.

“It’s like a drug. Once you get that first scream, you’re hooked,” he said.

Faro, who works as an attorney in Queens for the rest of the year, has been hooked for more than 20 years. He was a “home-haunter,” decorating every inch of his Kew Gardens, Queens, home for Halloween and hosting parties with 200-plus guests for the holiday. He and two partners founded Blood Manor five years ago.

“Haunters have to be perfectionists,” he said. From the lighting to the props, Faro and his team work all year to update the house. But, despite all their efforts, Faro said it’s his staff that makes the house as terrifying as it is.

Vamping it up
Dancers, actors, and other performers find their way into haunted houses every year, ready to use their improv skills. Nightmare:Vampire, a haunted house in NoHo, advertises in Backstage and other publications for actors, as well as Craigslist, said co-director John Harlacher.

Harlacher, who started with the company four years ago through his own acting work, said it appeals to actors because “it’s so immediate and visceral.”

As the co-director, Harlacher’s job is to make the house even more “startling and disarming.”

Although the house is mostly staffed by actors, some people do it just for the fun of it.

“You’ve got some kids who just want to scare people,” Harlacher said. These “Halloween kids” work in goth or tattoo shops during the off-season. As the month goes on, the Halloween kids become better actors, and the actors get better at petrifying people.

“You have to be a little off to want to scare people for eight hours,” Harlacher said.


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