"I love it," Steven says, lingering on the exit ramp. "It's dark in there and it's creepy." He especially liked the scary characters roaming around the darkened hallways. His mom, Hope Davidson, 47, who was right behind Steven, says they're planning to return "every single weekend for the whole month of October."
"Where can you actually get a scare like that?" she says by phone a week later. "It's like you are in a movie, but you know it's not real."
On Halloween, you might watch classic haunted-house movies such as "House on Haunted Hill," (1959), "The Haunting" (1963) and "Poltergeist" (1982). Or, you could get the wits scared out of you at a real (fake) haunted house on Long Island.
AT THE HOUSE
The first step is always the scariest.
The scares at this haunted house start right away and keep on right to the exit.
After entering the building, you're ushered into a pitch- black hallway. Glowing arrows on the walls point the way through the 30-room haunted house. It's actually the Long Island Fair Exhibit Hall, "a replica of the old Mineola Fairgrounds building, which was destroyed in the 1950s," says Fest organizer Marty Arominski, of Locust Valley.
There are dark hallways to navigate and close encounters with convincingly costumed and made-up actors. Set pieces include a bridge over an alligator-infested swamp and a clown wake. You'll encounter a psycho Santa Claus, Leatherface with his snarling buzz saw and other ghouls.
Another room, the Ball Hallway, is filled with blood-red exercise balls that block your way, That was the favorite part for P.J. Orlando, 13, of Westbury. "It was fun getting through," he says.
BEHIND THE SCREAMS
The Steven Spielbergs of this particular thriller are Arominski and John Loffredo of West Islip, who produce the show as co-owners of Halls of Terror Productions Inc.
Arominski says his target audience is the typical "21-year-old male ... who thinks he's invincible." Says Arominski, "We're gonna scare him."
There are rules, though. On a recent visit, the actors carried fearsome props and came very close, but they are not permitted to touch guests. And guests are not allowed to touch the actors, either. Escape doors, known as "chicken exits," are provided throughout the house, should the frights become too real.
The onslaught of artificial terrors apparently worked for Bryan Fishman, 20, of West Islip. Fishman says he'd visited a number of haunted houses over the years and thought Fear Fest "one of the scariest one's I've been to." His favorite fright was a young woman (shades of Linda Blair in "The Exorcist") who wanders in a bedroom and then squirms under the bed.
WHEN | WHERE: 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.-midnight Friday-Sunday. Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage, NY, 11804.
INFO: 646-896-9071, longislandfearfest.com
ADMISSION: $12 ($20 VIP allows you to skip the line)
WHEN | WHERE: 6:30 p.m.-midnight Friday-Sunday, 426 Mill Rd., Coram
Spread out across 13 acres of terrain at High Velocity Paintball, this is a spooky outdoor haunted trail that takes about a half-hour to get through.