- Associated Press - Saturday, October 18, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - They can’t practice at home. They finish their shift each night with a horrific headache. And they sacrifice their vocal cords for the month of October - just to give you a thrill.

Being a screamer in a haunted house is more complicated than you might think. It’s also a blast.

“When you get ‘em good, it’s all worth it,” said Autumn Crooks, one of the cadre of screamers waiting for customers inside the Hall of Horrors in Cayce.

Crooks hangs out in a dark corner, dressed as a ghoulish medical worker. At just the right time, she lets out a blood-curdling scream, capped with a devilish giggle. The customers/victims she scares often scream, too, as they run away. But when they finish their trip through the building, they go on with their night. Crooks has to keep screaming … for throat-mangling hours.

What customers don’t see is the bottle of water stashed in the corner and the cough drops in her pocket. “Hot tea and honey and cough drops are life savers,” Crooks said. “And during the day, you don’t over-exert your voice to save up for the nights.”

Maribel Vazquez, with frightening facial wound makeup, blasts an even more threatening scream than Crooks. Like the others, she says it comes naturally, but you have to practice it a few times to perfect it. “I try to do it in places where I can’t be heard,” she said. “I have to do it in my car when I pull up somewhere with nobody around.”

Joey Adkins has been startling people with his diabolical laugh since he was a young child. “It’s a crazy laugh I’ve always been able to do,” he said. “I don’t practice. I just go with it.”

In fact, practicing during the month of October is out of the question. The Hall of Horrors is in full scare mode 16 out of 30 nights from Oct. 3-Nov. 1. “My throat’s still sore from last Sunday,” said Adkins, as he prepared for a Friday night performance.

Hot drinks help soothe the vocal cords. Pills that relieve pain and inflammation do double duty -_soothing the throat and the throbbing head.

“It’s like going to a concert,” Crooks said. “When you get in your car at the end of the night, your ears are ringing. But don’t get us wrong. It’s very much a stress reliever.”

Vazquez recalled the look on the face of one victim so startled by a scream she looked like she was going to cry. “She was so scared, I kind of wanted to laugh,” Vazquez said.

But she stifled the laugh and stayed in character, another of the difficult parts of volunteering in a haunted house.

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Information from: The State, https://www.thestate.com


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