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Haunted House Prides Itself on Fainting, Crying Customers

By Leslie Albrecht | October 16, 2012 7:25am

PARK SLOPE — Not many businesses want their customers to run screaming from the building in tears but, for Walls of Darkness, crying is a sign of success.

The haunted house set up shop in a vacant building across from the Barclays Center on Sept. 28. From now through Halloween, adults will pay $30 — it's $20 for very brave children — to be scared out of their wits as they make their way through the 24,000-square-foot horror hub.

Customers walk up a dark ramp through clouds of faux fog to the building's third floor. To get back to the exit, they must pass a series of terror-inducing scenes, including execution chambers, blood-stained bathrooms, zombie holding pens and spooky grave yards where actors jump out from behind hay bales.

"Once I hear screams, I know, OK, the night is going good," said Carlos Mendez, who helps run Walls of Darkness with his brother-in-law, Carlos Surita, a construction contractor.

Mendez recounted with pride how a female customer fainted with fear in one of the rooms, and a young man who had forced his girlfriend to walk in first to the various horror chambers was reduced to tears.

"He left here crying. It was a good day," Mendez said with a devilish smile.

Mendez has a role in the haunted house as a priest in an exorcism scene where an actress channels Linda Blair's possessed character in "The Exorcist."

He's part of a cast of up to 30 actors at Walls of Darkness, who play classic creepy characters like Michael Meyers from the "Halloween" movies, Freddy Krueger from "Nightmare on Elm Street," and hockey fan Jason of "Friday the 13th" fame.

On a recent night, as well-dressed crowds gathered to hear Barbra Streisand's dulcet tones at the Barclays Center, the actors at Walls of Darkness across the street from the new arena warmed up for a different kind of vocal show — one featuring blood-curdling screams, whimpers and ghoulish wails.

Among them was Tarik Davidson, 27,  an actor-dancer who plays a zombie. He said he knows he and his cast mates are doing a good job dishing out chills if customers walk through holding on to each other for dear life.

Photographic evidence of this phenomenon can be found on the Walls of Darkness Facebook page, which has a collection of photos of customers in the grip of terror — usually they're clutching the nearest warm body.

"Everybody is in the buddy system," Davidson said of nights when Walls of Darkness reaches new heights of fright. "It's comforting to know you're not there by yourself, because you have no idea what to expect."

Another sign that the haunted house is achieving its nightmarish goals — customers freeze in their tracks.

That's where actor Derek Wade comes in. He plays a "toxic zombie" in green face paint, but his other role is to keep scaredy-cats moving through the eerie house by shouting at them to get out.

"When people get scared, they get stuck," Wade said, adding that he often sees couples fighting about who has to go into the next room first.

Walls of Darkness' nightmarish fun ends with Stephanie Leal, 17, who dresses up in an orange prison jumpsuit and has bloody sores painted all over her face. She gets "executed" in an electric chair every night.

Leal waits until she hears another character in a neighboring room interacting with customers, then she goes to work, pretending to be disoriented and trapped in the electric chair. When customers get close, she shocks them with a scream as she endures a pretend electrocution.

"I make sure everybody hears me on every floor," Leal, a drama student at Brooklyn High School of the Arts, said proudly.

"When they get out, they're having half a heart attack. I love this job."