By Remy Melina
It’s 6:45 on a warm October night, and Mike Impollonia is patiently waiting in line to get his face and arms spray-painted green, orange and black and covered in fake blood. This is the 27-year-old’s third year working at Blood Manor, “New York’s premier haunted attraction,” located at 163 Varick St., running every night this month except Oct. 24.
What’s your costume for tonight?
An evil-looking bouncer that will take the groups through the Vampire’s Lair, which is where the vampire exotic dancers are. This is the first year we’ve had an official male dancer who’ll be in there all season, wearing hot shorts along with the girls.
I’m sure he’ll have a lot of fun. Do the dancers have a “no touching” rule?
All of Blood Manor has a no touching rule! If a customer touches any of the performers in any way, they’re removed by security right away. The rule is that we can’t touch the customers and they can’t touch us. Sure, we’ll get up in their faces and get real close, but we never touch them.
Does that rule get broken a lot?
Usually not, but some people can be out of control. One time, a very, very drunk woman was going from room to room and propositioning every single one of the male performers. Just grabbing them all over. We eventually had to call security on her.
When do the crowds get the most out of control?
Later on into the night and closer to Halloween, or when people come here after they’ve had a few drinks. Drunks are the craziest. They’re usually the ones who get aggressive, jumping around and touching stuff or bumping into things and breaking props.
Yeah, but that also happens unintentionally. Some people get really terrified and just go nuts, start tearing things apart. One time, a group of teens—people usually walk through in groups of six—got so scared in a room I was working in that one of them ran right into a huge grandfather clock. There was glass everywhere, the kids were screaming and freaking out like crazy. I had to calm them down, call security to clean up the glass and keep new people from coming in. It was a mess.
Is it hard to stay in character throughout the night?
It can be exhausting. But we unwind during our break, when we all just hang out and relax together. The owners are really nice and always give us food, like pizza and hot trays of Chinese or Italian food. They also keep huge fridges stocked with water and juice, along with multivitamins and cough drops, because our throats get pretty sore from roaring and screaming at people all night. I always lose my voice by the end of the season.
That sounds pretty rough! What keeps you coming back to work at Blood Manor every autumn?
It’s an amazing atmosphere, very high energy and fun. Plus, just the ridiculousness of it, that I get paid to do this—otherwise I’d probably be doing this for free.
What surprised you the most about Blood Manor when you first started working here?
Honestly, how well we all get along and how much fun it is. The people are great and we all bond really quickly every year because we’re working so hard and going through all this awesome craziness together. We try to keep in touch throughout the rest of the year until the next Halloween season, and then it’s like seeing your family again. It actually literally is like my family—I met a girl who was working here last year and after talking we realized we were distant cousins.
Which room is your favorite this season?
The last room, which is called Zombie Apocalypse. But I don’t want to give too much away, because it’s this awesome, gruesome, shocking finale. Let’s just say that they put a lot of thought and work into making it really scary, but also fun and interactive.
What costumes have you worn?
Let’s see…Dr. Frankenstein, a crazed, cannibalistic butcher, a werewolf…I actually had an allergic reaction to the werewolf costume, because something about the mask and the makeup that goes along with it really irritated my skin. I loved that costume though! I begged them to let me wear it again, just during the first night, for old time’s sake. But they said absolutely not, because they didn’t want me to get sick from it again.
How do the performers keep their heavy, elaborate costume makeup looking good all night long? It must be ready to melt off after midnight.
Oh yeah, my werewolf makeup used to fall off in chunks toward the end of the night. But we have makeup artists behind the scenes and we can always ask them to do touch-ups during our breaks. That’s really important, because if the latex paint starts peeling off, then the costume gets messed up, and you have a harder time getting into character. And you don’t want that. You want to be as scary and realistic as possible!
Photo courtesy of Remy Melina
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