By Janee Law
When a group enters the redneck backyard room at the Haunted Mansion of Melville, Lauren DeLorenzo, who plays cannibalistic hillbilly ‘Lou-Ann,’ waits patiently in the dark for the likely-terrified haunted house-goers to approach.
DeLorenzo wears jeans and a camouflage t-shirt, both stained in ‘blood,’ and contacts that turn her eyes white. Her makeup makes her face pale and veiny, and it too is splattered with fake blood. A few of her usually-pearly white teeth are painted black to insinuate missing teeth.
She stands patiently on a crate and, as the group makes their way across the room, DeLorenzo jumps off. She surprises the group, and shouts with a hillbilly-inspired accent, “Have you seen my teeth?”
DeLorenzo has been striking up scares at F&W Schmitt’s Family Farm’s haunted house attraction during the Halloween season for the past seven years. She said there are a few things that go into giving people the perfect scare.
“It’s about timing, making the right sound and the makeup,” said DeLorenzo, of Hicksville.
The last of those three is especially important, DeLorenzo said, crediting the makeup artists.
They “work magic,” she added. “They make us look disgusting and creepy. They’re amazing.”
For 21 years, F&W Schmitt’s, located at 26 Pinelawn Road, has been striking fear into the hearts of many who dare walk through the 22-room setup. In addition, the farm also operates the nighttime Haunted Corn Maze, which spans 2 acres.
Phil Mazal, director of both the haunted house and corn maze, said when creating a room in the mansion, he and manager Tony Arone get their ideas from television, movies or props they’ve purchased at trade shows. They started preparing in June, and ultimately ended up with a variety of spooky rooms, like the asylum, autopsy kitchen and clown rooms.
The redneck backyard is new set that was added last year, said Mazal, of Deer Park. There was always a typical cemetery scene, but last year there was a decision to try “something different, where they’re a little wacky,” with the hillbilly redneck backyard.
There are around 50 actors, like DeLorenzo, that make up the casts for both the haunted house and the maze. Although each room has a visual, they wouldn’t be as impactful without the talented actors, Arone said.
“My favorite thing is getting the actors in the house and seeing how it works,” Arone, of Huntington Station, said. “We can build it for years, but without any actors, it doesn’t come alive.”
DeLorenzo incorporates a bit of strategy when plotting out her scares.
“I like to scare them and then make them laugh so they’re kind of relaxed for the next person to scare them,” she said. “I’m very small so when I can get a reaction out of someone it’s empowering.
Through ScreamLI, Haunted Mansion of Melville collaborates with three other haunted houses throughout the season, including Chamber of Horrors NY in Hauppauge; Darkside Haunted House in Wading River; and Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse in Bellport.
The collaboration includes sharing ideas with each other, but there’s also a combination ticket available for all four haunted mansions for $80 per person. It’s available through Screamli.com.
The crew in Melville is now readying to enter its final week of the season, which culminates on Halloween. The haunted house and corn maze are open Friday and Saturday nights, 7 p.m.-12 midnight; and Sundays and weekdays from 7-11 p.m.
General admission for the haunted house is $22 and it’s $12 for the corn maze. There’s a combo ticket available for $32. To purchase a ticket, visit Schmittshaunt.com.
For children, or for those looking for a not-so-spooky experience, the haunted house opens in a less scary version without actors every day from 12 noon - 5 p.m. Cost is $6 per person.