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Our Rachel Young inside Darkside Haunted House in Wading River. (credit: Jon Walter)
Our Rachel Young inside the “doll room” of Darkside Haunted House in Wading River. (Credit: Jonathan Walter photos)

The lifeless, eerie gaze of dozens of dolls is upon me, but I have conditioned myself to be unmoved. My own eyes locked on those of a sinister-looking porcelain figure directly across from me, I practice sitting completely upright on the twin-sized bed, my arms and legs extended at unnatural angles to mimic the doll’s pose.

Plastic knife in hand, I remind myself not to blink as a buzzer sounds in a nearby hallway at Darkside Productions’ Haunted House in Wading River, signaling that a group of thrill-seekers is seconds away.

As their dark silhouettes round the corner, I lock my arms and legs into place and stare straight ahead, lips slightly upturned and heart beating rapidly.

“Is she fake?” I hear a young boy ask his friends, who cautiously begin examining me from a distance.

Do it now, I think. 

“Wanna play?” I yell dementedly, rising suddenly from the bed.

They scream and laugh before rushing to the house of horror’s next room. I sit back down on the bed in preparation for the next group when fellow actor Brenna Bennett, 17, of Mount Sinai hurries over to me.

“How was that?” I ask nervously.

“It was good,” she says before retreating to a curtained closet. “But you have to be louder.”

Makeup artist Jake Rose uses an airbrush to transform reporter Rachel Young into something spooky at Darkside Productions' Haunted House in Wading River Friday evening.
Makeup artist Jake Rose uses an airbrush to transform Young into something spooky Friday evening.

Last year, when Darkside owner Mike Meola suggested I act for one night at his 17-year-old Route 25A attraction and then write a firsthand account of the experience, I was interested — but noncommittal.

“Yeah, that would be fun!” I told him.

As the months passed, I gradually forgot about his offer. But two weeks ago, my boyfriend, Jonathan, mentioned it in passing.

“Are you ever going to take him up on it?” he asked. “I think you should.”

I wasn’t sure if Meola, a carpenter who transforms an old potato barn and surrounding field into a haven of horrors each fall, would even remember the conversation we had 12 months ago. But he was enthusiastic when I approached him about the idea.

“Definitely,” he said. “How’s next Friday?”

“I, uh … Yeah, that’s fine!” I told him.

“Great,” he said. “But you have to be able to bring it.”

“I will,” I assured him, not sure what I was getting myself into. “I’ll bring it.”