Editor’s note: This story was originally published in October 2016
When someone steps inside Darkside Haunted House in Wading River, owner Mike Meola said, it’s like they’re the star of their own horror movie.
“The haunted house was created from a love of Halloween,” said Mr. Meola, whose Route 25 attraction is now in its 19th year.
For Mr. Meola, Halloween starts around June, when he begins to create most of the attraction’s props and sets.
“The attention to detail and everything we put into the show — from the sets to the costumes to how we train our actors — is what really sets us apart,” he said.
For Mr. Meola and his partner, Cathy Gillette, that means creating an entire production and giving visitors a unique experience.
Ms. Gillette said many of Darkside’s actors return each year. Some prefer recurring roles, like a creepy butler who greets people at the elevator or a human doll who hides in the doll room.
To achieve these transformations, makeup artists Shane McGowin and Nicole Boccio spend almost two hours each night airbrushing the actors’ faces and hands. Like a well-oiled assembly line, they move quickly to turn each person into various monsters.
For guests, the experience begins outside, where they walk through a spooky gated maze before entering the house. Mr. Meola said he plants “Easter eggs” in this portion of the haunted house for scary movie buffs. Visitors who dare to enter may encounter Sam from the movie “Trick ‘r Treat” or, in the cemetery, a familiar man with a dog that’s found at Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction.
“Most people run through with their hoods over their heads so they don’t notice those things,” Mr. Meola said.
Since many people are repeat customers, Mr. Meola said he and Ms. Gillette try to make subtle changes to the attraction each year to maintain suspense.
“The new changes we make are always our favorite,” Ms. Gillette said. “We put a lot into them.”
This typically entails adding new rooms to the house.
“The changes we have made this year have been very well-received,” said Mr. Meola, who didn’t want to give too much away but said people can expect to be afraid. As you walk through the house, the feeling that something may jump out at you is constant.
As enthusiastic as Mr. Meola is about the work he has done at Darkside, he’s also a big supporter of other haunted houses across Long Island. This year, he teamed up with some of the island’s other top haunted houses to form “Scream Long Island.”
“[The idea] was really to encourage people to go to multiple haunted houses,” he said. By going to screamli.com, people can get discounted tickets on multiple haunted houses, like Gateway Haunted Playhouse in Bellport, Chamber of Horrors New York in Hauppauge and Haunted Mansion of Melville at Schmitt’s Family Farm.
“We put on a show that we’re proud of,” Mr. Meola said of Darkside. “We are always trying to outdo ourselves. Everybody here wants to keep that level up.”
Don’t be afraid
Darkside Haunted House is open Tuesday, Oct. 25 through Thursday, Oct. 27, from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, from 7 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Oct. 29, from 6 p.m. to midnight, Sunday, Oct 30, from 6 to 10 p.m. and on Halloween from 7 to 11 p.m. General admission is $25 and matinees are $10.
Darkside Haunted House is located at 5184 25A in Wading River. Visit darksideproductions.com for more info.