In the News


A bride turned zombie, covered in blood, a scarecrow in a trench coat, and several of us in plain clothes sat filling out applications Saturday afternoon.

Finished, we gathered in small groups to follow Lake House Hotel of Horror co-owner Marlo Ambrosio, who wore black boots, dark-stained lips and black hair with bangs, to an upper level. An uncertain mixture of sound effects and real screams from the nearby entryway punctuated Ambrosio and her husband’s instructions before the tryout began.

General Managers

“Yes, we do get under people’s skin. We scare them, we disturb them,” Ambrosio explained of the Saylorsburg haunted attraction.

But the No. 1 priority, she said, is the safety of both haunters and the haunted. Smoking, drinking, drugs and touching patrons are strictly prohibited, and performers selected will receive training on makeup, but also on how to recognize potentially dangerous situations.

“We’re not only just scare professionals, we’re professionals across the board,” she said.

The hotel held its first tryout day for five open slots for performers who have what it takes to shock patrons and get “into their nightmares,” Ambrosio said. Around 30 people trickled through the door, some with specific characters and others still developing them.

Outside the hotel, the seasoned professionals from past seasons, from “Crazy Clownie,” to “Lumpy” and “Rabbit,” greeted and prodded us in full costume as we approached. Clownie, a man dressed as a deranged clown who said he chose the character to conquer his greatest fear, asked if I like children.

“They taste delicious, right?” he concluded.


Braced for Clownie

Inside during my audition, I dealt with my own long-held fears of horror movies and haunted houses. I could only shake the fenced walls and muster a single scream as others threw themselves into character for Ambrosio and others as they walked through, as Halloween patrons will, to observe.

Mostly, I braced myself as Clownie threw a barrel to the ground with a loud bang and another longtime haunter, the petite Jess Higgs, stalked the narrow hallways in the low lighting.

Higgs, 23, of Easton, whose character Rabbit eats children, wore one of the most elaborate costumes of the day. A seamstress, Higgs also wore two different contacts, one signature white grid pattern for her left eye, bloodied strips and rags and the plastic remains of children at her waist.

Her favorite thing, she said, is getting girls into the corners and showing no mercy.


“You paid to come in this house,” she said.

Higgs said getting into costume takes an hour and a half to two hours, and for her, Halloween is a lifestyle. Haunters must be willing to go all out.

“You kind of have to be a little cuckoo in the head,” she laughed, adding that the actors never break character except in the case of an emergency.

Ambrosio said Higgs’ character, one of the hotel’s most terrifying, proves that the scariest are not necessarily the largest.

The hotel has themes each year, but the haunters develop their own characters.

“You should be allowed that outlet to express yourself,” Ambrosio said.

During auditions, which are set in one of the spookiest areas of the house, Ambrosio said she looks for an intimidation factor, posture, timing and voice projection.

“Can we hear you in the Cage of Terror?” she said.

The group is a tight family, several said, and Ambrosio said it is more than a job.

“Some people play sports,” she said. “Some people haunt.”

Victoria Hastings, 19, arrived with her boyfriend, both of Brodheadsville, to audition. This year, she tried out as a possessed girl and is trying to push past her natural shyness. But Jarrius Hummel, her boyfriend, said he came to support her but will draw one line even if she gets the part.

“I don’t think I’ll ever go in there,” he said firmly.


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