Here, entering each room is like stepping into a miniature horror movie, a totally immersive environment where the danger lasts far longer than the length of a single scream.
"Haunted houses are one of the most intimate forms of theater there is. The audience is within a foot of you," said haunted house director Lewis Vaughn. "You have to know what your character is and what he or she wants, and you have to know it well enough to stay in character no matter what the audience does."
The house is open from 7:30 p.m. to midnight every Wednesday through Saturday, with the more than 30 cast members gathering at 5:30 p.m. to learn the characters they'll be playing for the evening. In the corner, professional make-up artists use momentary inspiration and available materials to make those characters come to life, highlighting bones and creating deathly pallors.
These teens were part of the 150 who attended the acting classes that the arts council began in August, bringing in professionals from all across the state to teach things such as movement, improv, and character work.
"When you just jump out, you just jump out," said Kevin Rodgers, dressed as an undead Egyptian wizard. "But here you really have to imagine yourself."
Now, the teens use those skills to memorize their lines and work on developing their characters, which range from clowns to friendly asylum escapees to Norman Bates.
Each spends the time analyzing the emotions and motivations of their particular villain, deciding their thoughts and what they might want from the people going through the house. The next night, the teens will switch and take on an entirely different dark persona.
"It's totally elevated my acting," said Madison Chandler, one of the actors playing the killer from the movie "Scream" that evening. She recently spent an afternoon researching the killer Leatherface for a previous night at the haunted house. "I can play all different types of emotions now."
The house's guests may go through a similar series of emotions. Though surprise scares are included in the tour, the actors focus more on slowly freaking people out. A pale, blood-covered man may ask for a hug in his high, sing-song voice, or Dracula may take a careful, intimate sniff of a customer's neck as he trails them through his chambers.
Sometimes, leaving a particular room isn't even enough to leave some of the creatures behind. Some occasionally choose special friends, following close enough to touch through huge sections of the haunted house.
"It's so much fun," said Jackson Carter, at the time serving as Leatherface's blood-spattered brother. "I finally get acting experience with dark characters."
The house costs $11 for kids and $14 for adults, all of which will go to funding future DAC teen acting programs. Vaughn hopes to make the haunted house an annual fund raiser for the new program.
Right now, though, the teens are simply focusing on frightening the unwary.
"Ever since I was little I wanted to be in a haunted house," said zombie Matthew Layton. "And here I am."