COAST CITIES — The Del Mar Fairgrounds turned Scaregrounds is offering a ghoulish trio of attractions this October, sure to test the mettle of even the most hardened haunted house fan. The Scream Zone, now in its 11th year, continues to attract legions of thrill-seekers to its attractions: the Haunted Hayride, the House of Horror and The Chamber.
The Chamber is a frightening maze populated by a host of A-list horror film celebrities, including Michael Myers and Jason, while the Hayride is a tractor-pull inspired by the recent sci-fi flick “Doomsday.” The centerpiece of the Scream Zone is the sprawling, 14-room House of Horror. Each section is individually themed with homages to several major horror films.
During the Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 opening weekend alone, operators reported 36 instances where patrons ran screaming from one of the attractions prematurely. For $5, the weak-hearted can purchase a glowing “monster medallion,” which will ward off the scariest of the performers. Of course, the actors aren’t allowed to actually touch the patrons, but they generally don’t have to.
“We’ve had three people fall,” Kelsey Sheek of Oceanside, who plays a frightful Scarecrow, said. “We’ve had somebody pee their pants.”
It takes a special kind of person to play one of the park’s more than 60 zombies and miscreants, and the two actor supervisors put the applicants, recruited from all parts of the county, through an extensive audition process to get the very best.
“Enthusiasm is really, really big,” supervisor Gregg Curtis said. “It’s great to have a big giant guy, but if he doesn’t have any energy, it’s just no good … They really have to love what they’re doing.” Curtis explained that most of the performers aren’t professional or even aspiring actors. “They’re mainly people that have regular daytime jobs and just do this for the fun of it,” he said. “You’re not going to get rich doing it, but you make a lot of friends that you stay in contact with all year long and see those same people when you come back here again.”
“Everyone here is amazing to be around,” Sheek said. “They’re so fun to be much around. It’s the funnest job I’ve ever had.”
One of the big-ticket performers is 20-year-old Jason Maultsey of Fallbrook who, with his knived glove made of real metal, was quite impressive as horror luminary Freddy Krueger. Working the Scream Zone has been a long-time personal ambition for the film major. Afflicted with Type 1 diabetes since childhood, Maultsey wasn’t able to go trick-or-treating with the other kids, so his father took him to haunted mansions instead and he became a huge fan.
“It’s actually an honor to be a first-year (participant) and be in all this makeup,” Maultsey said. “I’m the only actor that gets latex done on their face.”
Maultsey did confess to a little guilt about enjoying what he does.
“I feel bad when I see Mom and Dad bring in their 4-year-old little kid,” he said. “The kid is screaming and bawling and the parents are getting a thrill out of it, but it’s all about fun. That’s what we do it for.”
The Scream Zone will be open Oct. 9 to Oct. 12 and Oct. 16 to Oct. 19 and nightly Oct. 23 through Nov. 1 from 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and 7 to 11 p.m. other days. More information is available at www.sdfair.com/screamzone/.