Snarling demons, cackling witches and shambling ghouls came to life this past weekend, as the Haunted Graveyard at Lake Compounce kicked off the Halloween season.
On Saturday, true horror connoisseurs got a bonus: A behind-the-scenes tour of the gory and gruesome.
“We’ve never done this before, but we think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Ernie Romegialli last week. Romegialli is overseeing central Connecticut’s biggest haunted attraction for the 20th year in a row.
The Haunted Graveyard will run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night until Oct. 28.
But “Behind the Screams” was a one-night-only attraction. It was a chance to see how technicians, actors and set designers put together the popular Haunted Graveyard — with a few more goodies thrown in, too.
To keep visitors screaming and jumping, the Haunted Graveyard employs about 200 actors and actresses portraying all manner of monsters and mutants.
Working behind them is a small fleet of costume designers, seamstresses, makeup artists, lighting and sound technicians, prop builders and others.
“We’ve had people ask for years ‘How do get this effect?’ or ‘What does it take to do that?,’ and this year we’ll show them,” said Anthony Savio, the Haunted Graveyard’s marketing director.
The afternoon was full of demonstrations on makeup, fog and other special effects, and a talk by the casting coordinators about how they gauge which actors and actresses will be good vampires or better as demons.
There was a question-and-answer session with Haunted Graveyard staff and actors, too. Visitors learned everything from how electricians program the animatronics, to how prop artists produce the appearance of stone walls and heavy monuments.
The Haunted Graveyard provided unlimited walk-through speed passes for Saturday evening.
In addition, the ticket bought all-evening admission to Lake Compounce’s rides with a front-of-the-line pass, free parking, a free Sky Coaster ride, a Haunted Graveyard T-shirt and midafternoon refreshments. Each visitor also received an entry into a drawing for a free graveyard prop.
This year the show is starting a week earlier than usual, but even so it will be open just 15 nights. The Haunted Graveyard is scheduled to be open from 5 to 10 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting, until Oct. 28.
Advance tickets are $30 through www.lakecompounce.com. The price includes admission to Lake Compounce, which will have 17 rides — including the rollercoasters — running between 5 and 10 p.m.
Visitors walk through 23 distinct haunted areas, each with completely different themes ranging from Zombie Hospital or Slaughterhouse to Shadow Swamp, Catacombs or Dungeon.
What are a few tips for enjoying the visit?
Wear sneakers or comfortable shoes, or boots if there’s rain in the forecast. Walking through the entire attraction takes about 45 minutes and covers roughly a mile, mostly on dirt and gravel in the dark. High heels aren’t advised.
Leave the camera in the car. Photography isn’t allowed during the tour, but there are two selfie stations at the end of the attraction. One will have costumed actors who will pose with visitors for free.
Flashlights, capes, weapons or masks are also not allowed, and vaping is prohibited. Staff at the Haunted Graveyard advises visitors against touching the actors or the props. Before beginning the walk, visitors might want to stop at the restroom — because there are none along the 45-minute walk.
Lines are usually shortest during the first two weeks of shows. They grow longer as Halloween gets closer.