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Undead Wannabes Descend on Studio

Clad in sneakers, bluejeans and a blouse, Sandy Mooney of Hollywood took the stage, flashing a demure smile at the judges of her audition.

But rather than a Shakespearean monologue or an improvised scene, this tryout, for the Chamber of Chills at Universal Studios, required simply her creepiest cackle.

That’s when the crowd at Universal CityWalk Wednesday morning saw a transformation.

Crouching her dancer’s frame a bit, Mooney let out an elongated witch cry, opening her mouth toward the microphone as if she was going to sink rotten teeth into a poison apple.

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“I love scaring people,” she said matter-of-factly after she left the stage. “More than that, I enjoy scaring them as something I am not.”

If she makes the cut, Mooney will be one of 40 to 60 creatures in the haunted house, which has adult and child versions opening next week on Friday the 13th and running through Nov. 3.

Universal officials said they hope their first haunted house venture at CityWalk will establish them in the lucrative Halloween market.

Wednesday’s audition, open to media and onlookers, drew a diverse group of would-be undead.

A Cousin Itt look-alike mingled with a grungy werewolf in flannel, while plainer-looking folk summoned evil from within.

“You can usually see it in their eyes, in their expression,” said Robert Bruce, the chamber’s co-creator and one of the judges on Wednesday.

A former lighting designer in the film industry, he now works on haunted houses full time.

“You wouldn’t think that after waiting two or three hours on line that people would be scared,” Bruce said of previous houses. “But that’s the big reward, when the chain-saw man comes up to guys in suits and he’s dripping with blood. You can see that kind of scene in a movie, but when you’re in a haunted house, you are in that scene.”

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Rusty Locke, 23, has worked in three haunted houses, including one at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

His audition done, he stood watching the frightful parade after him.

“Everybody has the Halloween spirit in them,” he said, an eager glint in his eye. “And every year at this time it comes out.”


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