BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s repeatedly ranked one of the scariest haunted houses in the country and a lot goes on behind the scenes at the 13th Gate to make sure guests leave scared. Before visitors even make it inside the haunted attraction, the undead patients who escape out into the night are enough to send a chill up anyone’s spine.
As creepy creatures wait to jump out and scare those brave enough to enter, perhaps the scariest thing inside before the doors open is the fear of missing deadline.
“There is a lot of pressure working here just because we are put to a certain standard working for one of the top haunted houses in the nation,” said makeup artist, Sarah Bess Brown.
Behind the scenes at the 13th Gate is where the real magic happens. Every night, about 150 people race around, first getting masks and costumes, then they prepare for makeup. Whether they’re zombies or other unspeakable monsters, all the actors start out in a chair, where makeup artists bring the frightening creations fit for nightmares to life.
“You get so in the groove of things you kind of get lost, so I mean, you see how crazy it is,” said Brown. “We just kind of grab our people and we’re like, ‘sit down’ and we just got to go.”
Each night, it’s a race against the clock. Actors and makeup artists start showing up around 5 p.m. and only have about two hours before the show must begin. Each of the artists take on about a dozen characters each night.
“It’s intense, but it’s fun,” said Brown.
One chair over, Kaleb Naquin says it usually take him around 40 minutes to get in full costume. WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Naquin what character he plays in the haunted house.
"I am the plague victim," he answered. "I am in a very dark space with some rotting bodies and I'm pretty much on my last breath."
He drives in from Thibodeaux, Louisiana (which is about an hour away) every night, but says it’s worth it because for him and many of the folks behind the scenes at 13th Gate, there’s just something about Halloween that draws them in.
"It's just the energy in here, everyone's passion and for the love of Halloween and just anything spooky," said Naquin. "It's a lot of fun just being with like-minded people."
Once the actors are all dressed up and in full makeup, it’s hard to tell where they end and the characters they’re portraying begin.
"It's a labor of love for all of us," said owner Dwayne Sanburn.
It’s exactly the atmosphere Sanburn hopes for each day. He says the excitement builds all the way past Halloween and each year when the season comes to a close, they’re already planning and adding on to the experience for the next year.
"We never stop building on the haunted house, we just find a stopping place to open again. As soon as the doors close, we'll be redesigning and rebuilding it again," said Sanburn.
It takes guests about 30 minutes to get through the 13 different themed areas inside and the owner says there’s truly something for everyone.
“You’re going to encounter just about every phobia you can think of, so if you’re scared of something, it’s here waiting for you,” Sanburn added.
While the WAFB cameras can only go so far to show what horrors await visitors, if anyone dares to venture into the 13th Gate, they better watch their backs because there’s always something lurking just around the corner to take them by surprise.
The 13th Gate has been in operation for 18 years and is currently open every night from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. through Nov. 2.