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Deadly veterans at Woods of Terror

by Lenise Willis

No matter how well a play is written, the production can tank if it’s not performed well. Quality actors can make or break a show, and Eddie McLaurin, owner of Woods of Terror, knows that fact well. After all, the 90-minute haunt employs more than 150 people, of which many are skilled and dedicated ghouls that returners look forward to seeing each and every year.

Some of the dedicated infamous include a snake whisperer, a double-jointed zombie and a sinister clown.

FRED WILLIAMS SWANK AKA SNAKE MAN

In the trail, this former military man was bitten by a “super snake” in the jungle and slowly transformed into a half-breed. He’s now crafting an army of snakes for an evil plan that remains a secret. For the last eight years, Woods of Terror victims have been terrorized by the man who always holds a Colombian red-tailed boa.

Out of the woods, Snake Man is merely the kind and social Fred Williams Swank, an electrician, petting his friend Morticia.

“A lot of people have gotten to know me over the years, and so even when I go out in public people say, ‘there’s the snake man,'” Swank said. He says he’s always loved Halloween and going through haunted houses, but performing in one is ten times better. He especially likes making people “run faster backwards than they can forwards.”

Morticia, however, is new this year. The veteran snake, Gemma, hadn’t been feeling well, which is why Morticia had to step, or rather slither, in. Swank spent the last four months conditioning his partner for the trail.

“You gotta hold ’em everyday until they get used to being held; get them out around people and make sure they’re not going to be an aggressive snake,” he said.

KEVANTE TATUM AKA SINISTER ZOMBIE For the last nine years, Tatum has been picked out of the crowd, with the exclamation, “That’s the double-jointed creepy crawler!” Tatum, who never breaks character, wears a sinister smile and scares victims with his signature move: a threatening contortionist-like scurry toward the crowd.

The man behind the crawl is a dance instructor and choreographer at Vinmark International Dance Academy. He enjoys working at woods of terror for the laughs and says he clinches his abs to keep from breaking character.

CALI ALDAY AKA SALLY SLAUGHTER

Returning guests to Woods of Terror won’t recognize Sally Slaughter, but she’s returned with a vengeance. Last year, she was a creepy possessed girl, but this year she has joined the freak-show as a dark clown.

The woman behind the completely blood-red eye and scary clown makeup is Cali Alday, who has worked with Woods of Terror for six years. Both her and Tatum perform as mid-way characters, which is the top level of actor. Mid-way actors have to have a character and backstory developed, with their own costume and makeup as well. They terrorize fans while waiting in line and must be able to adlib and stay in character around the clock.

“Some of it’s character development, but some of it is just me being weird,” Alday laughed.

Alday added that she’s really enjoyed her new clown character this year since she gets to make people laugh, as well as scare them. She says it’s actually easier to scare victims, too. “Apparently one out of four people have a fear of clowns,” she said. And it just so happens that Alday is one of them. !

WANNA go?

Woods of Terror, located at 5601 N. Church St., Greensboro, remains open this week through Nov. 8. Tickets are $18-$50. For online discount and more information visit www.woodsofterror.com or call 336.643.3558. May be closed for rain, call ahead to check.

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