Jennifer Condron lives to scare.
The 35-year-old New Jersey resident, who owns the top-rated Bane Haunted House, is bringing her reign of terror to Hell’s Kitchen this fall.
On Monday, Condron and her crew were busy building a gruesome set across the former Pacha nightclub at 618 W. 46th Street. With more than six weeks to go until it opens on Sept. 20, fake wrapped bodies were already hanging from the rafters, skull replicas were set out on crypt-like walls, and the metal doors of the "morgue" were in place.
The five-floor building makes for a "very spooky" setting for the adult-geared haunted house, allowing it to expand to more than 30 rooms, each one with different fears represented, Condron says.
"We try to prey on every single fear — fear of the dark, claustrophobia, fear of being alone, fear of snakes, fear of clowns, fear of heights — we try to make sure that every fear you could possibly have we play on," she told amNewYork inside the building.
The story of the haunted house goes that in Livingston, New Jersey, a man named Dr. Michael Bane experimented on animals in the family barn. One day, his daughter got bit by one of the experiments and the next morning, most of the family was found dead, except for Jennifer, Dr. Bane’s daughter.
It’s a made-up story, but Condron does her best to make sure people believe it. She pulls her inspiration from her dark imagination, which may have had something to do with growing up with a father with a career in special effects makeup and watching "The Exorcist" at an early age, she says.
All of the props she uses in each room are realistic, from a wooden bed frame to actual tree branches, wooden fences, and a real metal mortuary cooler (that she bought in an auction and cleaned herself).
Condron doesn’t play by the rules, either. The haunted house is full contact, meaning that guests will be "kidnapped" and touched by actors in costume (who have been professionally trained on how to handle people).
Plus, it’s not the kind of attraction that spits you out after a few minutes — the experience is about 30 minutes long and takes guests through a story, often requiring them to crawl and slide their way through. Only three people are let in at a time every 30 seconds, meaning groups get separated.
"You can’t scare someone when there are 10 people," Condron said. "I want to make sure everybody is happy. I love what I do. The heart is what separates a good business from a great business and if you do play the rules, you end up being the same haunted house. A lot of haunted houses are afraid of full contact, but we have a lot of staff who are trained to perfection."
In preparation for the Halloween season, Condon and her staff have interviewed more than 200 people to fill about 85 positions.
"The actors’ casting call has been a trip," she said. "The freakiest of the freaky have come out. I love every one of them."
The actors work with floor managers to help people get out of the haunted house, too, Condron said. Only when guests yell "mercy" are they escorted out.
"I’ve had people on the floor crying and the actors keep scaring them," she said. "If you don’t yell mercy, we don’t come get you."
Bane Haunted House doesn’t take too kindly to those who chicken out. "Quitters," as they are called, are let out through a "quitters" door that announces you’ve had enough — and there are no refunds.
The "quitter count" reached 2,000 people last year.
Bane Haunted House’s move to New York City comes after 10 years in Livingston. Starting out in a 4,000-square-foot tent in the parking lot of a mall, it has grown to become the largest haunted house attraction in the tristate area and has been named as one of the scariest by Cosmopolitan, Travel & Leisure and other media outlets.
Its lease was up and Condron said it was time to move to New York City — where she always had wanted to operate. Will New Yorkers be able to handle the fright?
"It might not be the dark and it might not be the clown. It might just be you being by yourself for two seconds," she said. "New Yorkers think they are tougher and harder, but I don’t care where you’re from or who you are. I will get to you at some point."
If you go: Tickets are on sale for $35 at banehauntedhouse.com. Hours are from 7 to 11 p.m. and it will stay open later as Halloween approaches. Bane is located at 618 W. 46th St. and opens Sept. 20.