Ominous music weighs in the air as Alex Ross sits in a dark room adorned with animal bones and paintings of people with their flesh stripped away from their bodies.
Here, the 21-year-old Buford resident is in his element, basking in the horror of Georgia’s famous spooky attraction — Netherworld Haunted House.
When entering the grounds of Netherworld, screams and laughter can be heard not just from inside the haunts, but outside in the winding lines of people.
Giant gargoyles, the famous zombie gravedigger and other creatures frighten unsuspecting patrons in lines and pose for photos, oftentimes letting out a snarl or two.
Once the attendees get into one of the haunts, it’s like stepping into another world. They walk through a maze of entertaining horrors, each strategically placed by the attraction’s skillful puppet masters.
While the animatronics and detailed props create the spooky setting for the haunts, the actors, like Ross, breathe life into the interactive nightmare.
During the fall Ross undergoes a monster metamorphosis, changing from his everyday self into a character from nightmares. He arrives to the haunted house around 6 p.m. to pick up a ticket with the role he’ll play and his location in the attraction.
Haunt days, which take place from late September to early November, are always hectic.
Netherworld’s makeup and costuming crew weave their magic, altering dozens of people into scary works of art.
People dash in and out of rooms, undergoing their transformations in less than an hour.
Depending on the day, Ross can be any number of characters including a gorgon — a monster out of Greek mythology — crazed criminal, mutated lizard man or the creepy mayor of the fictional town, Whyshburg.
“I enjoy getting to be a different character,” Ross said. “It’s like being a kid again and playing make-believe. You get to put on this costume and completely be somebody you’re not.”
Each year Netherworld has a different storyline to go along with its haunts.
Ross said he typically doesn’t have much background information about his characters before he plays them, but always keeps in mind the haunted house’s theme.
“I get a feel of the environment around me and think of how my character would sound, act and behave,” he said. “From that I sort of test the waters with the first few people that walk through.”
Before jumping into his job at Netherworld, Ross had to go through “monster school,” which teaches new hires the ins and outs of being a monster.
While some of the actors stay in-house like Ross, others work outside around the lines of people waiting to enter Netherworld or perform stunts like gliding above the crowds and sliding on concrete.
Scaring people isn’t always a walk in the park.
While many scared attendees run and shrink in fear, others go into fight mode.
Netherworld actors are not allowed to touch visitors, but that doesn’t stop attendees from thinking about throwing a punch.
Luckily, Ross hasn’t been hit or grabbed by a patron — yet — but it’s not an uncommon sight among other monsters.
“The biggest thing we’re told is to not jump out with our face first, usually scare with our hands,” Ross said. “If somebody does end up swinging, they hit our hands and not our face.”
Those who work at Netherworld have a keen eye for spotting those easiest to scare.
If a person is clinging onto someone with their head down, Ross said they’ll most likely be a prime target for spooking.
However, he can’t always be certain.
“There will be those people who walk in all big and tough,” he said. “You think nothing will scare them, but as soon as you jump out at them, they’re on the floor. It’s just really fun.”
Netherworld Haunted House
What: Interactive haunted house attraction
Where: 2076 W Park Place Blvd., Stone Mountain
When: 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2; 7:30-10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3; 7-11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 and Saturday, Nov. 9
More info: fearworld.com
How much: $20-30, depending on the night and haunt selection
Ross has been fascinated with horror since childhood. He frequently visited Netherworld until he became old enough to get a job at his spooky home away from home.
Working at Netherworld has opened up doors for Ross, landing him spots as an extra in multiple short films and even an appearance in “The Walking Dead.”
His dream is to get a full-time job in the film industry, but for now, he will keep doing what he loves most — scaring people.
“It’s like a huge family here,” Ross said. “We’re all comfortable with each other and everyone is always cracking jokes. If you’re into horror or anything scare in general, Netherworld is absolutely the place to check out. There’s a lot of scares and fun.”
Netherworld keeps its doors open year-round by running multiple escape rooms and a laser tag course.
The haunted house is located at 2076 W Park Place Blvd. in Stone Mountain. For more information, visit fearworld.com.