The promotional cards read, “You don’t have to be afraid anymore.”
Medical professionals at a Long Island testing facility are working to develop a cure for Nyctophobia, the fear of the dark, according the glossy 4-by-6-inch card.
But it’s all a ruse.
The web address on the card, FightNyctophobia.com, redirects visitors to a site for a local haunted attraction hosted by 20-year-old Manorville resident and YouTube.com star Eric Striffler.
Billed as “unlike any haunted house on Long Island,” visitors are asked to enter Nyctophobia — now operating in its second year, this time in a rented barn on Main Road in Jamesport — alone or in pairs. Guests are warned that they will be touched by actors and given a safe word to shout if they feel too scared to go on.
Inside you won’t find vampires, witches or any masked man wielding chain saws. Mr. Striffler strives for a more cerebral experience that plays on the fear of the unknown rather than relying on abrupt scares — though there are some surprises sure to make visitors jump.
At one point, guests are subjected to total darkness, feeling their way through a maze and occasionally grazing the hand of an actor.
“You don’t know what to expect,” said 26-year-old Jeff Niemczyk of Riverhead right after walking through the attraction. “It messes with your mind a little bit.”
But what really sets Mr. Striffler’s creation apart is the motivation behind it: He doesn’t do it to make a profit and lays out all the money himself. Last year he hosted Nyctophobia at Dream Come True farm in Manorville and did not charge admission. Before that, he volunteered his time for many years at the Spooky Walk haunted attraction to benefit Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, a camp for children with disabilities in Center Moriches.
Scroll down to see a video of Mr. Strifller preparing for Nyctophobia 2010
This year he will charge $18 for general admission and $23 for VIP admission, though he expects to recoup only half his costs.
Mr. Striffler, a 2009 Eastport-South Manor High School graduate, earns most of his income through a partnership on YouTube.com that sells ads on videos uploaded to his channels “EricStrifflerVids” and “PrettyMuchIt.” He spends the entire year scouring hardware stores and yard sales for props and attends haunted house conferences as far away as St. Louis, Mo.
“We basically look all year,” he said of he and his friends. “And we’re not finished yet.”
He also consults with his younger sister Jillian to determine the right level of “scary” for the average consumer.
“If it’s not scary to me, it’s not scary to anybody,” said Ms. Striffler, 19, after ushering a small group of people through Nyctophobia last week.
Nyctophobia has a staff of about 16 actors and Mr. Striffler said he hopes to scare more than 1,000 people this October.
Nyctophobia, which received final approval from Riverhead Town Friday, will be open Oct. 13 through 15 and Oct. 20 through 22.
Anyone interested in learning more about Nyctophobia or purchasing tickets can do so on its website at Nyctophobiahaunt.com