By: Meryl Paine

As the guests sit nervously on the hayride cart, rolling through the night, out of the shadows jumps the Creeper, who leers at his terrified victims with a patchwork face.
Behind the mask is Larry Menendez, an actor at Circle of Screams, the annual Halloween event that runs through Sunday, Oct. 29, at Circle Drive-In, 1911 Scranton-Carbondale Highway, Dickson City.
“It lets me get into a big role with a lot of other people and just have fun,” Menendez said. “We really have a great time together, whether we’re on the set or off it.”
Open Fridays through Sundays, Circle of Screams winds through the forests surrounding the drive-in theater, with a host of scares and horrors on its haunted hayride. The night’s events begin at dusk, and the last hayride leaves at 11 p.m. Tickets start at $15 and are available at the ticket booth from 6 to 10:30 p.m. and in advance at circleofscreams.com
Circle of Screams’ other featured frights this year include Cirque du Peur, a terrifying circus of deranged clowns and twisted performances that is one of the stops on the Haunted Hayride’s route, and Delfino Manor, a haunted house and estate at the forest’s edge.
The theater also will screen various horror movies during the season. And on Friday, Nov. 3, and Saturday, Nov. 4, it will offer Dark Circle, a self-guided walk through the site with only a flashlight.
Many of the actors at Circle of Screams have returned from previous years at Circle Drive-in. Menendez and Christine Siwulich, who plays the Cage Demon, are in their second years of scaring.
“Seeing the look on people’s faces as they come through and hearing them talk about it afterwards is very satisfying,” Siwulich said. “It’s really rewarding to scare people.”
Menendez plays the main monster from the 2001 horror film “Jeepers Creepers,” a demon who awakes every 23rd spring to hunt and eat humans for 23 days.
“Since the ‘Jeepers Creepers’ monster isn’t a talking creature, I’ve had to practice my facial expressions, because he’s big on those,” Menendez said.
The actors have found a camaraderie in their shared experience as professional scarers, pointed out Samantha Rutkosky, who does a fire-twirling performance in Cirque de Peur.
“All of the actors there are like one big awesome family,” she said. “And they make you feel so welcome.”

Photos by Jason Farmer

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