One of the best things about having a blog is that it helps you find and get to know very interesting people. One of those folks is "Frog Queen" (Chris Davis) of the blog Frog On the Pumpkin. Chris not only has a funny blog with an emphasis on the strange and the spooky, but she and her husband Jeff are the folks behind The Davis Graveyard, an elaborate annual home haunt in the Portland, Oregon metro area.
Since 2002 their property has become a free Halloween attraction each October, and is complete with actors, detailed scenery, props, fog, and lighting, as well as projection and mechanical effects. This was the brainchild of Chris, who is the artistic director each year. Chris, Jeff, and a few friends spend the summer building it, as well as giving workshops in making props and effects to the public!
Truly, no one could be said to love Halloween more than this couple.
I thought it would be fun to learn more about Chris, who just won the 2009 "Home Haunt of the Year Award" from the national Home Haunters Association. So an e-mail interview follows.
[A little background: Chris works in marketing for a bank, has a deep affection for frogs and cats, and a serious spider phobia. And red hair to die for!]
Chris, you must have a lot of snow right now. Made any creepy snowmen or snowwomen?
We are fortunate enough not to have snow right now…we had some earlier this season and I did get great photos of the skeleton in the veggie garden covered in snow. :D
At one of your blogs, you've alluded to people being offended either by some Halloween-related clothing or by your yard displays. What reasons do they give to objecting? Ever have any trouble from your neighbors?
I mostly hear from those Christians who think that celebrating Halloween is worshiping the devil, and that my celebrating it and having it open to the public and making it so accessible is corrupting children. They are entitled to their opinion, it is not going to change what I do. In the early years of the display we used to have someone that dropped off those dreadful Jack Chick cartoon things in the gate…the place where they are supposed to put their church contact was blank…..cowards :D
Gotten any really odd compliments or comments from your visitors? What mistaken assumptions do people make about you?
A lot of people ask me if I have seen any real ghosts…..I have to tell them that I am not a ghost person. I LOVE ghost tours, I have been all over the UK and will go on a ghost tour every night I am in town, I cannot get enough of them...they are one of my favorite things. The romantic haunting idea is alluring and interesting...But do I believe in ghosts, I so want to...but...no, not really.
How has working in marketing helped you get visitors to your yard haunt?
LOL! Too well some times. This year I purposefully took a year off from TV media – I love them, but not only do some show up at 3:00 am to start setting up for their morning shows, but then you have the news or weather people in the evening….on top of all the TOTs [trick-or-treaters] that is a very, very long day. :D I worked with a lot of papers and local magazines this past year and that worked out fine. In fact our local paper had a bit of a battle on who was going to cover us :D We have befriended almost every radio DJ in the city, so we get lots of coverage. I send out press kits with Halloween candy and make sure to send out thank you notes after the season. This is all things that are also part of my day job.
Have you ever worked in a for-profit haunted attraction, and if so, can you tell us more about that?
Never worked for one. Have made props for some local haunts and other yard haunters. Our style of haunt is not very scary, so we don’t really mesh well on style with haunted houses. That said, we do know all the haunt owners in town and we love going to their haunts and working with them. They have all been very supportive of our yard haunt.
What got you into such elaborate yard haunts? Was your family into Halloween when you were a kid? Were you always "crafty"?
It really was some friends over pizza (as we say on our site.) We all thought it would be fun to decorate for Halloween……and here I am today! Always loved scary movies and horror comic books (House of Secrets) stuff as a kid; Halloween was a natural fit for me. My grandmother was an amazing lady, she had a knack for taking things and making cool stuff out of them. She had an amazing sense of style and originality, a huge influence in my creative side.
What are some of your favorite horror movies?
Ju-on, The Haunting, Hellraiser (big Clive Barker fan), old Vincent Price movies.
My wife and I sometimes visit real cemeteries for enjoyment. Do you?
Always; we travel to Europe all the time and that is the main inspiration for the shape of the tombstones. That is why all ours are fairly simple and flat; those reverse carved or fancy tombstones are more American. I am creating some art for my basement wine cellar out of the old windows leaded glass windows from the house. I am going to take pictures of all the cemeteries that we have visited over the years and past them in the glass as if you are looking out the window to the cemetery. The only year we were not here for Halloween is our anniversary when we rented a castle and took our family and friends. We looked at several castles, but when I pulled up to Dairsie (Fife, Scotland) I knew it was the one. In front of the castle as an old abandoned church and graveyard!!! PERFECT!
Have you thought about what your own gravestone ought to look like or say?
Not really, I want to be cremated and be put in (or dispersed) a classic cemetery in Scotland somewhere...likely St. Andrews. But I do know that I want no memorial service, just a party and some of my family are not invited. They do not have a sense of humor and they will ruin it for everyone else :D
You have a serious case of arachnophobia. Can you watch spider-related films like Earth Vs. The Spider, Tarantula, The Giant Spider Invasion, Kingdom of the Spiders, Arachnophobia or Eight Legged Freaks?
Nope, never watched any of them…I saw a bit of Eight Legged Freaks –- they were so large that it did not creep me out too much. Also large spiders like in Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter don’t bother me. My brain knows they are not real, but the day I see one that size, I am off of this planet!!!
You don't like spiders or jewelry, but would you wear spider jewelry if you had it?
I love spider jewelry, have lots of it. And the gate to my garden grotto is a spider gate made by the guy that used to put on Ironstock. Just keep the real ones away from me!!
What do you think of Charlotte's Web?
Scariest book ever written!!! Can’t even have a copy in the house!! (Love that story. To this day, I do not kill spiders...very often.)
What are the earliest costumes you can remember going out on Halloween in?
I remember being a belly dancer when I was like 7 or 8 – I lived in So. Cal at the time so it was warm on Halloween…in hindsight, that was a pretty risqué costume for a 8 year old! :D
What do you give out to kids on Halloween?
I used to give out candy, that is how I tracked how many TOTs –- but now there are so many people, it is almost impossible to give away candy. This was my last year. We learned that many people did not even have their candy bags…they left them in the car to come see the display. They were genuinely surprised that we hand out candy too!
Your least favorite Halloween candy?
Anything licorice flavored. Yuk!
Chris, I think I've pulled all the questions outta my old brain that I can pull. But I know TDSH readers will enjoy learning about someone who has such a cool hobby! ("Hobby" is probably not a strong enough word, is it?)
Hobby – obsession…..all the same…makes me happy!
Thank you so much for your time. It's a real pleasure to know you virtually.
You are more than welcome and thank you so much for your interest in my little blog and graveyard!
All photos and video are property of Chris and Jeff Davis.