Saturday, October 31, 2009
Quicksilver Radio Theater a few years ago brought out the definitive audio dramatization of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Produced by actor Craig Wichman (who stars as the Monster in the best radio performance of the Monster I have ever heard), it is one sweet, and faithful, dramatic adaptation of the undying novel. A great treat for Halloween.
And you can hear it HERE.
Above is an original portrait of The Monster as created especially for this audio drama by Kerry Gammill, a legendary comic book artist.
He's also a long-time friend, I'm proud to say.
We recently talked about his Halloween experiences by e-mail. Here's me asking Raymond about his All Hallow's Eve impressions.
Max: I'll start with Halloween treats. What were your most and least favorite candies to get trick-or-treating?
My favorites were Snickers and Peanut Butter Cups, and least favorite was toffee wrapped in black and orange paper.
What were some of the costumes you remember wearing as a kid?
I dressed up in various Ben Cooper costumes when I was younger, then more homemade stuff when I was older. Over the years, I dressed as Frankenstein, mummies, ape men. I don't know where the childhood photos are now, but in a couple childhood pictures of me on Halloween, I think I'm dressed as a skeleton in one and maybe Batman or Spider-Man in the other. When Imagineering came out with "The Face" makeup kits, I started using those to the exclusion of other masks. I loved painting and gluing on my own foam appliances.
What decorations and Halloween "gear" do you recall?
I remember paper decorations hanging on doors and windows. I especially liked the ones with fuzzy surfaces. I remember lots of honeycomb and accordion crepe tissue witches and scarecrows.
Did you trick or treat on your own or with others? Did you play tricks on anyone?
I went trick or treating with my dad and brother, sometimes with neighbor kids. But no, never played a trick.
Describe this year's Bash for me--how was it decorated?
The decorations are not really important where this party is concerned. But I had some impressive stuff on display, such as a giant devil and a giant spider, both very scary. When the kids walked in the door, the giant spider was the first thing they saw. It got some enthusiastic comments. But the activities are the main attraction at this party. The kids could play a bunch of games, eat cookies and cupcakes, romp around, get their faces painted and show off their costumes. We had cake walks every 10 minutes and two costume contests, and a magic show. We gave away tons of candy and prizes. For music, we're still using the old spooky songs you sent me a few years ago, interspersed with modern songs.
Any severed heads there?
A hanging severed female vampire head.
You sent me pictures of a charitable Halloween event from last year. In one photo, you appear to have some spooky groupies. Who are those bewitching ladies with you?
The ladies are members of the Community Council of St. Charles County. The event was called "Fright for Food". I hosted it, told ghost stories, showed a Powerpoint about the paranormal, all in my costume. Admission was a can of food. We donated the food to a local pantry.
You're a monster mensch, Raymond! Do you celebrate at work in any way? I dressed up as a robot recently at the supermarket where I work, and was given the task of giving treats to the kids in the store.
I have some Halloween garland that hangs around my cubicle all year round, along with a big El Santo blow molded action figure, a rubber Boglin tied to my telephone, the rubber Mothra you gave me last time I was in Pittsburgh, and a stuffed Mr. Mucus toy. The most prominent toy on my desk is an 18" talking Mini-Me doll wearing an anti-smoking T-shirt and Mardi Gras beads. I need Mini-Me to assist me in carrying out evil deeds.
In my desk drawers, I have "emergency monster toys," including the recent Cast Away Mego-style figures of the Devil, Witch, Grim Reaper and Ghost. I keep them in the desk, within easy reach, just in case they ever become necessary. You never know when you might need an emergency monster toy.
Below: Two pictures of Raymond in Bigfoot costume.
Read an earlier interview with Raymond here.
See Raymond's short parody film, The Blind Date of Coffin Joe, here.
Here's the link: Ghost or mist on tape?
Friday, October 30, 2009
"Lee Buick" is not a car dealership. No, Lee Buick is a young co-worker and friend of mine who came here from Scotland. He's a very good-humored, thoughtful sort of fellow--just an all-around nice guy. He agreed to share with readers of TDSH some memories of Halloween in Scotland, which follows.
by Lee Buick
As a wee boy growing up in Edinburgh, I remember dressing up as Dracula on Halloween night. Besides preparing me with the requisite black hair and fangs, mum also handed me a turnip as I walked out the door. In Scotland it’s not “trick-or treating”, it’s “guising” and instead of carving pumpkins, we carve turnips. Every year my brothers and I would go out guising together. In this tradition when you arrive at each door, you first recite a poem, sing a song, do a magic trick, or perform some other form of entertainment to persuade an offering of a treat. If your performance wasn’t well-received, you might get nowt (nothing)! (In the high school years, retaliation for this rejection was sometimes given through an egging, which, of course, I never participated in.) While we walked the neighborhood, my brothers and I would carry our carved turnips, called turnip lanterns, to light the way.
Turnip lanterns are carved similarly to jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but because turnips are smaller and harder, it’s no easy feat. The smell of the vegetable as the candle gently roasts the inside of the lantern is delicious. It must be added that I won first prize both at cub scouts and at school for the Best Carved Turnip. Turnip lanterns seem likely to be one of many Halloween traditions in Scotland that came from the Celtic or pagan festival of Samhain, which means “summer’s end”.
Mum would always have our favorite game ready when we got back from guising with our loot. It was called “dookin’ for apples”. In this modified version of bobbing for apples, each player uses a fork to literally stake their prize. Kneeling on the back of a chair, you lean over a basin of water and apples and drop your fork down, hoping to spear one. I was always very good at this game and even got my apple in the first try several times. Another favorite game was one in which a treacle or syrup covered scone was hung on a string and you had to bite it down without using your hands. Needless to say it was a laugh to see your friends and family members covered in a sticky mess.
At Halloween time at school, we always read Scottish poet Robbie Burn’s “Tam o’ Shanter”. It is a story of a man who stayed too long at the pub and what strange sights he sees on his way home. In a familiar situation, ladies’ man Tam had been warned by his wife to not stay out too late and not to drink too much. When he finally wanders home in the dark with his horse, Meg, he rides past the local kirk-yard (churchyard) only to spy a strange bonfire burning. There he sees a ghoulish collection of witches, warlocks, and the devil himself, dancing round the fire. Tam watches quietly until a beautiful, and scantily-clad, witch pursues him and gives him chase. Tam escapes, but the witches tear off Meg’s tail. Burns’ poem had a strong effect on me at the time, though the impact has lessened over time, especially the message of always listening to your wife’s directives.
Above: Eerie Vogrie House in Midlothian, Scotland.
Below: Some Scottish children of Lee's grandparent's time, in a 1948 photo from the online LIFE magazine photo archive. The caption says they're children of the town of Ayrshire who were celebrating at a Halloween season "Jolly Beggars" gathering to honor poet Robert Burns.
Photo by William Sumits.
"Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the Dead in their last dresses..."
--Robert Burns, Tam O' Shanter
Halloween in Scotland
Three Gallus Brithers: A Scots Ballad for Halloween
From 2006 through 2008, full-size candy masks were sold in many outlets around the country. Seems like a cool idea, but hell, you couldn't hold 'em against your face long, and once you did wear them and get them sweaty, you wouldn't want to eat them! And they're huge--take you a week to eat 'em, and by then mold spores or ants have gotten to 'em anyway. Yikes!
Just as bad as candy masks are sticker masks. Here are pics of some Jane and I found of this really bad idea for Halloween disguise:
No, they won't wrinkle, sag and look bad in ten minutes, or itch in five. Of course not. How could I think such a thing?
A precursor to those dumb paper sticker masks are starched cheesecloth masks. They've been around since at least the 1930s, and possibly earlier. My older brother and father remember wearing them, and how soggy your exhaled breath got them. Of course, by the end of trick-or-treating, you had a sort of melted look on your puss.
Here's an example in remarkable shape after many decades, proving it got little use:
Of course, during the Depression and until the Fifties, modern plastics were not available. Perhaps more durable in use were cardboard masks like these old Depression-era devils:
But the very worst mask idea is a kind you see, rarely, on adults--the permanent kind:
I suppose, if you want to become one with your "mask", to change your mundane life's role into one more like the one in your head, the one you wished been born into, it's the best mask. But talk about a mask that'll get distorted, wrinkled, and saggy! And if you find a different mask you want to become one with later, that's too bad.
These guys shoulda learned how to put on makeup.
Thanks to Bobby Beeman for some of the candy mask pics.
Image source for demon lollipop mask: Flickr account of RhiaP
Image source for face tattoos found here.
Image sources for Lollipop Masks are here and here.
Gauze mask images found on eBay.
I absolutely, thoroughly, without any reservation recommend this fun, fun documentary as the Best haunted attraction video for Halloween for this year--or any year!
Directed by Lindsey Keith Jackson. Image from the website, from a design by John O' Connor Designs N Creations.
Read her op-ed piece here.
Below are photos I took of black-and-white images I found in an old cookbook that I found at a thrift store. They didn't have the best contrast and were kinda blah looking. So I tweaked 'em and played with the color:
This post is making me hungry! Hmm, I could eat some Old Crow, or maybe Wild Turkey...
"Atom.com’s newest web series, Relationship With A Vampire, is just in time for Halloween. Brought to you by the Atom.com Upload Showdown winners of Twilight, 5 Years later, the web series is a parody of the Twilight saga, True Blood, and the general proliferation of vampire relationship shows and movies out there. Dating a vampire in high school is awesome, but sometimes love shouldn't be eternal.
"Sometimes vampires shouldn't be eternal either."
Episodes 2 and 3 will launch 11/9 and 11/16 leading up to the New Moon movie premiere on 11/20.Twilight - 5 Years Later
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, I give you my most disliked trick-or-treat candies of all time!
Licorice. (The above are licorice "Snaps")
Candy corn and peanut butter taffy. (Okay, I didn't hate peanut butter taffy, but it was a low priority confectionary acquisition.)
Most hard candies.
Root beer barrels and butterscotch buttons were just barely acceptable. But cinnamon, mint or fruit-flavored hard candies were the LAST candies I ever wanted to get. Hell, gimme gum or frickin' tiny boxes of raisins over those weird-tastin' teeth-rotters!
And fruit flavor "filled" hard candy, leftover from the previous Christmas and handed out by cheap old ladies with smelly hands, was THE worst! Charlie Brown coulda traded me his rocks for 'em! Pooey!
Wait, I take that back. Here's the WORST hard candy:
Horehound candies! BLECCHH!!! The only saving grace of horehound was having it allowed you to say a bad word without getting into trouble, like when you got to say "ass" in a Bible verse or when I could refer to the dams in my hometown region in northern Arkansas, such as the Norfork Lake dam or Bull Shoals lake dam.
And speaking of "naughty words" you could get away with saying, man, I gotta have a cocktail! Must get the taste of this post outta my mouth! Perhaps I'll have a drink known as "a Candy Bar." It does taste just like it's namesake--oh, it's delicious! Here's the recipe, courtesy of the CD Kitchen site:
Candy Bar Cocktail:
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce white creme de cacao
1 ounce dark creme de cacao
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon chocolate syrup
Combine all in an old fashioned glass; blend until smooth, strain.
Image sources of nasty sweets are found here, here, here, and here.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Today, with pleasure, I feature a monster reminiscence by Pierre.
Here's a true story about the day Pierre became a monster...
My Career As a Monster Maker
I was a first generation Monster Kid, hooked on monsters. I was raised on Shock Theater and Famous Monsters magazine, Aurora kits, the whole deal, and I was fascinated with special effects and monster makeups.
I would read up on and study makeup effects. I sent away for Dick Smith’s how-to magazine published by FM’s Warren Publications. I bought collodion and perfected my scar technique. I got some liquid latex, a thick, brownish-red substance with a sickly-sweet smell, and made some decent skullcaps and simple appliances. I even found a way to color the latex by mixing a few drops of it with acrylic paint. I experimented with grease paint, crepe hair and spirit gum.
One day, I found a formula for “plasticine”. Using flour, water, baking soda — I forget the exact recipe — you got a type of dough that could be sculpted, and it would harden as it dried. It wasn’t really any good as a substitute for clay or plasticine, but fooling around with it, I discovered that a freshly mixed batch was sticky enough to apply to your face, and if you worked quickly enough, you could shape it and give yourself a deformed monster face.
It was a lot like the character in Doctor X who slathers goop on his face, mumbling “Synthetic flesssssh!!!”. Best of all, gravity and the heat from your face would cause the false face to droop slowly, as if it was melting!
So one Halloween evening, in my mid-teens, I was hanging out with two pals and we decided to pull a joke on a friend of ours. I mixed a batch of goop and slapped it on. I remember my pals reacting wildly to my appearance. The mixture was a dull white, giving me a puffed, deathly pale complexion, and it sagged slowly, right on cue, turning me into The Boy With The Melting Face. I completed the effect with a pair of thick white gardening gloves. I stuffed some cotton into the fingers giving myself big knobby knuckles.
We headed out, using the back alleys, staying away from the busy sidewalks, and we walked a couple of block to our friend’s place. When he answered the doorbell, my pals stepped aside, revealing me, standing in the moonlight. Our friend was properly startled, as planned, we all had a laugh about it, and then we headed back to the apartment so I could pull the stuff off. That’s when it got interesting…
Cutting back through the alleyway, there was a garbage truck making the rounds. Just as we walked by, a garbage man came around the truck and face to face with me. It was very dark and there I was, a kid with a pale, bloated, melting face. The man froze, his eyes bulged, his knees buckled, and he literally jumped back, swearing loudly. I just kept going and, as we walked away, we could hear the guy jabbering excitedly with his partner. “Did you see THAT?? Did you see HIS FACE? It’s a monster!” he said. “A MONSTER!!!”
We got home and before I pulled the stuff off and washed my face, I got a good look at myself in a mirror and, yeah, it was better than I had hoped for. My “face” was sickly and swollen, with droopy eyes, something like Leo G. Carroll in TARANTULA. Boy, it was really nasty looking.
And that was my career as a Monster Maker. Years later, some of what I had learned was useful when I fell for a season with a professional theatrical troupe, building props and helping with wigs. Eventually, I gave away my makeup books and I went into illustration and comics.
My career as a Monster Maker may have been a short one, but I like to think it was successful. I know it was. I had scared an adult!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Both nicely-performed covers and original songs are here, including Statler-penned tributes to the makeup men of Hollywood and a tribute song to the annual Monster Bash classic horror film convention. Best of the covers, IMHO, are these tunes: a kick-ass version of Al Caiola's arrangement of Mancini's Experiment in Terror, an energetic Haunted House, and a romantic crooning of Moonglow, which opens with a wolf (or maybe werewolf) howl in the background. (The song is nice contrast to the horror novelty selections.)
You can listen to excerpts from the CD, and buy a copy, at Indie Rhythm .
You can also purchase or download it from CD Baby.
OR you can help support the Monster Bash, a great convention, by buying it at this Creepy Classics page.
BORIS KARLOFF AND HIS FRIENDS is a legendary LP from the late Sixties. On it, Monster Kids from that era were treated to an audio trip thru Hollywood horror history with Boris Karloff as the host. It was conceived and co-produced by musician, makeup artist and mask-maker Verne Langdon, who also created the classic albums The Phantom Of The Organ and Vampyre at the Harpsichord. It featured a script by everyone's "Uncle Forry," Forrest Ackerman, the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.
There has never been a tape or CD release of the record since that time.
This CLASSIC RECORDING from Electric Lemon Record C0. has been DIGITALLY RE-MASTERED as a CD from NEWLY-DISCOVERED ORIGINAL 15 IPS TAPE MASTERS! This never-before-heard Monster Mania Master has never sounded so good.
A hallmark of horror for your sense of hearing, it takes you back to that Golden Age in "Horrorwood, Karloffornia", when all those Universal-ly loved monsters were up to no good on the silver screen. Besides King Karloff, you'll also hear Boris's friends in frightdom, such as Bela Lugosi, in clips from the milestones of monster movies.
Boris' magnificently malevolent voice is elegantly backed by the musical grandeur of the massive, 34-ranks-of-pipes WURLITZER THEATRE ORGAN, with a score specially composed by Verne Langdon for the album.
The ORIGINAL AN EVENING WITH BORIS KARLOFF AND HIS FRIENDS is where the celebrated collector's album all began, and the CD's booklet includes Verne Langdon's personal account of the afternoon spent with Mr. Karloff. ALSO included are photos taken at the session from Verne Langdon's own personal photo collection. Never before seen pics of the King of Horror? I SO have to buy one of these! This really is one of my favorite records, and I highly recommend it!
You can too--HERE!
This Saturday, October 31st, 2009, The Ubangis return to the lovely The Quarry House Tavern for another big Halloween blowout! (8401 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone # 301-587-8350.)Last year's show there was a blast and this year will be even better! Joining The Ubangis is the horrorotic Halloween burlesque stylings of Shortstaxx! Plus our good buddy the amazing DJ BuMp from Baltimore will be spinning the Halloween tunes all night long! There will also be an awesome costume contest with prizes! Not to mention a couple of sets from yer ever-lovin' cave-stompers The Ubangis! Fun for every boil and ghoul! Yes, you won't wanna miss this one! Show starts at 9pm! Admission is tba but will be in the $5 to $10 range. Don't forget to wear your costume! ! Muaaah-ha-ha-haaaaa! <---(obligatory maniacal laugh) ~UNGAWA!!!~ Visit the Ubangis' website at http://www.ubangis.com
More cool Ubangis songs and pics on MySpace at
Monday, October 26, 2009
I'm honored and delighted (not de-lit, which I never am) to have an interview with them about their memories of--and comments on--Halloweens past and present.
Jim & Marian Clatterbaugh
Publishers of Monsters from the Vault
What was your favorite/least favorite Halloween candy or treats?
Marian: Favorite: Mounds bars. Least favorite: hard candy. I lived on a long street, so my bag would get full and heavy pretty quickly. I think it was my first trick-or-treating night when my bag broke and candy spilled out all over someone’s walkway. I was only about 3 years old, and my mother was with me to rescue most of the candy, so I don’t remember that it was too traumatic.
Jim: Favorite: Those homemade candy popcorn balls, and Mallow Cups. Lots of the people in my neighborhood made items to give out at Halloween instead of candy, and those popcorn balls were always my favorites. I used to hit the homes that gave them out a couple of times to accumulate more. A few years ago I purchased some packaged ones at a store and they weren’t so good, so maybe I should make some for myself! Least favorite: I never liked it when people gave out fruit like apples and bananas. No kid wants healthy food in their trick or treat bag.
Tell us about some of the costumes you dressed up in.
Marian: My mother made most of my costumes, including Witch, Black Cat, Ghost, and Peter Pan. The last year I went trick-or-treating, I put together my own costume, a Beatnik. [Click on any picture below to see it larger.]
Jim: My favorite costume was a Ben Cooper Frankenstein costume. I wore that costume for years, and since I was rather tall as a child my mother had to add material to the bottom of the legs so it would fit me year after year as I continued to grow.
Truthfully, that’s the only costume I can remember, and I’m extremely proud to say I have the same costume mint in a box today. I purchased it at a Chiller Theatre convention in the early 1990s. However, I, like just about every other kid who read monster magazines in the 1960s, would love to have had one of the Don Post masks and hands that were advertised within the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland. But at $39.98 for the mask and another $19.98 for the hands, I, like just about every other kid, could only dream of that. In the 1960s that was our entire household budget for a week probably!
What decor and/or accessories of Halloween do you remember?
Marian: I remember those papier-mâché jack-o-lanterns—wish I still had one of the originals now! I do, however, collect vintage Halloween decorations as well as new decorations, and I have a large collection of the Dept. 56 Halloween Village houses, figures, and accessories.
Jim: I always liked the Halloween skeletons, monsters, witches, cats, etc. made of thin cardboard that were jointed so that you could hang and pose them on your door or window. Other favorites were the metal noisemakers that you twirled around by a handle to make noise. I guess you could call them party favors. Fortunately, Marian and I have been able to collect a few of those over the years.
Costumes you’ve seen that impressed you as VERY good or VERY bad...?
Marian: Very good: At a Halloween party after a friend’s book signing, someone dressed up as one of the ghostly characters in her book, using filmy material with lights underneath it. Very bad: Those T-shirts that say “This IS my costume!”
Jim: Very good: Truthfully, I don’t remember any truly spectacular costumes growing up, but over the years at various conventions and parties I’ve seen some truly great stuff. Very bad: Any costume that wasn’t scary. To me, Halloween is about frights so I think all costumes should be scary. No princess’ or cute costumes—not even for babies or young kids!
Did you trick or treat on your own or with others?
Marian: I went around with my sisters and the neighborhood kids.
Jim: I always went around with the kids in my neighborhood, and then we would usually attend a party at someone’s house.
Did you ever play a trick on anyone—if so, what was it?
Marian: I was pretty tame—maybe soaped a few windows.
Jim: Once I was too old to go trick or treating (around 13), my friends and I would dress up, hide in bushes and dark spots, and jump out and scare the younger kids as they went from house to house. Many times they would drop their bags of candy and take off running, so we’d end up with plenty of candy even though we didn’t go trick or treating! One of our favorite things to do was build a zip line and make a ghost to slide down the line at the kids as they approached the door. This was always highly effective.
Do trick-or-treaters come to your door, and if so, do you give ’em candy?
Marian & Jim: Yes, unless the weather is horrible, we sit outside on the driveway by a fire pit (kind of a tradition in our court) and greet trick-or-treaters. Marian usually wears a witch hat and something festive. We average only between 30 and 50 kids a year, so there’s always plenty of candy left for us.
Do you still celebrate Halloween in any way?
Marian: We have a whole line-up of spooky films on hand for Halloween day and night (minus the trick-or-treating hours), and sometimes the day before and after Halloween (Dia de los Muertos, the "Day of the Dead"), depending on when Halloween falls in the week.
Jim: While we haven’t done it for a while, we use to dig out our MANY boxes of Halloween decorations and do the house up, and have a Halloween party for our friends. Hopefully, this is something we’ll start up again in the near future. We publish the classic horror magazine Monsters from the Vault, and Marian collects all types of Halloween decorations (and collectibles related to the film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which we watch each Halloween), and I collect both vintage and new monster toys (mostly relating to the monsters from the classic Universal films of the 1930s and 40s), so it looks like Halloween in our house 365 days a year. We also love this time of year so much that we got married in October (1997) and took a trip to New England for our honeymoon, which included a stopover in Salem, Massachusetts, where it’s Halloween 365 days a year. Then on our fifth anniversary in 2002, after attending the October Chiller Theatre convention in New Jersey, we made a second trip to Salem, and I had one of my greatest moments as an Editor/Publisher of Monsters from the Vault when we entered this really cool comic book shop and discovered that they had a really nice display of monster magazines—but better yet—the whole top shelf of the display was devoted to Monsters from the Vault! As you can imagine, I was smiling from ear to ear!
Finally, for years I used to work at various haunted attractions during the Halloween season, and I always had a ball doing it. I guess it reminded me of the more innocent times of the 1960s when I used to scare the younger kids in the neighborhood. I keep telling myself I want to get involved with a local haunted attraction, but I always seem to have too much on my plate to do it. So until then, we at least try to hit one of the several cool haunted attractions near us each October to get a fright or two in celebration of old All Hallows Eve, to cap off our favorite holiday and time of year, and to feel like we’re kids again!
Monsters From The Vault is currently published twice a year. It's only purpose, says Jim, is "to keep the memories of the monsters of my (and our contributors' and readers') childhood alive and well." Jim and Marian succeed very well in this mission!