27 days until Halloween: Halloween Round Table #1

Happy Monday, folks!

With the countdown getting seriously low now, I figured it’s time to bust out the big guns!

Over the rest of October, I will be sharing a few round table discussions I had with a variety of awesome ladies and gentlemen in the horror industry.  We will hit on a number of topics, most of them fun and a few downright creepy!

For this first installment, I (virtually) sit down with author Chris Larsen, haunted house resident Jim Millspaugh and horror enthusiast and blogger Steve Mezo!


With every day being like Halloween for you, how do you make October 31 stand out?

Chris Larsen:  Horror is a 365-days-a-year affair for me, no doubt.  Books.  Movies.  Creeping through cemeteries.  But Halloween is more than horror.  It’s red and orange leaves drifting out of the trees, jack-o-lanterns, parties, and costumes (naturally).  That said, for me, it’s all about the kids.  Mine are 10 and 12 now, not too old for costumes, so that’s a thing I still look forward to — watching my kids enjoy themselves.  And then when they’re sleeping off their sugar comas, I’ll crack open a Stephen King book, or pop in a George Romero flick and fall asleep on the couch dreaming about someone else’s monsters.  It makes my imagination more fertile.

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Larsen’s two sons and mother at the legendary Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in Illinois

Jim Millspaugh:  You know, Halloween stands out for me, because I actually relax a little bit, after a great season of scaring people.  I get to “let my hair down” and do something silly.

Steve Mezo:  For a little over twenty years, I managed a costume shop and the 31st was always another work day.  Now, I enjoy John Carpenter’s Halloween and a big order of hot wings.


 

What is the best haunted house you’ve ever been to as a visitor or participant? 

Larsen:  I don’t even have to think about this one, although I’m a little bit ashamed of my answer because it’s not “hard core” enough, but the best haunted house I’ve ever been to is, without a doubt, the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom.  I don’t remember the one at Disneyland, and I’ve never been to the other Disneys, so that’s the one for me.  It’s not really scary.  More “spooky” in a goofy, kid-friendly kind of way, but there was so much love poured into the design and execution, you just can help but be thrilled with the final product.  I went last year with my wife and kids, and was pleased with how they added all these interactive props to the queue.

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I’ve never worked at a haunted house, not a real one you’d charge admission to, but I do remember helping my brother turn his bedroom into a haunted “room”.  We were both about 10 or so (him a little older, me a little younger) and we put pillows and shoes under his blanket, with a batting helmet for the head, and then we propped a picture frame on the helmet so it looked like the guy under the covers got brained.  We also dressed his desk chair up in a suit so it looked like a headless person was hunching in the corner.  My brother recorded creepy music on a tape recorded (yep, I’m that old) and we colored scary pictures with glow-in-the-dark crayons and lit the room with a black light.  It was a lot of fun.  I think about that project a lot, actually.

Millspaugh:  Wow, OK,  this is very subjective, as people have different tastes.  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a little bit, so I would have to say the best Haunt I’ve visited is Netherworld in Atlanta.  Such amazing detail and characters.  I was also fortunate enough to work the queue line at Netherworld after I went through the attraction.  I forgot how old I was and was having fun scaring and chasing people at every opportunity.

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Jim means business when it comes to haunts!

Mezo:  Eastern State Penitentiary is my favorite haunt, even off-season is creepy there!  My favorite that I managed, built for and am still part of – Hollowgraves Haunted Manor.

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What was your favorite Halloween costume you ever wore, growing up?

Larsen:  My mom made me a Mr. H. costume from the Letter People when I was in kindergarten.  She dyed a mop green for his hair, got me light blue slacks and a blue shirt, cut out a red felt ‘H’ that she pinned to my shoulders and pant cuffs, and painted my face yellow.  I remember my grandpa wearing the wig with a kind of half-humorless look on his face.  I think I looked better in it, but whatever.  I still don’t know why I wanted to be Mr. H, but it seems kind of prescient in retrospect, since I have horrible hair just like him.

Millspaugh:  I would have to say my homemade Spider-Man costume, complete with dart gun type web shooters.

Mezo:  Ben Cooper’s Planet of The Apes Soldier Ape.

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Steve and Aunt Vera, 1975


What is your favorite scary urban legend and/or campfire tale?  Bonus points if it’s from your hometown or one you grew up near!

Larsen:  The one that comes to mind is the one about the couple who are making out in a parked car, and they hear on the radio (while they’re making out) that an escaped lunatic is on the loose in the area, because of course he is.  The girl gets nervous, and when the guy goes to start the car, he can’t, so he promises he’ll be back really quick and not to worry.  Well, the girl waits and waits and eventually turns the radio off because the news is making her anxious.  That’s when she hears this weird scraping sound.  She wants to get out and see what it is, but she’s too wound up.  Eventually, a police cruiser pulls up and they tell her to come to them — but not to look back.  She almost gets to the car when she can’t help herself, and she looks back to see her boyfriend hanging from a noose.  His feet were scraping the top of the car.  I’m not sure what the lunatic had to do with this story, but there you go.

Millspaugh:  I’ve always been fond of the legend of the killer in the woods with a hook for a hand.  A new character I’m developing is loosely based on this legend with a few twists.

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Mezo:  The Traveling Carnival Haunt with real corpses!

 


What is your favorite and least favorite candy in the trick-or-treat bag?

Larsen:  No dark chocolate.  No coconut.  Everything else is fine, as long as it’s really candy and not sort of candy, like popcorn balls or apples or something.  My favorites are probably Rolos or Milk Duds.  I like the chocolate/caramel combo.  Snickers, Milky Way … Baby Ruths.  They’re all high on my list.  But Skittles and Starburst are can’t miss candies.  That’s my answer, but really, you put a bag of candy in front of me, and I’ll eventually whittle it down to nothing.  Sorry kids.  You shouldn’t have left that stuff out.

Millspaugh:  My favorite has always been Reese’s peanut butter cups, hands down.  My least favorite – most people would say candy corn, but I actually like those – would be the Mary Janes or Bit-o-Honey.

 

Mezo:  My favorite candy – Almond Joy.  My least Favorite – Smarties.

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Steve haunting the Haunted Manor in 2003

 


Check out Chris Larsen’s blog and Amazon page to get your hands on two fantastic novels and a bunch of awesome short story anthologies!

Steve Mezo can be found over at Tattooed Steve’s Storage Unit of Terror


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