Good evening, folks! It’s Ladies Night here at the Mangled Matters Halloween Celebration!
Tonight, I’m honored to be able to point the spotlight at filmmaker Maude Michaud and author Gwendolyn Kiste. Both ladies have been featured on Mangled Matters before and for very good reason. They are two of my favorite people to talk to when it comes to weird, creepy, scary, gross, fantastic stories, regardless of the medium they are told through!
Michaud is one of the hardest working and outgoing ladies working behind a camera these days, with fantastic films such as Dys-, Red and a number of segments in horror anthologies that firmly entrench her as a leading lady in the world of gore.
Kiste channels her inner Ray Bradbury seemingly every week. Bradbury churned out fantastic tales at an astonishing rate and Kiste is cut from the same cloth. Not only does she write short stories, but she’s also a filmmaker and a playwright. Her short story catalog is something to truly lose a few days in.
If you’ve never read or seen either lady’s work, do yourself a favor and check out the links at the end of this round table discussion!
Ladies and gents, I present to you Maude Michaud and Gwendolyn Kiste…
MANGLED MATTERS: What is your favorite childhood Halloween memory?
GWENDOLYN KISTE: There are so many great Halloween memories that it’s hard to choose one! My parents were married on Halloween, so even though that’s not my memory, per se, I will say that’s a good one for sure. As for my own memories, I remember one particular Halloween party that I hosted when I was thirteen. My friends and I were in eighth grade then, and it was definitely this moment in between—before high school, before things got too emotionally fraught, before we all started dating, sometimes within the circle of friends which is never a good move. Change and adulthood were coming, but they hadn’t found us yet, and there was this odd joy and power in that. Also, at that party, I dressed up as Alex from A Clockwork Orange, which made me the coolest small town thirteen-year-old you’ve ever met. I was always trying to be super clever with my costumes, and that year, I could be like “Oh me? I’m dressed as a character from an X-Rated movie.” Aw, the follies of youth!
MAUDE MICHAUD: Halloween has always been my favorite holiday of the year and choosing the perfect costume is something I always took very seriously. Growing up, my grandma used to sew a new Halloween costume for me every year, so whenever I went to the fabric store with her, I would always check out the Halloween costumes section of the pattern catalogs. I could spend hours looking at the different patterns in order to find the one for me. Once I did, I would carefully select the perfect fabric with the help of my grandma and watch in awe as she made it all come together with her sewing machine. She enjoyed this annual ritual as much as I did and would often be the one to suggest we get started early on my Halloween costume (sometimes as early as May!). To this day, nothing compares to the joy and the magic of seeing a couple of yards of fabric transform into my dream costume all while spending quality time with my “mamie”.
MANGLED MATTERS: What are some Halloween traditions you hold near and dear to your heart!
MAUDE MICHAUD: Dressing up! I always wear a costume on Halloween, even if I’m the only person at work wearing one (which has happened in the past). I also always make it a point to watch horror movies and to decorate my place even if there is no tick or treaters (I live in a high-rise). And of course, I make sure to celebrate with close friends. Even if it’s not a big, crazy party, we at least try to do something that will get us in a spooky mood.
GWENDOLYN KISTE: Trick or treating was always my favorite tradition growing up. I love getting dressed in ridiculous costumes and traveling the neighborhood. The nights when it was just a little bit chilly—not too cold, but not too warm either—were always perfect. That bite in the air and the leaves crunching beneath your feet are too perfect for fall. To this day, there’s nothing better than that, and October definitely brings back those memories, as if my whole life is a Ray Bradbury story.
These days, my most beloved Halloween tradition is my blog, 60 Days of Halloween. It’s become something that really unites my family as we rally together for ridiculous crafts and other projects. It takes a lot out of us every year, but it’s certainly fun making new memories together.
MANGLED MATTERS: What are your must-see movies for the Halloween season?
GWENDOLYN KISTE: The usual standbys are obviously great—Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th, even though that last one takes place in the middle of summer! As for films off the beaten path, The Sentinel is a fantastic and criminally under-seen horror movie from the 1970’s. It’s a shame too that it’s so overlooked because the supporting cast in particular is fantastic—Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Chris Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken. Plus, there’s a scene in which a group of characters celebrates a birthday party for a cat named Jezebel. You could stop right there, and I’d be in love with the movie, but there are some incredibly disturbing sequences, which makes it perfect for the season. It’s based on a book, so my literature-loving heart can have twice the goodness with one title.
MAUDE MICHAUD: Trick ‘r Treat is an obvious choice! But I also love watching campy old horror films for Halloween. Titles like Return of the Fly, House on Haunted Hill, and The Tingler to name a few. The Universal monster films of the 30s, anything with Vincent Price or directed by William Castle or H.G. Lewis (R.I.P.) I find these always put me in the right mood!
MANGLED MATTERS: 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!)
MAUDE MICHAUD: Bloody Mary! My cousins and I would lock ourselves in a dark bedroom and spend hours telling each other scary stories. We would often talk about wanting to try calling Bloody Mary, but we would always chicken out at the last-minute! As a kid, I knew so many different scary stories and urban legends, but somehow I would always want to talk about Bloody Mary. There’s something about this story that has always fascinated me!
GWENDOLYN KISTE: Crybaby Bridge is a huge urban legend in Ohio. I thought this one was nationwide, but I have friends in different parts of the country that have never heard of it. According to the legend, a distraught mother wandered in the cold and the dark one night with her crying baby, and when they reached a river overpass, the mother jumped, swaddled infant and all. On cold nights like the one they died, you can still hear the baby crying beneath the bridge. Or, you know, so the story goes.
In my hometown of New Philadelphia, Ohio, there’s also the tale of warlock’s grave. In a small cemetery on a country road outside the city limits, there’s a rather eerie old grave plot that supposedly belongs to a man who practiced the proverbial black magic. The story goes that when he died, the villagers severed his head and buried it at his feet to keep him from rising again. However, his power is apparently strong, because each year, his head creeps a few inches closer to his neck. When at last his desiccated skull reaches his spine, he’ll rise again. *cue sinister music*
MANGLED MATTERS: What scares you, personally?
GWENDOLYN KISTE: Unexplained disappearances definitely creep me out. I remember learning about Roanoke Colony in school, and the horror of all those people vanishing has never entirely left me. When I was younger, I had a lot more phobias (bugs in general, especially the thought of them getting into my food), but now I live in the country where bugs flying gleefully around the property is just a way of life. Even so, to this day, I won’t eat outside. If I can keep a fly or a spider out of my sandwich, then my life is a little bit happier.
MAUDE MICHAUD: I have a phobia of porcelain dolls. It sounds super silly, but I am actually terrified of them – I’m talking cold sweats and feeling ill if I’m in the same room as one of them for a prolonged time. I was once visiting a museum and ventured into a room which was filled with porcelain dolls; I almost immediately passed out. Aside from this phobia, I have a few irrational fears, such as snakes, worms, leeches, centipedes, and any other things that resembles these creatures. I always avoid looking straight into a mirror in the middle of the night, which in retrospect might be connected to my fascination with Bloody Mary! (laughs)
MANGLED MATTERS: What is your favorite and least favorite candy in the trick-or-treat bag?
GWENDOLYN KISTE: I’m a big fan of peanut butter, so Reese’s Cups are always a good standby. Ditto for Snickers. Any of the mini candy bars are fun, because you can eat a whole bag of them and use the excuse that they’re small, so they don’t count the same. To be honest, Halloween is the one time of year when eating candy is not only permissible but practically required, dentists be darned!
As for my least favorite candy, I would probably have to go with bubblegum. Those little pink wads of sorrow are terrible. They’re always stale, and who makes candy that you can’t really eat anyhow? It’s like the worst trick of all!