For that matter - why monsters, why haunted houses, why this glorious obsession?
Hw did a grown man evolve from a sweet innocent *coughcough* little boy into this....this...THING on the Big Scary Show?!?!?!
If I had a nickel for every time that I've been asked that....well, I think you know the rest.
Aside from various psychological dissertations, maybe a little trip down memory lane might better explain this process.
I've loved this sort of ting since my earliest memories. My first exposure to *anything* monster related was The Munsters when I was two or three - Herman scared the crap out of me, but left quite the impression, and, as time went on, I grew to adore the lovable oaf.
...by the way, have you ever noticed how children's programs like Sesame Street and The Electric Company have always been loaded with all kinds of creatures....?
I vividly remember my first Trick or Treat - it had to have been in '72 or '73....my grandfather had bought me a clown costume for the event. (I suspect my mother had something to do with the outfit, too, but never mind!)
Me? I wasn't having any of it! I wanted to be something SCARY! I waned to be a MONSTER! Mom said otherwise. "You go like this or you don't go!"
I caved, but I took note.
To this day, I remember one week of my childhood in particular. It was in pre-kindergarten. I grew up in the southern suburbs of Chicago and one of the local channels had a morning movie every weekday at 9 A.M.
Lucky me, I became aware of the program on Horror Week - and what a week it was!
King Kong vs. Godzilla, Horror of Dracula, Evil of Frankenstein, Curse of the Werewolf and the Phantom of the Opera.
Ruined for life. Y'know, I can still feel the rush of anticipation as I awaited the monsters appearances, and the utter joy as they burst onto my little black and white screen in all their glory.
(As a side note, King Kong vs. Godzilla was my first exposure to Godzilla, who instantly became one of the Loves of My Life and sent me careening on a life long path of Tokyo Smashing Obsession. But that's another story.)
After all this, my little mind wanted ANYTHING WITH MONSTERS!!!!!
I ate Monster Cereals - remember Count Chocula, Frnakenberry, Boo Berry and Fruit Brute? I drank Nestle Quick Monster Chocolate Milk, I played monster board games like Which Witch and Green Ghost, I had the Mego Monsters action figures, and, of course, the complete line of Aurora's Glow in the Dark Monster Model Kits.
Chicago has always had a love affair with monsters and Halloween, Every weekend the local UHF channels would play literally hours of monster goodness. And what a menu to choose from!
Almost every weekend were things like Creature Features, The Monstrous Movie, Chiller Theater, Thing Theater, The Monster Rally Movie, Monster Movie One and Two, and, of course, Svengoolie (early '70s) and the Son of Svengoolie ('79 onward).
Honestly, without these programs, I would have missed out on a lot of fantastic movies. I also would have managed to avoid some truly awful ones as well, but I digress.
Things like Dracula and Frankenstein were the norm for that era, but more obscure gems like Masque of the Read Death, Die, Monster, Die!, Kronos, and The Colossus of New York would have gone by me if not for these shows.
One birthday in particular I never forgot - June 15, 1974 - Creature Features ran The House of Frankenstein, and it was like Monsters on Parade - Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein - all in one movie - talk about a great present!
That same year, I caught Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein with my Dad that Halloween - and, to this day, it's the film he and I bond over the most and laugh the hardest at.
Mainstream television had some terrific stuff as well - there were the usual suspects: The Addams Family, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak, the Night Stalker, There was also this little-known sci-fi series called Doctor Who...
The first run of these I ever saw featured the late Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, and stories like The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos, and The Daemons were full of alien monsters and sent my imagination running.
I've devoured plenty of horror fiction over the years - some good, some not so good, and some I never finished. The one's that stuck the most were Bram Stoker's Dracula, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot and The Stand, Peter Straub's Floating Dragon, and a host of Poe and Lovecraft anthologies.
Halloween season always made me so happy as a kid - a time full of ghosts and goblins and all manner of things spooky.
I got to decorate the house - a little, anyway - my mother did not care for it - but I did the best with what I had. I was always envious of the other kids in the neighborhood whose parents would let them run wild in terms of decorating.
Some of the home haunts were just wonderful: crank ghosts, huge lawn cemeteries filled with life sized monsters.
Remember, this is the mid-70s were talking about - no internet, no manuals, whatever you came up with, you did it on your own. It was definitely inspiring!
Trick or Treat was such a wonderful thing then. Just the joy of running around, dressed as my favorite creature or character, and gathering a bag full of goodies. It didn't get much better than that.
Chicago haunted houses were a mixed bag - Jaycees did the lion's share of them, and some were great, some not so much. If you wanted something really scary, you had to go out to the farmer's field or an independent spot - I've gone into a few of my experiences in my segments on both Hauntcast and Big Scary Show, but I still maintain the Chicago haunts are truly some of the most unique n the country. They have a flavor all their own.
As a teenager in the 1980s, I "outgrew" Halloween and became a full on Heavy Metal Maniac - but even this had spooky elements to it. Bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio and Ozzy Osbourne all had horror themes in their lyrical content.
Funny thing is, I may not have decorated or gone Trick or Treating or any of that sort of thing - but I would still try and hit a haunted house or two during the season, albeit secretly.
This was also the period that influenced me the most as a home haunter - the movies of this period were some of what I consider the best int eh horror genre - An American Werewolf In London; John Carpenter's The Thing; The Howling; Fright Night, and this was also the period where I took in George Romero's Living Dead trilogy.
Fast forward to 1988 - my family relocates to Dayton, OH, and the rules of Halloween change drastically. The city of Dayton is not that far removed from the country side, and farmer's fields are everywhere. Many of them have seasonal haunts to boot. Add to that, we're not that far removed from both Columbus and Cincinnati with all their possibilities.
Things were different here - the haunts were far more independent, and all kinds of scenes were produced that I had never even dreamed of. For example, imagine being chased through a cornfield by a demon possessed hay bailer!
I met my wife Lisa on Memorial Day weekend of 2001. We were married that November. We quickly found out that we both loved Halloween with all the trimmings, not to mention long road trips to destinations unknown.
We started to toy with the home haunt idea in a serious was around 2003 - we had a good sized party and decorated a bit, but, it did set things in motion for us. By 2006, we were really getting going, and every year since then have strived to come up with bigger and better ideas.
We're apartment dwellers, but we have never let that be a deterrent. Lisa and I have managed to create some fantastic scenes with our limited space.
Travel is such a large part of our life together - we love exploring different locales, no matter what time of year. Exploring haunted attractions only sweetens the deal for us.
In regards to my involvement with both Hauntcast and Big Scary Show, I was just someone who managed to have a conversation with The Powers that Be in both cases, pitch an idea, and they were willing to take a chance on it. The rest is history.
Where does this leave us at?
I'll continue to contribute to The Big Scary Show as long as people enjoy it and as long as it's enjoyable...for as long as they're willing to put up with me, I'm going to try to be part of it in one capacity or another.
Every year brings a new run of road trips, every year brings a new batch of haunts, every year brings new and fantastic people in Lisa and my lives...all because of Halloween.
Our own home haunt seems to grow by leaps and bounds, each season being an opportunity to try and trump the last...and, with a few minor exceptions, we've been pretty successful. The last few years have included the blessing of our landlord to set up a full blown cemetery in the front yard, and that gets more ambitious with every passing season.
In the end, and most importantly, I am married to a wonderful woman who not only supports my obsession, but actually enjoys it as much as I do...almost!
Without her indulgence, none of this would have happened.
To quote the Grateful Dead: "What a long, strange trip it's been!"
And you know what?
I wouldn't change a thing.