Category Archives: Reviews

Movies, books, cool costumes, haunted places, creepy decor and more to chill you to the bone.

Get Wiggy With it: Our 8 FAVORITE Halloween Wigs

Halloween wigs aren’t generally built for the long haul. They’re supposed to stand up to dancing, candy-binging and following tots around the ‘hood for just one night.

But we have a real treat for you today. If you’ve been considering a Halloween wig, these little babies have come a LONG way. Click each pic for details.

(Psst: See our tips at the end of the article for wig-wearing if you’ve never donned something spookysexyscarycool.)

She’s Got it All

This rainbow wig comes with matching socks and gloves for the look that has it all. So cute!

Killer (in a Weirdly Hot Way) Clown

This wig is truly killer! (And you knew we were going to include it…who doesn’t love Harley Quinn?) Check out the reviews to see it on real customers.

Frank-ly Hot

This is such a COOL take on the Bride of Frankenstein. Add some hot to your night with this fun pick.

Go Get ‘Em, Guy!

Nobody can hold THIS guy down (unless he wants that). Uber-blonde, long, and fun…female party guests will be asking for a li’l tug all party night long.

Red Bombshell

They’ll fall in love with you…and you’ll fall in love with this super-cool look. It’s on-trend and will look hot on your vamp-est outfits. Go for it!

80s Megaheat

Ouch! You’re too hot to handle in this totally 80s throwback. Go retro bleach blonde or dark-‘n-mysterious.

Fairy Fun

Don this whimsical piece and you’ll enchant one and all. In fantasy ombre.

This Wig Trumps All

Don’t worry, the real thing looks pretty fake too. You’ll get laughs and plenty of attention from this little piece.

Wig-Wearing Tips

  1. Wigs aren’t for everyone. The above wigs are all synthetic. They may feel itchy to some sensitive individuals. Make sure you buy from a supplier who offers a returns policy, just in case.
  2. Make sure the wig you purchase comes with a built-in wig cap. If not, you can purchase wig caps cheaply on Amazon or at your local beauty supply store.
  3. Wig too shiny? Dust it with cornstarch if it’s light-colored, or with cocoa powder if it’s dark.
  4. Most costume-style wigs are tell-tale by the front hairline. To soften it, try tinting the front of your hair with a temporary (rinse-out) color that blends with the wig. Then pull a few pieces of your own hair out at the front.
  5. While extremely long, lush wigs may look cool, they’re more prone to tangling. You may want to test out your wig with one wear before putting it on for the party night.

REVIEW: Dying to Be a Haunt Actor? This Book Tells You How

Review: Author Larry R. Johnson Jr. Unveils ‘Handbook for the Aspiring Haunt Actor’

Do you love screams, laughter and once in a while, an uncontrolled pants-wetting before your very eyes? (And we’re not just talking about the kids.)

As a youngster, while the other children were dreaming of becoming firefighters or teachers, were you the kid daydreaming that one day, you’d be Freddy Krueger?

Do you live to see someone handsome or gorgeous made horrific with a few flicks of dripping home-made goo?

Then you might be just like this guy. Growing up in his North Carolina home, future author Larry R. Johnson Jr. dreamed of something bigger (and more faux blood-covered) than the average.

“I Just Wanted to Make People Ugly”

It all started innocently enough.

Or…not.

The young Larry knew he was different – and creative. His fascination with the ordinary-turned-macabre led him on the path to one day becoming a haunt actor, he says.

“I wanted to do the stuff they did in movies that made people ugly,” Johnson explains in the Introduction to his new ebook, Handbook for the Aspiring Haunt Actor.

He continues in the gotcha! deadpan you’ll quickly come to know and love, “I also wanted to be a pro wrestler. Mostly, though, I wanted to make people ugly.”

Ugly. Got it.

Grim and Gainful Employment

He succeeded. Johnson went on to become an actor in one of North Carolina’s largest and best-known haunt attractions, Hacker House.

Was it easy? Well, yes…and no. Enter Handbook for the Aspiring Haunt Actor.

In this delightful, dark and just-a-little-devilish manual, Johnson details his surprising first step into haunt acting (and what he learned along the way); his evolution since then; and every down-and-dirty detail of how to win that dream haunt acting gig of your own.

What’s Inside the Book

Handbook for the Aspiring Haunt Actor reveals all of the following, in a folksy, fun and occasional profanity-marked (we loved it) let’s-sit-down-and-talk-over-coffee tone:

  • Why a haunt actor audition really is an audition – and how to be ready
  • Getting the “scare” your prospective boss wants to see
  • Improv and thinking on the move
  • Dressing the part (and feeling comfortable while “in character”)
  • How to communicate with your interviewer so you get the gig

A Haunting Future

Johnson notes that it doesn’t all stop at simply landing the job. You’ll also learn:

  • What “oops, that’s not in my contract” work you’ll get (like hands-on set building) – and why you should be a “yes man” when it’s offered
  • Getting along with your coworkers
  • Evolving your character and refining your craft
  • Movements, sounds and your character’s “voice”
  • What to do when haunt visitors heckle, throw a punch, or just won’t give you the scare reaction you’re looking for

And can we just put this out there? The makeup and costuming tips are phenomenal. From making your own faux blood, pus and scars to dressing for scary success, Johnson doesn’t miss a trick – and he’ll definitely save you some coin, whether you’re going pro or staying closer to home to terrify unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.

The Quick & Dirty

PRICE: You can’t beat it. Currently, the book is listed in Kindle format for $1.99. (Please note: prices can change. Click the image of the book above for details.)

STYLE: Down-to-earth, occasionally crude, surprisingly funny, sneak-up-on you smart, with tons of informational meat on its bones…it’s EXACTLY what we love at Halloween Alliance.

LENGTH: It’s a very readable, totally filler-free 76 pages. No word will be wasted; even with the engaging style, Johnson gives you a bang for your buck in quality, immediately usable information.

WE SUGGEST THIS BOOK FOR: People who want to be come paid/professional haunt actors; people who want to be part of their own home haunt/scare on Halloween; people who are already haunt actors but want to hone their craft; anyone wishing to make decor, particularly moving or stationary monster or human props, look more realistic.

 

The COOLEST Halloween Treat Ideas

 

Be “that house” this year – that’s right: the ones kids turn their costumes inside-out for so they can come back for seconds. Here‘s how.

 

Trick-or-treat, smell their feet, give them something good to eat!

Okay, so we’re sure you’re not likely to engage in that second option (can we get an “eeew”?), but as for the rest, we’ve got the goods right here! Keep little hands dipping into the Halloween treat cauldron with these absolutely amazing candy ideas. 

Creature Eyes Lollipops

 

These sugary delights REALLY look like monster eyeballs. At $19 for six assorted pops, these make an eye-popping (you knew we’d go there) impression. Find yours here.

Candy Urine

We know…we couldn’t stop laughing either. Have these gross little goodies lined up on your mad scientist display for your phantasma-tastic party. Each contains sour liquid candy; they run 4 items for $10. Find them here.

Halloween Fortune Cookies

These are a fun twist on the fortune cookies you already know and love. Each cookie is Halloween-colored and contains a spooky-slash-funny fortune. And at less than $9 for 50 cookies, they’re easy on your wallet this Halloween season.

Sour Flush Candy

Here’s one last nod to the “gross candy” idea: dip the “plunger” (lolipop) into the sour candy to coat; then lick. These come in delicious sour apple and are the most reasonably priced we’ve found to date, at $22 for a pack of 12.

Peeps Caramel Apple Chicks

Can we get a YES please? Mmmmmmmmm…these Peeps are ghoulishly delightful. (Caramel apple FTW!) If you can’t find them on store shelves this year, check this site to order. They’re $1.50 for a package of three Peeps.

Hershey’s Candy Corn Bars

The candy corn apparently wasn’t enough, so Hershey’s dipped this treat in white chocolate. (Oh my gourd.) Caveat: you’re NOT supposed to eat the entire box by yourself (oops). 21-count box for $24; order here.

Dia De Los Muertos Sugar Skull Candy

Halloween isn’t the only holiday in mid-fall. Dia de lost Muertos honors the dead on two days – Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 – and is celebrated in Mexico. It’s also growing in popularity in the U.S. Be unique and celebrate “the other Halloween holiday” this year. We found them here.

 

 

A Ghastly Tour of America’s Most Haunted Cemeteries

 

Just in time for Halloween, here it is: the Halloween Alliance 10 MOST haunted cemeteries in the U.S list. Visit them, if you dare, but be warned: some guests say these ghostly graveyards are never fully at rest. 

Here are ten terrifying tales that will have you turning over in your own grave – and leave you scared to death.

No. 10: St. Louis Cemetery – New Orleans, LA

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is set in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is set in the historic French Quarter and houses the remains of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

Dozens of different ghosts have been reported here over the years, but voodoo priestess Marie Laveaux is by far the most commonly spotted spook at this historic locale.

Called “the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” Ms. Laveaux is said to have left more than just her memory at this hauntingly beautiful graveyard: her presence, and even some of her voodoo magic, are said to live on (guests frequently leave offerings at her tombstone in hopes that some of her abilities will rub off).

When spotted, Ms. Laveaux’s ghostly image wears a red and white turban tied with seven knots and shrieks a chilling curse at passersby. 

No. 9: Stull Cemetery – Stull, KS

Legends state that Stull Cemetery is cursed and even houses a set of steps leading directly to hell. Image: toypyaps.com
Legend states that Stull Cemetery is cursed and that a set of hidden steps there leads directly to hell. Image: toypyaps.com

Stull Cemetery is legendary due to the claim that it hides a set of steps to the netherworld, giving the site the eerie nickname “the Gateway to Hell.”

According to the tale, the steps are nearly impossible to find and are only visible on Halloween Night. Other phenomena – including bone-chilling screams – are reported all year long.

The cemetery’s reputation for being cursed is supported by claims that a man accidentally burned his son to death near the area, and another poor soul hanged himself from one of the cemetery’s trees.

No. 8: Resurrection Cemetery – Justice, IL

Resurrection haunts cars, statues and male partygoers, witnesses say. Image: prairieghosts.com
Resurrection Mary haunts cars, statues and male partygoers, witnesses say. Image: prairieghosts.com

This mammoth 540-acre graveyard is the burial site of the famous Resurrection Mary, a blonde, blue-eyed figure who was killed walking up a nearby road following a fight with her beau.

Appearing in the ball gown and party shoes she was buried in by her grieving parents, Mary’s ghost is said to appear in front of cars and disappear just before they strike her. She also looks to hitchhike and then vanishes as the car approaches. She is even rumored to  dance with men at parties before fading from view.

Witnesses claim they have seen Mary hovering near a statue at Resurrection Cemetery (where she is said to have been buried).

Continue Reading ->

The 13 Most Haunted Hotels in America

 

Haunted hotels entered the public imagination in a big way with the spectrally occupied Overlook in The Shining. But creepy stories of spooky stay-overs have always been the subject of speculation – and some reportedly haunted stays still exist today.

Here’s Halloween Alliance’s list of the 13 spookiest hotels in America. Pack your bags and stay a while…if you dare.

#1: The Bourbon Orleans Hotel

Unearthly dancers are said to waltz through the Bourbon Orleans ballroom.
Unearthly dancers are said to waltz through the Bourbon Orleans ballroom.

Nestled in the iconic French Quarter of New Orleans, the Bourbon Orleans is the site of the original Orleans Ballroom, built in 1817. Among those reportedly at unrest at the Bourbon Orleans: a Confederate soldier for whom the war will never really be over (seen on the 3rd and 6th floors), children and nuns who were victims of a yellow fever epidemic when the hotel was an orphanage, and mysterious dancers who disappear as quickly as they appear, ruffling the draperies as they waltz from one world into the next.

#2: The Omni Homestead Resort

Despite its idyllic appearance, the Homestead is said to be anything but restful (or at rest).
Despite its idyllic appearance, the Homestead is said to be anything but restful (or at rest).

According to guests, the Hot Springs, VA-located Omni Homestead Resort is anything but restful. Though the entire building is said to experience ghostly disturbances, the 14th floor receives the most reports of paranormal activity. Originally erected as a much smaller facility in 1776, the resort is said to have a bloody history, including a bride left at the altar who committed suicide in one of the rooms. More recently, the hotel has experienced violence that visitors swear was spurned by the unrest in the building: two hotel supervisors were shot by an employee in the hotel’s kitchen in 2009.

#3: The Onaledge Inn

Harassed male visitors claim some of the Onaledge's guests have reserved a postmortem stay at the haunted locale.
Harassed male visitors claim an aggressive elderly woman has booked a post-mortem stay at the Onaledge.

Built as the Red Craggs Inn in 1844, this Manitou Springs, CO bed-and-breakfast is said to have a number of unearthly “regulars,” including a “blue boy” who plays near the pond and, perhaps more dangerously, an unidentified elderly female who attempts to shove at male visitors. The location was rebuilt as the Onaledge Inn in the early 20th century, but these spooky guests, visitors say, refuse to leave.

#4: The Stanley Hotel

stanley hotel ghost
The spooky Stanley Hotel has a dangerous history and is said to host at least one ghost (see image above).

That’s right: it’s the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining in 1980. And it’s not just King who felt something eerie in the famous locale. According to hotel employees, the Estes Park, CO structure, built by Stanley Steamer magnate Freeland O. Stanley in the early 1900s, things go bump in the night, and not just in Room 217. The place has been plagued by a gas leak, a mystery explosion, power outages and, according to records, has resulted in injuries, including two broken ankles by one of the employees.  Among its spookier stories: beds are found by chambermaids already made up (and not by the guests), and honeymooners report being physically separated on the marriage bed by a spectral presence. And according to hauntedplacesinamerica.com, an eerie image (shown in the pic, right) has been captured – temporarily, anyway – on camera.

Continue the Haunted Tour ->

 

7 Best FREE Halloween Apps for Your iPhone

The noise is coming from inside the phone…Heads up! Apple is haunting your iPhone with a host (or is that ghost?) of ghoulish apps, including new versions of your favorite prickly picks. And don’t be too scared, at least of the price: every one of these chilling apps is free.

Many of these apps are available on Android, so check the Google Play store to see if your phone supports any of these chilling choices. Click on the images for more info. Enjoy!

1. Corpse Cam Photo EditorCorpse Cam

Freaky! Convert selfies into something a little more horrifying. Version 1.5, with 13 new “masks” to virtually try on.

Version: 1.5

 

2. Ghost Radar: Legacyghost radar legacy

Ghostbust your house (and your friends) with this paranormal activity detector. Translates detections into words and numbers to give “real-time” communication with the energies around you.

Version: 3.3.3

 

3. Halloween Wallpaper & Backgroundwallpaper

More than 100 new wallpapers have been added to this much-loved scaring season app. Share wallpaper to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more.

Version: 5.0

 

4. Halloween Sounds ProHalloween Sounds

Freak out your co-worker in the next cubicle and even send a second set of sounds remotely via Bluetooth with this creepy audio collection. 15 spooky sounds and a terrifying soundtrack.

Version: 1.4

 

5. Gun Zombie: Halloweengun zombie halloween

This app is free for a limited time only, so grab it now! Mow down monsters with your choice of 38 weapons and receive rewards for ridding the world of evil.

Version: 1.4

 

6. Ghostbusters Paranormal Blastghostbusters

Blast and trap ghouls in high-res 3D. Includes the much-loved Slimer, haunted librarian and Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Version: 1.1.5

 

7. Halloween Pumpkin Smashhalloween pumpkin smash

Smashing! Annihilate gourds when you’re bored and challenge yourself to either arcade or survival mode. Click on matching pumpkins and shake to “explode” them. Oh so satisfying.

Version: 1.0

 

 

 

 

 

The Queen Mary Houses Guests…AND Ghosts

What’s going on at the docked Queen Mary? Plenty – and it’s all coming from long-deceased guests who never checked out, according to reports. Visitors report thumps, childish giggles, and heart-stopping apparitions.

Read on for a history of the ship, info on the annual Dark Harbor attraction, plus loads of spine-chilling ghost sighting tales to keep you up at night.

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Long Beach, CA is home to creepy haunt, hotel and carnival Dark Harbor aboard the famous Queen Mary. What’s the story behind this mystery ship and its haunted reputation? Read on…and shiver.

Why is the Queen Mary Haunted?

When the Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage in 1936, she was the second largest cruise liner in the world, with almost twice the tonnage of the Titanic. Famous personalities from American actors to British royals were often seen enjoying its first class amenities while crossing the Atlantic from Southampton, UK to New York City.

The ship also saw service during World War II, but reverted to a passenger ship until 1967. The ship sailed to Long Beach, California, where it’s been a combination museum, hotel and tourist attraction ever since, with over 1.5 million visitors per year.

But all hasn’t all been smooth sailing aboard the Queen Mary. Crew are said to have seen 49 deaths onboard the vessel during its years of operation – including those of innocent children.

And while tragic all by themselves, the stories don’t end there.

A (Very) Extended Stay: Ghosts Roam the Queen Mary

Queen Mary HauntingsThe chilling part? Some of these visitors are said to have never checked out. The ghosts of the Queen Mary are so famous, signs have actually been installed within the ship to point out where ghosts have reportedly been spotted.

So, what are some of these stories that would make this ship one of the world’s foremost haunted attractions? Let’s take a hair-raising peek into the unearthly goings-on aboard the bloody Queen Mary.

The Grey Ghost

In World War II, the ship was painted grey as camouflage, and due to that and the fact it held the world record for speed at sea, it was nicknamed The Grey Ghost.

To avoid torpedoes, it sailed in a zig zag pattern, and once sliced through an escort warship that went off course, sinking it rapidly and drowning 338 of her 439 sailors.

Forty years later, a television crew accidentally left an audio recorder running overnight in the exact location where the collision happened – the tape played back sounds of pounding hands on a metal hull and noises of drowning sailors.

The Crushed Crewman

In 1966, a young seaman named John Peddar was crushed to death in the depths of Engine Room #13 during a drill. To this day, visitors report sightings of a young man in coveralls wandering around.

One story goes that a visitor felt something brush across his face while visiting the room, and later his wife noticed a streak of engine grease on his face. You’ll find dozens of such stories, with ethereal touches that have left their impression on frightened (and thrilled) visitors year after year.

Ghostly Swimmers

According to insiders, there have been several reports of ghosts in the first class now-empty swimming pools aboard the ship, including bathers in 1930s era swimsuits. Visitors say they can sometimes hear the sounds of splashing, and many have seen wet footprints on the tile.

In the second class pool (long since converted into a theater), a little girl named Jackie is said to have drowned, and visitors can sometimes hear her calling piteously for her mother.

They’ve also heard Jackie’s innocent laughter and singing in the first class pool and have witnessed her shadowy form clutching a tattered teddy bear.

Little Spirits in the Playroom

The ship includes a children’s playroom and nursery, where  visitors may hear children laughing and playing. In 1991, one passenger on a guided tour heard the sounds, but could only see the usual toys, games and books on the display. Then the doorknob began rattling, and the terrified tourist heard the sound of the door being kicked.

The woman quickly went to catch up with the rest of the tour group, but felt her purse and shirt constantly being tugged along the way. It seems someone needed a play companion.

A much darker spirit is that of a little infant named Leigh, who tragically died a few hours after birth (though not without the doctors trying in vain to save his innocent life.) Some ship guests can still hear the last wails of the baby while passing what was once the third-class playroom.

The Woman in White

A “regular” ghost seems to reside in the ship’s first class lounge – a beautiful woman in a white evening gown is often seen dancing alone within the shadows.

On one tour, a little girl, who had never heard of the sighting, kept pointing and asking about a “woman in white.” Nobody else saw the apparition, but the girl insisted she was there, and continued watching it dance.

A Lonely But Playful Girl

In 2000, a hotel service member was vacuuming the carpet in the Exhibit Hall when the temperature suddenly dropped. Turning around, he saw a little girl sucking her thumb and floating in the air.

The child then stretched her arms out, as if wanting to be picked up. Her eyes appeared to be glowing. Terrified, the crew member fled and reported the incident.

A few weeks later, while leaving the Grand Salon on R Deck, another cleaning crew member was pushing his mop and bucket. The bucket suddenly jammed, so the worker checked to see what was stopping the wheels. He felt a presence, and turned around to see a little girl in a white dress and white hat sucking her thumb.

As with the other sighting, the ghostly child was floating in mid-air and oddly, appeared to have no legs beneath her wispy gown. She floated away into the Grand Salon, where the doors had mysteriously shut (they were normally kept open). The doors swung out so powerfully, they knocked the employee to the floor. As he struggled to get back up, the worker heard the girl’s chillingly playful laughter recede in the distance.

The next day the worker checked the (open) doors, and realized they were much too heavy to be swung shut by one person.

Cabin B340

Cabin B340 Queen Mary hauntingsCabin B340 has had so much paranormal activity, it’s now closed for rentals.  Previously, guests sleeping in the room were awakened in the night by lights turning on and off, water gushing suddenly from faucets, and covers being pulled off the beds. Other guests have heard an angry voice saying “Get out!”

There are two famous stories involving this cabin. The first is that in 1948 it was used as a holding cell for a deranged man who had been threatening his family. When the family visited later, the man flew into an inexplicable rage and murdered his 5-year old-daughter.

The second story involves a crew member who was murdered in the room in 1937; guests say that his ghost still resides there.

The Piano Player

One evening, a mother and daughter staying aboard the Queen Mary for the night were waiting for a friend to join them. The night wore on, until at at close to midnight, the daughter decided to sit at the lobby’sgrand piano, which had been constructed especially for the Queen Mary in the 1930’s.

The lid on the keyboard was down, but suddenly a tinkling, eerie melody emerged from  beneath it.

Both the daughter and mother heard the spooky tune. The two wisely decided to wait for their friend on deck instead.

The Dark Harbor Haunt

Queen Mary Dark Harbor EventMany people would list the Queen Mary as among the top world destinations for hauntings. To celebrate, the ship puts on a frightful Halloween bash every year. It features 7 mazes and attractions, as well as a complex for live entertainment, food and cocktails.

To enter the haunt, visitors must first pass through a 220 foot long, fog-shrouded tunnel of shipping containers containing ghouls and monsters. They then emerge at “Hell’s Bells Tower,” a 33-foot tower made of shipping containers and which shoots flames into the night sky.

Throughout the mazes, pyrotechnical and other spooky special effects keep visitors spooked and their skin crawling. Such attractions include “Containment” where the ship’s infirmary gets a bit sick, “Submerged” where it feels like you’re sinking (the ship almost sunk once due to a rogue wave on choppy seas), and “The Village of the Damned” where creatures attempt to make you their permanent residents.

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is not to be missed for hardcore Halloween fans. Get more info here – and remember: don’t visit any area of the ship alone after midnight!

8 Awesome Smartphone Apps for Halloween

Halloween is such a great event and with the advent of smartphone apps you can enjoy your favorite parts of Halloween everywhere you go.  We tested dozens of apps and compiled a list of the 8 best ones we could find in terms of the most imagination and uniqueness. We hope you enjoy these selections and have a Happy Haunted Halloween!

1.  Halloween Deluxe  ($0.99)

Halloween wouldn’t be complete without scary sounds and this app lets you do that and more.  Opt for the paid version and avoid annoying requests to upgrade from the free one.  This app includes a count down to Halloween, a soundboard, ring tones, music loops, trivia, costumes ideas, and even a option that lets you create your own colored flashlight with the screen.  There are tons of Halloween soundboard apps out there but our recommendation is to ditch the others, this one has it all.

Halloween Deluxe iPhone App

2. imut8r ($0.99)

Our favorite picture altering app, this offering gives you tremendous creative control over altering real photos of you and your friends.  You have dozens of creature choices to model after including demons, zombies, werewolves, vampires.  From there you’ll change skin colors add blood or sores and channel Dr. Frankenstein himself!  When you’re done, save the photos and send them to your friends and family for a spooky good time.

imut8r iPhone app

3. 100+ Horror Stories ($0.99)

You’ll absolutely love this creative application that let’s you tell over 100 of the most popular scary stories in history, but with an added twist.  During your story you can tap the screen when prompted to play an appropriate sound to add extra effect to your story.  Lightning cracks, evil laughs, moans, and more will enhance your terrifying tale and keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

100 Horror Stories app

4. Ghost Radar ($0.99)

For all you watchers of ‘Ghost Hunters’ out there, check out the latest version of Ghost Radar from app developer Spud Pickles.  The creators of this app claim it runs on a proprietary algorithm that interprets QUANTUM fluctuations of intelligent energy.  Some users say the program is just reading simple electromagnetic sources in your immediate environment while others claim they’ve experienced accurate readings of actual objects in the room that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  Either way, you’re bound to get hours of eerie entertainment from this original idea.

ghost-radar

5. Ask the Dead ($0.99)

Get ready to be freaked out with this unique offering from The FORM Group. It’s a digital Ouija board that sneakily uses your phone’s contacts to return answers to your questions. You can totally prank your uninitiated friends or family into thinking you are connecting with the spirit world.  You’ll get a ton of screams from this application, but be careful, you may even scare yourself….

Ask the Dead smartphone app

 6. Pumpkin Xplode (free)

Pumpkin Xplode is one of those annoyingly addictive games like Tetris or Angry Birds (yeah we could have easily added that one here too).  But you just can’t seem to put it down because there’s always the next level to defeat.  Bottom line: if it’s on your phone, you will play it.  It has great graphics and sounds built into the game play.  Thoughtful features include: night mode, saves game on exit or if uninterrupted by a phone call, and for you cheaters out there you have the ability to undo up to 10 moves back.  There is just something so gratifying about busting up pumpkins that makes this our only game of choice for inclusion in this app review.

pumpkin xplode app

7. Halloween Spooky Soundbox (free)

The truth is there are dozens of free Halloween sound boards out there and you’d probably do just fine if you downloaded most any of them.  Why do we recommend this one then?  Two reasons:  Selection and sound quality.  This sound board has 35 sounds to choose from, whereas most other apps you’re lucky to get 20.  Also, the sounds you get don’t sound cheap or “thin”.  In other words, they don’t sound like you made them yourself on an old tape recorder.  You can play the sounds on a loop (which you’ll probably never use) besides that there aren’t really any bells and whistles to this app.  If we could make a recommendation to the developer, it’d be to add a delay feature in a future version.

spooky soundbox app

8.  Footprints (free)

While this is not a Halloween application it certainly the most useful on the list particularly if you are a parent and your kids are old enough to trick-or-treat without you.  You can track your multiple kid’s locations in real time without having to request location status from the people you are tracking.  We’ve seen some apps where users have to “request” location and the person being tracked has to manually approve request on their device.

This app comes with a number of great features built into it.  Two of our favorites are the parental settings which don’t allow kids to disable the tracking feature or delete the application on their devices, and the ability to track way points.  In short it shows you where your kids have been not just where they are at the present moment.  All this is provided by a beautiful interface overlaid on Google Maps.  There is really nothing we don’t like about this app.

footprints app

About the Author:

Chris DuPaul is a huge Halloween buff and the co-owner of the self proclaimed #1 Wonder Woman Costume website on the internet.  He enjoys technology and sneaking up and scaring the crap out of unsuspecting people year round.  For all you ladies out there still looking for costume ideas check out our Sexy Wonder Woman Costume page for outfits that’ll make you the star of the party.

Carnival Arcane Review

With the approach of Halloween comes another new tradition: the release of a new album from horror masters Midnight Syndicate (Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka.)

Their albums – Carnival Arcane is their 14th – fill the air with Gothic dread, ambient sounds and creepy instruments. If “things that go bump in the night” had a soundtrack, Midnight Syndicate would ring through the echoing halls upon their midnight entrance.

Each album the artists release tells a story in music, a “soundtrack for the imagination” filled with haunting melodies, sound effects, shrieks, groans and the occasional lyrics, all fitting the theme of the album.

For instance, their studio album “The 13th Hour” has the listener journeying through a sinister and Gothic haunted house. The album begins with the house looming in the mist, and subsequent songs makes it feel like we are stealthily creeping from one dusty, decrepit room to the next, until at last, we realize we are not quite alone … and that this presence is not friendly.

A Masterful Tradition of Chilling Tunes

Your Ringmasters, Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka

Carnival Arcane continues in this grand, masterful tradition of storytelling with music, but is even more ambitious than all others in the depth, grandeur and creepiness of the music. It delivers a well-researched and accurate representation of what it would be like to visit a slightly shabby, sinister circus from the Victorian era.

The album owes a lot to the novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (at least that’s the impression this offer had), complete with nightmarish rides, a sense of foreboding and sinister characters.

We’re introduced to the Lancaster-Rigby Carnival, a traveling circus with a sinister past. The album begins with the arrival of yourself, a “mesonoxian” visitor (a very cool archaic word meaning midnight.)

The atmosphere is cold, and in the distance we hear the arrival of a locomotive – the wheels squeak to a halt, and the sounds of the circus rise from the night air in a slow, haunting chorus of introduction.

Already, we feel a sense of something shady and macabre, but we must go forward – who know what wonders await within? Besides, the aggressive ringmaster (voiced by Jason Carter – aka Marcus Cole on Babylon 5 and a bit part as a demon on Angel) promises us the horrific instruments of lobotomies, freakshows, the big top and a grand carousel you’ll never forget.

Ambient, Spine-Tingling Effects

While we voyage through a variety of acts, we can hear the ambient sounds of excited visitors, strange laughter, elephants and the squeals of horses.

From a menagerie of strange creatures, a forceful hawker ushers us into Madame Zora’s tent, where we are read our fortune with a flourish of deep atmospheric music, curious whispers and a sense of dread. Through Dr. Atmore’s Elixers and Good Humour and Fortification (cheerful circus music and applause), Alura the Snake Lady (Middle Eastern mysticism) and Arcane Wonders (Victorian music boxes), we have a sense of the wide musical range Douglas and Goszka have put into this album – far beyond the Gothic melodies of previous albums.

The middle of the album begins the transformation from fantastical wonders and big top adventures to something far more sinister and dangerous – you begin to realize and witness the fallen grandeur of the Lancaster-Rigby circus.

From the chilling and even sad music of the freakshow, we go on a carousel ride from Hell – beginning with the usual cheerful carousel melody, it quickly degenerates into an abomination of madness, ghosts and ghouls until it explodes in a crescendo of what must be broken horses, snapping electricity and injured victims.

Going Deeper Within

Carnival ArcaneWe journey deeper into the carnival, where all the Gothic and Victorian horrors begin to close in on us – mad clowns, screaming children, horrific laughter as we’re lost in the hall of mirrors, a ghoul chasing us in the shadows, where we run, panicked, into a dreaded labyrinth, and finally collapse in a claustrophobic room of barking mad laughter.

The carnival then closes (perhaps a bit too hastily … before the Victorian-era authorities witness the mayhem), and we are left listening to the grunts of several circus performers entering their boxcar after a long night, trying to stifle their mirth and drunkenness. One performer talks to another in a conspiratory whisper “So, what’s the next town at?” A cold wind blows through the air, and music from a Victor gramaphone echoes off in the distance.

With its wide range of atmospheric sounds and natural transitions from one track to the next, this could easily pass as a movie soundtrack for a grandiose horror film.

Midnight Syndicate have definitely pushed their musical boundaries, and the mix of ambient carnival sounds and atmospheric composition blend perfectly, successfully transporting you to their fantastical world. It fits perfectly as the chilly atmosphere of a home haunt, and no doubt you will hear it at some amusement park, where their music is often played.

This is an essential album to add to your horror collection, and powerful mood music while celebrating Halloween … or to add a touch of sinister magic before going to a modern circus.

 

Into the Arcane Music of Midnight Syndicate

Whenever I build a Halloween haunt, a horror soundtrack is always running through my mind – while planning this year’s layout (always a maze), hiding the monster props in nooks, and decorating the rooms. A house is not a creepy Victorian mansion until you add the lighting, the fog and, of course, the creepy soundtrack dripping in the background.

Most of you have heard of Midnight Syndicate. A decade and a half in business, Edward Douglas, along with Gavin Goszka, has been creating dark music specifically for Halloween. You can hear them at haunted attractions, parties and amusement parks. Their award-winning music has been featured on television, video games (like Balder’s Gate 2), Hugh Hefner’s Halloween bash, concerts by The Misfits and King Diamond, and movies such as Robert Kurtzman’s The Rage.

This month, the band releases their 14th studio album, Carnival Arcane. Each album takes the listener on a journey to imaginary places, be it haunted Victorian manors, abandoned insane asylums or gothic cemeteries. Their latest work gives the listener a creepy and mystical taste of walking through an early 20th century traveling carnival.

Midnight SyndicateToday we have the pleasure of speaking with Edward Douglas, composer, filmmaker, writer and horror aficionado. As founder of Midnight Syndicate in 1995, he began his career by producing his own feature film straight out of college, called The Dead Matter (which was remade alongside Robert Kurtzman in 2007.)

HA: In listening to your albums, I’m transported to a certain location, be it a mansion, cemetery, or some fantasy orc lair. Every year you come out with something new, and this year it will be a traveling carnival. What’s your typical thought processes and inspiration for deciding which landmark or motif to focus on for a new album?

ED: Everything has been done before, so it’s really about picking a theme that sparks our imagination and then putting our own spin on it. The concept for our new CD, Carnival Arcane, was a really fun one because the very idea of a “dark, turn-of-the-century traveling carnival” conjures so many images and ideas. Those images and ideas translate to the songs and soundscape we create.

Gavin and I have a particular fascination with the paranormal so that element works into just about every disc we do in some way or another. History, particularly the Victorian and Edwardian eras, is another big source of inspiration for us so when we can set one of our discs in those time periods (like we did Gates of Delirium, The 13th Hour, and Carnival Arcane) it’s especially intruguing to us. There’s so many worlds and motifs to explore, that’s what keeps it interesting and exciting for us.

HA: Back when I was a teen, I would blast out the soundtrack to Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellraiser for the trick or treaters. What made you decide to specifically compose “Halloween music” as the focus of your career? After all, your education is as a filmmaker.

Born Of The Night by Midnight SyndicateED: Although most of my education was in film and theatre, music was my first love and I’ve been playing music since I was very young. In 1992, I came up with the idea for Midnight Syndicate – this band that would merge sound effects (circa classic radio dramas like The Shadow) and music (mostly instrumental) to create CDs that would be “soundtracks to imaginary films.” The goal of these CDs would be to transport the listener to a world or movie of their own creation.

In addition to music, a love of horror, fantasy, Halloween, and the paranormal has always been a constant in my life. As a result, virtually every creative endeavor I’ve undertaken, be it film, writing, or music, has had a darker or fantastic side to it. That’s how Midnight Syndicate’s first all-horror-themed “Halloween” disc, Born of the Night came about in 1998. At that time there were no quality Halloween music CDs. The only options you had (outside of horror movie scores) was cheap, recycled sound effects cassettes, and light-hearted Monster Mash-type party compilations.

The thing was, there was a real demand for good, quality, creepy, non-cheesy Halloween atmosphere from the amusement parks, haunted attractions, gothic music fans, and Halloween aficianados that took their parties and decorating for the trick-or-treaters seriously. Midnight Syndicate was able to fill that void – first with Born of the Night and then continuing with each of our subsequent releases. We quickly became the second largest supplier of Halloween music to the Halloween retail industry (the largest are the Monster Mash folks) and the largest supplier the haunted house and amusement park industries and have remained there for the past thirteen years. Gavin and I are fortunate because (as people who live for Halloween ourselves) we are able to write the music and explore the themes we love while making our fans happy.

HA: I notice that the song tracks on your albums read like film sequences. For instance, on your album The 13th Hour, it starts with the song Mansion in the Mist, continues to The Drawing Room, then builds to Footsteps in the Dust. Near the conclusion, you have titles such as Gruesome Discovery and Return of the Ancient Ones.

ED: We want to give you “just enough” with the song titles and the CD packaging to help spark your imagination. However, our prime directive, as it were, is to not impose our own interpretation of what’s going on in a CD upon the listener. We want to leave it all up to you. That’s one reason I love instrumental music so much. Every listener can interpret it differently, see different things in it. There are no lyrics or words to even lead you a certain way.

HA: When composing an album, do you construct a fully formed movie in your mind before you begin, which then inspires a soundtrack, or do you think of the music first, which then creates this imaginary landscape?

ED: After determining the world we want to create (an insane asylum, traveling carnival, vampire’s crypt) we do a lot of research (both fiction and non-fiction literature, movies, art, etc.). From there we begin to add detail to the world, creating the people, places, and things the listener will experience. The music comes through that. Sometimes we do formulate an ambiguous storyline but only as a sort of rough guide.

HA: You’ve worked with Robert Kurtzman a few times, and released some music videos. Any plans for future work with movies and videos, or producing more soundtracks to films? Where do you see Midnight Syndicate headed in the near future?

ED: We will definitely be producing more music videos. The Dead Matter was really well-received. That, and Bob’s great team, is going to allow us to do another film in the future. The focus of Midnight Syndicate will always be the music, though. Gavin and I really loved working on Carnival Arcane and can’t wait to get started on the next disc. We are getting more offers for custom work, too (like movie scoring, etc.) so I see that continuing as well – complimenting our regular Midnight Syndicate CD releases.

Carnival ArcaneHA: You’re newest album, Carnival Arcane, transports the listener to a turn-of-the (last) century carnival, complete with mystics, freaks, fortune tellers and rusty circus rides. Listening to it, there was a definite undercurrent of sinister shadows and macabre dealings, as if peeking through a tent would yield something monstrous and terrifying. What was your inspiration for this album?

ED: I did a lot of research on traveling circuses, in particular those from the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras (which were part the traveling carnivals’ heyday). That historical research yielded a lot of the inspiration for the themes, music, and especially the sound design on this disc.

We really want to make you feel like you are at this carnival, exploring the various tents. Gavin has a solo project called Parlormuse where he recreates and performs authentic Victorian-era music. That served as musical inspiration for tracks like Under The Big Top. Of course, the Lancaster-Rigby Carnival has more than a few skeletons in its closet so there is definitely the sinister element you mentioned.

The primary inspiration for that part of the disc is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. We had so much fun working on this disc. It’s definitely one of my favorites and features some of our most advanced sound design to date. I’d like to invite folks to stop by our website, www.MidnightSyndicate.com or check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/midnightsyndicate. There you will find out more about we do, be able to hear samples from our CDs, etc.

Book Review: How to Haunt Your House, Book Two

How to Haunt Your House: Book Two

By Shawn and Lynne Mitchell

In their first book, Lynne and Shawn Mitchell took you through a gorgeous and macabre world of Halloween prop-building to haunt your house.  How to Haunt Your House, Book Two, we’re happy to say, is not a rehash of their first book, but a worthy companion that ambitiously expands on their haunting tutorials, while easily standing on its own with all new projects, styles and techniques, all presented in clear, glossy photos and instructions.

In their “dead”ication, the authors pay enthusiastic homage to all the things that go bump in the night. One can easily imagine being one the authors’ neighbors as summer begins to morph into autumn … “Strange lights are often spotted in the late, night hours and the occasional, stray sounds of owls, hissing cats and long, drawn-out cries of wolves will be heard echoing down the driveway.”

This successfully sets the tone for the lush and gothic world we are about to enter, and the shadows cast by their props begin to look just a little bit too alive…an effect we can produce by following their inspiring examples.

How to Haunt Your House, Book 2What’s Inside

So. What can you expect by this volume?

Well, how about a full tutorial on building (and deconstructing for storage) an entire scale model gothic mausoleum, complete with an old, rusty wrought-iron gate? Hard to believe it’s all achieved with wood frames, Styrofoam and PVC pipe!

Stock your kitchen with apothecary jars full of strange, glowing liquids filled with creatures you can almost (but not quite) recognize. Construct huge gargoyle columns, fashion a complete crypt that doubles as a hide-away for your electronic components, create foggy, bubbling cauldrons and turn store-bought props and mannequins into ghoulish hags and decapitated brides.

If that’s not enough, Lynne and Shawn devote a large section of their book on animated props. Using clear and detailed images, they show you the components you need, types of motors and connections, and suggested power supplies. Step-by-step, they take you through two motorized projects, one of a monster churning a pot by hand, and an undead creature turning its head in a cemetery.

A book on building and designing props would certainly be fulfilling, but all of these projects are unified with chapters on how to present an enthralling entrance, inside decor (with tips on lighting and accessories), and images and layout tips for a fully-stocked cemetery.

We’re impressed with their creativity, attention to detail, and willingness to peel back the moth-eaten curtains to teach you how everything is done. The ideas are presented with lush, full-page images and eerie backgrounds to keep with the mood.

We give it three thumbs up! (One for each monster hand.)

“The Dead Matter” DVD is Unleashed

Editor’s Note: Getting ready for Halloween – In July!

Special edition The Dead Matter DVD set including soundtrack and Midnight Syndicate Greatest Hits CD available at all HOT TOPIC stores nationwide.

July 30, 2010 (Cleveland, OH) Midnight Syndicate Films is releasing a special edition of The Dead Matter DVD that will include two bonus CDs by gothic Halloween music artists Midnight Syndicate. It will be available at all Hot Topic stores nationwide on July 30th. It will also be available online at Hot Topic, Amazon, and Midnight Syndicate’s site. The specially-priced set will include The Dead Matter DVD, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Midnight Syndicate, and a new Midnight Syndicate 13th Anniversary greatest hits CD entitled Halloween Music Collection.

The Dead Matter DVD features the much-anticipated dark fantasy film produced and directed by Edward Douglas of Midnight Syndicate Films and Gary Jones and Robert Kurtzman of Precinct 13 Entertainment. DVD extras include two Midnight Syndicate music videos, the music video to Eternal Legacy’s song, The Dead Matter, three of the finalists from Midnight Syndicate’s 13th Anniversary Video Contest, audio commentary with the producers, gag reels, and a feature-length behind-the-scenes production entitled Maximum Dead Matter. Produced by Frank Purtiman of Smudgeline Studios, Maximum Dead Matter allows viewers to watch the film in one area of the screen while behind the scenes footage, interviews, location information, and concept art comparisons related to that scene play in other areas of the screen.

Dead Matter movieThe Dead Matter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD contains the score composed by the film’s director, Edward Douglas of Midnight Syndicate, as well as several limited-edition remixes of Midnight Syndicate songs performed by Jerry “Haunt Rocker” Vayne, Destini Beard, and Pat Berdysz of the industrial band Encoder. The disc also features other music that appears in the film from bands like Lazy Lane, hipNostic, and Eternal Legacy.

Midnight Syndicate’s Halloween Music Collection is a greatest hits-type CD that features over 60 minutes of songs hand-picked by Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka to celebrate the band’s first 13 years. Both new CDs will also be available at Halloween retailers nationwide beginning in August.

Maximum Dead Matter behind the scenes trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzIYws_qb1U

The Dead Matter motion picture: www.TheDeadMatter.com
Midnight Syndicate Halloween Music Gothic Soundtracks: www.MidnightSyndicate.com
Hot Topic – Everything about the music: www.HotTopic.com

About The Dead Matter movie:

The Dead Matter is the remake of a film that director/composer Edward Douglas shot on a shoe-string budget of $2000 back in 1995. The film tells the story of a guilt-ridden young woman (Sean Serino of The Rage) desperate to contact her deceased brother who discovers a powerful ancient relic that controls the dead. Her dark obsession drags her into the tangled world of two warring vampire lords (Andrew Divoff of Lost, Wishmaster and Tom Savini of Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead) each with his own sinister plans for the artifact and a vampire hunter (Jason Carter of Babylon 5) who will stop at nothing to destroy it. This chilling gothic dark fantasy co-produced by Robert Kurtzman (creator of From Dusk Till Dawn, KNB FX) and Gary Jones (Xena, Boogeyman 3), also features a score by director Edward Douglas of the Gothic Halloween music band Midnight Syndicate. It’s a mix of classic horror themes with modern twists and a touch of dark humor that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

About Midnight Syndicate:

Midnight Syndicate has been creating instrumental Halloween music and gothic horror fantasy soundtrack CDs for the past thirteen years. The group’s music has become a staple of the Halloween season worldwide as well as a favorite in the haunted house, amusement park, role-playing game, and gothic music industries. From Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights and Hugh Hefner’s Halloween parties to Monday Night Football, X-Box games, the classic Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, and Barbara Walters specials, their CDs are designed to take listeners on a journey into the darkest corners of their imagination.

Interview with Lew Lehrman – Painter of the Dark

 

We recently had a chat with Lewis Lehrman, professional watercolor artist, teacher, author and Halloween painter who showcases his work on  a dedicated Facebook page.

Mr. Lehrman has created an incredibly rewarding niche for himself, working one-on-one to recreate clients’ memories.

From these recollections or entirely from the client’s and artist’s imagination, Lew creates a custom spooky painting, complete with a haunting backdrop, pets, hidden ghosts, people and decor. So cool!

His trademarked self-moniker is “Painter of Dark”, and that is exactly what this awesomely dark artist is! We were honored to have Lew for an interview here at Halloween Alliance. Here’s what he had to say.

HA: Your first commissioned work was to paint a Halloween scene as your client recalled it as a child. This looks to be a recurring theme in your work. Does your inspiration come from your own memories? 

Lew: From as early as I can remember, I have always been an artist. Even before my kindergarten and first-grade years, when a very special teacher, Mrs. Levy, encouraged my art, I found approval, and my parents were supportive, and my interest grew as the years went by.

When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher took a group of her students to visit her sister, who was a watercolorist and whose home and studio were located high overlooking New York City’s Central Park. I watched, entranced, as she created a sailboat on blue water on a blank piece of paper. I was hooked!

A year later, in 1944, I was 11 years old, and my parents entrusted me to a Pullman car porter aboard The Wolverine Limited, en route to Battle Creek, Michigan where I was to meet my aunt and uncle. I spent a month at the farmhouse where they were staying while my uncle was enrolled in a special training program.

It was pretty special, but what really stays with me to this day, and directly answers your question, was that night in the Pullman berth, where I spent the night staring out of the window, watching the lights in farm house windows as they glided past in the indigo darkness. There was something in those lonely windows that touched me deeply, and I have never forgotten that night. I can still picture it clearly.

Tilted Angel by Lew LehrmanIt was years before I was able to devote any serious time to watercolor. Oh, maybe I did three or four paintings a year… high school, then college, then a couple of years in the army, then establishing a business, then a family. By the late 1950’s I had begun a freelance art business, and grew it into a substantial business over the years until 1984, when my wife and I decided upon pursuing a new life (another long story for another day) in which I could become a full-time professional artist.

Through all those tumultuous years, I had always nibbled around the edges of art. And night scenes, some of which were Halloween scenes, were a recurrent theme.

By the late 80’s, I was on my way to becoming a serious watercolorist. We had moved in ’84 to the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, buying and rehabbing a 200 year old Colonial, and turning our barn into a dream studio and gallery. My art began selling well, and when color Xeroxing came in, I made a few prints of a Halloween painting (which I had borrowed back from its purchaser, a friend).

I sold a few prints at the Gallery, where Halloween paintings were always popular, but when we decided to sell our Mass. home and move to Arizona, where we’d been wintering, those unsold prints came with me.

Then one day I decided to see if I could sell them on eBay. Each time I listed one, it received a load of bids, and the price shot way up. I knew I was on to something, and so The Haunted Studio was born.

But to anwer your question, which I realize I’ve completely bypassed:

Honestly, though I did enjoy the spectator aspects of Halloween, it was never a big participatory holiday when I was a kid. That was left to the rowdier element of my contemporaries, but it just wasn’t me, nor the kids I ran with. Occasional trick-or-treating with friends, or doing spooky stuff to other kids who came to our house, but nothing more. I don’t think my mother approved.

HA: How does the surrounding environment affect your paintings? Now that you reside in Scottsdale, how does this affect your work?

Lew: We discovered Scottsdale in 1987, when (my wife) Lola and I decided to get away for a month from another long, cold, snowy Massachusetts winter. Arizona was our choice. We fell in love with the light, the weather, the arts community, and everything else here. We “snow-birded” for six years, and moved here full-time in 1993.

Though cacti rarely show up in my spooky paintings, I did create a very spooky stand of sahuaros as landscaping for a commission from a fan west of Phoenix. But you’re correct: the great majority of my work shows a strong eastern influence.

HA: Have you always been interested in Halloween? Have you seen a change in Halloween from your childhood to today?

Lew: For people who love Halloween, their interest withstands time, as they’re usually based on a tradition of celebrating this holiday that goes back at least a generation, sometimes two or more.

As one of my fans told me, “It’s the only holiday that’s pure fun! You don’t have to buy gifts. You get to dress up in a crazy costume and go out and scare people! You go to fun parties with friends! And there’s all that candy!”

HA: That perfectly describes Halloween! Also, each of your paintings have a backstory, which really brings them to life. Do you think of a story first, and paint the scene, or is there another “kernel” that inspires you? A single scene, an emotion, a mood, a dream?

Lew: Sometimes there’s a story I want to tell, but more often, the painting tells me all I need to know. It’s strange. I may start with an inspiration because I’ve seen a spooky photo, or maybe a painting or a photo with peculiar lighting I’ve encountered in a museum or gallery. It could be a poem, or a photo and story a fan has sent me.

Or I might select a picture of an old Victorian, or a castle, or some other resource from our travels, and start painting it to see what develops. Or maybe just to express a mood, like “The Last Witness” or “Phantoms.”

It can begin with a kind of crazy “What if?” For example: What if there were a haunted tree house to frighten the kids? Or – What if all the movie monsters we feared as kids assembled for a reunion?

“What’s going on here?” Is a question that’s always in my mind as I work on a painting, so it’s not always under my control. Sometimes, in a way, the painting paints me.

HA: “The painting paints me” – I like that. What painting techniques do you use to create the “Gothic feel” in your works?

The Enduring Mysteries Of The McPike MansionLew: I use one of two painting techniques, each of them a different approach to watercolor.

Traditional watercolor, for me, is a very intellectual and controlled medium. I plan, and execute, each painting in a very specific way that has been used by American and European watercolorists for centuries.

Then there is an Oriental-based approach I learned from a master of the technique a dozen years ago, and which is much more emotionally satisfying. It requires a risky entrusting of what emerges to the vagaries of water on paper.

It’s very exciting, with an element of happenstance that appeals to me. I don’t usually know how the painting will look until I’m finished, though I’m never disappointed. And I love the look.

HA: How do you create a work of art for a client? When listening to clients describe what they would like to see in a painting, what cues and techniques do you practice to render what is in their imagination?

Lew: Most commissions begin with a fairly detailed email, or a package in the mail, describing what makes my client emotional about Halloweens of his/her own childhood, or of his or her experience with their own children’s Halloweens. Or of their own love of decorating the lawn and having great, fun parties.

Sometimes it has nothing to do with memories of a specific Halloween at all. They just want to see their home as a spooky, haunted, maybe ramshackle wreck at some time in the future. Some people are quite specific. Some have no idea. When that happens, I help them with suggestions

Other than Halloween, each commission seems to tap into deep feelings for the occult, or personal memories, or a personal vision they’d like to see brought to life. It’s my task to bring out their wishes, desires, and images, and express them in paint. I love providing a treasured heirloom – and making new Halloween memories for my fans through art.

*

 

Book Review: How to Haunt Your House

How to Haunt Your House

How to Haunt Your House

By Shawn and Lynne Mitchell

Sometimes, just sometimes, a book comes across your altar that makes your hands go clammy, that sets your heart racing, that makes your eyes go bug wide in wonder. How to Haunt Your House is such a book.

Its deceptively simple title sets the stage (literally) for what the book is about – a visual feast of step-by-step techniques on, well, how to haunt your house! I have never come across such effective, clear-cut pages of just how to create the fantastic props and effects that home haunters create for that one, single, magically, horribly satisfying night of the year!

Everything you need to know about building a haunt is here – starting with recipes for monster mud to working with Styrofoam, and effective spray paint applications to create that 200 year old marble tombstone.

From these basic but extremely effective tutorials, the authors plunge you into the real WOW factors that impress even jaded adults – floating heads and illusionary figures using television projections (“Pepper’s Ghost”), mausoleums that look endless by using trick mirrors, gothic fence-building techniques, 8 foot tall monster props, and eerie lighting effects.

Throughout, the authors guide you on how to put everything together into one fantastic, spooky presentation –  from your front yard and exterior of your house up the steps to your door, integrating delightfully spooky scares along the way.

This book is a must for not only the beginning home haunter, but for the advanced ones as well. There’s more than a few techniques that had me going “Good Lord! I never thought of creating fog that way. How so much easier!” Heck, I never even thought of creating moss for my tombstones using ordinary dryer lint and spray paint!

You can tell Shawn and Lynne Mitchell put a lot of care and work into this book – each page of their step-by-step instructions are also visually stunning masterpieces of art. Everything is clearly detailed, and nothing is left out.

Anybody should be able to share in the fun of “haunting out” their houses, and this book makes it extremely accessible to all Halloween lovers. The title says this is Book One, so I certainly can’t wait for the sequel!

 

Unmasking Michael Myers: An Interview With Chris Durand

Image credit: Halloween Wiki

Throughout history, storytellers have been prized by the cultures they live in. A great storyteller captures the imagination and pulls us into the story so that we experience emotions – both good and bad – as if they’re really happening to us.

Promo shot: Halloween H2O.

Halloweenites’ favorite stories are generally suspenseful in nature – especially those that bring us face to face with terror. And what character is more terrifying than Michael Myers, the quintessential bogeyman in Halloween H2O?

Actually, we ask ourselves: who could be more appropriate to play the role than Christopher Durand, a savvy storyteller who just happens to also be an actor and stunt man? Without uttering a single scary word, Durand uses his physical presence and uncanny acting to bring Myers’ chilling demeanor to life.

The Silent Michael Finally Speaks

Mr. Durand in a publicity shot.

In an interview, Durand reveals the origins of the Halloween franchise: “I did not see any of the other [Halloween] films. In speaking with the director, Steve Miner, we wanted the character to be right but didn’t want to mimic [previous portrayals].”

The director wanted Michael not just as a lumbering form, but appear alive and determined. Michael doesn’t run, he doesn’t rush. He’s relentless. The focus was on keeping the performance simple and clean, nothing fancy.

On the Myers character, Durand explains, “It’s your nightmare. He’s the bogeyman. He just keeps coming back and can’t be killed.”

Through expert storytelling, Durand allows us to meet the monster of our nightmares. But who is the man behind the Michael Myers mask? You might be surprised.

The Man Behind the Mask

Like Michael Myers, Durand is relentless is his pursuits. Whether that has meant learning a new hobby, such as woodworking, or living in France for a year at age 13, Durand says he has always been a very determined person.

This trait served him well when he decided to enter the movie industry. While there was, at that time, no school available to him for performing stunts, Durand, a native of Los Angeles, combined his skill in martial arts, gymnastics (which he began at 18) and rock climbing and hustled his way onto studio lots.

When necessary, Durand would sneak in or jump fences to be where the action was. He states, “Once you get your foot in the door, you learn from each other and expand.”

Since landing his first role in Cameron’s Closet in 1986, he appeared in many films, including Armageddon, Forest Gump, Star Trek: Generations, Demolition Man, The Mask, Tango and Cash, The Last Boyscout, Encino Man, The Crow, The Doors, Rapid Fire and many others.

Whatever the challenge, Durand is prepared to do whatever is necessary to succeed.

The Power of Storytelling

Durand uses stunts to provide the physical slant on storytelling. When

Publicity shot with Jamie Lee Curtis.

done properly, stunts are an important part of the overall story. Yet without a good story on which to build, stunts become meaningless, Durand believes.

Besides bringing stories to life through performing, Durand has also been involved in writing screenplays, giving him the chance to tell tales from the other side of the camera.

His love for storytelling, along with history, attracted Durand to archeology while at UCLA. He found in the artifacts the remnants of history that links the story of humanity through the ages. Regardless of the source, the power of storytelling is a strong attractor for Christopher.

A Labor of Love

Without a doubt, Durand loves his work. Working on H2O was a great experience for him for several reasons, he says, including working with the crew.

Michael as we know and love him. Getty Images.

He states, “It was lots and lots of fun. One of the most fun crews and definitely a nice crew. Usually I’m in one day of the whole run and bounce around between jobs. It was nice to stick with one crew the whole time.”

For another, friends and family have been extremely supportive of his work on the film. The high level of fan support has overwhelmed Duran, he says. What’s most surprising is the diversity of the fans who come from every walk of life, from lawyers to policemen.

Halloween, the holiday, is a joyful time for Christopher. He especially loves the trick-or-treaters and “the absolute joy in the eyes of the 3-4 year olds who are so excited and innocent.”

It’s this level of joy that Durand rediscovers daily in his work. “I love my business ’cause I get to play everyday I work. It’s about creating and having fun and being with other nice people and being nice to people. Life’s too short. People have to relax a little bit.”

In unmasking  the sinister Michael Myers, we find a creative, fun-loving individual who brings passion to everything he does.

The question remains: will we see him again as the notorious horror figure? We hope so. After all, there’s no stopping the bogeyman. . . or Christopher Durand.

 

 

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: a Resume of Darkly Delicious Fun

 

When you think of Halloween, what celebrity comes to mind? If you’re like millions of us, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is one of the first on your list.

Since unveiling her character in 1981 as host of a local television program (Elvira’s Movie Macabre) in Los Angeles, Elvira – who was born Cassandra Peterson – has become known world-wide for her brassy style (among other things).

Peterson is affectionately known as the “Queen of Halloween.” Her trademark look and persona have made her an international symbol of the playful side of that dark holiday we know and love.

As Mistress of the Dark, Elvira has strutted her stuff across a broad and colorful variety of media. Here’s a sampling of venues that have helped the Queen of Halloween become the superstar she is today.

Stage

  • Routinely performs in a review style show featuring music, dance and comedy at Knott’s Scary Farm/Knott’s Berry Farm (with a record attendance of 140,000 people in 1997).
  • Appearances at Disney/MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida for both her “Halloween or Bust” and “Trick and Treats” tour.

Television

  • Recent appearances include MTV, Nash Bridges, E! Entertainment, Talk Soup, Hard Copy, Access Hollywood and K-CAL’s Halloween Scream. In all, she has appeared on over 500 television shows.

Literature

  • Elvira’s Nightmares, a series of humor/horror/mystery novels published by Berkley Publishing (Putnam) and written by
    Elvira with her writing partner-in-crime, John Paragon (writer/director of Pee Wee’s Playhouse).
  • Elvira’s Comic Book by Claypool Comics is in its fifth year publishing the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark comic series.
  • DC Comics published Elvira’s House of Mystery, a series of 12 comic books.
  • Marvel Comics comic book version of the film Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Film

  • Encounters in the Third Dimension for nWave International. In the film Elvira performs the song Haunted House, the first music video shot in IMAX-D. Scheduled for release in ’99.
  • Documentary entitled Thrill Ride shown at IMAX theatres around the world.
  • Feature film, Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark

Video

  • Elvira’s Thriller Video, a LIVE Entertainment release home video series.
  • Rhino Home Video 15-title series, Midnight Madness.
  • Ketchum Vampires through Celebrity Home Video, a full-length animated feature about vegetarian vampires

Musical Recording

  • Rhino Records releases include Vinyl Macabre, Elvira’s Haunted Hits, Elvira presents Monster Hits, Revenge of the Monster Hits, and the single 3-D TV by Elvira & the Vi-tones

An entertaining new way for folks to experience Elvira’s campy sense of humor is by visiting one of her official haunted houses, Elvira’s Nightmare Haunted House. Built in association with Ray Productions, last year she opened the flagship house in Atlanta with another opening in Fort Lauderdale this year. Having seen the haunted house, I can assure you that you’re in for a spooktacular good time!

Elvira’s Resumé

  • “Elvira Day” declared both in Los Angeles, California and Atlanta, Georgia
  • Named Honorary Mayor of West Hollywood, California
  • Image is immortalized at Movieland Wax Museum
  • PETA’s Humanitarian Award for her participation in numerous animal rights causes
  • Grand Marshall for West Hollywood’s 20th Annual Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade
  • Presenter on MTV Music Video Awards
  • 22nd Annual Count Dracula Society Award from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films
  • Public Award and The Journalist Award at the 18th Annual Festival International De Paris Du Film Fantastique for her film, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
  • Best Game Award at the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) convention for best selling Elvira Pinball Machine
  • Best Role-Playing Game of the Year by Computer Gaming World magazine for Elvira’s fantasy role-playing computer game released by Accolade
  • Nominated by the British Comics Professionals as best humor comic for Claypool Comics release of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

What intrigues us about Elvira is no mystery. For men, she’s the ultimate vamp: sexy, smart and sassy. For women, she’s the woman we dream of being-assertive, independent and talented.

For more information on Elvira; including complete bio, fan club info and list of Elvira-bilia, visit her website at: www.elvira.com.

 

Book Review: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter

Explore Your Fangful Fantasies With the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. Sink your teeth into the dark-and-deep reads below.

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Are you a secret Van Helsing fan?

Do you watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” cheering her on…but secretly missing the darker style of Faith?

Meet Anita Blake, vampire hunter.

She lives in a slightly twisted version of modern-day America. In Anita’s world, vampires, zombies and werecreatures live side by side with regular humans. Laws protect the preternatural, giving them legal rights. But when they break the law, normal cops aren’t equipped to deal with what ensues. So the police turn to a special division called “The Spook Squad,” where Anita serves as detective and, in three states, vampire executioner.

It’s not her only job, mind you. She’s also an animator – a talented necromancer who can raise zombies when needed (the dead do, indeed, tell tales). A grisly job, but one that allows her to put her natural affinity for the dead to good use.

The cycle of books written by Laurell K. Hamilton that detail Anita’s adventures are a highly creative, visual roller coaster of a read. Though vampires do of course form the series foundation, the presence of voodoo, werecreatures, necromancy and faerie add a level of richness that set these novels apart from others in this genre.

In Anita’s world, the vampires are sensual, powerful, scary. The werewolves, wereleopards, and wererats are alien, earthy, truly animalistic. And the heroine is tiny, scarred, and armed to the teeth. Let the hunt begin.

Suggested Reading:

Guilty Pleasures
The Laughing Corpse
Circus of the Damned
The Lunatic Café
Bloody Bones
The Killing Dance
Burnt Offerings
Blue Moon
Obsidian Butterfly
Narcissus in Chains