Do you remember when the Halloween Bug bit you? Do you have unforgettable memories of Halloween when you were growing up? What do you do now to celebrate the month of October?
We talk about our upbringings as children and young adults as the Halloween infection spread through our tingling unscathed virgin bodies. Halloween has a way of grabbing a hold of some people and not letting go. If you are still reading this post then you have probably been bitten by the Halloween Bug and can relate to this twisted obsession. You are not alone.
We also add a few audio clips from a few of our guests as they share their experiences along their journey as a Halloween Junkie. You will hear stories from Leonard Pickel (HAuNTcon), The Bloodshed Brothers (Field of Screams), Eric Lowther (Haunted Overload), Matthew Flagler (The Canadian Haunted Attraction Conference), & Chris Ainsworth (ScareFest).
Whether it’s the crowded neighborhoods on Halloween night, filling up pillow cases full of Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or scaring the little children that stroll innocently through the dark streets…we all have favorite memories from our Halloween past. The important thing is that we continue to reflect back into what excited us about this wonderful holiday and carry those thoughts into our future.
So…what are your favorite memories from Halloween? How did you know that you were infested with Halloween?
Haunt Topics for this Episode:
A NEW Contest for Haunters. ‘Hack a Christmas Prop Contest’ by Haunt Nation Mag (Deadline Jan.3)
The Home Haunt Contest (Contest Expired but check out these awesome Home Haunts!)
“I still think that Halloween is exciting NOT because there is a group of people sitting in a corporate board room trying to decide what we’ll buy, but because there are people sitting in garages, basements, and kitchens trying to come up with something really different and amazing. I believe that Halloween is still driven by we who celebrate it.”-Lesley Bannatyne
If you are not sure who Lesley Pratt Bannatyne is-shame on you. Not only is she the leading author on Halloween history and culture. Lesley has shared plenty of her wisdom about Halloween on Nickelodeon, The History Channel, Time Magazine, National Geographic, and even The World Book Encyclopedia! Her new book Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night hits home for many of us haunters because she dives deep into the new age of Halloween and why it matters to us now. She interviews leading experts in the Haunt Industry such as mask makers, haunted house designers, home haunters, tattoo artists, web designers, zombie walkers, and all the other scary people who make up this evolving holiday. If you enjoy Halloween you’ll love this book and all of her other books. Halloween Nation infests the book stores on April 15th, 2011 but you can get her other books now while you wait. Click Here to order Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night and check out my affiliate banner at the bottom to see her other books. And then don’t forget to come back and read this awesome interview that we put together for you and check out the links at the end of this article for more information related to Lesley.
Over your career as an author it seems you favor the topic of Halloween quite a bit and you are known as ‘The Halloween Authority’ writer. What event in your life inspired you to write about this misunderstood holiday?
In the mid-1980s, a publishing house called Facts on File launched a book on the history of Thanksgiving which surprised everyone by being a runaway success. F on F put the word out that they’d look pretty favorably on any book pitch that involved holidays and an agent friend of mine left this message on my answering machine: “They’re going fast, Les. All that’s left is Election Day and Halloween.” I never looked back.
Is your Guinness Record of the largest gathering of witches still current and how did you acquire such a loyal following?
Alas, we held the title for just two years. I’m not sure who has it now, but we were brought down by a charitable event in Pennsylvania. I’m lucky to live in Somerville, MA, where crowds come together for the oddest of reasons (our three maple trees start to give sap, a call for activist street bands, massive snow ball fights, beard contests), and a Guinness World Record attempt was enough of a challenge to bring them out. I was happy to hand over the title to PA.
Not only are you an author in many magazines and online directories your description of Halloween is in the World Book Encyclopedia! What is the most monumental stepping stone(s) in your career that led you to the authority you are today?
I wish there was one big answer for this, like I was born with a caul or abducted by trolls, but the truth is, there was no one big step. There were hundreds of steps, and a few decades of research that took me in lots of different tangents. In preparing my first book on the history of Halloween, for example, I bumped into colonial religion, modern paganism, pop culture, Irish mythology, the Masons, Hollywood special effects, Pentecostal Christians, Jaycees, gay culture, folklorists, you name it. I still have files of Halloween material I haven’t put into written form. And I continue to meet the most extraordinary Halloween people, who often lead me in unusual directions.
What is your most memorable Halloween event in your life as a child/adult that replays over and over in your mind?
I have a few. First of all, Dennis M. kissed me on Halloween when I was ten. He just ran up behind me and gave me a big kiss on the back of my neck. It was my first. But frankly, it didn’t compare with getting the chance to walk in costume up 6th Avenue in New York City with 60,000 others, or to crawl through the Monroeville Mall with 2000 zombies or even to celebrate Samhain with a group of pagans in a Unitarian church in Cambridge.
Do you enjoy Haunted Attractions? Real Haunted Houses? Horror Movies? Scary books? Do you have any favorites of each?
I love haunted attractions most of all. Movies – some yes, some no. Scariest movie ever for me? The Exorcist. I think it’s because it was the first serious horror movie I’d even seen, and because my car’s engine burst into flames while I was driving home from the movie. I’ve been ghost hunting and I must say I haven’t been spooked by that. Frankly, I’d be delighted to run into any of the family and friends I’ve lost, but so far, none have showed up. I don’t have a favorite horror writer, but I tend to like the spookier material more than the violent. I’m a Poe and Lovecraft kind of girl.
Tell us Haunters more about your new book “Halloween Nation” and why we would enjoy it?
I wanted to try and find out what makes Halloween so important right now, for whom, and why, so I spent a few years talking with as many people in the Halloween community as I could: mask makers, musicians, prop builders, haunters, ghost hunters, spiritualists, witches, pumpkin growers, pumpkin beer brewers, writers, horror burlesque performers, tattoo artists, vintage collectors—you get the picture. For anyone that’s curious about what makes Halloween relevant now, or how they themselves fit in to the whole Halloween picture, or what attracts us to Halloween’s big icons (ghosts, witches, pranks, pumpkins, monsters), the book might be worth a read.
As a successful author on Halloween, can you share some insight on keeping your passion alive and tips for new aspiring authors, bloggers, and writers?
I’ve never (that I can remember) written about something that doesn’t really, really interest me. (Even dendrochronology – that’s right – the science of tree rings – is pretty fascinating.) I think if you’re a writer/blogger/author, you can tell right away when something doesn’t grab you. A book, especially, takes a huge amount of time, and if you’re not writing about something you love you may not be able to stay with it. I’m not saying that every single day and sentence is a boatload of fun, or that it’s easy to write about disemboweled corpses when the sun is shining and the lilacs in bloom. For the days that aren’t so great, writing-wise, there’s 25+ years of experience behind me—I just make myself start, and sooner or later, something fun will kick in.
What are your outlooks for the growth of Halloween and how do see the future of the monetary value of the season?
There’s a great new google tool that can take every mention of a word in all of the books that google has digitized (millions) and chart the usage on a graph. When you type in “Halloween,” the mentions begin around 1860 and climb modestly until about 1970-80. Then there’s a gigantic leap of about 1000% between then and 2005. Halloween has captured our interest in a big way, and as long as so many of us are intrigued by it, I think the season will continue to feed the market. I don’t see saturation yet. And to be clear, since we’re talking money, I still think that Halloween is exciting NOT because there is a group of people sitting in a corporate board room trying to decide what we’ll buy, but because there are people sitting in garages, basements, and kitchens trying to come up with something really different and amazing. I believe that Halloween is still driven by we who celebrate it.
How about some lasting words of inspiration from the ‘Halloween Authority’ on Halloween and the Haunt industry.
I can’t promise they’ll last, or even inspire, but I do have a few thoughts about haunts and horror. Interviewers (non-Halloween industry) often ask me why Halloween entertainment is so graphic and bloody now. First of all, it’s not just Halloween. Our whole culture is graphic and bloody now; Halloween is just an expression of that. But here’s the thing: people who study film theorize that horror is popular because it’s able to present the real terrors of our world with some honesty, and that horror films can be seen as a way to cope with the way we live now. And in some ways, haunted houses can do this too; they follow the same cultural drifts and ride on the same anxieties that horror films do. But there is a real difference between a horror film and a haunted house experience. At a haunt, you’re fighting for mastery of the situation with other people in the real world. Haunts, in a way, build communities of warriors. Rather than using Halloween’s horror-filled imagery to indict the holiday, we could honor this one night when we can be the powerful, bloody creatures we are. When we can let the monsters out….
I found these guys on YouTube…but how can you miss them? With over 80,000 channel views, almost 500 haunt subcribers, and close to 300 videos…one would think that their Halloween passion cup would be overflowing and creating an awful mess on the computer desk of life. Jeromy and Zachary Ball live and breathe Halloween! They drink from a bottomless cup of passion and keep refilling it everyday! Granted sometimes their topics are not specifically targeted on Special Effects, Halloween, or Home Haunting…however, as a Haunter you can always find something in their videos that you can relate to.
Read my interview, check out their YouTube channel, and get inspired by the energy these guys radiate to the souls and minds of Haunters like you.
What was your very first memory of Halloween?
Our first memory of Halloween was 1992. We were ghosts that year and we went to our first “yard haunt” and got the heck scared out of us- by a light up ghost and a leaf blower. Little did we know this fateful night would plant the Haunting seed within us.
How old are you guys and what keeps you passionate about Haunting?
We are 22 and will be 23 in March. Passion: The thrill of scaring people and the ability to create something from nothing. It’s just that bug. The haunting bug we all have! We can’t really describe it but it’s just a simple love of the holiday. Whether it’s watching our old home movies, learning about the history of Halloween, or collecting old Collegeville costumes; we are completely intrigued with this one day. It’s a fun and extreme hobby.
Have you ever produced a video and gone back to delete it after you put it on youtube because of its content?
Yes and no. Yes because we accidentaly forgot to edit out. It could be something we said that we needed to edit out. Or something we felt in retrospect we didn’t want to share. Or someone saying they didn’t want to be on camera and us forgetting to edit out the 3 seconds they were on camera. Out of all of our videos, less than 5 we had to take down and re-upload.
How did you meet Mat and Wes and how did you get involved in the Zombie Apocalypse?
Jeromy: I work with Matt and him and his friends came to the haunt in 2009. They all pretty much loved it! Coincidently there was this web comic: Matt drew about Zombies (which eventually became episode 1) that the same friends that came to the haunt were looking to turn in to a short film. We were asked if we’d like to do the special effects and makeup solely based off of the work in our haunt, which acted like a portfolio for us.
Tell us more about your Haunt and what your goals are for its growth?
The haunt itself is called “The Hyde Street Massacre.” It includes a full back story that takes place in the 1950’s which can be viewed on our website. We are an actor based haunt using over 20 actors each year. We are very detail oriented. Growing up at Disneyland has pretty much instilled that mentality in our heads. With us living so close to Knotts Scary Farm, Halloween Horror Nights, and Universal we have to keep it cranked up a notch for just being a home haunt.
Ideally a pro haunt, where we could own a warehouse and we have a few haunts that all tie in to the Hyde Street theme. But for now- get our own place with a large backyard. Right now we are at our folks place and have exhausted all the room they will allow us. We have plans on adding a kitchen, dining room, and bathroom. If we are in the same location this year we have to get rid of a room to add a room.
What are your other passions in life?
We are your average nerds. We LOVE movies! We are the biggest “fanboys” for Harry Potter though. Obsessed would put it lightly. Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Lord of the Rings- all of the nerd niche movies. Obviously horror is something we will never stop loving as well. Music is another big part of our lives. We grew up on the classic american musicals with the likes of Garland and Kelly. So we have a deep love for theater and show tunes; as well as oldies and The Beatles. Also we are obsessed with country music- having our parents to thank for growing us up on it. All of which has made us both hopeless romantics. We both played instruments growing up: Zach played the Trombone while Jeromy played the Alto Sax.
Name a few things that make the Ball brothers different from each other?
Zach: Jeromy has 2 moles on the upper right of his lip….That’s it! We are exactly the same in every other aspect. Ha Ha. Seriously though, there’s not too much. We always liked the same things, we even share all of our friends. We haven’t shared girlfriends though, so our taste in woman is completely different. Zach has been known to be the more laid back type and Jeromy has been known to be the more anxious in your face type. During the haunt Zach will have an idea and Jeromy will have a completely opposite idea. We always meet in the middle though so our haunt turns out to be an explosion of two separate ideas coming together. When this happens to the outsider it would look like we are fighting but really it’s just an intense debate on how to make it work and keep us both happy.
Who is someone famous you would like to meet?
Tom Savini would be fun to meet, but we live in Southern California. We meet celebrities everyday… we golfed with Snoop Dogg yesterday and had coffee with our good buddy Harry Ford this morning… Seriously though it would be fun to meet anyone. We’ve met a few celebrities in our life so no one in particular.
Give your fans 3 haunting tips they can apply today.
1) Stay organized.
2) It’s dark no one will know what you didn’t get done.
3) Get involved in the community! We are all involved in our community which has some amazing people in it. It’s fun helping and gets your name out there.
How about some BloodShed Brother words of inspiration?
Just have fun. None of this is worth it if you are not enjoying yourself on Halloween.
Do you have a Haunt Mentor you want me to interview? How about scary information you have but don’t want to write about it? How about a topic you want me to talk about on Rotting Flesh Radio? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put your name on it. Keep It Scary Scarelings….
When I first saw Dan Krein’s video of Souls of the Forsaken I had to replay it several times just to catch all the detail he had put into his Home Haunt! His haunt ranked among the few who made it to the top of the Home Haunter’s Association for Top Home Haunts of 2010. You can feel his passion for Halloween just by reading this interview. And passion is what really keep us going into the next year anyway, right? I know that is what keeps me typing, podcasting, blogging, and haunting. Passion is contagious and I’m starting to feel a bit like attending a trade show or something. I can relate to Dan and plan on grabbing a beer with him at TransWorld this year. If this interview with Dan doesn’t spark a bit of passion in you then pull the dagger out of your heart, close down your Haunt, and go watch a Justin Bieber video.
Congrats on making the Top 15 at the Home Haunter’s Association!
It was an honor to be listed in the Top 15 Home Haunts for the HHA contest. There are many great home haunts out there and to be considered as a finalist was such an honor. I hope that this will bring more attention to my haunt and get my haunt noticed by the professionals. My plan is to open my own professional haunt in the very near future. I feel that I am ready and can’t wait to go pro. It’s my dream.
How did you get started in Home Haunting?
I started small with a few Halloween props in the front yard. My wife had purchased some gory items on Ebay and we displayed them in the front yard and garage. She found out about Transworld while looking up Halloween related stuff on the internet. She asked the supplier of our first props, Jeremy from Creepy Collections (who was just starting out his business), to help us get into the show . He did and so in 2007 we attended our first Transworld in Chicago. This was “the moment” when all things changed. I entered the show and all hell broke loose. I was reborn as a Home Haunter!!!!!
How many years have you been converting your home into a Halloween playground?
2011 will be my 6th year as a home haunter. Over the past 2 years I consider myself to be an extreme home haunter. The difference I believe is in the addition of my backyard walk through haunted house. So not only do I display and have an attraction in my front yard and garage. But I also have a fully constructed 7 room haunted house with actors consuming my entire backyard.
What are the good/evil sides of Home Haunting?
The Pros: seeing all the visitors that come out each year and enjoying themselves. Having a great community function that all can attend. I love to hear screams and laughs from everyone. I know when that is happening that all the blood sweat and tears I put into the haunt is well worth it. I love the positive feed back that the visitors tell me. I can hear them talking about the haunt as they are getting back into their cars and you know they enjoyed themselves. Each year there are hundreds of repeaters- this is awesome. Last year I joined “Haunts Against Hunger” and raised over $5,000 worth of food for my local food pantery. The other pro is that I am doing what I really, and I mean really love! This is my passion and I believe that I finally have found my calling.
The cons that arise start with not being able to spend a lot of time with my family while getting the haunt ready each year. Everyone is involved with the haunt when October rolls around but otherwise I don’t see enough of them with the haunt and a full-time job. I hate having to take it all down. I have no real place to store it. And have not been able to park in my garage in years, eat in my dining room, or finish my basement due to all the props. A lot of things around the house get put on the back burner due to time and funds that are not available. It takes 2 months to put up the haunt and a month to take it down. I really spend 365 days a year planning, designing, constructing then building the haunt.
Most of the props are purchased while attending the Transwold show. I do make my own props now and am learning all the time and expanding my collection. I design the layout , decorate and highly detail the haunt each year. My favorite vendors are Ghost Ride Prod, Unit 70, Creepy Collections, and Distortions. There are so many others but too many to list. I love them all.
What is one Halloween memory that motivated you and led you here?
My vivid memory comes from Brookfield JC’s haunted house. I look back upon it as a terrifying experience for a young boy. But I enjoyed every minute of it. Chainsaws have a particular place in my heart…
Word of encouragement for those aspiring Haunters out there?
Always enjoy doing it. Always try to surpass your own expectations. Challenge yourself to make it better each year. And always try to help out a fellow Home Haunter..
I have never met Steve in person but I feel that I have known him my entire haunting journey. His YouTube channel is one of the first places that I checked out when entering this dark realm of horror and creativity. He has produced over 100 videos and keeps them informative and entertaining! He is the creator of Steve’s Haunted Yard (aka The Forgotten Cemetery) and 3rd place winner at the Home Haunter’s Association for Best Home Haunt in 2010. Whether you want to learn how to build a drop panel or see one of his kids being zapped by an electric chair prop (not real of course), go check out his channel and leave a comment, share it with a fellow haunter, or ask to be his friend. He’s that type of guy! He just got back from a visit with The Bloodshed Brothers but you’ll have to wait until next time to hear about them. That post will be coming soon. So subscribe to my spam-free posts which you’ll receive each time I write something new.
But you’re not here to read about them or me, your here to learn more about Steve Reeves and what makes him tick! So here is my interview with Steve.
What keeps you motivated for doing your Haunt every year?
I’m crazy and geek-ed out for building props. It’s as simple as that. My local haunt group TXFX also keeps me going along with the forums and of course the Garage Of Evil and Hauntcast.
What do you do when you’re not Haunting? Work/hobbies?
I am a full-time Soldier with the Texas Army National Guard. I am the Marketing Manager for the state Recruiting and Retention Command. The job is very demanding but very fun. As for hobbies well Youtube has really taken over as something I really enjoy doing. I have a Youtube channel called Yardhaunter5. I do not do a daily vlog but I would if I had the time. It is really fun and it seems to be growing in the haunt community. There are a few haunters that do a daily vlog. The Bloodshedbrothers and HalloweenHellmouth do a daily and recently Dionicia from Noble Manor has started a vlog. Hauntoween is another haunter that does a vlog at least once a week. If you are looking for prop building ideas Youtube has become a really good source.
How does your family participate in your Halloween obsession?
My wife lets me do it. I’m happy with that much. She could really give me a hard time but she lets me have my fun with my obsession “Thanks honey”. The wife does like to dress up in costume…oh yeah….. My daughters enjoy it and now that my oldest has more friends they helped in the haunt last year. She had about 5 friends as scare actors for 2010. My two little ones ask all the time “Dad, is it Halloween yet?” Just yesterday we went to Michaels to get some sculpting tools and clay and my middle one said “Is this the scary store Dad? Can we go to the scary store?” My kids are awesome!
How much time do you spend preparing/designing/constructing?
I plan all year-long. I put everything in my little haunt book. As I think of ideas I write them down. I don’t build anything until around January but once I get started I can’t stop. Last year was the biggest build year for me so far. This year I will be focused on reworking current props and adding more details. I have pretty much ran out of room for any new big props. Just like most haunters out there I am never done. I am pretty much building something up until opening night.
How many volunteers do you need to run your haunt?
For it to be really good about 10 would be great! But I have never had that many. I had a total of 13 last year but not all on the same night. I need to be more persistent this year on getting volunteers. I had business cards made this year to pass out so I hope that will help.
What does winning the HHA 3rd place spot mean to you?
You know, I still can’t even believe I won! It is very unbelievable to me. I really owe it to the whole haunt community for sharing all their ideas with me. Everything I make was inspired by another haunter out there. I guess thanks to everyone and it also means there is room to make it better. And I am sure going to have fun trying.
One useful home haunting tip?
Garage sales are the best place to find props. Use your imagination and try to see how you can use something and make it into a prop. And I know you said only one tip but lighting is probably the very most important aspect along with sound.
One detail most people do not know about you?
I love Brussels sprouts with bacon
Words of wisdom for the aspiring home haunter?
Go to make and takes and get involved on the forums and subscribe to Hauntcast LOL! Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Email me YOUR questions to ask Steve and I’ll set up another interview with your email@example.com
Thanks Steve for taking the time to answer a few questions. We’ll set up another interview soon! Congrats on your haunting success!