Halloween Extravaganza: Mark Steensland: Tricks AND Treats

Tricks AND Treats

Because my father was an Episcopalian minister, Halloween was never the holiday that Christmas was in our house. This isn’t to say there was anything forbidden about it. We just didn’t celebrate October 31st the way we did December 25th. I made tissue paper ghosts in school. We carved pumpkins. We handed out candy. And I was allowed to go trick-or-treating. But not off the block. My brothers were all much older than I was, so they had either already moved out or were doing their own thing and had no time for holding my hand as I went door to door.

Other kids in the neighborhood were less restricted. Not only were they allowed to go off the block, they were allowed to go into other distant neighborhoods–even across the busy street! And when they came home from those faraway foreign lands, they had pillowcases full of candy. Literally. Pillowcases full of candy.

I was insanely jealous of course. Long after my lunch bag of candy was gone, my friends were still feasting. They got so much candy, in fact, they had to throw some of it away because it got stale.

Then one Halloween I got an idea.

Using some of my father’s old Ace bandages (leftover from his war injury), I wrapped myself up like Claude Rains in The Invisible Mind, put on sunglasses to complete the look, got my paper bag, and went out, knocking on every door up and down the block. When I returned home, I took off the bandages and put on the previous year’s costume: a plastic Wolfman mask. Combined with jeans and a plaid shirt with a furry pillow underneath (for bulk and chest hair), I went out again, knocking on the same doors and gathering another round of treats. Back at home, I stripped off the mask and the plaid shirt, then put on an old flight jacket and cap. Out I went again, face exposed this time, happy to tell anyone who asked I was the Red Baron, hunting for Snoopy. All the neighbors were delighted to see me. I sincerely doubt they were as delighted as I was to see them. Again.

No, I didn’t have a pillowcase full of candy. But I had more than ever before. And for once, that was enough.

Mark Steensland first learned how to scare people at the age of four during a drive-in screening of Rosemary’s Baby. Although he was supposed to be asleep in the back of the family station wagon, he stayed awake, secretly listening. When the doctor on screen announced Rosemary’s due date as June 28th, he sat up and proudly exclaimed, “That’s my birthday!” giving his parents and siblings a shock from which they still have not recovered. Over the years that followed, he became obsessed with Aurora monster models, Dark Shadows, Famous Monsters magazine, and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. His first professional publication was as a film journalist, in Jim Steranko‘s Prevue magazine. Numerous bylines followed in American Cinematographer, Millimeter and Kamera. As a director, his short films (including Lovecraft’s Pillow, Dead@17, Peekers, The Ugly File, and The Weeping Woman) have played in festivals around the world and earned numerous awards. His novel for young readers, Behind the Bookcase, was published in 2012 by Random House. His novella for adults, The Special, was published in late 2018 and has been made into a feature film. He currently lives in California with his wife and their three children.

Behind the Bookcase

A girl stumbles into a fantastic world in this tale perfect for fans of Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, and The Twilight Zone.

Spending the summer at her grandmother’s house is the last thing Sarah wants to do—especially now that Grandma Winnie has died—but she has no choice. Her parents have to fix the place up before they can sell it, and Sarah and her brother, Billy, have to help. But the tedious work turns into a thrilling mystery when Sarah discovers an unfinished letter her grandmother wrote: Strange things are happening behind the bookcase. . . . 

Sarah’s mother dismisses the letter as one of Grandma Winnie’s crazy stories, but Sarah does some investigating and makes a remarkable discovery: behind the bookcase is a doorway into Scotopia, the land where shadows come from. With a talking cat named Balthazat as her guide, Sarah begins an unforgettable adventure into a world filled with countless dangers. Who can she trust? And can she face her fears, not only in Scotopia, but also back at Grandma Winnie’s house, where more secrets and strange goings-on await her?

The Special

In a house on the edge of town, there is a room. In that room, there is a box. And in that box await pleasures beyond your wildest imagination…

Jerry Harford is fed up. Overworked. Underpaid. And damn near certain his wife is cheating on him. He’s never been one for revenge, but his friend Mike talks him into thinking about JERRY just this once.

Now Jerry can’t get enough of The Special. He’s obsessed, and he wants it all to himself.

Before long, Jerry’s going to learn that pleasure has a price and whoever said “Hell is the truth seen too late” was right … terribly right.

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