AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ramsey Campbell

Meghan: Hey Ramsey!! Welcome back to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. It’s always a pleasure to have you here, and I thank you for taking time on this busy book-release day to join us here.

Yes, you read that right, everybody. Fellstones is out today.
You can pick it up by following the link below:
Flame Tree Publishing

Sorry about that. What were we talking about? Oh yeah… What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Ramsey: I have to say it has no great significance as a festival in Britain. There were attempts a few years back to situate it as an alternative Autumn event to Guy Fawkes Night, since it was felt there were too many accidents at private firework displays on 5 November. When I was a child it wasn’t celebrated locally at all, and so my only sense of it was through fiction—specifically, some of the great tales of Ray Bradbury. Ray made October uniquely his, both capturing its flavours and adding individual ones of his own. While you can read them at any time, they have a particular relevance to Halloween, and so I’ll name them as my favourite aspect thereof.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Ramsey: No longer, but as a child I was—by films, by books, by my domestic life. I must have been three, maybe a little older, when I saw my first film, Disney’s Snow White. Elements in it terrified me—the unstable face in the magic mirror that doesn’t reflect the person in front of it, and even the sight of darkness beyond a window in the dwarfs’ cottage while they perform their song and dance, because I was sure something would appear out of the dark. M.R. James gave me many uneasy nights jut a few years later. As for my everyday experience, my parents were estranged when I was three but continued to live in the same house, which meant I hardly ever saw my father face to face—he became the footsteps on the stairs at night, the presence beyond a door that I dreaded might open. All this was exacerbated by my mother’s schizophrenic fantasies: for example, that he would poison us or creep into the bedroom to commit some terrible act. The neighbours were conspiring against her and writing a nightly radio soap opera that contained references to her and secret messages addressed to her, and so on. I had an interesting childhood, which has subsequently produced much literary material.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Ramsey: Apart from Not I, that terrifying Beckettian tour de force performed by Billie Whitelaw (and enacted less intensely by Julianne Moore), all my candidates are the work of David Lynch. Some scenes in Fire Walk With Me affected me so profoundly I was close to leaving the first time I saw it, but I’ll go with Lost Highway, the first extended section of which in particular frightens me afresh on every viewing. I’ve concluded Lynch uses every element of film—lighting, camera placement and movement, staging, especially sound—as skillfully (if possibly instinctively) as Hitchcock, to convey the uncanny at its most indefinable and disturbing.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Ramsey: The protracted finale of Megan is Missing, a film I analyse and defend at length in Ramsey’s Rambles. The scene is appallingly convincing, not least in its banality.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Ramsey: The trailer, do you mean? No, never. As for the other kind of commercials, I’d do my best to avoid any film interrupted by them and see it uninterrupted elsewhere.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Ramsey: Night of the Demon, my all-time favourite, since you can avoid falling victim to the demon if you know how.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Ramsey: The same, for the same reason.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Ramsey: The original King Kong, the greatest of all monsters in the greatest monster film.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Ramsey: Alas, for reasons outlined above, I have none. Oddly enough, I’ve often been at World Fantasy Conventions in America over the season, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen signs of the celebrations. Ah, hang on—in Baltimore in 1980 all the check-in staff at the Park Plaza were dressed as witches and pumpkins and the like. I think it was a pumpkin who proved loath to let Steve King have his room because he presented not a credit card (he had none in those days) but cash.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Ramsey: Horror uncanny enough for Halloween—Schubert’s Opus 1.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Ramsey: Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable—one of the books I celebrated in an essay in The Book of Lists: Horror. It may be a protracted cry from the afterlife, or a narration by a limbless body displayed in a jar on a street, or by something even more featureless. I read it in a sitting one afternoon and have been haunted by it ever since. If it isn’t horror, I don’t know what is.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Ramsey: The room next to my workroom (where I’m writing this) has seen various uncanny manifestations over the decades we’ve lived in this house, and here’s the most extreme. Jenny and I had discussed befriending the room by spending the night up there together. During one of my attempts to let her sleep without my snoring I wakened at about two in the morning to discover that she’d decided to try the experiment. It was only when I opened my eyes and reached for her that I realised the silhouette next to me, its head on the other pillow, wasn’t Jenny. I tried for a very long time to move and cry out. Apparently I achieved the latter. In our bedroom on the floor below Jenny heard me make some kind of protest, but I’ve often exhorted her not to wake me if I’m having a nightmare, because I believe these dreams contain their own release mechanism, and I resent being taken out of them before the end. Jenny headed for the toilet on the middle floor, and when she returned I was still making the noise. Perhaps I was dreaming, in which case it had to be the longest nightmare, measured in objective time, that I’ve ever experienced. It consisted purely of lying in the bed I was actually in and trying to retreat from my companion. I admit to never having been so intensely terrified in my life. After minutes I found myself alone in the bed. I made myself turn over and close my eyes, but had a strong impression that a face was hovering very close to mine and waiting for me to look. Meanwhile, downstairs, Jenny felt an intruder sit beside her on our bed.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Ramsey: I believe the Marie Celeste.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Ramsey: I heard Graham Watkins tell this tale onstage at an American convention. He investigated haunted places, and had arranged to spend a night at a deserted mansion notorious for manifestations. He chose an upstairs room as his base of operations, and for several hours he heard ordinary domestic noises from downstairs—people talking, kitchen sounds and the like. After some hours he lost patience with them, as I recall, and declared as much aloud. At once there was silence, and he realised he’d alerted whatever was there to his presence. And then all the noises recommenced—directly outside the room he was in…

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Ramsey: My brain.

Meghan: Okay, let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Ramsey: A vampire, since it might give me a chance to experience immortality until I tired of it. A trip to Vasilema should do the job.

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Ramsey: Aliens—the less boring option, I’d hope.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Ramsey: Neither. I find disgust nothing except tedious.

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Ramsey: Amityville if I wanted a quiet time, since the entire thing was a cynical hoax (which I said in a review as soon as I’d read the original book).

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Ramsey: I’ll take the melon.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Ramsey: If the cauldron conferred magical powers I’d take the risk.

Boo-graphy: Ramsey Campbell was born in Liverpool in 1946 and now lives in Wallasey. The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes him as “Britain’s most respected living horror writer”, and the Washington Post sums up his work as “one of the monumental accomplishments of modern popular fiction”. He has received the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association, the Living Legend Award of the International Horror Guild and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University for outstanding services to literature. PS Publishing have brought out two volumes of Phantasmagorical Stories, a sixty-year retrospective of his short fiction, and a companion collection, The Village Killings and Other Novellas, while their Electric Dreamhouse imprint has his collected film reviews, Ramsey’s Rambles. His latest novel is Fellstones from Flame Tree Press, who have also recently published his Brichester Mythos trilogy.

Fellstones takes its name from seven objects on the village green. It’s where Paul Dunstan was adopted by the Staveleys after his parents died in an accident for which he blames himself. The way the Staveleys tried to control him made him move away and change his name. Why were they obsessed with a strange song he seemed to have made up as a child?

Now their daughter Adele has found him. By the time he discovers the cosmic truth about the stones, he may be trapped. There are other dark secrets he’ll discover, and memories to confront. The Fellstones dream, but they’re about to waken.

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Katie Marie: The Halloween Tree

The Halloween Tree

TV Movie — 1993 — Not Rated — 1 hour 9 minutes
Director: Mario Piluso
Writer: Ray Bradbury
Stars: Ray Bradbury (narrator), Leonard Nimoy (Mr Moundshroud)

Four children learn the origins of Halloween customs while trying to save the life of their friend.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.

These days I love decorating, getting dressed up and giving out sweets to the small monsters that come to my door.

When I was little, I loved going Trick-or-Treating, but I also loved making my own costumes, reading scary books (Goosebumps were a favorite) and watching spooky films.

My absolute favorite of these was The Halloween Tree, and it’s this film that I want to talk to you about today.

Beware spoilers below.

The Halloween Tree was released in 1993 on ABC before being released on VHS and making its way across the pond to the UK where I found it on the shelf of my local rental store. It is based on the 1972 book of the same name by Ray Bradbury and while there are some changes, mostly the animated film stays true to the book.

Ray Bradbury voices the narrator and the film even boasts voice talents of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Moundshroud.

Plot Summary
The film opens with the narrator describing a small towns Halloween preparation and we meet our main characters, Jenny, Ralph, Wally and Tom. The small group plan to meet their friend Joe (known as Pip). But when they go to meet him at his house, they see him being loaded into an ambulance, the poor lad has appendicitis.

They decide to visit him at the hospital and take a shortcut through the woods but they see a ghost-like vision of Pip running away from them and are convinced this whole thing is a hoax. They follow Pip all the way into a spooky mansion.

Inside the mansion they meet Mr. Moundshroud who is saddened by the fact that none of the children understand the deeper meaning behind their respective costumes, mummy, witch, monster and skeleton. He also reveals that Pip has pinched a pumpkin with his face carved into it from Mr. Moundshroud’s tree of jack-o-lanterns and Mr. Moundshroud is now pursuing him.

Tom begs for the group to be allowed to go with Mr. Moundshroud to retrieve Pip’s ghost. They are initially refused but eventually the old man relents and the group is challenged to retrieve the pumpkin and learn about their costumes in order to get Pip back.

The group goes on marvelous adventures to ancient Egypt, Stonehenge, Notre Dame Cathedral and lastly, Mexico to witness Día De Los Muertos. During these adventures the group comes within a hair’s breath of catching Pip but he always escapes until Tom finds him in Mexico and apologizes. Tom had wished for something bad to happen to Pip so he could be in charge of the group for once, Pip forgives him but crumbles to dust.

Mr. Moundshroud announces the children failed and Pip now belongs to him. But each of the children offer up a year of their lives to Mr. Moundshroud in exchange for Pip, Mr. Moundshroud agrees and they seal the contract with candy. The children are returned home and see Pip has come home from the hospital.

The film ends with Mr. Moundshroud and the jack-o-lantern tree turning to smoke, all except Pip’s pumpkin which his friends rescued with their sacrifice.

My Thoughts
This was a favorite of mine when I was young and even as an adult, I enjoy watching it. I feel films like this paved the way for other stories such as Over the Garden Wall which is wonderfully creepy.

This is a classic horror story, with very real stakes and very real consequences for our characters. But it also has real heart, and shows a strength of friendship and love that resonates with us even as adults. All of Pip’s friends care about him so deeply that they are willing to exchange their own mortal time to keep him alive and safe.

It is also delightfully informative without feeling like you’re being lectured at. It exposed my young and infinitely curious mind to a whole host of cultures, history and information I would have otherwise been ignorant to.

Overall, this is a classic movie with well-established stakes, highly motivated and compelling characters, told with heart and style. A must see for small and big kids alike.

Boo-graphy:
Katie Marie is a horror enthusiast and writer from Norfolk, England.

She has been published in several anthologies and magazines, and her Novella, A Man in Winter, was recently released by Brigids Gate Press.

Katie started writing while studying at Aberystwyth University in the early 2000’s and several years later she has received a Masters Degree and published many short stories, a novel and novella.

Website
Facebook

Arthur, whose life was devastated by the brutal murder of his wife, must come to terms with his diagnosis of dementia. He moves into a new home at a retirement community, and shortly after, has his life turned upside down again when his wife’s ghost visits him and sends him on a quest to find her killer so her spirit can move on. With his family and his doctor concerned that his dementia is advancing, will he be able to solve the murder before his independence is permanently restricted?

A Man in Winter examines the horrors of isolation, dementia, loss, and the ghosts that come back to haunt us.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Patrick C. Harrison III

Meghan: Hey, III. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Thanks for joining us today. Let’s get started: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Patrick: The answer to this question has changed over the years. Obviously, as a kid I loved suiting up and running from house to house collecting goodies. Then in my teens Halloween became more about wreaking havoc with friends, playing pranks and whatnot. That was long before Netflix and Tubi, so during those years I was always excited about the horror movies running on TV for the weeks prior to Halloween. Once I had kids, I loved watching them go door to door dressed in their costumes. Now, my youngest is eleven and isn’t sure she still wants to go trick-or-treating. So, what I’ll probably be doing is watching scary movies and dishing out candy at the door. Geez, this is a long first answer, so let me stop and come up with something…I guess my favorite thing is that Halloween is the time of year when the entire country embraces the horrors that I love year-round.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Patrick: The last few years as I’ve driven the kids around trick-or-treating, we’ve played a Halloween soundtrack in the car, with Halloween themed songs and songs from various horror movies. I really like that. Going to haunted houses is also fun.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Patrick: Christmas is probably my favorite, but Halloween is right there. As I said in the first answer, the whole world kind of embraces my loves. You see spooks and witches and jack-o’-lanterns everywhere. The air is just starting to cool and fallen leaves crunch under your feet as you run from one house to the next. For kids, it’s like a night that never ends.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Patrick: Hmmm. When I played baseball, I would never step on the baseline when going on and off the field. When I worked in the emergency room and it was suspiciously slow night, I would never mention it. (If you ever work in healthcare and you say ‘It sure is quiet today,’ be prepared for an avalanche of medical emergencies. And be ready for your coworkers to kill you.)

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Patrick: In cinema, probably either Freddy Krueger or Art the Clown. In fiction, probably Pennywise. Yes, I know, very cliché. How about Patrick Bateman then? Does he even count as a villain since the entire story is told from his perspective?

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Patrick: The Elisa Lam case. She’s the lady that went missing in the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. She was on camera acting very bizarre, like maybe she was being followed. Then she just disappeared. Footage of the hotel’s entrance showed that she never left the Cecil. Like three weeks after she disappeared, her body was found in the hotel’s water tank on the roof. People had been drinking and taking showers in that water—containing her decomposing body—the entire time. I love missing person stories too. Check out the Dennis Martin case. Very bizarre!

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Patrick: When I worked in the ER, there was this urban legend about a patient coming in complaining of a severe headache. Upon assessment, it was discovered that the patient had a nest of spiders in her tangled, matted hair. They’d been biting her head, which caused the headaches. Given the things I saw during my years in healthcare, I bet that’s based on a true story. Yikes!

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Patrick: That’s an odd question. I guess H.H. Holmes. I mean, he made a fucking (am I allowed to say ‘fucking’?) murder hotel! He killed people and then sold their skeletons to medical schools. He was pretty damn wicked. By the way, if anyone answering this question says Charles Manson, they need to be fired from the horror community. Charles Manson is overrated and far more cliché than me answering Pennywise to the villain question.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Patrick: Movie: I have no idea what my first horror movie was or when I saw it. The first one I remember being terrified of was Silver Bullet. I think I was maybe seven or eight when I saw it. Book: Again, hard to say. Three early books of horror I remember reading are Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful, Ghost Stories of Old Texas by Zinita Fowler, and Spine Chillers by Jim Razzi. I still have all three of these books.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Patrick: Oooo, tough one. Pet Sematary is terrifying and really punches you in the gut, especially if you’re a parent. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis are two books that are brilliantly written and yet soooo fucked up. They really dig at your soul.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Patrick: My tolerance for crazy, fucked up horror movies is pretty high. I don’t think anything has scarred me. But…there were some scenes in The Human Centipede 2 and Nekromantic that made my jaw hit the floor. The scariest movie I’ve ever seen would probably be The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Close second goes to the often-overlooked Vacancy.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Patrick: I don’t think I ever watched an actual episode of The Lone Ranger, but I sure did go trick-or-treating as the masked hero. And I loved it! Thought I super cool.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Patrick: “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers. This song leads off the Halloween playlist I mentioned earlier.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Patrick: Reese’s Pieces have to be number one, right? They naturally come in Halloween colors. The worst are those little candies that come in either black or orange wrappers. No name or label or anything on them. Just crappy candy on the inside. I know most people probably shit on candy corn, but I’ve been known to consume candy corn from time to time.

Meghan: Before you go, what are your top 3 Halloween movies and books?

Patrick:
Movies:
House of 1000 Corpses
Terrifier
Halloween 3

Books:
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The October Country by Ray Bradbury
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is October’s author. No one else quite encapsulates the nostalgia of the season.


Boo-graphy:
Patrick C. Harrison III (PC3, if you prefer) is the author of A Savage Breed, Inferno Bound and the Hell Hounds, 5 Tales That Will Land You in Hell, 5 Tales of Tantalizing Terror, Visceral: Collected Flesh (with Christine Morgan), and Cerberus Rising (with Chris Miller and M. Ennenbach); and his works can be found in numerous anthologies.

PC3 is also the co-owner (with Jarod Barbee) and editor-in-chief of Death’s Head Press, a Texas-based publisher of dark fiction. Follow PC3’s website/blog for frequent horror movie reviews and updates on forthcoming fiction.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jonathan Janz

Meghan: Hey, Jonathan. I don’t know if you realize this, but you have been a part of our annual Halloween Extravaganza long before it was named a Halloween Extravaganza. In fact, you have been part of every Halloween celebration since I started blogging, back in 2014, on The Gal in the Blue Mask. So thank you so much for all the support. And for once again taking part. Let’s begin: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jonathan: I think the general mood. I love the aura, the spooky, cozy, gloomy vibe of late-October/early-November. There’s something uniquely mysterious in the air, the feeling that anything could happen, will happen. Wet-black tree trunks and rain-shiny streets. Drooping leaves and shadows. No time can transport me back to elementary school like this time of year. Nothing can reproduce that shivery feeling quite like Halloween time.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jonathan: Hmm… For me, the music plays a big role. The Halloween score is a central, seminal work there. I think not only of Carpenter’s incredible main theme, but of the other tracks, specifically the one we hear when Jamie Lee Curtis walks through the neighborhood when we first meet her. I hear the same music when I walk through my own neighborhood, which is like hers with more hills. I also love “This Is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I sing that one with my youngest daughter Peach.

So listening to the music is a big part of the celebration for me.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Jonathan: It’s my favorite non-religious holiday, I’ll say that. It’s just such a marvelous celebration of all the things I love about horror. It’s being joyful in the terror, it’s reveling in the macabre. It really is a time where what we love all year is normalized and appreciated by all, including the hobbyists. For a short time they can see through our eyes and understand the dark beauty we see all year. So there’s a sense of community with the full-timers and a moment of communion with the part-timers.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jonathan: I’m really not superstitious anymore, but I used to be. Like catastrophically so. I was afraid to leave a room without first smiling into a mirror because I was sure the last expression I made in that mirror would determine the tenor of the day or evening. I had an intricate series of rituals I had to complete (everything in threes, everything pointing in a specific direction) that held a mystical power over me. Essentially, I was raddled with these superstitions, and they profoundly affected me in many negative ways. I eventually overcame them, but it took time.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Jonathan: Michael Myers still scares the daylights out of me. So does Jerry Dandridge from the original Fright Night. I love werewolves in general, so the one in Silver Bullet, for instance used to really give me the willies. Oh, and The Thing was awesome because it’s this hostile intelligence and always changing.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jonathan: Wow. Tough one. There were a pair of murders in my hometown of Delphi, Indiana (which is known as Shadeland in Children of the Dark) that remain unsolved, so for several reasons I want that killer to be caught. Two adolescent girls lost their lives, so it’s an unspeakable tragedy.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jonathan: I don’t know if this qualifies, but Spring-Heeled Jack has always fascinated me. I love the uniqueness of his powers and the mysterious, fantastical nature of his abilities. I’d like to write a novel about it someday.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jonathan: Well, I probably wouldn’t say that any would be my favorite, but the most fascinating has to be Jack the Ripper. So much of that has to do with the surreptitious nature of the crimes, the Whitechapel setting, the myriad theories about the killer’s identity, and the fact that it remains unsolved. I also think the clothing of the time and the fog add to the mystique.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Jonathan: Probably something like The Omen, which scared the crap out of me. I vividly remember watching The Twilight Zone when I was little, especially Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Also the one where there’s an alien in the café and the one where the woman is going to have plastic surgery because (supposedly) she’s so hideous. Those shows truly impacted me. They scared me to death but they absolutely absorbed me and compelled me to keep watching despite my terror.

As far as the first horror book, that one’s easy: Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers. That book changed everything for me. Not long after that, I read ‘Salem’s Lot, The Stand, The Dead Zone, The Shining, Night Shift, Carrie, The Gunslinger, Skeleton Crew, Pet Sematary, and It. Essentially, the first twenty books I read were all by Stephen King, so he’s the reason I’m where I am today. He made me a reader, a writer, and an English teacher. Regarding the way those stories made me feel…for the first time, I felt smart when I was reading those books. Obviously, I was entertained too. And mesmerized and unsettled and transfixed. Those books were revelations to me.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jonathan: Ah, nice question! Let’s see…I’m going to say The Girl Next Door. Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr had a way of going to the core of an issue and showing us what he found there, without flinching. That book made me cringe, put it down, return to it reluctantly, despair for humankind, and weep for what happened to that poor young woman.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jonathan: This one is easy, though it’s surprisingly recent. It’s called Lake Mungo, and it’s a slow-burn faux-documentary that’s at turns depressing, unnerving, and flat-out terrifying. There’s a moment in the film I keep replaying in my head to an unhealthy, obsessive degree. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m afraid to see this face coming out of the dark. So even though I’m an adult…I might just be permanently scarred by Lake Mungo.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jonathan: I had a chintzy Godzilla costume when I was really little. Cheap as hell, the sharp plastic mask with the string. But I loved it, felt like I was a fire-breathing monster when I wore it. I loved that costume and love it still.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jonathan: Got to be “This Is Halloween,” though some of the tracks from Halloween are in the running. The song I referred to earlier I think is called “Laurie’s Theme,” though I could be wrong about that.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Jonathan: My favorite candy altogether is Dots, so because I sometimes get to eat those on Halloween, I’ll go with Dots. Other favorites include Snickers, Twizzlers, Reese’s Cups, and Kit Kats. Disappointing candy? I can’t think of any.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by today. As always, it was an absolute pleasure having you here. Before you go, what is your go-to Halloween movie and book?

Jonathan:
Top Halloween Movie: Halloween (1978): I know this is an uncreative answer, but Carpenter’s original film is just perfect. What I appreciate is how Carpenter treats the quieter moments, not just the kills. That film just drips atmosphere.

Top Halloween Book: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Look, there are many great Halloween stories, but this one feels perfect for Halloween. I love the evocation of the small town, the friendship, the father-son relationship, those cusp-of-adulthood themes, and of course the sinister elements in the book. Basically, it’s perfect. I taught it for a few years to freshmen, and they ate it up. It’s a timeless novel.


Boo-graphy:
Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.

Website

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Daemon Manx

Meghan: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Daemon: To be perfectly honest, my favorite part of Halloween is the dressing up and wearing of the costumes. Of course, we all love to do this as children, and many of us love this well into our adulthood. However, I have noticed far too many people who refuse to participate in this ritual once they reach a certain age. I have heard “I don’t wear costumes” and “I don’t dress up.” To that I say, “Don’t take yourself so seriously, no one else does.” I love racking my brain trying to come up with the perfect costume and have really pulled off some winners in my day. As a boy I immediately went for the zombie which was years before they had even become cliché. Then once I discovered latex I went as a werewolf attack victim complete with chunks ripped from my neck. As I got older, I have gone with friends as Kiss, Star Trek crew, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and one time my girlfriend and I went as Titanic victim’s I was the crew member with the whistle frozen to his lips. I never took myself so seriously to even think that I wouldn’t dress up for Halloween, I couldn’t even imagine it.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Daemon: It would be difficult to answer this by simply stating one aspect of Halloween as there isn’t anything about the day, the season, the mood, the vibe that I dislike. For me, Halloween is the single time of the year that I have looked forward to since my earliest childhood days. Even then it was so much more than the candy, it was the sense of mystery and the feeling of the unknown. It was a mood in the air as the leaves began to change. It was the movies that were shown on the television. And of course, it was that chance to step out of ourselves and to be someone or something else for a brief moment in time. So, with that being said, my fondest memories that have transcended throughout my latter years revolve around the Halloween Party. It is the decorating of the house and the planning of the event. Then it is the costumes and the music being played and the chance to stop taking life so seriously. I have always dressed up, and I have always had a Halloween Party. When I was in fourth grade, I built a haunted house in my garage and invited my classmates over for my first annual bash. I am not bragging when I say that I scared the crap out of them, and they would still attest to that. I have been having a yearly Halloween party ever since, sometimes dressing with others in a theme, and sometimes going solo. I don’t build the Haunted house anymore, and the party itself has matured a bit since those early days. But it is still a chance to shake off the seriousness of everyday life and live in the world of imagination, of the macabre, of the supernatural. I also appreciate seeing the ever-popular naughty nurse costume as it is guaranteed that at least one of my friends is sure to walk through the door wearing one.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Daemon: It absolutely is my favorite holiday and for many reasons. Halloween is probably differently experienced depending upon where in the country you grew up, or where in the world for that matter. I grew up in northern New Jersey, home of Camp Crystal Lake and a real town called Haddonfield. Halloween comes at a time when the air has turned crisp, and the leaves have begun to rattle as they fall from the trees and are scattered up the street and across the lawn. The sun sets earlier and there is sense of mystery that seems to appear as if from nowhere. You feel it as you walk home from school and pass through the graveyard. You sense that someone is watching you and you start to walk just a little bit faster. You are guaranteed to find at least one of your favorite horror films on nearly every channel, for those of us that still watch it that way. And all this seems to grow with a heightened sense of mystery and tension as All Hallows Eve approaches. There is no other time of year that holds such wonderful apprehension as Halloween. It truly feels that if there is one day out of the year when the soul’s of the dead would be allowed to cross over into our plane, it would be on Halloween, and that is terrifyingly wonderful.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Daemon: A better question would be, what am I not superstitious about, as nearly all of the old wives’ tales and warnings hold a sacred place in my heart. I would never consider walking under a ladder and can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would. That just sounds too dangerous and an unnecessary risk that I don’t need to take. I will go to great lengths to make sure that I handle all mirrors with extreme caution as I am a firm believer in luck and wouldn’t want to jinx myself. I don’t sleep on my left side if I can at all help it and hope that my heart appreciates the strides, I take for it. Black cats? Well, I have owned a few but that was before I had any say as to the pets that were allowed in the house. Now I have one cat that is orange with black and tan stripes, however, if I see one outside, I will inadvertently turn away so that it doesn’t cross my path, if I can help it. I won’t say Bloody Mary three times into the mirror with a candle burning. I won’t say Candy Man either. For that matter, I don’t think I would repeat Beetlejuice any more than twice. Why risk it? That guy would just end up trashing the house or doing something potentially worse.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Daemon: My favorite horror monster or villain is Frankenstein’s monster. Although let me clarify this, I am a fan of the original masterpiece written by Mary Shelley. Although I love Boris Karloff the book is the classic that gave birth to the modern horror novel and is so much more than a monster story. Victor Frankenstein has figured a way to bring life to his creation. He has dedicated himself to this task and is finally successful in doing so only to find he is repulsed by his creation and realizes that he must destroy it. The creature is unaware as a newborn and cannot fathom why the one who gave him life hates him and wants nothing to do with him. So, the creature fleas and learns to survive and understand the language. But Victor’s own hatred and loathing continues to consume him, and he goes to great lengths to hunt and kill the creature. Perhaps I should say that Victor is my favorite villain, and the creature is my favorite misunderstood monster, as monsters often are.

I won’t give any more away, and if you have not read it, I urge you to do so. It was written when Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron decided that they would each write a terrifying tale. Mary was the only one to finish a story and the horror world was never the same. There are huge symbolic meanings to be found in the book, as a parent chooses to destroy their own creation of innocence. One cannot help but feel for the creature and detest the man. So, hats off to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the original Goth Girl. 

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Daemon: I am fascinated by mysterious disappearances. One that I have found particularly intriguing, and one would certainly be likely to assume that murder had been involved in some way, was the disappearance of the crew of the Mary Celeste. The ship was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 4, 1872, under partial sail with its lifeboats missing. The ship was stocked and in functioning condition, but the crew had vanished. The cargo had been denatured alcohol, and the captain and crew’s belongings had been undisturbed. There was a hearing to try to determine the possible cause of the crew’s disappearance which had discussed mutiny, giant squid, supernatural intervention, and even the possibly that the crew had been overcome by the fumes from the alcohol. It has remained a mystery and a cause for great speculation, and it is one story that we will never know the answer to.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Daemon: I hate the one where if you are driving down the road at night and someone is headed toward you with their high beams on. Of course, we are all going to flash them our own so that they will turn theirs off, or will we? I am not so sure that I do that myself. I have heard the urban legend about how they turn around and follow you home, and then… I hate that one, scares the crap out of me and now I have to squint when someone forgets to turn their high beams off because I don’t want to get butchered in my own driveway. I really wish I never heard that one and simply don’t go out at night because I don’t want to be put into that situation. I prefer to sit behind my laptop and think up ways to scare other people. That’s how I get a good night sleep and avoid the hazards of driving at night.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Daemon: I must say that I do not idolize any real serial killers and do not have a favorite. However, I am a huge fan of the made-up ones and would have to say that Dexter takes the prize. He has a code, a purpose and he is doing the world a service. Yes, he is batshit crazy and often a bit to sloppy and show-offy, but when you got it, flaunt it. Although his first few seasons were far better than the latter, I am optimistic for the new installment and will be watching my favorite blood spatter analyst.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie?

Daemon: I was ten years old when I saw the movie Halloween. And what a truly awesome flick to be my first real horror movie. I hadn’t been allowed to see it in the theaters and this was when HBO took about a year before movies were aired. I slept over my friend’s house and watched it the very first night it came on. This was the first time that a movie killer got up and disappeared after he had been shot… six times. Now it is expected for a villain, creature monster to continue on after they have died. But in 1978, 79 when I had seen it, we were all seeing it for the very first time. This was groundbreaking stuff, and it was frightening as hell. When Michael sat up at the top of the stairs and came after a young Jamie Lee, you felt it. I still feel much the same when I revisit this movie years later. The remakes didn’t do it for me and the only sequel I cared for was Halloween two. This is what I want from a horror movie, I want to be scared for the first time and I want it to be fresh, not a rehash of the same gimmick.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Daemon: The most unsettling novel I have read would be Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. The story of several writers who have agreed to stay in an old sealed off theater find themselves in a very desperate situation. Convinced that once they are rescued there will be movies and stories made of their adventure, they begin to cause themselves great harm to show that they have truly suffered through the ordeal. They each write short stories that are peppered throughout the tale, one more disturbing than the next. However, there is one that stands out in my mind and is forever seared into my memory banks. It is a crazy tale about a boy who loses several feet of his intestines while performing an act he calls pegging. Does this ring any bells for any of you? It is an insane tale and if you got the ‘Guts’ I suggest you read it.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Daemon: Night of the Living Dead. I had convinced my father to let me stay up and watch it as it came on at 11 on a Friday night. I was still quite young, and he had stayed up with me to keep me company. It was a good thing that he had because I never would have made it through otherwise. This was either in the very late 70s or early 80s and zombies were not a part of pop culture yet. There were seven channels on the TV and we still had phones you had to dial. I know the stone age, right? But things were scarier then, if the power went out or you got stuck on the road, you were really in trouble. Also, if zombies were about to break down your doors and try to eat you, you were probably gonna get eaten… quickly. I was scared out of my mind and recall following my father up the stairs and practically into the bathroom during a commercial break. After that night I always looked at houses and rooms as to how difficult it would be to barricade them if the undead started to swarm the property. I have always had that thought in the back of my mind and have put great care into my escape plan should the dead start walking again. Now that I am older, I realize that I will most likely be one of the first to become a snack for the dead, but I think in my day I would have made a hell of a crossbow wielding force to be reckoned with.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Daemon: My favorite costume has to be from the time I was playing in a band. We always loved to play Halloween parties and at the bars during that time of year. One year we had decided to dress up as Kiss and play nothing but Kiss music all night. As the bass player I got to dress up as the demon, Gene Simmons. We had our make up done by a professional theatre artist and had made our own costumes. I went all out and bought a smoke machine and mini pyrotechnics that allowed me to shoot fire balls from the end of my bass and the drummer had one attached to his high hat. I used blood capsules to spit the blood that Gene was famous for. I remember playing Love Gun, Strutter, Rock n Roll all Night, and was told that people actually felt as if they had gone to a micro version of a Kiss Concert.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Daemon: This is an easy one. Hands down it would have to be The Monster Mash by Bobby Boris Pickett. I think I love this song because not only does it give you a great deal of information, it also asks some very serious questions. We find out that the Wolfman, Dracula and his son have all decided to attend the party along with the ghouls who appeared to have shown up just to get a jolt from the electrodes, which seems a bit local to me, but who am I judge?

There is quite the ensemble at the party, Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds. The instruments were played by the Coffin Bangers who like most musicians were always late to the party. And the sensational vocal sounds of the Crypt Kicker Five. There used to be six of them, but the lead guy thought he was better off as a solo act. I do have to wonder what kind of gigs the Crypt Kickers might find the rest of the year and imagine that the venues come rather infrequently. Not to worry though, they are playing the Mash, which happens to be a graveyard smash. If you were wondering how it grew in popularity, well, it caught on in a flash, my friend.

Perhaps the question that leaves so much to ponder is, whatever happened to the Transylvania Twist. Well, the answer is easy, It’s now the Mash. You see the song has progressed over time and what was once the Twist is now the Mash. Times change, fads fade, and the world moves on. Easy Igor, you impetuous you boy.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Daemon: Another easy one. Reese’s peanut butter cups are the greatest candy ever invented and covers all of your five basic food groups. It is the perfect snack at anytime of year.

The biggest disappointment to find in my trick-or-treat bag would be the Mary Jane. I don’t even know what this candy is pretending to be, but if it is going for disgusting, it has certainly hit the mark. I would rather you toss me a rotten apple or a handful of pennies than you even come close to my bag with one of those vile putrid excuse for a candy.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by, Daemon. Before you go, what are your top two books and movies for Halloween?

Daemon: Wow, and you ask me for only two. Well as you can see by the rest of the interview, I don’t like to hold back so hear you go.

First here are my books that should be read during the Halloween season.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray BradburySomething Wicked This Way Comes is the story that first filled me with a sense of wonder and mystery and fright for the supernatural. It reminds me of how Halloween felt as a child and each sentence is crafted like a masterpiece. The paragraphs are works of art, the language is impeccable. This is the true definitive tale of the supernatural and the story that inspired them all.

Abigail by Daemon Manx — I recommend Abigail for all those who have ever found themselves thinking or feeling different than others. If you have ever been picked on or mistreated or made to feel less than. This creepy tale of what one man finds on his doorstep may not be what you expect to read. But never judge a book by its cover, a lesson that we all could stand to relearn.

And here are my books that should be watched at Halloween.

HalloweenJohn Carpenter’s original for obvious reasons. Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations and don’t settle for anything but the pure stuff. This 1978 horror classic still freaks me out, enough said.

Night of the Living DeadGeorge Romero’s classic taught us that the undead will eat you if they get their hands on you. Barricade your windows and seal up your doors. They’re Coming to Get You Barbera. The remake of this wasn’t all that bad either but nothing compares to the feel of the black n white picture and that claustrophobic sense of isolation.


Boo-graphy:
Daemon Manx writes horror and speculative fiction. He is a member of the Horror Authors Guild (HAG) and has had stories featured in magazines in both the U.S. and the U.K. His short story, The Dead Girl, became a finalist in The Green Shoe Sanctuary’s summer writing prompt contest in August 2021. His debut novelette, Abigail, was released through Terror Tract Publishing and has received 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads. He lives with his sister and their narcoleptic cat Sydney in a remote cabin off the grid, where they patiently prepare for the apocalypse. There is a good chance there they will run out of coffee.

Abigail
Strange things come in small packages. Adrian Billard believes he knows what it’s like to be different, and has nearly given up hope of ever finding happiness. But, a strange package left on his doorstep is about to turn his entire world upside down. Everything Adrian thinks he knows is about to change. He is about to meet…Abigail.