Meghan: Hey Robert. Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. Thanks for agreeing to stop by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Robert: When I was young trick ‘r treating was my favorite part. As an adult with a child, it still is. I like going out and wandering through neighborhoods (I live in the sticks these days, so I have to find a neighborhood for my son to trick ‘r treat in), and seeing all the costumes and houses decorated. In some neighborhoods people just get it, and they almost all decorate and hang out outside. I remember one year someone was walking around aimlessly in a Michael Myers costume, just sort of creeping up on people. It was great.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Robert: Watching John Carpenter’s Halloween, preferably on Halloween night, but certainly once or twice in the month of October doesn’t hurt. I’ve seen the movie countless times and I love it every single viewing. Just hearing the score puts me into a serious Halloween mood.
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Robert: I’ve always loved spooky shit. Always. When I was a kid I loved those old Disney cartoons with dancing skeletons and ghosts and stuff. Halloween’s that time of year when everyone digs creepy stuff for a night (well, almost everyone).
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Robert: Nothing. I’ve never been one for superstition. I mean, I used to pick up pennies thinking I’d have good luck, used to knock on wood, but I think it’s all horseshit these days.
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Robert: Nowadays that would probably be Jarod from House of Wax with Vincent Price. An artist with useless hands after a fire who kills for his art, but has the persona of a kind and gentle man. The level of deception is chilling. On the other hand, when I was young my favorite was Freddy Kruger. Somehow he made being the villain cool. He was frightening and hilarious all at the tame time. Like you could have a drink with him and shoot the shit, but chances are you’d end up disemboweled in the end.
Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?
Robert: Well, despite being a horror junkie, these are things I rarely think about. Off the top of my head I recall seeing an old black and white photo of a woman hanging from a tree. Her legs are touching the ground, so she’s not hanging like an execution. It’s a bizarre photo, and apparently an unsolved murder. Another that always stuck with me is Bobby Fuller, a musician who died in 1966 in his car in Hollywood. He had a hit with the song I Fought the Law.
Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?
Robert: Well, I don’t have a good answer for this one, unfortunately. I never really paid much mind to urban legends. I mean, I suppose they were creepy when I was younger, but I never really believed in them. They were just stories. Could be because I grew up in San Diego. Maybe urban legends are stronger in other parts of the country.
Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?
Robert: H. H. Holmes. Somehow this guy had fallen under my radar for years. I saw a documentary on him maybe ten years ago and was shocked and amazed at what he accomplished. And I’m not talking about how many people he killed. That would be one sick thing to call an accomplishment. I’m talking about his massive house. The way he had parts of the house built by different contractors and different blue prints so no one would know that he’d been building a house that allowed him to sneak around in the walls and spy on his guests. It’s so bizarre. Talk about dedication. A house isn’t built overnight. He had to have been dreaming about tormenting people all the while as he hired contractor after contractor to build the house is sections. Despite the murders, it would have been fascinating to actually walk the halls and corridors and secret chambers. I guess I know where I’m going if I ever get the time machine up and running.
Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?
Robert: I was eleven or twelve when I saw my first horror movie. It was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. That one doesn’t really fit in with the series, but it scared the hell out of me. I watched it with my cousin. She fell asleep toward the end and I struggled with not waking her up for fear that Freddy would get her. The first horror book I read was probably Thinner by Stephen King. I read it for a book report in junior high school. I liked it quite a bit, but I wasn’t into reading yet, and it didn’t do anything to change that. What completely changed my mind about reading was Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery. That story literally changed my life. I have been a diehard reader ever since.
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most? Most horror novels aren’t really that scary, and that’s probably because I’m jaded. One that sticks out as truly unsettling me was Stephen King’s Pet Semetery. The scenes dealing with the Indian burial ground in particular. Actually, the most unnerving book I ever read was Helter Skelter. Not fiction, but damn that had me paranoid that someone could just break into my house and kill me for no good reason.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
Robert: Cannibal Holocaust. I’d watched it when I was a teenager and it didn’t affect me all that much. Years later I watched it with my wife and it was like watching a goddamned snuff film. The scenes that are “caught on film” seem so real it’s ridiculous. The descent into madness that the Americans take as they travel through the jungle is creepy and upsetting. Though I don’t think I’ll ever watch that movie again, it really was one of the most effective horror films I’ve ever seen.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Robert: I took my son trick ‘r treating several years ago and wore a cloth sack with a hole cut into it for one eye to see out of, like Jason in Friday the 13th Part 2. Freaked people out. That was fun.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Robert: I’m gonna cheat and say my favorite Halloween album is Halloween Hootenanny. It’s a collection of surf rock type Halloween songs that Rob Zombie compiled in the late 90s. I listen to it every year. Hell, it’s a damn fine album to listen to all year long, but especially good in October.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat?
Robert: What is your most disappointing? Since I pretty much don’t ever eat candy bars, I look forward to snagging a snickers or milky way from my son’s Halloween loot. The worst is candy corn. And circus peanuts. I haven’t seen those in years, but I used to get them when I was a kid. They’re inedible trash as far as I’m concerned.
Meghan: It was a pleasure talking to you today, Robert. Before you go, what are your top three Halloween movies?
Robert: These are the three horror movies I would like to watch on Halloween night, so not all are Halloween themed. I’d start with Return of the Living Dead. One of my favorites. It’s funny and has all kinds of memorable dialogue, plus all kinds of gory horror goodness. Then Halloween. Can’t go wrong with John Carpenter’s masterpiece on Halloween night. Then I’d finish with Night of the Living Dead. I’ve watched both Halloween and Night of the Living Dead on Halloween night and it just feels right.
Robert Essig is the author of over a dozen books and over a hundred and forty short stories. He has edited several anthologies, his latest being Chew on This!, which was nominated for a Splatterpunk Award. Robert’s forthcoming novel is a splatter western that will be published in 2022 with Death’s Head Press. Robert lives with his family in east Tennessee. Look for him on social media, as well as his blog.
Chew On This! —
Chew on This! has everything you need to satiate your appetite for the strange and macabre.
Tonight’s menu is a fifteen-course meal of subtle and atmospheric tales all the way down to the grisly, blood-drenched extremes.
Creepy restaurants, treacherous take-out, forbidden feasts, and more!
We’ve got horror so good you can taste it!
Death Obsessed —
Remember those old VHS tapes with labels that said “banned in 40 countries” and “not for the faint of heart,” with titles like Faces of Death and Mondo Violence? Well, they’re back, only this time it’s a book. This book. Death Obsessed is Faces of Death with an identity crisis. Get ready for something mondo macabre!
Back when he was a teenager, Calvin was into the morbid stuff. He thought he outgrew it, but he’s only a video clip away from becoming obsessed, and what’s Ronnie going to think about that? She’s not the kind of girl who digs cemeteries and dead things. But Hazel, she’s something else altogether, and oh how persuasive is a woman who knows what she wants.
Drawn back to a place Calvin had forgotten about, and lured by the baritone drawl of Mr. Ghastly, who promises the much sought-after death scenes classic known as Death’s Door, Calvin trips down one hell of a rabbit hole, and everything is at stake. Can he leave his nine-to-five life in the dust for some real action, or will he be left sick, all alone, and death obsessed?
Shallow Graves —
Did you wake to the sound of the garden gate rattling in the night, or an unexplained creak in the living room floorboards? Is something stirring in the basement?
Are you, the reader, safe in the train carriage on your commute home from work? Are you safe at night reading in the comfort of your favourite armchair or do you lay awake at night clutching the baseball bat?
In this terrifying collection you’ll find renegade filmmakers, masked maniacs, opportune thieves, and disturbed individuals. People you interact with every day who have dirty little secrets. Do you really know what your neighbours are up to?
From Robert Essig, author of Stronger Than Hate, In Black and Death Obsessed; and Jack Bantry, editor of Splatterpunk Zine, comes 11 tales of horror and examination of the dark side of human behaviour that will fray your nerves, leaving you to double and triple check that you’ve locked the door at night.
Listen closely. Is that the sound of a shovel you can hear, digging your shallow grave?