Meghan: Hey, Jeff. I decided to wait and have your day as the last one in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, so it’s been a wait, but I’m glad you’re here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Jeff: I loved taking my young girls out for Trick or Treating. The fresh mystery of experiencing this unique adventure through their eyes, well, it reminded me of my youth. It was a joy dressing up in costumes, visiting stranger’s Halloween-bedecked houses, and asking for candy.
[Spoiler alert] Nowadays, I like watching the interesting variety of movies that come out on television during the Halloween season. I’ll sometimes also deep dive into my personal stock of scary movies.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Jeff: As you know, I like watching scary movies, but along with that, I like splurging on a accompanying buffet of finger food, ice cream, and candy. Essentially anything contraband that violates common sense, my diet, and long-term health. Just sayin’, this includes chicken wings and home-made candy apples.
I haven’t done this yet, but I think going to haunted house events would be fun. I appreciate great acting and stage work.
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Jeff: As a child, Halloween was second best, right behind Arbor Day Eve. Just joking, we didn’t worship trees. Much. The idea of getting Halloween candy was mind blowing for a kid. I’d run from house to house, carrying a shopping bag in each hand, nearing exhaustion but determined (can’t stop now). When I made it home, my loot was cross-examined by a board of family experts (hmmm, that large candy bar looks unsafe, we’d better eat it for you). After that, I was free to gorge myself silly into a weeks-long sugar frenzy.
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Jeff: Black cats, ladders, step on a crack, nope, nope, nope, no superstition.
I really don’t think I’m superstitious about anything, but I’m very interested in seemingly unconnected patterns in the way things turn out. There are too many coincidences beyond direct cause and effect. It’s almost as if we’re tapped into a greater connectivity, aren’t fully aware of it, but it keeps reminding us from time to time. Resorting to a thermodynamics explanation, our planet is essentially a closed system, so everything affects everything else in various degrees of effect.
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Jeff: I think Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Cenobites are interesting. They were once ordinary people. Turned into demons, their real selves were trapped inside, undoubtedly in a state of perpetual torment. Kind of like working in a dead-end job? All this happened because they were insatiably curious about something best left alone. How often does the voice in our head warn us about things like that for no real discernable reason? Maybe we should listen to it more? Ya know, like, take a pass on solving extradimensional puzzle boxes?
Dexter on Showtime is fascinating. He protects the innocent by killing evil murderers. Despite being a monster, lacking in many emotions, he does care about people in his own way, and he’s shocked at the depth of evil in this world. Essentially, he’s dealing with a great chasm of emptiness inside him. When he was young, he was troubled about feeling nothing. This apparently can be just as bad as feeling too much. That is the path he has chosen – seeking a way to be emotionally connected to others.
Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?
Jeff: The original unsolved case – Jack the Ripper. The killer terrorized the dark alleys of Victorian England, wielding medical instruments with great precision… crazy, dangerous, and unstoppable. It was the modern genesis of pure, unspeakable evil. What sickness would drive someone to do that?
Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?
Jeff: This is more like a rural legend – the Night Hag – this scares me the most. The legend is part of my Newfoundland heritage. Hearing about it firsthand made it personal to me. Imagine a creature that attacks you when you’re most vulnerable: asleep, paralyzed, and helpless, but aware of everything happening to you.
Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?
Jeff: I don’t idolize serial killers. I’m fairly sure they don’t idolize me either. Well, maybe they could idolize my lifestyle, thinking, “Wow, I wish I could be boring too, maybe if I cut back on the killing, get myself into a good 12-step program.” But, all that said, I do find serial killers to be interesting. Evolution probably required sociopaths who could be fearless and unemotional. Good for dealing with sabre tooth tigers, telemarketers, and such.
For me, the most intriguing serial killer is John Wayne Gacy. He was an upstanding citizen in his community, yet he held such a horrible secret life. It’s frightening to know that we live alongside so many crazy people. Googled it – guesstimates ranged from 1 in 7 to 1 in 100 sociopaths amongst us. It’s quite likely you passed by one when you were at work, out and about, shopping, walking the dog… Hmm, might be a good idea to try your best to get along with people lest you anger the wrong one.
Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?
Jeff: First movie: Wizard of Oz. That’s uncut street-grade horror for a 5 year old. Flying monkeys. Haunted forest. Wicked Witch. Shiver.
When I was about 9, I started reading horror comics, but it took me until 13ish before I read my first horror book. To date myself, it was a short story anthology edited by Karl Edward Wagner. The pace of the stories was slower back then. That allowed for a bigger buildup of suspense that didn’t seem rushed or artificial. All the better to intrigue me…
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Jeff: City Infernal by Edward Lee. To actually experience what hell would be like is as disturbing as it is interesting. It’s like watching a slow train wreck – you can’t pull your eyes away from the overwhelming tragedy.
For cosmic level horror, most H.P. Lovecraft stories give me a lasting chill.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
Jeff: The Exorcist. I’m spiritual, so anything intensely supernatural can have a lasting effect on me. I do watch many supernatural movies, sometimes out of curiosity or a face-my-fears kind of challenge.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Jeff: I never did this, but they have realistic skull faced masks now. Sold by King Trends. When going Trick or Treating, I’d wear a simple, black hooded cloak for simplicity, and keep my face hidden until greeting someone (then, the full skull face reveal). Of course, not in front of kids – don’t want to traumatize anyone.
Remember the clown frenzy a few years ago? Online, it almost appeared to be a supernatural manifestation. Think about this… If something evil wanted to appear to be harmless, a silly clown outfit would do the trick. Fodder for nightmares.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Jeff: Disney’s Haunted Mansion CD of sound bytes. It brings back fond memories of Disneyland. For truly scary, the classical Night On Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky is thought provoking.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?
Jeff: White chocolate covered Reeses are the bomb. The worst comes from the past – wax bottle candy, liquid sugar-fueled shots, instant manic energy with a subsequent crash and burn quicker than a paralyzed falcon falling from the sky.
Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?
Evil Dead, old and new
The Thing, old and new
The Aliens series
The Addams Family series
The Haunted Mansion
In addition to his two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, Jeff Parsons is published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.
The Captivating Flames of Madness —
This book’s title comes from the reality that – like a moth to the flame – we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.
What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?
If you dare, why not find out?
Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…