AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Eric Butler

Meghan: Hi, Eric. Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Books AND our annual Halloween Extravaganza. It’s a pleasure to have you join us here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Eric: Years ago I started to decorate my yard with recreations of famous horror movie characters. While the project has grown to an almost annoying level of work, the reaction of the trick ‘r treaters is worth it. Added to that, is the reaction of the neighborhood and people who have seen previous years as they begin to drive by the house to see if I’ve started to set up.

When my son was in school, the way his friends or classmates would let their parents know where he lived was to tell them he was at the “scary house”. Everyone in Elementary and Middle School called our house this.

One time when I was getting my wife’s sewing machine fixed in a little shop about 30 minutes away from my house, and one town over, the guy taking my information stopped and looked at me when I gave my street address. He said, “You know that house that does the Halloween stuff … that place is so cool. My kids make me start driving by there the first week of October to see if it’s up.” I offered a smile and said, “Yeah, that’s my house.”

It’s great to see all the parents, teenagers, and kids stop and take pictures and discuss their favorite scary movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Eric: My favorite tradition when my son was younger was taking him trick ‘r treating. Now though I think my favorite tradition is one I hated just 10 years ago – carving pumpkins. My family and friends get together the night before and everyone carves a pumpkin to display at my son’s Godparents’ house. I hated doing it in the beginning but I’ve embraced it as I look for unique and obscure stuff to carve now. Everyone always did cute and popular characters but I wanted to make sure horror movies were represented and started doing 2 or 3 every year to get more stuff out there. I enjoy seeing which ones get the biggest reaction.

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

Eric: Halloween was always special to me. It’s one of the few times my dad and I could come together over the horror genre. He hates anything scary but he loved coming up with awesome and terrifying costumes when I was younger. Plus there’s something magical about Halloween: the costumes, the sense of adventure when you head out to trick or treat, and the sense of the unknown that comes with it.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Eric: Just about everything. I’m a “knock on wood” kind of guy. I like to think I’ve mellowed out on superstitions as I’ve grown older, but I’m sure my wife would say I’ve gotten worse.

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

Eric: This is a tough question and one I’m not sure I have a clear answer for. I love the old classics from Universal and redone at Hammer – The Wolfman, The Mummy, & The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I think Vincent Price’s performance of Nicholas Medina in The Pit and the Pendulum is one of my favorite singular villain performances; although if we were being fair to the characters, he was much more the victim than the true villain. Yet in the end, Price is diabolical as he embraces his madness and takes actions into his own hands.

In more modern films, I find choosing a favorite monster like picking a favorite child, just impossible. If I had to rate the big 4 it would be Jason, Freddy, Michael, Leatherface, but that doesn’t mean I love any of them more or less than the other. I’d throw in the Thing and the Jeepers Creepers monster as favorites, but I’m not sure I’d have the same top monster if you asked me tomorrow.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Eric: 6 & 8 are connected. When I was younger I had a fascination with serial killers. I read as much as I could and watched all the specials as I tried to understand what made these people tick. Now, I’m not sure I care but one killer has always intrigued me. Jack the Ripper.

I read everything I could get my hands on when I was a kid. I worked through the clues, and enthusiastically tried to solve the case – when I was 10. Now I am still interested, watching movies and documentaries on the subject whenever I have the time. But I stopped really researching it. I may have to go back and see if, with some distance and more life experience, I can piece it together.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Eric: I was always terrified of the people living in the sewers. When I was a kid, like 6 or so, I saw a TV ad for a Hill Street Blues episode when a group of homeless come from the sewers and take a police officer. They hold him underground and then cue the ominous music and fade to black. Since I wasn’t old enough to watch or really care about the show, I never found out what happened to the guy. So in my imagination, they tortured, cooked, and ate this guy. So that’s the one that haunted me for a very long time.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Eric: So as I mentioned in 6, I’m not sure I have a list of favorite serial killers, but I do find the whole idea of Jack the Ripper to be fascinating. The setting, the conditions, the back story, and the brutality all add up to an amazing story.

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

Eric: I remember seeing the last 5 minutes or so of Friday the 13th Part 2 on TMC. I was watching it while I was supposed to be watching cartoons or something. I think I was 7 or 8. It was both terrifying and thrilling to experience.

The first full-length horror movie I watched by myself was A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was home alone; my parents were at a party nearby. I think it was a premiere and I was 9ish. In my blog, I went over a list of movies that weren’t horror but were scary that my father showed me at a young age. I believe these may be the movies that helped me develop a love for the horror genre. So I wasn’t all that bothered by violence or nudity at this point… or so I thought. Freddy and the idea of someone coming for you in your sleep really rocked my world. The scene where Tina is killed was the kicker, and I had all the lights on in the house and every stuffed animal I could find piled around me. I made sure our Doberman was sitting with me for the rest of the night until my parents got home. Funny thing, I finished the movie and had no trouble going to sleep. Most importantly, I was hooked.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Eric: The Exorcist is the one that freaked me out the most, but I was 10 or 11 when I read it. My mother played a part in this particular book freaking me out. I was up late reading, into the good parts and I decided I needed some water. My mom and I were the only ones home as my father was off on a business trip. My bedroom was at the end of an L-shaped hall. I left my room, walked the turn (where my parents’ room was), and turned to walk to the end of the hall where there was a door that opened to the rest of the house. Because it was so late, I was trying to be quiet. As I turned the knob to open the door, my mom put her hand on my shoulder, totally unaware of what I was doing or what I had just read.

It always surprised me that no one called the Base Police that night as I’m sure I screamed louder than I ever had before or ever would again. If the door wasn’t in front of me, I may have just run and kept going until I couldn’t run anymore. Of course, my mother is the kind of person who screams at anything that shocks her or startles her, so I’m sure she yelled as well. I’m just happy I didn’t piss myself, lol.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Eric: I’m not sure any scarred me for life. Off the top of my head, I can think of 3 that left an impression on me in the theater. I saw Event Horizon in a newly constructed super theater. Now when you go to the theater you expect a totally immersed experience. That wasn’t always the case, in fact, I’ve been to theaters where there 1 working speaker – and we liked it fine. But in the 90s big movie houses started popping up with huge screens and so many speakers, Marshmello would be jealous.

The reason Event Horizon left an impression, other than it’s awesome, was the use of sound throughout the speakers. It added a new level of unexpected pleasure to the horror experience.

The second movie that comes to mind is The Strangers. It stood out because of the way the director and editor were able to add to the tension and build a tangible sense of dread throughout the theater. I mean, it tells you at the beginning how it’s going to end, and yet they still do an amazing job of putting you on the edge of your seat.

The last movie is the Blair Witch Project. I saw this one opening night with 3 friends in a packed theater. I’m not sure there was one open seat by the time it started. Sometimes with a full house, you’ll get a couple of people who throughout the film pull your attention away, not this night. It was one of those unique experiences where the entire theater bought into the experience. It was amazing. Everyone laughed, gasped, jumped, and lost their minds at the exact time; most important, they did it at the correct times. And the ending… so perfect for that environment; it ended, the room exploded in loud voices and screams of horror and everyone ran to leave the theater. It was like someone had announced a bomb threat, that’s how fast the place emptied.

You don’t get that at home. Hell, you rarely get it at the theater, but when you do it is such a sweet memory.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Eric: I hate dressing up now. I’m a fuddy-duddy as the kids like to say. I loved costumes as a kid and I even won for scariest costume when I was 10. It was a pain, literally, to get in and out of, but it was pretty cool. I was wrapped like a mummy, but my face looked like all the skin had been burned off and it was just red muscle and flesh. I also dressed up as a werewolf once, and that was a cool costume.

That said, my favorite costume was my son’s first Halloween. He was a big kid and already walking when the time came. In fact, he was so big he’d outgrown the 18-month old costume I got him the year before thinking he’d be a cute gorilla. So we went to the store and got him an alligator costume. It had a long tail, I think it helped with balance, but with my son, it just added to the memory of how cute he was as it swished back and forth as he ran down the hall all dressed up to trick ‘r treat.

The next year he was a dragon and I was a skeleton knight and his mom was a witch. I think that was the last time we dressed up… at least themed.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Eric: It’s probably Time Warp from Rocky Horror or This is Halloween from Nightmare Before Christmas. That said, I’m a big music fan and like most of the themed or monster stuff.

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

Eric: Favorite is Snickers or Twizzlers. I’m a big guy so I’m not really disappointed with any candy choice, but my least favorite would be Mounds or Almond Joy.

Meghan: Thanks again, Eric, for stopping by. Before we go, what movies and books should we stay awake on Halloween enjoying?

Eric: There are so many to choose from… movie I’d say Trick ‘r Treat as #1, then I’d go with Halloween 3 or 2. Just depends if I’m in the mood for a slasher movie or supernatural.

Books that take place at Halloween or in October that I like or think people should check out – Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge / A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny / Allhallow’s Eve by Richard Laymon.

Lastly, when I was a kid we didn’t have all these ways to watch things. Most people didn’t own a lot of VHS tapes, and there were no streaming services so when holidays approached you would know that one of the big 3 networks would play some of the old (and create new) classics. Usually, it would be a few days before the big day and many times they would be on back to back depending on who had the rights and what else was being shown. 2 that I enjoyed when I was a kid and make a point to still watch today are It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown & Garfield In Disguise Halloween Special. And so with that, I’ll leave you with words of wisdom from everyone’s favorite fat cat: Candy, Candy, Candy, Candy…


Boo-graphy:
Eric Butler is an Army brat who now calls Texas home. A lifelong fan of horror and pop culture, he finally decided to sit in front of a computer to share all the stories rattling around his head. He lives with his incredibly patient wife and teenage son in a house overrun with Huskies and cats.

Donn, TX
There’s a place in Texas the locals avoid at all cost, where the lost go missing and the damned reside. You won’t find it on any map, there are no road signs to guide you, and once there, may God have mercy on your soul. For when the scarecrow awakens, the harvest of the living begins.

Welcome to Donn, TX
Gateway to Hell

1952
On the back roads of Texas, Debbie grows ill and her husband, Jerry, stops at the only motel they’ve seen for miles. He hopes a little rest will help calm her stomach, but in Donn, TX, there can be no rest once the harvest begins.

1969
Frank is back from Vietnam but struggling to reconnect with the world he once knew. Jane is convinced a road trip to Houston will help them both find the connection they are missing. First, they need to drop off her younger sister and her best friend at the university, and then the honeymoon the war put on hold can finally begin.

Except now they are lost on the back roads, and each mile brings them closer to Donn. If only they hadn’t exited the highway …

But now it’s too late; for the harvest is nearing its end, and the scarecrow requires its due.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Christine Morgan

Meghan: Hey Christine! Welcome back. As always, we love to have you here. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Christine: The weeks leading up to it, when all the good stuff starts hitting the shelves, the Halloween stores appear overnight like mushrooms, the various cooking channel shows like Halloween Wars and Halloween Baking Championship, the horror-themed episodes of shows such as Forged in Fire, there are horror movie marathons. Also, the half-off sales in the days after.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Christine: Trick-or-treating, seeing all the costumes, the fun and excitement, people really getting into it, the kids, the parents. These past few years haven’t been the best for that, partly because of living in the upstairs unit of an apartment complex that didn’t see much trick-or-treat traffic. This year, however, I’ve moved into what was my grandparents’ house, in an established neighborhood with community activities, so I’m optimistic (aside from the damn pandemic, that is).

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

Christine: Just always been a spooky weirdo at heart! Didn’t hurt that my dad was always a kind of closeted weirdo, with Halloween being the one time he could cut loose. Later in life, he’d come out and go nuts as a Civil War reenactor, but before that, dressing up and having fun on Halloween was his favorite thing. I remember one year, he went as Jesus — he already had long hair and a full beard — and we used red nail polish instead of fake blood for the wounds, which is a helpful trick I’ve never forgotten.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Christine: I’m into folklore, so I’ve picked up several of the little habits over the years, if not to the full point of observing or following them, at least to the point of feeling uncomfortable letting them go unacknowledged. I knock on wood, I toss salt over my shoulder, when I first see the moon at night I say the little rhyme I learned somewhere as a kid, that sort of thing. Except for black cats crossing my path; I have no problem with that. Black cats got a bad rap, very undeserved.

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

Christine: Of the movie classics, always had a soft spot for the Gillman. He wasn’t bothering anybody, just swimming around in his lagoon, until arrogant know-it-all humans came along to interfere. Then HE got the blame. I tend to sympathize with those kind of “monsters,” who are just doing their own thing. Even sharks. We go into their environment, then get upset when they do what’s only natural? So bogus.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Christine: Unlike many in my middle-aged white woman demographic, I don’t seem to have as much obsessive fascination for serial killers, unsolved crimes, and murder shows. If it counts, though, I really want to know what’s up with all those severed feet that keep washing ashore. Why just the feet? Is it the shoes? Where’s the rest of the bodies? What’s happening out there?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Christine: After the previous question, this is going to seem even stranger, but, the one where gang members, as part of their initiation, would hide under a lady’s car in a dark parking lot and then slash her Achilles tendon and steal her shoes as proof. Maybe it’s that I can imagine it all too vividly. Even as I type this, I shifted my feet up onto the coffee table, though I know damn well there’s nobody under the couch with a straight razor. Also, that was the scene in the original Pet Sematary movie to freak me out the most.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Christine: See above, was never all that into them the way a lot of people are. The old-timey ones, though, like H.H. Holmes with his entire murder hotel, or the angel-of-death types, nurses who’d smother patients in the belief it was putting them out of their misery and doing the right thing.

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

Christine: It probably wasn’t the first I ever saw, but the first movie to scare the crap out of me as a kid was that old black and white sci-fi Invaders From Mars. The sand whirlpools were bad, but the people with the alien takeover staples in their necks… legit gave me nightmares. There was a DVD of it among my late uncle’s movie collection and I kept it for nostalgia, but have no intention of watching it! As for books, my grandfather kept a shelf of horror paperbacks in the garage (Grandma didn’t want them in the house), so I’d browse those whenever we visited. Lots of nature-run-amok books, killer critters, but I still have the copy of The Shining I found out there when I was ten.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Christine: I read, and dearly love, a lot of sick, sick, wrong, evil, grotesque, extreme horror. And yet, none of them have gotten under my skin a fraction so much as I Am Not Sam, by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. So subtle. So masterful. It lets/makes your own mind do all the work, with results far more traumatizing and horrifying than if the scenes were spelled out on the page.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Christine: Again, see above, Invaders From Mars when I was little. Lately, I’ve been viewing too many cinematic masterpieces suggested by Edward Lee, and if “stabbed me in the eyes and gave me brain-damage” sheer WTF-ery counts as being scarred for life, well, I now have a whole list. Such as Birdemic and House Shark. Also The Greasy Strangler, though I can’t blame Lee for that one; if anything, he should blame me, even if it was Gina Ranalli who told me about it in the first place.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Christine: One year, Dad went as Captain Hook and I was Peter Pan (the chonky little girl version) and my baby sister was Tinkerbell. I love it when people coordinate their costumes like that, and the whole family gets into it. My craft and makeup skills may be pretty good, but my sewing skills are basically nonexistent, so I am somewhat hampered in that regard.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Christine: Forever a soft spot in my heart for Thriller, I gotta say. I am old enough to remember rushing home from school to turn on MTV and wait anxiously for the video’s world premiere. The Vincent Price bit is perfection. And, hokey though it is, I love how the zombie dance permeated the entire culture.

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

Christine: The fun-size 100,000 Dollar Bars. Full-size ones are too hard to eat before they melt and get all messy. Fun-size Twix, too. I’m a fan of the fun-size because then I can tell myself it’s not like I’m eating a whole candy bar, right? So I can then eat like six of them and it’s still all good. Also, because it seems to come up every year, I am pro-candy corn. Yes, it tastes like sugary wax and leaves a filmy coating in your mouth, but, you can tuck them under your upper lip like vampire teeth and that’s what matters. As for disappointing, anything with coconut or licorice is a hard NOPE from me.

Meghan: As always, Christine, it has been a pleasure. Before you go, though, what are your op Halloween movies?

Christine: I may lose some horror cred for this, but when I think of Halloween movies, the first place my mind goes is Tim Burton. The Nightmare Before Christmas, obviously. Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride. Even stuff like Edward Scissorhands (Vincent Price again, yay!) and Sweeney Todd. Okay, so maybe a mad crush on Johnny Depp has something to do with it — my own, I mean, not Tim Burton’s, though you know he totally has one. And as long as I’m losing horror cred anyway, I’ll go ahead and say I liked Halloween 3. It didn’t belong in the franchise, and should have had a different title, but on its own, it’s a neat premise/idea and lots of fun.


Boo-graphy:
Christine Morgan recently quit her night-shift job and moved from rainy Portland to sunny Southern California to help out her mom and hopefully make a plunge as a full-time writer. Several months later, she’s still reeling from the culture shock of adjusting to daytime life, but finally has a real office/library full of bookshelves and critter skeletons, as well as a dinosaur-themed bedroom. Because she is a) a grown up and b) a professional.

Christine Morgan’s World of Words
Amazon