Meghan: Hey Lex! Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. You haven’t been here yet, but were a regular over on The Gal in the Blue Mask. It’s a little different here, but definitely interesting. We appreciate you stopping by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Lex: I love decorating the house for the big Halloween party I host every year. “Trick or Treating” isn’t really a huge thing in Britain in the way it is in America, so you don’t generally see a lot of houses that have really gone crazy with it. The ones that do tend to be having some sort of party, whether it’s for children of adults. Having grown up watching American films and shows, I always wanted to do big Halloween parties with everything from theme music, themed foods, games, costumes, and of course decorations inside and out. Now that I own my own house, I get to that every year.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Lex: Planning the decorating for the house. I like planning and organizing, it helps me enjoy things better as I don’t do well with outright spontaneity and chaos. So I’ll have a notebook with sections for each room (and the garden), and I’ll work out a different theme for each. After I’ve worked that out, I’ll see what I can get from the shops, how much of it I might need, and then as a rule, buy far more than that. I always end up needing more cobweb. However much cobweb you think you’ve bought, I promise you it’s not enough.
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Lex: It’s my second, as my first is Christmas. I know a lot of people don’t like Christmas and have their own reasons for that, and that’s fine. But I love it and always have.
Halloween, though, comes a close second as it’s the time of year when everyone is suddenly ‘into’ the stuff that I’ve always liked. I particularly liked, as a child, that for one month of the year the shops would suddenly be full of skeletons and ghosts and such. Essentially all the kinds of toys and decorations that I coveted the year round.
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Lex: To be honest, I’m not. I’m an absolutely rational atheist (not the militant dickhead kind like Dawkins, don’t worry) so I don’t really do superstitions. The one thing I have which is kind of close to that, is we have a phrase you hear a lot in Britain is “don’t speak ill of the dead”. Now from a purely ‘absolute honesty’ point of view (which I’m often guilty of, given that I’m autistic) I admit that I find it odd when I hear folk describing a dead man as an absolute angel, when in life he’d been an unrepentant career criminal. But, it’s not about them. They’re dead, they can’t hear and don’t care. But their relatives, already grieving from their loss, don’t need to hear someone bad-mouthing them. So we tell little lies and say they were nicer than they were. Or, at the least, don’t point out the (still true) bad things about them. I always try to adhere to that. But it’s out of politeness to the living, rather than fearing the wrath of the dead.
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Lex: I love ghosts. They’ve always been my favorite. Just the ethereal nature of them, the floatiness, the fact they’re sort of there and sort of not. I find anything purely physical less frightening as a ‘monster’, because ultimately it’s just another thing to shoot or stab or run away from. Yeah a werewolf is scary, but ultimately it’s a just a big dog isn’t it? A zombie is just a diseased human. These things still exist within the confines of the natural world and must operate within it. Shoot it in the head and it’s done. Get home and lock the doors and you’re safe. But a ghost? Well that’s a different matter entirely.
Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?
Lex: It’s probably an obvious one to say, but the Jack The Ripper murders. It’s not as though there’s no information about them, because actually there’s a fair bit. And many expert criminologists and investigators and outright historians have dug into it to try and figure out the case. And yet they never come up with the same answer. I do think we’ll never know the truth of that one.
Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?
Lex: There’s that one about a man waiting for a phone call that will tell him if he’s about to lose his business or not. The thing he’s worked all his life for. If he gets a call at 4pm then he’s fine. If he doesn’t, he’s lost everything. The story goes that 4pm comes, the phone fails to ring, so he goes up to the roof and jumps off. As he’s falling past his office window, he hears the phone ring. They were a couple of minutes late.
Now, like any urban legend, it’s absolute nonsense. How would we know any of this, for one thing? But what makes this one chilling to me is because, nonsense it may be, but it’s a cautionary tale about giving up too quickly. How many times do you nearly give up on that dream or ambition today, only for something amazing to happen next week which really pushes it along? As shitty as today may be, you have no idea how good tomorrow might be. So don’t ever give up.
Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?
Lex: Boring as it may sound, I don’t have one. I’m not really ‘into’ serial killers, they don’t interest me that much, so I’d struggle to pick any out of a lineup. Manson seems vaguely interesting to me, I guess, because he wasn’t the typical serial killer and was more of a cult leader. I’m fascinated by cults, because I never quite understand how people can fall into them. Seemingly intelligent people can fall down these rabbit holes of absolute nonsense and refuse to climb out of it, even when their own health is at stake.
Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?
Lex: As a child I had that classic ‘slightly older friend’ who was a gateway to more grown-up things that I’d otherwise not have access to. Through him I saw bits and pieces from Alien, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fright Night and The Terminator, but the first horror film I saw all the way through was Predator. Now, I know there’ll be some debate about whether this is horror, sci-fi, action, or a mix of all three. But I think it’s fair to class it as horror. Predator was shown to me (probably far too young, aged about 8, I think) by my grandad. He loved horror movies and knew I was into monsters, so without my parents’ knowledge he showed it to me one day. And I loved it.
My first horror book was a book of ghost stories called Ghostly Tales, which I was bought when I was four or five, I think. It was a beautiful hard cover book with illustrations (I still have a copy, actually). The stories, whilst ostensibly for children, were actually legitimately quite chilling. I must have read that thing so many times, as I remember having to stick some of the pages back into the spine with sticky tape.
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Lex: I remember reading Slugs by Shaun Hutson, again probably far too young, and finding it very off-putting. I’d never liked slugs as a creature in the real world. They just don’t look right. I think it was horror writer Arthur Machen who once described the eerie nature of slugs and snails and grubs in some of his writing, saying that they look like something from another world. Something that we, as denizens of the upper world, shouldn’t see, shouldn’t encounter. They’re things of darkness and slime, devoid of structure and organs and movements in the way the creatures above the ground are formed. It’s the same as when we see creatures that live deep under the ocean, and they lack any sort of cuteness, resembling instead some nightmare beings from a realm that we should avoid at all costs. Slugs were always like that to me, as a child. As an adult I’ve got a garden now so I regularly have to move them away from my plants, so I’ve gotten over my dislike of them somewhat through necessity. But Hutson’s book takes a creature that I already found disturbing, and made them into a carnivorous source of actual horror.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
Lex: I think the first time I saw The Fly (the 1980s version, not the B-Movie original) it stuck with me a long while. I always find body horror has that effect on me, because it’s the worst kind of thing imaginable. It’s not a foe to be fought, a monster to be hacked at or a demon to be exorcised. It’s the betrayal of your own body, twisted and broken into something it shouldn’t be. I’ve lost too many people close to me through dreadful illnesses, and body horror is always a little too close to that for me, so I tend to steer clear of it these days.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Lex: A couple of years back, when it was the 20th Anniversary of Buffy starting, I think, we decided to have a Buffy/Angel themed Halloween party. Everyone dressed as different characters, and I went as Spike. He’d always been my favorite character on the show. My friend Zoe was coming as Drusilla, which I didn’t know, so that worked out perfectly for photos. I put a picture of me and her together on Twitter, and the actual Drusilla, Juliette Landau, commented to say how great we looked. I particularly enjoyed wearing that costume because, prosthetics aside, it wasn’t particularly uncomfortable. Often the costumes that look the best are the most uncomfortable to wear, so it’s nice when you find one that’s a good compromise.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Lex: I don’t know if you’d call it strictly Halloween-themed, but ‘Killing Moon’ by Echo and The Bunnymen. I just feel like, from the 80s onwards, if you watch pretty much any film or show set at Halloween, you’d hear that song. It was ingrained in my psyche as the perfect Halloween Party song, so when I started hosting my own such events I whacked it straight on the playlist.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?
Lex: Don’t be too horrified, but we don’t really get Halloween-specific sweets in the UK! What tends to happen is, stuff that’s available all year round, will have a slight Halloween makeover. So the chocolate mini rolls with jam in them now have green-colored jam instead. The gingerbread men will have little fangs added to their smiles. That’s about the best we get. Weep for us.
Meghan: Before you go, can you share with us your top 5 Halloween movies?
- Halloween (the original one)
- Trick R Treat
- The Addams Family
- Frankenstein (the original Universal Studios one)
Lex H Jones is a British author, horror fan and rock music enthusiast who lives in Sheffield, North England.
He has written articles for premier horror websites the Gingernuts of Horror and the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog, and appeared on multiple podcasts covering various subjects such as books, films, video games and music.
Lex’s first novel, Nick and Abe, a religious fantasy about God and the Devil spending a year on earth as mortal men, was published in 2016. This was followed in 2019 by noir crime novel The Other Side of the Mirror and illustrated children’s weird fiction book The Old One and The Sea. His latest release is a collection of ghost stories, Whistling Past The Graveyard. Lex also has a growing number of short horror stories published in collections alongside some of the greats of the genre, and in 2020 he co-created the comic strip series The Anti-Climactic Adventures of Detective Vampire with Liam ‘Pais’ Hill.
When not working on his own writing, Lex also contributes to the proofing and editing process for other authors.
Whistling Past the Graveyard —
A hilltop cemetery where the dead just won’t stay sleeping. An ill-fated voyage to an uncharted region off the coast of Iceland. An English village reminded of its heritage through the discovery of ancient bones.These tales and more can be found within the first short story collection from author Lex H Jones. Light the fire, make yourself a comforting drink, make sure the doors and windows are lined with salt, and settle in to enjoy this gathering of haunts and horrors.