For those of y’all who don’t have the pleasure of knowing Dan, this is your chance to get to know him. (Dan – my people; my people – Dan.) We are currently coming to the end of a project together (him the author, me the editor) and, even without my help, I think he’s a pretty fantastic author. (I can’t wait til y’all get to read his book.)
Meghan: Hey, Dan! Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. It is an absolute pleasure to be able to welcome you here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Dan: My favorite part of Halloween would have to be… costumes. Definitely costumes. I have lots of fun memories associated with Halloween costumes. When my sisters and I were little kids, around Halloween time the local supermarket would pretty much line the front wall with stacks of Halloween costumes in boxes. They weren’t particularly fancy costumes – just a cheap little mask and a plastic or vinyl coverall with a graphic and text identifying what the costume was meant to be. We thought they were awesome though.
The opportunities were rare and far apart as an adult, but when the chance arose the fun was more making or improvising a cool or amusing costume. More on that in a later question.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Dan: My favorite Halloween tradition is more of a family Halloween tradition, I suppose. Growing up, every year we would watch the Disney Halloween special on TV – this was before streaming services, DVRs, DVDs, etc. so the only time those particular Halloween themed Disney cartoons (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, narrated by Bing Crosby, in particular) were on was whatever night it was broadcast every year around Halloween. It was a big family social event. One of my sisters made sure to acquire the animated Headless Horseman on DVD and every year around Halloween we still have our showing.
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Dan: I would say it is my second favorite (with Christmas being my favorite). It’s fun to decorate the house, check out some of the really elaborate decorations some people put up, hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters, and the occasional fun costume party with friends and family.
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Dan: As a modern man of science I, of course, have acquired no superstitions whatsoever, knock on wood. Sure, if I spill some salt I throw a pinch over my shoulder, but that’s just good common sense. Naturally, I avoid walking under ladders because that’s just wrong – I mean, who would do that?
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Dan: Well, if we are talking classic movie monsters I would say Dracula or classic vampires in general. From a story point of view I think they are great monsters – very powerful, terrifying foes with specific strengths and weaknesses. My hometown library had a great selection of books on vampire lore which as a kid I probably borrowed and read as often as I borrowed and read books on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
As for more modern movie monsters, the xenomorph from Alien is pretty cool as is the thing from, well, The Thing.
An honorable mention goes to the villain/monster from The Incredible Melting Man. My sisters and I caught the tail end of that movie on TV one Saturday afternoon and, well, villain/monster was neither cool nor scary. We thought he looked like a guy covered in applesauce. Our parents thought it would be fun to go out to dinner that night and the restaurant they brought us to just happened to be having a special on apple pie filling topped sundaes. My sisters and I pretty much spent the entire time entertaining ourselves with tales of the Applesauce Man and apple pie ice cream sundaes. At one point an elderly couple sitting unnoticed at the table next to ours rose from their seats, paused by our table, and thanked us for the funniest evening they had had in a long time. Yay for the Applesauce Man!
Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?
Dan: I can’t really say that I have a favorite unsolved murder. Unsolved murders are vexing – it means one of the bad guys got away with something.
Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?
Dan: My favorite urban legend, not because it’s scary (although it is supposed to be), is one about a bunny suit-wearing, axe murder who lurks or haunts a railroad bridge down in Virginia. I’ve heard several variations of the killer/evil spirit that lurks in remote places waiting for victims. They all have some sort of weapon: a hook for a hand, a knife, a hammer, or an axe. The wearing of the bunny suit is a unique, and pretty funny, variation.
Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?
Dan: I don’t have a favorite serial killer, but I do have a favorite book on the catching of serial killers: Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker.
Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?
Dan: I would say I was around 10 or 12 when I saw my first horror movie although it would have been an old school horror movie, filmed in black and white, and shown on rainy Saturday afternoon on one local TV channel or another – it might have been Dracula (with Bela Lugosi) or the Wolfman (Lon Chaney, Jr.). I was 14 or 15 when I saw a more modern horror movie, John Carpenter‘s The Thing. A friend got a copy of the movie on VHS and invited a bunch of us over one Saturday afternoon to watch it. I can’t say that any of us thought it was scary, but we did think it was pretty cool.
I was 17 when I read my first horror book: Stephen King‘s The Tommyknockers. I thought it was more Twilight Zone-ish than horrifying – you know, one of those stories that you read or see that gives you an eerie feeling. I also recall thinking that the characters in that story cussed more than even the most prolific of cussers I knew in real life.
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Dan: The book that unsettled me the most wasn’t actually a horror novel, it was a historical fiction novel set in Appalachia just before, during, and just after the American Revolution. I don’t remember the name of the novel, but for the more graphically violent sections he used actual entries of diaries from the era to describe some of the more horrific ways human beings can kill one another… slowly and, as I mentioned, horrifically. It was quite unsettling.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
Dan: The answer to this question is, clearly, the movie starring the Applesauce Man. Why, to this very day, I never trust an open jar of applesauce past its expiration date. No one should. Not even you, there in the back row.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Dan: Favorite costume… all right, gather ’round friends. It’s story time. Heh.
When I was in the Air Force, stationed in Korea, there were these two other service members I knew who spent some of their spare time volunteering at a… for lack of a better phrase, a local after-school school off base helping the kids practice English, serving as chaperones for field trips, and things like that. When Halloween rolled around the Korean couple who ran the school decided it would be fun to throw the kids an American-style Halloween party so they asked the two guys invite some friends to come out the school join in the fun and help out with teaching the kids how to carve jack-o-lanterns, helping them pretend to go trick-or-treating, and stuff like that. One of the six people who were supposed to go canceled last minute so I got drafted to go along. “We even have a costume you can use,” they said. It was a dark, hooded robe with a goofy rubber monster mask and a set of goofy rubber monster hand gloves. I told them to keep the mask and the gloves, but the robe I could as the start to a good costume.
One of my hobbies was studying Medieval swordsmanship and that hooded robe was perfect for a costume based on one of the figures in my favorite Medieval swordsmanship book (and who doesn’t have a favorite Medieval swordsmanship manuscript, right?) – The Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33.
It was a very basic, last minute kind of costume – I just wore a black t-shirt with pair of black pants tucked them into my combat boots, then I put on that hooded robe and hitched it up like in illustrations found in I.33, and then, as one does, I grabbed my trusty wooden sparring sword and buckler. My friends all thought I looked like Darth Zeidler, Lord of the Sith.
When we arrived at the school, one of the teachers had some fun identifying what each of us was dressed as and when she got to me she said “Oh! And a handsome knight!”
“What?!” my friends exclaimed. “He’s Darth Zeidler.”
The teacher shook her head. “Noooo – he’s clearly a handsome knight.
Favorite. Costume. Ever.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Dan: Let’s see… The Monster Mash is an oldie but a goodie. Spooky Scary Skeletons is also pretty amusing.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?
Dan: My favorite Halloween candies would be: the various varieties of miniature Hershey bars, Nestle Crunch bars, Milky Way bars, and Peanut Butter Cups. The most disappointing Halloween candy for me was anything with ground coconut in it – I just don’t care for the texture.
Meghan: Before we go, what are your top 10 Halloween movies?
Dan: It’s more an animated short than a movie, but Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is fun and an American classic.
Segueing into classics, I say you can’t go wrong with these classic monster movies: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Wolfman (1941), and The Mummy (1932). For Classic monster fun on the other hand, try Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Abbot and Costello meet the Mummy. (As an aside, after church on Sundays we would all go over to my grandparents’ house and the adults would all hang out in the kitchen, talking over a cup of coffee or two or three. My sisters and I would play outside or play board games inside or read or watch Abbot and Costello movies on TV. Every Sunday afternoon one of the local TV stations would always show an Abbot and Costello movie and since those were considered reliably child-friendly, that’s what was always on TV Sunday afternoons when we went over our grandparents’ house.
Anyway, back to Halloween movies…)
For modern horror movies, my top Halloween choices would be Alien, The Thing (1982… although for fun you can also watch the 1951 version in all its “man in a rubber monster suit” glory), and Resident Evil.
Dan Zeidler is a writer of science fiction and fantasy and the author of the upcoming science fiction adventure novel Ghosts of a Fallen Empire. Dan began expressing his love of writing at an early age with the parentally acclaimed poem Trains are Great which, along with other early examples of his work, earned a place on the prestigious Refrigerator Magnet Gallery. While nothing can be done for his poetry skills, which haven’t improved a whit since that train poem, a steady diet of great stories ranging from ancient mythological tales to Arthurian legends to classic sci-fi and fantasy and on up to Star Trek and Star Wars have improved his storytelling abilities considerably. To further refine and enhance his writing and storytelling skills, Dan lived a life of adventure first by getting a degree in geoscience, then by serving in the US Air Force, then by embarking on a career as a data analyst… hmmm… okay, let’s go back a bit to the part about how a lifetime of reading as many great stories (and many not so great stories) as he could have inspired Dan to write his own stories; stories that above all strive to be fun and entertaining reads.
Dan currently resides with his family among the rugged, forested hills of his home state of Connecticut.