AVOID AT ALL COSTS

Man, forget these guys. If someone whips out a Mannhein Steamroller CD at your next party, be it Christmas or Halloween, then you know that person is NOT YOUR FRIEND.

(and fuck Universal music group for disabling embedding.)

We’re hitting the home-stretch towards Halloween. I’m spending the night with Monster Madhouse and a bunch of candy that needs to be bagged for next weekend. Tomorrow is a Pumpkin Carving Party. I need some suggestions as to what to carve up this year. I’m trying to avoid ZombiePumpkins.com, not because of their stencils. In fact, I’m quite amazed at the variety and think it’s a good investment if you want to have Freddy, Jason or any Tim Burton creation on your doorstep this year.

I’m avoiding it because there’s also a place for diy-pumpkin designs. Plus, they don’t have Lon Chaney from London After Midnight, who would make a good spokesperson for the Union.

Speaking of which, we’re going to keep this whole deal going after the Holiday is over. There’s the dead period between Halloween and Christmas (Thanksgiving, or the ‘Holiday of Pain and Turkey.’) If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see on this spot of the internet, hit up the Front Office. We’re going to try to have a contest in a week or so, and audience participation is appreciated.

Harvest of Horrors

Oh great, the Unnameable had a kid...

Location: Tony Andrews Farm, 394 Old Meeting House, East Falmouth, MA (Directions)
Dates/times: Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25, 31, and Nov. 1, 6:30 to 9:00 PM (Dates/Times and prices subject to change as years go by)
Admission: $10 per person; credit cards not accepted.
Phone: (508) 563-3378
Website: http://www.harvestofhorrors.com

Starting in 1979 as a maze with craft paper walls, the Harvest of Horrors eventually rose to become Cape Cod’s premiere haunted attraction. So when I visited this attraction back in 2000, I was quite excited based on its reputation. Unfortunately, my visit occurred when they were doing a look back at the history of the Harvest. The problem was that a large portion of the attraction was merely old props and promotional material in display cases, with only a few scares towards the middle and end.

Although seeing stuff from their old days was quite interesting, it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought I’d be going to a full haunted house, seeing as all the advertisements only noted the new “Furnace of Fear” part. I would have liked it better if the retrospective was a separate attraction, but I suspect that they didn’t have the space available for that.

Getting back the scares, they were mostly variations of people jumping out and yelling. That said, the “monsters” had very good makeup jobs and were well prepared for calming scared children while in character. Also, the set design for the final “Furnace of Fear” room was very impressive. The best part by far was the stage show that preceded the haunted house. Although it is possible to skip the stage show and go directly through the haunt, this is highly unadvised. The dialogue and performances were hilarious and the pyrotechnics were spectacular. The show changes every year and the one I saw dealt with the Showman and his dimwitted assistant Shredder dealing with Pyro, an insane handyman (with designs on the Showman’s job) who they hired to fix the Furnace of Fear.

When I had originally exited the Harvest of Horrors, I was much more negative about the experience until I learned about the small number of people who operate it. With that in mind and knowing that I wasn’t visiting during the Harvest’s usual setup, I was able to give a more balanced rating. Thankfully, the staff seems to have increased since then. Not only that, but the commercial on their website and the comments on “Nye Manor” seems to imply that the Harvest has grown larger since my 2000 visit. If you have the chance and you’re in the area, you should check it out. If nothing else, you’ll have a blast watching the show.

I should also note that there’s a toned-down, “Kids Fest” version of this haunted house open during the daytime. According to the website, this version is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm starting the first weekend of October and tickets are $2.00 per person.

Final verdict: 3 skulls out of 5

UPDATE: Judging from their Facebook page, the Harvest of Horrors was converted into a haunted hayride and trail back in 2012.

Special thanks to Harvest of Horrors for use of the image!

Zombie Bongo Limbo

You might be interested to know that this song was (mostly) written by James Lileks back in 2007. You can hear more songs by the guy who performed this by clicking here.

Local Ghoul Makes Good

Blase Debris

Site.
MySpace

I lived around the Albany, New York region for some-three years. I like Albany. If there was more there for me, I wouldn’t mind living there. But the job prospects sucked and it had the strange cultural live of a town that might be pretty cool, maybe if more bands came by, maybe not. If you’re planning to go to RPI in Troy or Union in Schenectady or even U of Albany, you won’t be stuck in some backwater. There will be something for you to do.

Albany hosts one of the best used music shops I’ve been in, ever. Last Vestige is a good example of how the independent music store can adapt in order to survive in a world of Amazon.com and iTunes. Knowing it’s audience, college students, Last Vestige deals mainly in used vinyl but also in CDs, tapes and the occasional piece of music memorbilia. I was able to find both ‘3 Hits from Hell’ by the Crimson Ghosts and the Minutemen’s ‘Paranoid Times’ there. I also found Blase Debris and Duane “Pinebox” Beers.

Blase Debris is Duane’s band. Duane worked at Last Vestige. He, like most of the staff at Last Vestige, was friend and talked to anyone about anything. He’s a friendly guy who looks like a survivor of the original Misfits, which isn’t that far since he used to be in a Misfits cover band. Blase Debris isn’t a Misfits knock off. It’s a horror punk, but it’s got its own sound. It was hard for me to hear the scratchy voice of the clerk behind the counter where I would pick up choice used CDs switch it up and get this more looping, deep in the throat singing voice.

If you’re in the Albany area, stop by Last Vestige. You’ll be able to pick up a Blase Debris release direct from the source. It would be like buying Misfits gear from Lordi, NJ or catching a Black Flag show in LA. Except you won’t be in New Jersey and have less chance of having your head kicked in.

The Little Monsters 1-900 Number

Remember the movie Little Monsters? You know, the one about the kid who befriends a monster living under his bed that starred Fred Savage and Howie Mandel? Anyway, I was surprised to learn that it had a tie-in contest that one could enter by calling a 1-900 number. Said contest was promoting using a mind-searingly awful ad:

According to this Wikipedia article, complaints by parent groups in the mid 90’s stopped these sorts of ads from being targeted at children. Thanks to those brave souls, we no longer have to fear Saved by the Bell-wannabe graphics and poorly-sung rap.

Cold War, Warm Hearts

Messer Chups

Official Site
MySpace

Buy their stuff here.


Can’t recall where or when I came into the Messer Chups. It was a chance meeting with an illegal method but since they still have the mystery of international espionage and that sexy, sexy accent, I think it’s appropriate. If you can afford to, don’t go with illegal on these guys. They’re a duo from St. Petersburg, Russia and their releases flirt lovingly with spooky themes and surf music. I’d love to have them come over and visit and make some cash on the side. It’s time to repair our relationship with Russia and if you go out and buy a Messer Chups cd for Halloween, I think we can do it.

Being from Russia, they had a shitty distribution set up in the States until recently, but it seems AeroCCCP will now hook you up. My favorite of their albums is ‘Black Black Magic.’ Something about listening to that makes it feel like autumn.

The band translates into ‘Measuring Cups,’ which is cute and slightly absurd, but because they’re talented, intelligent and fun, it all makes sense to me.

AeroCCCP has a YouTube channel where you can preview more of these guys. I would check it out and see what you like. They get a little experimental sometimes. On ‘Black Black Magic’ and “Crazy Price,’ Lydia Kavina, the grand-niece of Léon Theremin, joined the band on the instrument her great-uncle invented. Some of the songs might sound caustic at first but give them a shot. Send your love to Russia.

It’s Alive! Frankie Stein and his Ghouls

Frankie Stein and his Ghouls

A couple years ago, Scar Stuff introduced me to Frankie Stein and His Ghouls, a band that put out four vinyl releases of instro-horror-surf-frug-goodness that has been in my rotation ever since. A lot of it is really nice late-fifties inspired music meant for people to dance to. Frug. Twist. Stomp. It’s fun. It’s one of those early bits of evidence for how well horror and surf go together, and it would be nice if there was a Frankie revival band to pick up where this one left off.

Someone else has done some research into who exactly was Frankie, and I would check it out for more information. Though Scar Stuff has gone defunct this year, there are other places where you can find the out-of-print LPs. I’m all for preservation in this case. If the band was still touring and making some dough that way, you’d be a rat fink to be swiping that music. But this is, in my opinion, a more humanitarian case. Find some Fankie. Crankie that Frankie and hav some fun.

Though, seems a couple were digitally remastered, though you can try your own luck with that.

It’s time to meet the Muppets…

Not only has the fansite Toughpigs.com spent a week with Halloween-related Muppets stuff, but they also have an semi-annual “Halloween Parade” of Muppet costumes:

First Halloween parade
Second Halloween parade
Third Halloween parade
Fourth Halloween parade
Fifth Halloween parade

Some are good, some are bad, and others defy description, but the comments are all great. Here’s hoping they’ll do it again this year.

Barrett’s Haunted Mansion

I'd pay to see this movie if it were real.  Seriously.
Location: 1235 Bedford Street (Rte 18) Abington, MA (Directions)
Dates/Times: Sept. 26-27, Oct. 3-4, 10-11, 12-13, 17-31, 7:00 to 10:30 pm (Dates/Times and prices subject to change as years go by)
Admission: $17 per person (Credit cards not accepted)
Phone: (781) 871-4573
Website: http://www.bhmansion.com

Although many would assume the best haunted house in Massachusetts would be located in Salem, they’re wrong. Based on my late 90’s visit, Barrett’s Haunted Mansion in Abington deserves the title. Why? Simply put, Barrett’s goes above and beyond the call of duty in all aspects of operating a haunted house.

Let’s start with something that can be neglected in haunted attractions: Line entertainment. When visiting a popular haunted attractions (house, hayride, etc), there’s bound to be a lot of people who want to go through. This leads to long lines and waiting times, which can get really boring really fast. In order to make the waits more tolerable, Barrett’s provides outdoor displays (I loved the skeletons in a rowboat) and “monsters” who terrorize those waiting in line. For 2008, they’ve added a separate attraction that simulates what it’s like to be buried alive in a coffin. If it’s anything like the “buried alive” simulator described here, it’ll also provide entertainment for people waiting in line as well. UPDATE: This attraction has since been discontinued at the mansion.

The mansion itself is absolutely amazing. They set up a realistic zombie-infested swamp, complete with a shaky bridge, running water, and a shack owned by a deranged redneck…INDOORS. The talented staff and high-quality props will constantly leave you guessing whether or not they’re people in costumes waiting to scare you or just inanimate objects. More often than not, you’ll guess incorrectly. This is not to say that all the “monsters” just leap out at you or stand still and suddenly come to life, though. The rooms all look great and several of them used creative methods of entering and exiting them. They also offered a great twist on the mirror maze concept that has to be seen in order to be fully appreciated. Also worthy of note are the expert use of lighting effects. Not only do they provide an appropriately dreary atmosphere, but they were also used to enhance certain scares. I especially liked the twist they put on the standard “dark maze”-style room. Plus they even give you candy when you exit the haunt. What’s not to love?

Barrett’s Haunted Mansion changes the rooms every year, although my casual research on the matter seems to indicate that select rooms reappear every year or so. So while I can’t be sure that you’ll have the exact same experience that I had if you visit, but I can be sure that you’ll have a great time. I’d imagine that some of you are balking at the ticket price, but trust me, it’s worth every penny. Besides, you can knock five dollars off the price of a ticket if you use this coupon (Only good Sunday through Thursday; discount doesn’t apply to the “Buried Alive” attraction).

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Barrett’s Haunted Mansion no longer uses the “Buried Alive” attraction. As of 2013, they have added a second attraction called “The Cell.”

Final verdict: 5 skulls out of 5

Special thanks to Barrett’s Haunted Mansion for use of the picture.

Give me some light!

Zacherely

The first thing taken from Richard Scrivani’s ‘Goodnight, Whatever You Are’ is a sincere appreciation for both the classic horror films of his youth and the television host who made them a little less scary and a little more fun. That admiration is undeniable throughout his chronicle of his life alongside John “Zacherley” Zacherle. hosting ‘Shock Theater’ to his tenure on New York’s ‘Disc O-Teen,’ a show that featured both The Lovin’ Spoonful and the Doors. However, Zacherley never comes off as a rock star. Scrivani goes to show Zach as a down to earth, grateful for the fans man who never let his position go to his head.

While not a strict biography of the horror host, ‘Goodnight, Whatever You Are’ gives a first hand telling of Zachereley’s experiences early on as an regular actor before adopting the ‘Roland’ undertaker role that would morph into ‘Zacherley.’

Working with full cooperation from the ‘Cool Ghoul’ himself, Scrivani recounts both Zacherele’s experiences establishing him into Philidelphia television, which lead him from

Coming into this book thinking it was a biography of the famed horror host left me a bit surprised to see Scrivani use his experience as a foil. But as earlier stated, it becomes aptly appropriate considering the subject. Scrivani notes that Zacherley is a private man, and details about family life in the Zacherle household are scant. One of the few pre-Zacherely pictures in the book shows the host in his uniform when he was in World War II.

The display of reservation is visible in one scene, where Scrivani invites a friend of his to visit the Disc O-Teen set. Scrivani’s excited for friend to meet Zach. While Zacherle is courteous to everyone, he only shows interest when he finds out he friend is a merchant marine on home leave. It’s an instance that stands out where John Zacherle overshadowed his bigger persona.

Scrivani relates with strong detail the experience of growing up with the Cool Ghoul, giving a good picture of the Disc O-Teen regulars as well as those involved behind the camera. Those looking for complete biography will have to settle for the space left between themselves and the television screen.

Dracula’s Castle

I bid you velcome...

Location: 59 Wharf Street, Salem, MA (Directions)
Dates/Times: October 1-31, 12:00 noon to 8:00 pm (Dates/Times subject to change as years go by)
Admission: $8 per adult, $6 per child under age 12.
Phone: (978) 745-5888
Website: http://www.draculathecastle.com/draculascastle.html

Dracula’s Castle was first haunted attraction I went through when visiting Salem in the late 90’s. With that in mind, my rating for this haunted house only applies to my original visit, as I as sadly unable to visit it this year. The haunt has changed since then, so please use my old visit to gauge whether or not you should check it out.

Unlike at some haunted houses, the monsters at Dracula’s Castle don’t simply jump out of dark corners and yell “Boo!” Instead, they’ll charge at you, block your path, and some of them relentlessly pursue you throughout the haunt. Although I’ve heard horror stories of haunts where you’d catch the “monsters” in obvious hiding spots or having conversations with their masks off, that was not the case at here. The employees all stayed in character and were always prepared.

Dracula’s Castle also goes the extra mile by utilizing other types of scare tactics, such as misdirection and psychological-based scares. Although I enjoyed the ones involving misdirection (my favorite use of this involved spikes), I wasn’t impressed by the attempt at a psychological scare by having disembodied voices call out your name. This effect was hampered by the fact that you’d be asked your name immediately before the voices began, making the whole thing quite obvious (and resulted in my deducting half a skull from the rating). In my opinion, it would have been better if they had tried to get peoples’ names in a less obvious manner, like having the ticket seller secretly gather the names and send them to the “monsters” shortly after customers enter the castle. However, I’ve been assured that this is no longer done at Dracula’s Castle, which means my sole complaint about my 90’s visit would not apply to the attraction this year.

The props and set design were all very well-done; I was particularly impressed by the detail in the graveyard scene. There were some rather interesting touches in the layout of the haunt, such as placing a levitating vampiress in a spot that your eyes are drawn to or having to duck under sections of a cave. These, and the different types of scares, all combine to form a unique experience. Speaking of unique experiences, Dracula’s Castle changes its setup and scares ever year.

Interestingly enough, I learned that Dracula’s Castle was briefly renamed the Nightmare Factory a few years ago. Now it’s back to its original name and the owner has opened another haunt using the Nightmare Factory name. I mention this because both attractions (along with two other attractions) are part of the “Witch City Adventure Pass” program, in which you can buy a ticket ($24 for adult or $16 for a child under age 12) that grants you access to Dracula’s Castle, The Nightmare Factory, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery, and The Witches Cottage. That roughly breaks down to paying the standard admission price for three attractions and visiting the fourth for free. For more information about obtaining the pass, please call any of the previously named attractions or ask the ticket-sellers for more information.

Final verdict: 4.5 skulls out of 5

UPDATE: I’ve received unconfirmed reports that Dracula’s Castle is now closed permanently. The Nightmare Factory is also gone (at least for the time being). Please keep that in mind when you visit Salem (and let me know whether or no this is true).

Special thanks to Dracula’s Castle for allowing use of the picture.

The Gremlins Return…Again!

While browsing the Halloween countdown at the blog, “Lost in Schlock,” I found a link to a fan-made film showing the Gremlins interrupting a “video on demand” (VOD) showing of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. You see, the theatrical version of that movie had a segment where the Gremlins took over the projection booth of the theater and stopped the movie. Then Hulk Hogan showed up to stop them so the film could continue. For the home video version, they replaced that with a bit where it looked like your VCR was messing up due to the Gremlins. Instead of Hogan showing up again, John Wayne had to make them knock it off. So the idea behind the fan film is what would happen if Warner Brothers took the same approach when preparing the film for VOD showings. You can see the video, along with a behind-the-scenes video, here.

I’ve also discovered that, according to the Gremlins novelization, the Mogwai/Gremlins were genetically engineered by aliens! This site offers more details on the matter.

But wait, it gets weirder! In Germany, there’s a Gremlins ride that features guest appearances by Alf. Yes, that Alf. I rank it right up there with Hello Kitty’s appearance in a Godzilla motion simulator ride.

UPDATE: WackyWeazle has uploaded some videos of the Gremlins ride featuring Alf into YouTube, with this one being my favorite:

Savage and Looney

Screaming Lord Sutch

Another well-known unknown to me, David Sutch is in the history books for his political career as well as his music. He featured lo-fi horror show antics, involving making an entrance out of a coffin, alluring female audience members to the front of the stage with a handsome member of his band only so that he could drop maggots down their shirts, and bashing the head in of a monk with a rubber club.

The Guinness Book of Records lists him as standing for British Parliment more times than anyone. His party, the Official Monster Raving Looney Party, defeated the much more serious Social Democrats in 1990.

David Sutch would take his life in 1999. It’s sad. With the recent lo-fi revival going on, I think Lord Sutch and the Savages have aged well. Though, a supposed 1998 poll named his first album the worst of all time, but this is the British. They said Oasis wrote the best album of all time. They can’t be trusted.

He has two books out – one, an autobiography ‘Life as Sutch’ and a second, written about him by a close friend, ‘The Man Who was Screaming Lord Sutch’ by Graham Sharpe. You can find the latter on Amazon, but it’ll take a search to find his former. Wiki lists it as being ‘recalled’ but I got a copy. Good read, so far. More concerned with his politics than his horror business, but from reading it, David Sutch always had a political mind. He claims that he met Winston Churchill and the Prime Minister used his cigar to give the young David a scar on the what would become the boy’s voting hand.

Horror and politics being connected makes sense. Both are show business and usually involve romanticizing wicked people into thinking that they’re misguided. ‘I love the monster,’ et al.

Think of Sutch during this Halloween season. His song ‘Jack the Ripper,’ presumably his biggest hit, is a nice one but songs like ‘Dracula’s Daughter’ and ‘All Black and Hairy’ are good additions to this year’s soundtrack.

Half pint of snakebite.

A quick pre-review preview.

I’ve noticed that the main problem with with writing a biography, or any non-fiction, is the separation of author from the subject, specifically maintaining that distance so the biography remains impartial and in such, pure. When the author and the subject are intertwined, the bias is unavoidable. It’s impossible for one of the characters of the story to judge whether or not the entire account is told, since they’re partial to their own side.

‘Goodnight, Whatever You Are,’ the official John ‘Zacherley’ Zacherle book, written by Richard Scrivani and published by Dinoship Press. A third-of-the way in so far and I’ve noticed that this isn’t a straight up biography of the former horror host. The book’s biline, “My Journey with Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul” aptly sums the book up. Zacherle gave total cooperation and the book does provide a good visual history of the Cool Ghoul from start to the near present.

It doesn’t start with Zacherle’s birth. In fact, the earliest we see of him is a picture of him during his WWII period. But we do know of Richard Scrivani growing up with Zacherley on television and the author’s love of monster movies. I don’t know much of Zach’s father but I do know that Richard Scrivani’s father passed away due to cancer. It’s probably in the book, which I haven’t even finished yet. I’d make a poor reviewer for the New York Times.

It’s a good dynamic between author and subject, with the distance between the reader and the subject created with the author acting as a filter. Or, to put it simply, because Richard Scrivani has a natural distance between him and Zacherley, that distance is reproduced in his biography. The distance between him as a television viewer and Zacherley’s program is in this book. It’s kind of frustrating because I want to see the screen but I have to shout ‘DOWN IN FRONT.’

But, as I said, only a third through. It’s a pretty fun read. You can find a copy here or on Amazon.

 

The Gremlins Return!

Although it’s not a third Gremlins movie, fans of the franchise will be interested to learn that the Gremlins appeared in a 2008 TV ad for British Telecom. The special effects are 100% “old school” puppets and no CGI appears to have been used. You can check it out here.

Wikipedia claims that “[a] ‘Gremlins consultant’ was brought in to assist with the BT Gremlins commercial. Matthew Delieu who is considered to be the movies biggest fan provided original Gremlins blueprints and an original puppet during the production of the commercial and also puppeteered Gremlins in the 50 second advertisement. Delieu lives in the UK and owns many original items from the first movie including some original blueprints for Gizmo and original puppet designs.”

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time the Gremlins have appeared in an advertisement not related to the films or merchandise. Back in the 80’s, Gizmo and co. showed up in a public service announcement about drunk driving. You can find out more at this site.

Visiting Godzilla Island

Godzilla Island was a Japanese tv series about Godzilla and other monsters battling invaders from Planet X that ran from 1997-1998. What makes this show so interesting is how each episode was only three minutes long and that most of the monster scenes used toys being moved around. Okay, technically they were figures made from the molds of various Godzilla-related toys, but I think you get the point. From what I understand, the show was apparently intended for children to watch before heading off to school (and to advertise Bandai Godzilla figures).

TarsTarkas.net has several episode reviews, complete with screencaps and video clips. You can check out a look at the first story arc here.

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