Thursday, October 31, 2013

Final Count: 348 Trick 'r Treaters

It took an army of fiends, but we got through the night and handed out candy to 348 trick 'r treaters. That's almost 100 more than last year! During the deluge of souls, I lurked outside to hear the comments, and many people remembered not only our house, but our specific decorations (which I rotate from year to year). I don't know why, but I find that so surprising.

This year I added a projection to our front window (my first foray into more technologically-advanced decor) and most people loved it – a few were turned off by the "gore" and a few even passed our house saying it was too scary (while their kids rubbernecked with wide-eyes). Halloween is supposed to be scary!

I was asked why I do this and my response is simple: to keep Halloween traditions alive. I want these kids to grow up and remember that weird house with all the scary lights, music and monsters. A few of them will wake up one day and realize that they have a yearning to create and share new Halloween memories with others, and the cycle continues. Halloween is in the blood. You can't learn to love it. It's a passion that's just there from the beginning, waiting to surface and fill your life with dark happiness.

What a great night! One of the best by far.

Happy Halloween 2013

Darkness falls across the land 
The midnight hour is close at hand 
Creatures crawl in search of blood 
To terrorize y'alls neighborhood 
And whosoever shall be found 
Without the soul for getting down 
Must stand and face the hounds of hell 
And rot inside a corpse's shell 
The foulest stench is in the air 
The funk of forty thousand years 
And grisly ghouls from every tomb 
Are closing in to seal your doom 
And though you fight to stay alive 
Your body starts to shiver 
For no mere mortal can resist 
The evil of the thriller

(from Michael Jackson's Thriller)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Irish Stew for Halloween Night

Halloween's origins are rooted in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain and the mythology of the Irish. Special bonfires were lit, and feasts with the autumn's last harvest were held for all to celebrate – alive or dead.

There's no better way to celebrate the end of the season that with a big bowl of Irish Stew. It will warm up as you pass out candy (or soul cakes) on Halloween night. (The following was adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.)

Irish Stew

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into cubes, at room-temp
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, cut into chunks
3 carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) reduced-sodium beef broth
1 bottle of Guiness Irish Stout beer
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, cut in half
1 can (14.5 oz) reduced-sodium beef broth
1 bottle of Guiness Irish Stout beer
1 box (10 oz) frozen baby peas, thawed

1. Preheat a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place meat in a large bowl, add flour and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Add canola oil to the pot and then add beef. Sear meat a couple minutes on each side until browned (it will not be cooked through). Don't crowd the pot and do this in batches if necessary. Remove meat from pot and set aside.

2. Add the remaining canola oil to the pot and the onions and carrots, and saute for a couple minutes until slightly tender. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for one minute.

3. Add beef broth and stout and stir, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the beef and the potatoes back in and a little water (or broth) to cover the vegetables. Cover and cook about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally until meat is fork tender. Stir in peas in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Irish brown bread.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 Halloween TV Specials

I'm just now catching up on an overflowing DVR. Here are some of the shows you can still catch in the next few days, mostly on the Travel Channel which happens to be a great place for Halloween.

This is Halloween like you've never seen it before. What's With That Really Haunted Halloween House? is a one-hour special of the most frighteningly outrageous Halloween houses in the country. If you think Christmas is nuts, you should see what some people do at Halloween. From Sherman Oaks, Calif., where a producer of The Simpsons spends more than $6,000 a year transforming his front yard into a family-friendly amusement park to Lockport, Ill., where an offbeat couple decorates their yard and garage with things like an authentic hearse and casket, these folks go all out! The last airing in today, October 29 on the Great American Country channel.

Take a spin through North America's scariest Halloween-themed coaster parks. America's beloved amusement parks by day transform into fright zones after dark, delivering high-octane Halloween thrills for adrenaline junkies. Airing on The Travel Channel.

This special features the most terrifying, extreme and absolute best of what Halloween has to offer. From America's scariest, no-holds-barred haunted house in San Diego, to British Columbia's pumpkin drop celebration, each destination is more frightening and fun than the last! Airing on The Travel Channel.

From San Diego to Baltimore, thousands of haunted houses, dungeons and creepy trails open their gates to crowds of chill-seekers who pay good money to experience crazy characters, realistic animatronics and sheer terror up close and terrifyingly personal. Many of these multimillion-dollar attractions have been in the works since the day after last year's Halloween, and they draw in fright enthusiasts from across the country to experience America's Scariest Halloween Attractions.  Airing on The Travel Channel.

For their 100th episode, Zak, Nick and Aaron visit St. Louis to investigate the notorious Exorcist House, the site of the most famous possession in paranormal history, which was later portrayed in a critically acclaimed book and movie. The guys dig even deeper to learn about the original exorcism that occurred on March 16, 1949. OnDemand and airing on The Travel Channel.

Halloween Wars
Elaborate Halloween displays are created by five teams consisting of pumpkin carvers, candy makers and cake designers, who are competing for a $50,000 grand prize. Airing on the Food Network.

Other notable specials from previous years airing this week include: Halloween Fright House Secrets Revealed (GAC), Halloween Tricked Out (Travel Channel), Halloween Crazy (Travel Channel), Halloween Crazier (Travel Channel), The Real Story of Halloween (History Channel), and Halloween's Most Extreme (Travel Channel).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Breaking News: Trick 'r Treat 2

At Monday night’s special fan screening of the cult horror classic TRICK ‘R TREAT hosted by Legendary Pictures, the film’s iconic character, Sam, and director, Michael Dougherty, stole the show by announcing a sequel during the Q&A session. Other panel participants included two of the film's stars Dylan Baker and Brian Cox, as well as a surprise appearance by producer Bryan Singer. – From the Legendary Pictures website.

Read the Entertainment Weekly interview with director Michael Dougherty to get more information and the possibility of a trilogy!

My Scary Pumpkins

With all the weekend Halloween parties behind me, I now have a little time to catch up on some of the projects I didn't get to finish – just in time for Halloween! First up is my scary pumpkins.

I'm a sucker for plastic pumpkins and acquire a couple every season in hopes that one day they will cover my lawn. These plastic gourds are classic decor, come in a variety of smiles and snarls, and they never rot and cause a stink. From a distance, they look fantastic as-is, but if you are using them indoors with regular lighting or in closer proximity, their plastic-ness becomes quite apparent (and maybe a little boring). However with a little paint and about 10 minutes I transform plastic jack-o-lanterns into color saturated monsters. (I prefer all my colors saturated in case you hadn't noticed.)

I use Liquitex Basics acrylic paints because they have a rich, opaque color and good consistency – not too thick, not too thin. The two shades I use are red oxide for the main ridges and burnt sienna for the crevices (to create a natural contrasting shadow). These shades tone down that super bright orange.

Using a few dry brushes, I cover one small section at a time with quick, broad, light strokes top to bottom in one direction. I'm not trying to cover evenly but rather let some of the bright orange peek through. Painting plastic is quite forgiving so if you add too much, you can easily wipe if off with a wet paper towel.  I also tamp the brush on a palette to avoid getting too much paint on my brush.

Using a thinner brush, I then make a faint line with the darker paint and blend it in with gentle strokes. Dry brushing will result in visible stroke lines but I like the texture. You can allow the paint to set for a few moments then blot (not wipe) with a paper towel to soften the texture.

The final result is a much richer and textured pumpkin. The effect is not necessarily more "realistic" but the saturated color makes them a little unusual and creates certain depth. I also think they look a little more sinister, and after all that's the goal right?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Scary Party

Many Halloween parties will be happening today and I hope you're better prepared than I am. I've been busy working on decorating the porch, the house, and strategizing a rather large menu. I'm hosting a cocktail hour then party crawling (guests and all) to the even bigger party of Britta Peterson, Webmistress of the Dark. I'm using my party to catch up with some friends I haven't seen in a while, share some good food that I now rarely get to eat, and to get ready for the main event. Here's my invite and menu.

The invitation features original artwork by UK artist Shane Oakley who graciously allowed me to use his witch in altered form on this invitation. Visit his site for some fantastic comic strip art and illustration – much of which is available for sale! Thank you so much Shane, and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Laboratory of the Zombie Pumpkins

Cool pumpkin patterns are a rare breed but luckily, Zombie Pumpkins continues to be the best destination for patterns year after year. And to keep things fresh, every year a new theme for the site is introduced – that's a lot of work. This year it's the Laboratory of the Zombie Pumpkins complete with an electrified logo.

Here are a few of my favorite patterns for 2013. Memberships run from $2 (for limited downloads) to $20 for the whole catalog, VIP patterns, and a donation to charitable organization.

While you're there, visit the The Shocking Shop where you can pick up a sturdy pro pumpkin carving kit with a variety of blades (not like those cheap plastic kits from the grocery store), the Stick 'n Carve transfer sheets featured yesterday, and even a great looking glow-in-the-dark shirt with the current theme. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More Halloween Music for 2013

Trying to keep up with Halloween music is like herding bats. Here's a couple more gems that escaped my last list of new haunted holiday music plus a few recent discoveries from last year.

Nightmare Night
by Dark Asylum

Dark Asylum had created some unique orchestral terror music including some pieces that use actual EVPs and sounds of real exorcisms. Eek! That's some freaky tunes. And as an avid Halloween enthusiast, they makes it a point to give away the previous release when a new one comes along because they want to make sure home haunters always have access to creepy music. Now that is spirit. The latest album is called Nightmare Night is a great listen throughout with the track "Bones" and "Night" as a particular standouts. The new album is available to download for  $7 at Bandcamp.

Monsters of Legend
by Midnight Syndicate

Midnight Syndicate has been making Halloween music since the 1997 and their music is a staple for many haunted attractions and party hosts alike. Like it's predecessor, Monsters of Legend brings another tightly themed collection of music to harken back to the classic horror movies. The music is all original compositions but they feel like they could have come straight from those Universal Monster films – "Twilight" and Dark Tower" are a few favorites, although this whole album is a triumph at telling aural stories. The album is available on the Midnight Syndicate site, at the iTunes Store, and Amazon.

Mondo Zombie Boogaloo
by The Fleshtones, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Los Straight Jackets

If you looking for alt rockabilly, surf-rock, party-ready, feel-good, 60's sounding Halloween music, look no further. This is an fantastic and fun collection of instrumentals, redone classics (including Monster Mash in Spanish?!), and originals by the always awesome Fleshtones. Absolute lunacy that this exists and it's a must have. Available at Amazon and iTunes Store, and for more information visit the Yep Roc Records site.

Newly Discovered Halloween Music for 2013

Halloween Hullabaloo
A Spooktacular Muscial Review

Fans of musical theater should add this album to their rotation of Rocky Horror, Sweeney Todd, and Little Shop of Horrors. These are some funny songs – all original – as performed in the 2010 New York City show. The show is "chock full of terrifyingly brilliant satirical skits and songs about insecure monsters, obese vampires, candy cornaholics, feisty pumpkins, beauty-obsessed monstresses and more." It's available at the iTunes Store and Amazon. Unearth more info on their official website.

Halloween's Gravest Hits
by Various Artists

Unlike many Halloween collections that feature the classics reinterpreted by unknown soundalikes, this collection features original artists (although some are still covers of hits). It's an eclectic mix of 50s, 60s, and 70s rock, standards, and whatever Alice Cooper is (amazing is what he is). This comes in three versions the standard CD (red cover, 19 tracks), the remastered (green cover, 13 tracks) and the expanded digital edition (purple cover, 46 tracks). It's available at Amazon and the iTunes store.

Golden Records
Spooky Halloween Hits

Attention parents of trick-or-treaters or kindergarden teachers: if you've stumbled on this blog by mistake, here's a suggestion for you. Check out Golden Records Halloween collection. It's a vintage retro-blast from the past featuring kid-centric songs from the Golden Era. This would be a perfect album to play while yanking the costumes onto screaming toddlers who have already had too much sugar. At least it might keep them entertained for 38 minutes and 10 seconds while mommy has another sip from her enormous "juice box" bordeaux. Available on Amazon and the iTunes Store.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Matthew Mead's Halloween Spooktacular

Matthew Mead's Halloween Spooktacular is one of the best Halloween entertaining books of 2013. At 256 full-color pages, it is also one of the largest. Silly, spooky, sophisticated, kitschy, country, vintage, charming, funny, ghastly, grotesque there is something for every taste, for every kid and every adult. This is a really fun and must-have book for Halloween fans, crafters and bakers.

My favorite chapters are the "Remains of the Day"(skeleton inspired) featuring some white chocolate dipped candied apple skulls, and the "Poltergeist Party" (vintage graveyard setting!) featuring a ghostly lantern with old spooky photographs (included in the downloadable templates).

It's such a shame this didn't get a hardcover pressing since it will be referenced for many seasons to come. The book is available at Amazon and there's a shorter "market checkstand" version available at your favorite grocery store. Visit Matthew Mead's site for more information.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stick 'n Carve: A Pumpkin Carving Must Have!

It will soon be pumpkin carving time and while using a professionally designed stencil is essential, transferring those patterns onto the pumpkin via the traditional methods can be time consuming and frustrating. Gravefully, Sulky has introduced a revolutionary product: Stick 'n Carve. You print out your pattern on the special sheet, peel off the backing, then stick it onto the pumpkin like a sticker. You can easily carve right through the lead and acid-free material with ease and the material does not shift, lift or misalign. Super easy and quick since it eliminates one entire step. What makes this sticky paper incredibly unique is that you can reposition it, it peels off the pumpkin easily, and for thin areas with very intricate/delicate cutting, you can rinse and dissolve the transfer sheet with warm water. It's literally Halloween miracle! See the video tutorial below and order these at, Uncommon Thread, and

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One Dark Halloween Night

My name is John Kohlbrenner, author of One Dark Halloween Night. I am here to talk to you about Halloween and my ebook for Kindle. Halloween is the second most popular holiday in America, yet it barely has any fictional mythology to it. Yes you can say any scary story fits this holiday, but what is the definitive Halloween story? You could say it’s The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, but the book while very good, is a kid’s history lesson on the holiday. Or John Carpenter’s Halloween which is a well-made serial killer movie but utilizes Halloween merely as a backdrop. So there's a void out there needing to be filled. I hope my novel will help fill that gap. The story is about a young boy who discovers that monsters are real and enlists his best friends to help save his town from the dangers of Halloween night. The ebook is now available at Amazon. Check out the video preview below and find out more at

John Kohlbrenner a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder and went on to work in the film industry for 11 years in post production doing sound FX for movies. During this time he wrote dozens of unpublished short stories and scripts. Afterwards with the birth of his daughter, he became a stay-at-home dad and finally had time to write his first novel, One Dark Halloween Night, which came about from all those fun Halloween nights trick-r-treating with her.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Carrie (2013): Review

Remakes aim to modernize dated films with state-of-the-art effects, updated casts, and fixes to the warts that marred the original. Of course, when remaking a classic you have to find a different angle to approach the same material, otherwise what's the point.

On the surface Carrie has a lot going for it. Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore bring serious acting chops. Director Kimberly Peirce has helmed the acclaimed Boys Don't Cry and Stop-Loss. The screenplay is more faithful to Stephen King's novel, following it almost beat for beat. Yet the movie is just okay and lacks an emotional resonance. You have to feel something (compassion, pity) for Carrie because she is victimized, but this Carrie is not the unknowing wallflower. There's a strong, defiant edge right from the start that makes full empathy for her character feel artificial. Perhaps Chloe was not meek enough to play Carrie? Or maybe these stellar actresses weren't given fully developed characters.

The screenplay also feels dated with one foot in the 70s and another in the late 90s. Even with the cell phones and social media and it doesn't genuinely connect with a real world. Can you really be in high school, with health education classes and the internet, and not know about your period? Granted they did attempt to explain that Carrie was home schooled (until she wasn't). It doesn't help that the mom's antiquated language caused more chuckles than shudders. Perhaps this could have been more successful as a period piece set in the 70s – wait, that movie already exists.

To fully modernize Carrie would mean that school bullying would have to be explored further and that's not the story King wrote (I consider 2012's Chronicle as more of a Carrie reimagining with boys). As-is, this minor update is not essential but worth seeing for the performances, it's a good looking film, and it has that incredible prom scene that's immensely satisfying.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Are you Drawn to the Dark?

Hello, Boils and Ghouls! My name is Chris Kullstroem. I'm a writer from Connecticut and currently conducting a global research project on dark-themed events around the world. Venturing into new realms, I'm dedicating the next two years to looking at haunted attractions, tour companies, character groups and other themed events, and the creative ways they're serving the people of their communities. This project is for my next book, "Drawn to the Dark: Enhancing Community Health through Dark-Themed Tourism."

The Halloween focus of my writing began with a series of articles I wrote for Halloween websites back in 2007. I wanted to give adults ideas on how they could create unique Halloween events based on their own particular interests, skills and imagination. The articles soon grew into a series of books, entitled Making a Monstrous Halloween (McFarland, 2009), Monster Parties and Games (McFarland, 2009) and Deadly Roles: Interactive Games of Murder & Mystery (Oak Tree Press, 2011). My new book project aims to teach those who run, volunteer and attend dark-themed events how these events can be more than entertaining; they can also serve as outlets for people to thrive, on both individual and collective levels. Some of these features include incorporating social interaction and physical activity into events, while others deal with incorporating charitable giving and supporting local businesses. This past spring and summer of 2013, I gave seminars on this topic at conferences around the United States and Canada. I'm now very excited to expand this research and teachings to additional haunting realms around the globe, and am particularly looking forward to meeting people who would like to include their own events and stories in the book.

To check out this mad endeavor, please visit my website at For those who would like to get involved, "Drawn to the Dark" is also currently raising funds on Kickstarter. The project launched on Friday the 13th in September, and will conclude on Halloween night. To become a member of the monstrous, haunting family and help fund this project, please visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Glow-in-the-Dark Nightmare Before Christmas Tee

Tee Fury is offering the best Nightmare Before Christmas tee I've seen all season – and it glows in the dark! For only $11 this can be yours but act fast: you have less than 24 hours to buy it (10.16.13).  If you are unfamiliar with Tee Fury, they offer a different design every day and it's only available for one day. The design is then retired and typically not offered again. Occasionally, some tees are offered "After Hours" for an additional 6 hours but the price goes up. Hot sellers rarely make the After Hours and often sell out in select sizes. Visit to order right now!

Toy Story of Terror

ABC premieres the new special Toy Story of Terror tonight. It's Pixar's first official foray into horror and it's reception will likely inform the development of the long-gestating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) -themed feature film. Kid-friendly horror animation has often scored with audiences (Hotel Transylvania) and critics (Monster House, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie) and this seasonal special will likely bring in audiences by the millions.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Icon Mash-Ups

In making a demon witch prop for my yard haunt this year, I've inadvertently started a heated debate with some of my ghoul fiends. The argument arose over whether I should "pick a lane" and either make a demon or a witch, but by merging two icons of Halloween, I am bringing disorder and dishonor.

After some brief research on my favorite mask shop (Trick or Treat Studios), I came across these Halloween mash-up masks that seem to combine at least two big concepts. It seems to me that mash-ups when done right are quite spectacular. (Don't even get me started on Steampunk which is the very definition of a mash-up.)

Frankenstein meets Skeleton:

Leatherface meets Clown:

Dia de los Muertos meets Zombie:

Ghoul meets Pumpkin meets Candy Bag

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nightmare Before Christmas Tees

Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Nightmare Before Christmas by wearing one of these snazzy new tees from the NeatoShop – the best place for so many cool gifts for the whimsically inclined. Each shirt runs $14.95 and ranges in flavors from classic to creepy to mash-up.

Get the tee

Get the tee

Get the tee

Get the tee

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