Before I had a Halloween site, I had a Halloween newsletter and blog. I decided to start writing and researching content for a full website in 2004, I came across the Pumpkinrot blog. I was immediately overtaken by the exquisite props and photography that captured the essence of Halloween like no other. Pumpkins a glow in swirling fog, witches surrounding gigantic cauldrons, and creatures of the night with sinister grins. I checking it frequently and soon, the growing online Halloween community was doing the same. For the next 17 years, the site held a special reverence and amassed a large, dedicated audience until one day, it suddenly ended.
The reclusive artist behind the site, who went completely unnamed other than with the moniker "Rot," inspired a generation of haunters with artwork like his “Pumpkin Sentinel” (above, photo from Pumpkinrot.com)– a menacing Halloween mascot made of twisted, gnarled branches and a decaying pumpkin head adorned with burned-out black eyes and a sinister smile. It’s an unmistakable signature style and macabre Halloween art that I’d never seen.
While he never provided tutorials or specific advice, Rot maintained a very active blog that covered everything Halloween from haunted attractions, to curated music, to books and movies – and he did this year-round while most other Halloween blogs were on hiatus. He was also very vocal in the community and called out the retailers and other people who appropriated Halloween artists' work without credit or compensation (read my post here). He was an advocate for Halloween like no other.
I was very fortunate to chat with Rot (via email) over the years when I ran into problems, or needed feedback for my site or Halloween projects. Every instance of his mentioning my Halloween website triggered a mass of traffic to my site. And when I decided to build my first prop in 2013, it was his work that I turned to for inspiration.
Rot's prop building became the stuff of legend and many took notice. He and his partner "Bean" launched a line of Halloween decor at Primitives by Kathy (above). Then he disappeared for a summer in 2012 to work on a mysterious project that turned out to be prop work for a fascinating indie picture called Mr. Jones (2013). (Watch the film and then read my take on it here.) Two years later, Michael Doougherty, the director of Trick 'r Treat (2007), worked on the mainstream Christmas horror movie, Krampus (2015) and singled out Rot to create some very chilling snowmen (below). I think they sort of looked like snow covered versions of his signature scarecrows.
All good things must end it seems, and Rot’s very active blog went completely silent in June 2019. There was no final post, no goodbye, or any acknowledgment of his departure, which was customary when he was away from the blog for any period of time. He certainly cared about his fans, so this sudden departure was alarming. We are certainly not owed any kind of explanation, but wondered if he was okay, and if not, we would show up to help. Legions of fans began to worry that something nefarious had happened to Rot, and speculation and rumors ran rampant in many haunter forums. Interestingly one fan noted that his work appeared at 2019's Hollywood Horror Nights, an annual Halloween attraction at Universal Studios (the studio behind the release of the Krampus movie, hmmm). I would love to believe that Rot has gone onto to a lucrative career in the movies but without a name it's impossible to check his IMDB credits. The mystery continues.
Most recently in February 2021, Rot’s partner, Bean, posted a cryptic and bittersweet poem on her Instagram account that seems to put finality to the situation:
One commenter said it best: we have to understand that we will never understand what happened. While the Pumpkinrot site may be dormant, it gratefully still stands and continues to be filled with tons of photos to inspire new generations of haunters. I will always remember the fun, support, and Halloween greatness that Rot inspired in me and the sense of Halloween community it created. I miss it greatly. I'm planning a future Halloween display as a tribute to the man, the legend that inspired so many of my Halloweens.