October 19, 2020


The photo above is the result of a three-year-long hunt that began when I was reviewing a series of vintage Halloween cassette tapes in 2017. The Chamber of Horrors by TONY (USA) has carved its spooky face into the Jack-O'-lantern of Halloween history thanks to its unique, 'decent into madness' approach to sound effects. (See my original review.) But the common release of the recording is literally only half the story. 

Chamber of Horrors was originally the B-side to a more elaborate production called The Haunting: A Horror Story. The rarity of this edition, and the obscured "Side A" and "Side B" markings (see photo below) suggest that it was discontinued and reissued with the Chamber of Horrors sound effects repeated on both sides. Was it it simply too terrifying for young Halloween consumers, as some have suggested?

The second edition containing the same effects loops on both sides

The elusive variant with its perfect ghost and haunted house artwork became the object of my obsession. My hunt didn't involve trips into the wilderness, or even the act of leaving the chair where I currently sit. However, it was an ebay adventure in perseverance and timing. I laid 'email search alert' traps, but the delay from inbox to web site amounted in two painfully lost auctions. I resorted to compulsively live searching whenever I found time. This went on for two years. It was ultimately a late night ebay visit where I, armed with a litany of generic search terms, found it in a nondescript lot, and finally "buy-it-now'd" my way to the grail. The joyous victory was intensely magnified by this year's harrowing months of uncertainty.

Now I share my delight with you. After years of being conspicuously absent from Youtube, I have uploaded the precious Side A. Please enjoy it and use it to help make yours the happiest possible Halloween!

October 30, 2019


In 2003 my all-time favorite graphic design team, the Charles Spencer Anderson design co., created the phenomenal marketing materials (as well as some products) for Target's Halloween campaign. This was the crossover of the century for me— CSA versus Halloween! To make matters better, they used vintage Ben Cooper masks as source material, and enlarged them to be taller than I was as a trick or treater! In fact, I wore the identical Frankenstein mask in 1981.

In 2007 I wrote this blog post about the campaign, where I shared some photos that I took back when photography was forbidden in stores, and when I was still using film. I also lamented my failed attempt to acquire the masks after the season. (Customer service claimed they were to be donated to a local school after use.)

Well, the internet heard my wish, and over the past twelve years I've received a continual trickle of emails about the masks. They came in three categories: those asking me to assess the value of their masks (my lone blog post made me the leading authority on the internet), those offering to sell me their masks (these were the most common), and even a few emails from kind people offering to just give me the masks. I perked up at the latter, but soon discovered that shipping five foot faces can cost hundreds of dollars. A personal pick-up option was offered once, but they were located more than a day's drive away, again amounting to a major chunk of money and time.

About a year ago I received another generous free offer from a woman named Kat. Kat actually worked on the Target marketing team and helped make the campaign a reality! Her set of masks were a job perk, and she'd been using them as Halloween decorations for years. But the time to "pay them forward" had come, and my writing convinced her that I'd provide them with a good home.
I could immediately tell that Kat lives her life with vigorous heart and soul. She initially gave me a list of rules to agree to, should I accept the gift. The first rule was that I too must pass them on freely when my time with them is over.

I loved her approach, but I explained the issues I'd encountered before. Kat persisted. Every couple months she told me about another possible shipping method she was researching. Whenever one thing didn't pan out she would move on to the next. This went on for nearly a year. Eventually she offered to drive someplace near me to make a hand off, even though places near me are far from her.

In July my family took a three hour jaunt to Kansas City to meet Kat. She ended up driving about eight hours (one way) to meet us there in order to give us some free ginormous masks!! Kat invited a good friend of hers to go along on her road trip, and she made the perfect suggestion to meet at the Nelson-Atkins museum of art. We met, and she's exactly the kind of person who would make a sixteen hour round trip to give someone giant masks. For the record, I was bestowed with the princess, the fireman, and yes, Frankenstein's monster.

We talked for about an hour before the museum kicked us out at closing time. We have many shared passions and our careers overlap. Before we parted Kat offered to give me her ongoing advice and perspective in relation to my role as a creative, and an educator, and that's even more valuable than giant costumes. Thanks Kat for being the best possible type of human being! Happy Halloween!

October 27, 2019


Once again, I assembled a list of Halloween activities and then followed my list.  Here is what that looked like this year...

1. Decorate for Halloween
Here's my latest innovation...

2. Make Halloween mood table
This year's theme: Mcfarlane Monsters

3. Change phone wallpaper
This is from a 1970s blacklight poster

4. Seek out new Halloween decorations and spooky toys
This year I made a startling discovery that rocked the Twitterverse.
"Attention Spooky folks: these decorations from Dollar Tree are essentially the Silver Shamrock masks from Halloween III!"

5. Read one of my vintage horror paperbacks
I ended up listening to the first book of Blackwater by Michael McDowell.


6. Play a spooky video game

7. Watch pre-selected pile of Halloween entertainment
I found the bulk of these over the past year at thrift stores and flea markets. (Though a few are perennial watches.)  My greatest score was the entire In Search Of series for $7. Over the past two months I've made it through all of these. Well, not all the In Search Of episodes.)


8. Subscribe to Shudder and watch stuff

9. Make a fire in the backyard fire pit

10. Create a horror playlist. Listen while walking/driving around.
I really just copied a couple peoples' existing lists, and then customized them to my liking.

11. Seek out some of the seasonal stuff that like-minded people are tweeting about
This year it was the Mountain Dew mystery flavor (i.e. Candy Corn), the blow mold decorations from Michaels, and the Universal Monster Bend-ems from Walgreens.


12. Write a blog post

13. and 14. Go on an October day trip/Go Halloween shopping in another town
I've been able to do a lot of this, thankfully. I make it a point to travel roads I've never traveled if possible, and go through towns I've never visited. Naturally I picked up lots of goodies.

15. Spend Halloween with my family 
And this will happen Thursday.

For me, the scariest thing about Halloween is the thought of letting the season slip by without doing whatever I can to enjoy it. This year I have nothing to fear.
Happy Halloween!

October 28, 2018


Greetings internet traveler! I just want to commemorate this Halloween season with a rundown of how things have played out this year. It's been a different type of season for me because this is the first Halloween in nine years that I've had a full time, day-to-day job as opposed to a precarious freelance lifestyle. This has created the classic time vs. money conundrum. Last year I was able to review a different vintage Halloween cassette every single day in October, while this year work-related time constraints kept me from crossing off several major items from my annual list of Halloween goals. (I discovered a couple years ago that lists can help keep the Halloween magic from slipping through my fingers.)  Here's how it went...

1. Decorate house for Halloween 
2. Go on October trip to Toronto
3. Go to Chicago toy show
    Both were not prudent given my work situation  

4. Go to a Halloween event
    See below

5. See a horror movie in the theater
    Saw Halloween (2018)

6. Make my Halloween mood table
    No, but my house evokes a strong Halloween mood this year

7. Drive to a nearby town and go Halloween shopping
    Went to several

8. Play a Halloween themed video game
    I started playing Fortnite to bond with my son earlier this year. Then I kept playing. This October it became Halloween themed

9. Read an 80s horror paperback

   Didn't make the time 

10. Watch my pre-selected Halloween movie pile
Got through almost all of it. It included things like: WNUF Halloween Special, Trick 'r Treat, Hereditary, Channel Zero: Candlestick Cove, Ghost Stories, Ghost Story, Return of the Living Dead, Mandy, The Town that Dreaded Sundown, Phantasm III and more

11. Have friends over to watch scary things 
   Yes, two friends came over on two different nights and watched IT (2017), and Carrie respectively
12. Create something with a Halloween theme
    See Below

13. Make a Halloween blog post
    Work in progress

14. Celebrate Halloween with my family
    Still to come 

It was a work-related errand that kicked off my "pre-Halloween" back in September. I wandered into Lowe's on a Wednesday morning and lit up when I saw a fresh display spooks sitting on hay bales. I picked up my very first life-size plastic skeleton, the kind that GLOWS IN THE DARK. The Lowe's manager lady gave a triumphant shout across the store and declared that I had bought the first Halloween item of the year. Other customers chuckled when I laid him on the floor in front of the cash register. In the parking lot yet another lady made a joke as I was putting him into the passenger seat of the truck. With expert timing I retorted, "Now I have someone to talk to." and a group of shoppers all laughed. It felt like I was in a movie where the happy-go-lucky character has the perfect skeleton buying experience while the opening credits pop on and off the screen.

A week later the skeleton was accompanied by a plastic light-up Jack-o-lantern. I found it at the Tulsa flea market and it has all sorts of sentimental value for me. First, my uncle stored his Matchbox cars and plastic toys in a treat bucket of this very same design. So I would dump out this pumpkin head during nearly every childhood visit to my grandmother's house. It also still has its $1.47 Woolco price tag stuck to it...


And best of all, the man who sold it to me said it was a classroom decoration for years. It has a masking taped label on the bottom that says "[Something] Boys & Girls, Salina, KS" I think Woolos (Wootos?) may be a teacher's name, and it's dated Oct. 26, 1975.
I was about to pay for it when I saw this on the floor under the table...

It's the Kay Lande and Wade Denning Halloween classroom record! It includes the song "Halloween" that we sang in grade school Music class, and was the official theme song for the holiday in my mind. The digital version of this has been my go-to every year since I discovered it on the legendary Scar Stuff blog. It's a great, not-too-scary album that I could play for my son when he was very little.

It's quite possible that this record was stored alongside the jack-o-lantern, only to emerge once a year into a room of lucky children. Those pumpkin eyes probably saw costumed kids dancing to the record on chilly Kansas mornings year after year. Sigh.

September also found me on the ebay, searching for collectible reminders of forgotten Halloween memories. This cloaked skeleton figure popped up...

It's not a toy, or a decoration per se, but more of a craft item for the doll collecting set. I closed the tab and moved on. Yet, obviously I own it now, so what happened? Well, it popped up in another one of my search results and I started thinking about it. It's from 1987, and it reminds me of the sort of thing that might have caught my attention when I was a kid on shopping days when my mom would drag me from store to store. Her stores catered to moms of course, so sometimes anything distantly toy-like was all there was to focus on during the endless visits. Halloween expanded the possibilities. It could be something like a stuffed black cat, or a felt monster, or a witch cake decoration. But I liked this concept of Halloween fun for moms and grandmas.

It still has a tag on it that mentions the Virginian sisters who made it. That caused me to imagine their whole brainstorming session behind the skeleton man. Two sisters sitting in Virginia in 1987 (or '86 if they had a lot of lead time) discussing their upcoming collectible Halloween dolls. This delights me. Then I wondered what I was doing on that day. I also wonder who bought it, and why it reeks of cigarette smoke and perfume.

I was also struck by his little flannel shirt sleeves. This clearly isn't a grim reaper, but an adult wearing a handmade costume of his own design. The bones look hastily painted on the smock, and I can't tell who's craftsmanship that reflects, the doll maker or the doll's. This flannel-and-jeans wearing guy was probably working the 1987 jaycee's haunted house. This portrayal of a homemade haunter also stuck with me. All of these thoughts motivated me to bid, and when I finally did, I grew terrified that I'd lose the auction. (Turns out I had no competition.)

A couple weeks later I got a call from good ol' Mike Becker of Funko fame. He said he was planning a Halloween fundraiser called Monster Mask-O-Raid, and he was seeking vintage Halloween photos, as well as artwork for the show. Thanks to my new job I have access to screen printing equipment, which is an art form that has eluded me all my life. In a moment of revelation, I decided to combine my desire to screen print with this art opportunity, and the spark of inspiration was none other than the flannel shirt-wearing grim reaper.

I spent a couple weeks brainstorming, sketching, and finalizing my design which turned into a series of die cut-style Halloween decorations featuring the skeleton man and his decorated neighborhood.
The night before my shipping deadline I bribed a college student with a pizza dinner in exchange for supervising me as I attempted to ink my first designs. (I had already called in other favors earlier in the week to get assistance with printing the transparent film and burning the screens.) The first batch was a success! My goal was to make a series of 25 sets of three.

After my pizza-fed student teacher left I started having trouble with the black ink. My sets dwindled as the ink bled and dried in all the wrong places. Feeling defeated, I decided to stop before I ruined all my orange prints. Then it dawned on me that if I could salvage just one of each design I could submit a single complete set of three. That's what I did, and here's how they turned out...

The mask on the kid is based on a real mask that I saw on one of my old blog posts about a Traveler's Novelty Catalog. (Bottom left)

Just like this Halloween season itself, I didn't live up to my own grand plan, but I'm still very happy with the outcome.

One thing that did turn out right was number four on my list...
4. Go to a Halloween event

There's a cave in Missouri that's been showing spooky movies inside it around Halloween. (In previous years they've put on a spook house in the cave, which also sounds neat.) Their sign is good too...


The exterior is pretty well decorated which gave us a jolt of Halloween magic...


I took my son to see Beetlejuice, which was his first time to see it. When it was over he looked around and said, "Oh, yeah, I forgot we were in a cave." It was a uniquely surreal experience. Water from the ceiling dripped on me several times. Maybe next year I'll see a horror show there. They screen The Descent (2005) on Halloween night.

Yesterday was another Halloween-ish time spent at a corn maze and pumpkin patch...

Those were my most notable events this month. The weather was super hot in early October, then it turned crazy cold and rainy a couple weeks ago. There were quite a few nice and gloomy days. These offered plenty of smile-inducing moments like picking up my pizza order at the gas station and seeing this guy hanging in the window. (Yes, I eat gas station pizza. Casey's tastes like a childhood pizza party.)

I also got my most popular ever Twitter post with this video and the caption:
"The Halloween decoration I hung outside my own window has legitimately terrified me three times now."
which is very true...

There was also a lot of shopping. Flea markets...

And Target, where you can find an official Mego Frankenstein action figure in the year 2018!..

Last year the big challenge was finding the plastic Skeleton Army that was being sold in some Dollar General stores. My twitter feed was full of boastful people lording them over me. I went to a half dozen locations before I was finally able to track them down in the next town over.  This year they followed with a Mummy Army and I was poised for another hunt, but apparently the success of the skeletons convinced them to put the mummies in nearly every location.

But most of my shopping was online. Like this amazing skeleton from Boss Fight Studio that I found thanks to a tip from a twitter pal, The Pathologist...


And this British import of the mini Stretch X-Ray! Thanks to a tip from another Twitter pal.

And yet another Twitter pal, Andy Nyman, sent me this superb dime store "Lochness Monster," also from the UK!

There's also these (which came from a store, now that I think about it.)

I couldn't resist the amazingly ridiculous, ridiculously amazing Savage World horror figures from Funko...

And light-up Halloween III pins from Camera Viscera...


But my favorite of all Halloween products this year is this perfect Beistle skeleton blanket from Creepy Company.

Welp, it's late and I should post this so I can get back to work. I'll leave you with some pics of graveyards and moons from this season.  Happy Halloween!