Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vintage Hallowe'en Collectibles.

Amidst my music work, my monster collecting and Hallowe'en prop/figure making, I don't often have time, money or space for 'new' collecting passions. But one of the aspects of Hallowe'en I've always loved is the vintage decoration (or toy or book or magazine or clothing, etc.).
I have been able to find little things over the years; mostly paper goods but sometimes I get lucky and find something quirky like I had growing up, such as this skull'n'crossbones cupcake topper I got from my friend HHWolfman last month:
Over the years I have also purchased books on the subject, notably Stuart Schneider's Halloween In America and Claire M. Lavin's Timeless Halloween Collectibles 1920 - 1949 (that's the era she covers, not her birth-death dates!).
But just recently I had the chance to snag a reference and price guide which really outshines the others while being a perfect companion to all of them:
Mark B. Ledenbach's Vintage Halloween Collectibles is an incredible treat. For the eyes, oh yes, but as a reference I think it's damn near unparalleled in the hobby.
256 pages, 1,1oo images covering over 1,600 unique vintage items from paper to plastic, Bakelight to Beistle, nutcups to cutouts... and of course, plenty of Skulls & Pumpkins!
Its layout is very easy to navigate, with color-coded borders denoting sections like Games, Candy Containers, Decorations, Noisemakers, etc.
Every page is full color, loaded with crisp, clear and very colorful images of the most beautiful (and some beautifully un-beautiful!) vintage Hallowe'en items you've ever seen, or for that matter, collected. A single page example:

It is invaluable now, as I embark upon a newfound need to find old All Hallowed's goodies.
So... where did I acquire such a fine tome?
Well you could get it at Amazon and so on, and pay some $28 plus shipping to get this book worth a dozen times that.
OR, you could do what I did, and go to Mark Ledenbach's marvelous website.
Mark is offering this book directly from his own store, signed, for (get this) $13.49!
I have no business (or even terribly personal!) connection with Mark; I asked his permission to post a review, so it's not like I've got anything riding on this.
I just want real Hallowe'en fanatics to know about this incredible book and this stupid-good price!
By the time I got mine (only took a few days from CA to MO) I'd dropped $15 and some change. Fifteen bucks. For THIS.
It's a bargain at triple the cover price. At $15 or $16, you'd be stupid not to.
And while you're there, do take a tour of the entire site. Mark's a respected voice in the vintage collectibles hobby (industry?!) for his books, his collection, his appearances on television and features in magazines. When Martha Stewart turns to you regarding decor, well... need I say more?

It looks like a pumpkin pie... with its clothes on.



A classic 7 minute treat from the Hallowe'en lovin'est doughnut place in history.
This was a promotional giveaway item at their stores in 1975 and '76, and has ever since been a kind of cult favorite among those of us who were of the right age group when it came out.
Winchell's Donut House was a family Hallowe'en tradition; my grandmother's Hallowe'en treat table always had Winchell's donuts -- with orange and black and green icings and sprinkles in plenty -- and they (Winchell's) always had clever and generous Hallowe'en offerings and promotions during October.
One of the more exciting indicators of the approaching Hallowe'en season was the moment we'd first spy our nearest Winchell's proudly flying the paper pumpkins, bats and spiders on their windows... and the myriad posters for that October's spooky giveaway.
Like this beauty here.
I don't know who the kid is (anyone from the child of Winchell's CEO to the nephew of the ad agency maintenance guy) but he's wearing (nearly) what appears to be a Don Post '100 Line' latex rubber Phantom half mask, and holding a donut that I can taste even now.
From the amateur, real and very cute kids' voices, to the 'jack o'lantern' actor being a bit of a killjoy (sort of; this is a trick-or-treat safety psa first and foremost) to the Winchell's ad jingle at the 5:26 mark, the whole feel is very innocent and delightfully 'back then'.
If you're looking for a download, this has been shared all over the 'Net, and you can find it in a million places that have the space and funds to host it, so do a search for Winchell's Hear The Monsters record.
But to just listen?:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A postcard.


A friend sent this to me. A simply stunning postcard illustrated by P. Wiggins, I do not have the date but it is surely a vintage piece.
Just beautiful.

Forward-

Friday, June 26, 2009

A musical moment.

If you viewed the 'Hallowe'en Mike C. Style' post, (or have actually seen the HGTV special over the years) then you have heard at least some of the 'Song of the Flyin' Banshee'. I wrote it as a lark, using silly lyrics and stealing melodic motifs from various sources; I'm not proud.
The singing is a half-dozen tracks of me (as Captain Lantern and other voices) and a half-dozen tracks of my good friend Adam Fickett, who is the voice of First Mate Ficketts. He also co-writes all of our funny banter, and we have a great time once a year laying down all this silly stuff in one evening.
At any rate, onto this post. See, the Flyin' Banshee was their beloved ghost ship, and in reality was built for a single Hallowe'en. It began to fall apart not long after, and became a part of our deck for a time. But its Hallowe'en use ended after two years. So by 2006, the Captain and Ficketts had no ship to sail, and we decided to write a Lament of the Flyin' Banshee, that they could tearfully sing, and the Lean Bros & Ghoul would join in.
Since 2006, the story has been that the pirates no longer have a ship so they must stay here at our house but they have to do chores and so on, and sing and entertain on Hallowe'en, as a kind of 'rent'.
I have not found full video of the song (I do have the audio file for it, of course) but I do have this bit from Ficketts' wistful bridge section ('The wind in her sails, her rrriggin' so fair, the smell of her poooooop deck...') to the final verse. Harmonies and all, it's Adam and I multi-tracked.
Thanks for the great ideas and voices Adam. This is one of my favorite musical creations ever!



Wonder what we're going to come up with this year...

Spook out-

In Passing

Say what you will, and I'll likely agree, the man had serious, serious issues. But on a Hallowe'en blog, especially one belonging to a guy who grew up in the 70's and 80's, the passing of the guy who gave us Thriller cannot go by without a nod and a prayer for peace.

Thriller made zombies cool to people who couldn't have cared less about zombies before the 14 minute mini-epic hit MTV, and exposed the shambling, groveling, dead to a far greater audience in a far shorter time span than even the greatness of Romero's two (at the time) masterworks.
We horror lovers had always known and loved zombies, but Thriller made them cool and funky to everybody.
Thriller was Hallowe'en all year; it was timeless, one of a kind, and a pure monster lover's delight.

In another life, Mr. Jackson.
Maybe God'll help you figure things out a little better now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sneak preview...

...for a project coming to this blog very soon.
Those of you from the UMA (that's Universal Monster Army, enlist now!) have already seen this video and are sick of my mentioning it, but for everyone else, here's a prototype (head only) for a new addition to my display. A tribute to our fallen, fabled Father of Monster Fandom, Forrest J Ackerman.
He will be sitting down, wearing a cape, an aloha shirt, white slacks, a Dracula ring, etc., and will be greeting, telling a joke or two, and waxing enthusiastic about monsters and robots. Of course!
I have a lot of the audio together (what you hear on this video was strictly for testing) and have gathered most of the materials I need but I will begin working on a better skull and axis system than I currently have. Also, new eye and eyelid movement is in the works.
Of course I will post WIP images as I get going; it will be a little later in the summer.
But for now, a sneak preview never hurt anyone.



P.S. If anyone has any Forry audio they think is truly unique or RARE (I swear I must have just about everything available online in my search for phrases and so on) and would not mind sharing some of it with me for this loving (and very non-profit!) tribute, please contact me at headlesshorseman at hauntedmansion dot com. Especially if he speaks about Hallowe'en or actually says Happy Hallowe'en (I have one of him saying it but there's some rather intrusive music underneath and it's muffled as it is, and just not usable).

Onward-

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Vampire.

My granddaughter (2 and 1/2 at the time) looking up finally unafraid of my Treat Room Vampire in 2007.
I have video of this guy somewhere; the moment I find it, it's posted. The deal was, you walk into the room, and there's a treasure chest of treats, with this guy standing off to the right, looking down very disdainfully at you, shaking his head and grunting his displeasure at not being able to eat you then and there... then, just as you take a treat, a giant, fanged, LED-red eyed bat comes screeching up (loudly!) from behind the treasure chest, and you run screaming out of the room, killing the treaters in line behind you.
Yep. Good times.

Just a story about the previous post's ghouls.

I had nearly forgotten this incident until I looked through the post again. This is so embarrassing...
I spent the better part of August designing, sculpting, painting, piping, gluing, dressing and standing these undead dummies, right?
I'd set them up three days out. Weather was going to be fine.
Two nights out from Hallowe'en, I came home from work about midnight, driving the vehicle that doesn't have the house keys on its keychain.
I got halfway up the front steps and realized I wasn't getting in that route.
The only other door I could use, which might be unlocked because I'd spent the afternoon going in and out of it?
The backdoor under the deck, down the hill, behind the house, and I could walk there in the pitch dark through that forest of zom --
Yeah. A misty October midnight, the barest bit of moonlight outlining a dozen zombies standing there, swaying slightly as a light breeze swept by.
I had to walk through them. Alone. In the dark. To an even darker porch and basement.
The nearly dead flashlight I grabbed from the car actually made things worse; it looked too much like a bad movie.
I walked through them slowly, thinking the entire time 'I am a 40 year old grown man and I built these damned things and I know they're fake and if one of them moves I am going to scream very very loud!"
Needless to say, none of them moved, I didn't scream, I walked (did not run) to the door, and all was right with the world.
Oh, I'm a real man, alright. Scared of my own stupid dummies.
But you know what?
I'll set them up, and wait for a dark night, and have you walk to the backdoor through them.

"Don't laugh 'til you can cut fish!"
-- Manuel (Spencer Tracy), Captains Courageous (1937)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

ZZZZOMBIEEEEEZZZ!


(above: Dead Of Night, M. Cathcart, ©2009, the october country llc)

2008 marked the 40th anniversary or the original Night of the Living Dead, and the 30th anniversary of its 'sequel', Dawn of the Dead. I wanted -- hell, needed -- to tribute these legendary works, and therefore zombies were in order.
SO... lots of pvc pipe, foam tubes, old clothes and sculpting materials later... I'd 'dug up' a dozen ghouls for the ol' haunt.
Now, the Night ghouls had to be in black & white, of course. True to the film and all, you know how it is.
(All images can be clicked to enlarge):

There are more zombies down the hill but the pic's too dark. They each had little pinspot LEDs shining up from below them, it REALLY looked awesome!
And of course, I had to have a little Kyra Schon:
Holding her trowel, looking perfectly ghoulish. The harsh flash kills a lot of the ambience, as anyone who's ever tried to video or photograph Hallowe'en displays and dark rides will know. Oh well.
A little detail on li'l Karen Cooper's face:

By the way, mache or other paper-based sculpting materials are excellent when you need the final product to be lightweight and solid, but can be a real b***h for holding detail and when drying, they crack and shrink for weeks. Just a public service announcement.
Now of course I had to have a few Dawn zombies in my Treat Room, so I settled on the most iconic: The airport/poster zombie, and the Flyboy zombie. Here's a nearly un-terrible pic of them in the basement after their paints dried:
They didn't even move but they scared the pants off of the kids brave enough to enter the Treat Room. And for fans of the films, well, they just howled with delight.
One more 'of course'... since I was the head of this All Hallow's zombiefest, I had to dress the part:
I walked around all night calling people 'hey maaan!'

Oh, and one more detail pic. The center-ish ghoul in the first picture, the one with the white jacket? I loved how his face looked so I thought I'd add a little detail 'art' shot of it:
LOVE his upper lip, rotten lower teeth, his popping eye and general expression.

Hmm? What's that? The scary vampire guy behind him? OH, right! He was in the Treat Room in '07, looking over the kids and shaking his head, grunting his disapproval, and then a big bat would screech up from behind the treat trunk. A great misdirection, and a nice scare. I'll get more of him later.

Spook on!

On with the show.

A few weeks later, October 31, 2006. Just before sundown, when I have three seconds to get into my own outfit and snap a few pics. You can see Ghoul's lovely hairstyle and finished look. The old microphones I planned to mount on those stands... wouldn't fit! Isn't that always the way?



I know, the boys look like they're sharing an apron (I suppose they are); by nightfall it was very unobtrusive and in fact, I have yet to hear a single mention, pro- or con-, about their legless state, in three Hallowe'ens.
Sure, I always want to build bigger, better bodies <*ptui!*> for them, but other stuff is more important, obviously (or I would've done it already!). I mean, seriously, why fix what no one thinks is broken -- especially when you've got a dozen life-sized ZOMBIES to create?

Onto the zombie horde...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Introducing...

...the Lean Bros. & Ghoul! A skeletal graveyard quartet I created in 2006 to add some spooky musical fun to my display.
They were an instant hit, and I keep adding songs to their repertoire each year. They have inspired other haunters, and have generated quite a bit of interest online.
Here's a look at them before I cut her hair for that Keely Smith look, and without her shawl and gloves, in my basement a few weeks before the big night:


They are singing (well, sync'ing) to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross' 'Hallowe'en Spooks' (1959). I added a fourth vocal part (third 'guys' part) because it looked too weird to have three guys, one girl, and only two guys voices heard on the track.
Musicians will know exactly what I mean. It looked off, so I had to fix it.
It was pretty hip to be adding a very odd, cool fourth to the genius of LH&R.

Here's a close up of the Lean Bros. I think those spider/pumpkin/bat ties are so cool! (Click the image for better resolution)

They sing 7 or 8 songs now, and I'll be adding at least one more, Grim Grinning Ghosts, this year.

More Lean Bros & Ghoul will come. More pirates too.

Perfect.

Hallowe'en Fever Dream, a great print from Bob Lizarraga, procured at Monsterpalooza last month.

It's A Great Pumpkin...

Not THE Great Pumpkin, because... well, that would be sacrilege. Mine is made of foam, aluminum, brass, hot glue, servo motors, paint, mini-lights. The real one is made of (I assume) rather Greater/more Pumpkin-ey stuff.
And magic.

Not that mine has no magic at all; most kids and not a few grown-ups stare at it as if in a trance, all night long. He's certainly my oldest, best-known and most beloved homebuilt Hallowe'en anim. figure, and a signature of my display each year. Everyone asks "Is the Pumpkin gonna be there?" and I think... need you ask?



Here, he's explaining why I had so many zombies about the place that night ('08); I hadn't done a zombie theme before then, so I thought folks might be confused. It's complicated. Mind your own business.

More to come.

'08 Pirates

As promised. A wee joke from last year's routine; sadly, Ficketts' jaw servo burned out about ten minutes before this was taken (it had worked so well for 4 years!) so you won't see him at his best. He will be ready to go, come this Fall.




Ba-DUM-bump!

(P.S. Sorry about the low volume; use headphones?)

Scare ya later-

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hallowe'en, Mike C. Style (with a little help from HGTV)

HGTV, in the form of High Noon Productions, came to my house in 2004 to tape my Hallowe'en display as part of a great special, Extreme Halloween. They've shown it every Hallowe'en since. Here's my segment (it was the big finale!). I think it's as fine an introduction to what I do and how much I love the holiday as anything else I could post at the moment.




Of course, my displays are fairly different every year, and the pirates are no longer on the roof; I built the ship for one Hallowe'en, and it heroically lasted a few years longer (serving as a shipwreck 'bar' on our back deck in the summer) but has at last fallen apart.
It was a great prop but getting it on the roof was a pain in the poopdeck and I'm lucky I didn't break my neck (my assistants, Monkey Jack and BDJ, are luckier than I; they nearly did fall off. That's why I get assistants).
The pirates have been in the haunt ever since, but they hang out in the graveyard now, being comic relief, giving life and context to the theme of the night.
I'll post a lot more about Captain Lantern and First Mate Ficketts in the future.
I'll also post about my beloved Pumpkin King.
Oh, and we'll get into my skeleton quartet, the Lean Bros & Ghoul, which I added in 2006.
And if my stars are lucky ones, I'll be giving a work-in-progress series of reports on my spooky animatronic tribute to the father of monster fandom, Forrest J Ackerman.

But all of that is for later.

Spook out-

Kindly step all the way in please...


... and make room for everyone.
My name is Mike.
My passions are Hallowe'en, classic horror films (and related 'things') and horror literature.
My intention is to post pictures, links to video, audio, and anything else I've created (or am lucky enough to have stumbled upon) regarding the greatest holiday in the known universe.
My hope is to do so with enough regularity to keep people interested.
My conscience tells me that's not likely.
My gut says it is.
My brain hurts.
My, my.

Does the World Wide Interweb need another Hallowe'en-related blog?

Yes.

Yes it does.

Onward.