Five questions asked over a glowing Jack o'Lantern, under an Autumn moon obscured by passing clouds...in between mouthfuls of candy corn...Horror Host Dr. Gangrene of Tales From the Lab steps away from his test tubes and beakers for a moment to mix a monstrous potion for our Halloween enjoyment.
Why is Halloween important to you?
Halloween was the first thing I remember really latching on to. It may have been because of the candy, certainly, but there was always more than just that. The entire feel of the holiday was magical, and still is to me. The sights, sounds, hell, even the smells of Halloween to this day give me that warm feeling inside.
Certainly a big part of it was the costumes. Dressing up as someone else, even for just one night, and not only getting the okay to be as ghoulish, gory and scary as you want from adults but actually being rewarded for it (candy) – what could be better than that?
Halloween is still important to me to this day, and I’ve enjoyed passing along traditions to my kids.
Describe your ideal Halloween.
I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to the holiday. My ideal Halloween definitely centers around trick or treating. I am a parent on the later end of raising kids – they’re all either grown up or are growing up and getting too old for trick or treating any longer. The oldest two are in college and my youngest is 13 now, so he’s just about done with the door to door thing. Makes me kind of sad, but I realize that when we aren’t walking around with him any longer I’ll be able to stay at home and hand out candy, which is very cool too.
Our house is THAT house – every neighborhood has one. It’s the one in the neighborhood that is all decorated for the holiday. It’s the one you can see from the end of the street, lights, props, smoke and music all rolling out like a scary beacon in the night. For the past twelve years we’ve lived in our house we’ve had my parents come house sit and hand out candy while we made the rounds with the boys. Kind of gave us a second go-around at trick or treat vicariously through them. It’s fun to get out, meet the neighbors, and see what decorations they’ve put up.
I kind of envision doing a small scale Bob Burns type thing one day, decorating the place and handing out candy and scares in equal proportions. Then when trick or treat wraps up, around 10 or so, it’s time to snuggle up with a cold beer, hot pumpkin stew and scary movies.
What Halloween collectibles do you cherish, or hate, or both?
The Halloween items I cherish most are probably the photographs of myself as a kid around Halloween time – my mom found several and gave them to me a few years back. They’re my favorite Halloween item – you can really see the love of the holiday in my eyes in those pictures. I also found a couple of items on ebay that are in these photos – a plastic orange pumpkin lamp and a Ben Cooper skeleton costume. So those are pretty neat as well.
When was your very first Halloween, the one where you really knew it was Halloween, and how was it?
I don’t think there is one specific one, just a bunch of random memories that all run together. Wearing those plastic Ben Cooper masks, the elastic strap pulling the hair on the back of your head, sweat beading on your upper lip. That certain smell the plastic had. Running from house to house with a bucket full of candy, trying desperately to hit as many houses as possible before the night ended. Getting popcorn balls and apples among the candy. Taking trips to Woolworth’s to pick out my Halloween costume, the Ben Cooper and Collegeville costumes lining the shelves. Carving pumpkins and trying to decide whether it would have a friendly or scary face (scary would almost always win out).
What's the one Halloween question you want to be asked and what's your answer?
Q: What’s your favorite Halloween memory?
A: For me it would be the year my son, Ian, dressed as me for Halloween. We walked around as a father and son version of Dr. Gangrene that Halloween – now how cool is that? My only regret is that, like a dumbass, I didn’t take any pictures. But I’ll always have the memory!