Five questions asked over a glowing Jack o'Lantern, under an Autumn moon obscured by passing clouds...in between mouthfuls of candy corn...with James-Michael Roddy...storyteller...theme park dream (and nightmare) builder...
Why is Halloween important to you?
Halloween is important to me because it represents imagination. The things that go bump in the night usually get such a negative representation in our culture and society, when in reality they represent such strong traits such as imagination, resourcefulness, and creativity.
The kids who enjoy the fantastical, enjoy a life spent wondering “what if...” This is the one question that can be answered with pure imagination. What if lightning struck a body of dead tissue… would it re-animate? What if there were no more room in hell.. would the dead rise from the grave? It can be positive...What if there was intelligent life out there? and it could be negative...What if they wanted to conquer our world?
It is also the one time of year, when everyone seems to play along, and allow themselves to believe in the unbelievable.
Describe your ideal Halloween.
My ideal Halloween is spending the day with a dark grey overcast looming in the distance. The early evening is getting ready for Tricks or treats with my children and the little boy that still resides within me. Maybe scaring a few of the unwary kids that are too complacent in their begging for candy. Then, warming up some creepy cuisine and settling in with friends to tell tales of ghosts as the candles burn down. The evening draws to a close watching a movie like John Carpenter's Halloween, Frankenstein, or one of my new favorites, Trick R Treat.
One of my new annual past-times is at the end of the night, I set fire to the pumpkin that has been slowly rotting. I take pictures of it as the flames spill out from the grinning mouth and carved eyes. It represents the end of that year’s Halloween. I have performed this small closing ceremony for the last three years.
What Halloween collectibles do you cherish, or hate, or both?
I have a series of full-size busts of the classic Monsters: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature. The only one I am missing is the Wolf-Man. Tom Savini gave them to me as gifts through the years and I love them. I also have an original Frankenstein's Monster model from Aurora that my Mother built and painted for me when I was very young. Every year she would take such delight in making our front entry and living room a Haunted House for Halloween. This is a tradition that I continue to keep alive.
When was your very first Halloween, the one where you really knew it was Halloween, and how was it?
It is hard to remember the very first Halloween. I do however remember the one Halloween that had the most impact on me. It was in the late seventies. I lived in Atlanta Georgia and the October month was very cold. Halloween fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday that year which meant there was school the next day. The whole day, we talked about Halloween. The teacher showed us The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on an old 16mm projector. We talked about monsters at lunch, including the newest Horror film – Halloween, which I really wanted to see. I drew pictures of Frankenstein’s Monster battling Dracula. Finally school ended and I headed home on the old yellow school bus.
That year I was like everyone else, crazy about Star Wars. I went trick or treating as Luke Skywalker. Dressed in his Tatooine wear, I went out in the dusk of late afternoon. It was also the first time I ever went Trick or treating by myself.
Later that night, I came home through the darkness, the shadows seeming to watch my every move. There is a sense of excitement for any fan of monsters to walk home alone, in the dark; your footfalls mixing with the sound of the occasional crunching leaves. I walked into the safety of my house, the decorations welcoming me into my inner sanctum. The candles slowly burning down.
I went through my treats, and then settled in watching some TV. The local PBS station was running Night of the Living Dead. I had only heard about the film and was excited that it was coming on. I wasn’t exactly sure of the plot, but knew that it was an important film in the history of horror. The film grabbed me and never let go. That night I tried to sleep, but the outside wind mixed with the sugar high kept my mind racing as I knew that Zombies were now part of my horror cast of characters right alongside Dracula, The Monster and the Wolf-Man.
Q: Do you get tired of Halloween?
A: Through the years, Halloween has in part become a career for me. I have been involved in events for Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, Paramount Pictures, Hershey Park and many others. I have been a part of some Halloween event for the past 20 years.
This is the first year that I am not and it is a little surreal. It has given me the opportunity to redefine the holiday for myself. As a result, I have been able to simply and completely enjoy the holiday again, like I did when I was a kid. My house is decorated, I have put together some model kits, and I have already enjoyed some great scary movies. We are going to have a costume party and then just enjoy the fun of the holiday. I hope to see you at my door.
I’ll Be Lurking For You.