Friday, September 30, 2011

All In The Family

Old Devil Wind

I'm a very traditional guy. For the most part I embrace traditions and revel in honoring certain repetitions in history that are solemnly marked each year. Perhaps steeped in superstition, it's just the way things should be for certain moments, and you feel better knowing that you did your part (and often that whatever superstitious omens didn't disappoint because you observed tradition).

There are, however, some traditions, quite frankly, that I could live without. One that springs immediately to mind is the Old Devil Wind that blows whenever I begin the ritual of putting up my outside Halloween decor. I recognize and understand that this is more of a meteorological occurrence and not really bad luck year after year after year, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. And you can't fool the Old Devil Wind, either. He knows. You try a sneak attack a week early. Old Devil Wind. You're a week later because you're sick. Old Devil Wind. Rain or shine, sleet or snow - as soon as I dig out my box of wicked delights, a slight breeze begins to rustle the leaves on the trees.

I try to placate Old Devil Wind by making an offering in the fields: throwing some ragged corn-stalks to the heavens and letting them be swept to the horizon. Doesn't work. Old Devil Wind can't be bought off. He knows. He always knows. As the props come out of hiding and begin to mount in my garage, he blows more fiercely until I'm forced to abandon my graveyard, scarecrow, or whatever haunted task may be at hand for another, less blustery day.

Traditions can be a royal pain in the...WOOOOOOOOOOSH!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Off Target

A new member of the family. Picked this cool mug up from Target, which is unfortunately about the only neat thing they had there. I'm not sure what the execs at Target were thinking when they rolled out this year's Halloween line, but it's disappointing to say the least. It pretty much represents everything commercial and soulless about the season. Cartoony instead of quaint. In years past I've always been rather impressed with how Target actually seemed to 'get it' as far as huge, faceless corporations go when it comes to Halloween.

Not this year.

There ARE a few jack-'o-lantern items that are kind of turn-of-the-century retro (including a cookie-jar that matches this mug; something I'll probably pick up the day after Halloween). Overall, Target ranks up there with Hobby Lobby for disappointing seasonal wares. Definitely not their best offering, but I suppose that won't stop me from enjoying my daily cup of morning brew from my awesome mug...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vinyl Memories

"So, you want to visit a haunted house, hmmmm? I think I have one that should suit you, that is, if you dare follow me. You will? Fine. Shall we go then? Ah, here we are a the door. Happy haunting."

There are many things in my youth that had a cumulative effect on my lifelong love for Halloween and all things spooky. The 'Halloween' Holiday Book you can find on my website, our life-size 'Witchy-Poo' who flew on our front porch in the month of October, and seeing old Universal monster movies at our small town movie theater's Saturday matinees are but a few I can think of off the top of my flattened head. But one of the biggest influences of my young, macabre life was one particular 1974 vinyl record produced by Pickwick, appropriately titled: SOUNDS TO MAKE YOU SHIVER!

If you were a child of the '70's (or have ever read a haunted blog in your life) you probably remember this one. Frankenstein smashing out of a haunted castle, Dracula spreading his cape wide at the top, the Wolf Man looking hungry down below, and a multitude of other ghosts, goblins, and creatures running wild on the album's cover. Now, you must understand, that this is not a record that I simply played on our front porch on Halloween night. I played this record EVERY SINGLE DAY. Until it became so scratched that I had memorized where the skips would occur and would help the needle along so I could continue listening. This went on for years until eventually the album simply would no longer play at all - particularly Side 1, which was a long, continuous track of your journey through the haunted house (Side 2 was isolated tracks of all the sounds effects heard on Side 1).

My older brother and I used to play this late at night when we were supposed to be getting ready for bed, completely terrifying ourselves before the lights went out - especially at the part where the narrator, long an old friend of ours, would implore us: "Don't...look...behind you!" So many great memories from years of listening horror, back before cable TV, video games, cell phones, VCR's, home computers and the internet. It was just a cheap turntable with crummy speakers and a boy's imagination at work.

I'm sure I could track down a CD of this album now - or even the actual vinyl - but for some inexplicable reason I have chosen not to. Maybe I just want to hold on to the memories of those sounds and the narrator's chilling voice...I don't know. I suppose some day I'll break down and eventually purchase a copy - if nothing else it may be worth owning a vinyl copy simply to put its amazing artwork in a frame and hang it on my wall. I often wonder if my folks still have this record (or ANY of their old records aside from Christmas) in a box somewhere in their attic. I haven't seen it in decades, and back then when an album no longer played it was simply thrown away. Now THAT'S scary!

Track Listing:

1. A Night In A Haunted House
2. Witch Laugh
3. Count Dracula And His Victim
4. Screams & Groans
5. Moans & Groans
6. Cats
7. Dogs
8. Banging Shutter
9. Phantom Piano
10. Creaky Door
11. Breaking Windows
12. Thunder
13. Wind
14. Frankenstein's Monster Breaks Loose
15. Hooting Owl

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Workshop

A peak inside my workshop. Sure, I could simply call it my 'garage,' but it sounds so much cooler referring to it in conversation as 'The Workshop.' The name, incidentally, comes from an old youth series of books from the '60's that were initially called 'Alfred Hitchcock & The Three Investigators' and later, after the death of Hitchcock, 'The Three Investigators Mystery Series.' In those books, the main character and chief investigator, Jupiter Jones, lived near - and worked part-time - in a salvage yard owned by his aunt and uncle. In a corner of the yard he had set up his own personal workshop that he might fix, repair, and rebuild old salvage for extra money. From his workshop there were several hidden entrances to a damaged 30' trailer camouflaged by junk that the boy's used as a headquarters.

Ever since reading these books as a kid (I own the entire series - now sadly out of print - in both paperback and most of them in hard cover as well, and have even tried my hand at writing my own many years ago) I knew that someday I would have my own workshop, too; albeit sans secret tunnels - although I do have a hatch in the ceiling that I call 'Door Four.' Am I a dorky kid at heart or what? Let's face it, the odds of living in a junk yard and/or a trailer were always pretty slim, and I don't have the braininess of Jupiter Jones to be a detective or the athleticism of Pete Crenshaw to make a living in sports. If anything, I probably turned out more like the bespectacled records and research man, Bob Andrews...

Here's a link to learn more about this great series of books and to pick up your own copies:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flash Poe

"Mr. Poe, I presume?"

This is what happens when I get a hold of my wife's camera...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Fires

Autumn Haunting,
Originally uploaded by Jacob L Barr.

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

--Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random Thoughts

Here are some utterly random thoughts of cool things I really dig (and one not so much...)

Question: Did my wife really just download the app ZOMBIE HIGHWAY on her iPhone? Yes. Yes, she did. Is it awesome? Yes. Yes, it is. Am I any good at it? Answer: Despite my affinity for the living dead, it looks like I will be one of the first to be eaten when the zombie apocalypse finally hits.

While GHOST HUNTERS has clearly upped the ante on their amount of ghostly evidence, this may be my new favorite show. PARANORMAL WITNESS airs on the SyFy channel and man is it ever creepy! Quite possibly the scariest thing on TV, last night's episode gave me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Similar to an older show with the same format called THE HAUNTING (which aired on a different network), this one has much better production values and isn't quite so hokey. Good stuff and worth checking out!

Remember the Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin soap I bought from Bath & Body Works? Yeah, it doesn't smell like Cinnamon. Or pumpkins. When you unscrew the cap to sniff it at the store it sort of does - but when you get it home and excitedly gush a mountain of foam on to your hands it just smells like flowerery, perfumey soap. Like grandma soap. Like they simply changed the color dye in the bottle from one of their summer flower fragrances to orange and slapped a cool jack-'o-lantern sticker on it. You've been warned...

P.S. The black Marshmallow fragrance with the spider's web on it actually smells like marshmallows. What marshmallows have to do with Halloween is beyond me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dirty Secret

Caramel Candy Corn
Originally uploaded by m kasahara

Here's a dirty little secret that you probably never knew about me: I hate candy corn. Yes, it's true - this lover of all things Halloween detests those little conical October treats. I'm not sure when this happened - it's been a good two decades or more since I've last tried one. Well, in the interest of mad science, my wife brought home the haunting season's first bag of this stuff (which naturally my kids can't get enough of), so I decided to give the corn confection another try. The result? Nope - still don't like them.

Strange...I remember eating this stuff as a kid myself and not having a problem with it. Maybe too much candy corn at some post-trick-or-treating candy binge in my mom and dad's living room when I was a kid has left me in this terrible condition? I will say that the taste seemed to have changed a bit (or my taste buds, anyway). It wasn't as strong of a 'candy corn' taste that I associated with my youth, but a more mellow, sugary, conr-syrupy taste - disgusting in its own peculiar way. Regardless, the traditional Halloween treat of candy corn still tastes utterly gross and it will probably be another couple of decades before I try this experiment again.

Man - it feels good to get that off my chest...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Poe Speak

So I recently booked my first speaking engagement for MODERN POE: VOL I. I'm actually pretty excited about it, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't more than a little nervous. Many people do not know that Edgar Allan Poe was actually an excellent orator who gave popular lectures (or not, depending on his mood) later in his life. This is something we do not share. Like the majority of the American public, the thought of public speaking sends my knees knocking. There are about a thousand other things I can think of that I'd rather be doing than standing in front of a crowd of strangers and talking for approximately an hour.

Unless, of course, I'm passionate about the subject matter. And - as anyone who knows me can attest - I am extremely passionate about the life and times of Edgar Allan Poe. This should make for a fun and enlightening night of conversation as we talk about MODERN POE: VOL I, the man, his legacy, and his words. More details to come as the date approaches! To pick up your own copy of MODERN POE: VOL I, simply click on the link below to visit my e-store:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Now Playing

Last week I picked up a copy of Midnight Syndicate's 2000 release: GATES OF DELIRIUM and it's been on steady rotation ever since. An early counterpart, a prelude if you will, to their masterpiece album THE 13TH HOUR, 'Gates of Delirium' gives us our first glimpse at the creepy Haverghast Asylum, where a slew of inmates (both past and present) awaited me. It's difficult to talk about 'Gates' and not compare it to '13th Hour' since they are meant to be enjoyed together, so I will just say that 'Gates' is an earlier release so any drawbacks it may have in its audio quality (although I would guess it has been remastered since its initial release) are easily overlooked if they're there at all - I'll be the first to admit that my untrained ears are easily satisfied. It is perhaps not quite as imaginative or ambitious as '13th Hour,' but still, there simply are not any tracks that aren't compelling - Gavin Gozska and Edward Douglas have proven, even at this early date, that they were (and are) masters at composing catchy Gothic hooks that stick with you.

'Gates of Delirium' easily stands on its own as a classic early release from Midnight Syndicate and for fans of the band, it's extremely interesting to hear the genesis of some familiar melodies that we've come to know and love from 'The 13th Hour.' Full of terrific orchestration and truly pulse-pounding themes, from the opening sounds of the carriage arriving to the sounds of the loonies in the final hidden track, 'Gates' has the expected asylum atmosphere but takes the time to go the extra mile and make what should be cliche into something more due to the top-notch use of sound effects. Running at 54 minutes, I found 'Gates of Delirium' to be a great addition to my Gothic haunting soundtracks, and a sinister companion piece to Midnight Syndicate's epic release - 'The 13th Hour' (plus, for those who picked up up their compilation album 'Halloween Music,' you will find a few sample tracks to whet your appetite). Priced at a reasonable $12.99 (and that includes shipping and handling!) this is a great one to pick up if you're looking for some new music this haunting season! Highly recommended.

You can pick up your copy of 'Gates of Delirium' (or 'The 13th Hour' if you haven't already!) from the official Midnight Syndicate website:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Maxx Swag

You gotta love TJ Maxx when it comes to Halloween merchandise. Consistently creative year after year, this is the go-to store for my wife and I when we want to find unique stuff that doesn't scream 'made in China' (although most of it is...) Picked up this fantastic little stool for myself and a cute Happy Halloween pillow for the wifey-poo. There was so much more on their shelves that I liked, but we've got to budget what we want to spend - unfortunately only so many dollars can be committed to Halloween! We'll keep stopping back in the coming weeks, as their stock seems to change almost weekly.

P.S. We also stopped by Target last night - they finally have started to put out their Halloween line - but more on that later...

Thursday, September 15, 2011


The upcoming Tim Burton directed movie DARK SHADOWS ranks right up there with one of my most anticipated movies of all time (kind of like a little movie he and Depp did called SLEEPY HOLLOW...) so I want Burton to get this one right. Now, other than PLANET OF THE APES he hasn't really disappointed me, but this on-set photo of Depp in his Barnabas Collins get-up has me scratching my head. I mean - what the...

Didn't Depp already do the Michael Jackson thing with CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY? What is going on here? He looks like an albino Elijah Wood in this pic. Naturally, when it comes to Burton I'm more than willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt, but... what the...

What's with the makeup on Johnny Depp's Barnabas Collins?

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to my darling, my darling, my life and my bride. There wouldn't be much point to all the great things about Halloween without someone amazing like you to share it with.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Garden Gourds

Once again we got hit with the white spots of mold on our leaves this year - so our pumpkins are only about half the size they should be. I treated them with a fungicide, but I think it was already too little too late. Anyone have any reliable home remedies for this?

Most of these are slightly smaller than a basketball, but a good crop considering we didn't get ANY pumpkins at all last year - just vines and flowers! We ended up with about a dozen medium to small sized pumpkins this year (our most ever was 26!)

Found this one that snuck into our strawberry patch. A nice, cozy home - he's the biggest by far!

I love this little pumpkin flower. Long after the rest have gone, this one just keeps on blooming each morning on a vine that's barely there.

And not to be outdone in the color department, these peppers have turned the most amazing shade of yellow and orange. Beautiful!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Some witchy-type potion bottles I've doctored up. For the most part Mason Jars, Patron bottles and I think one 1800 bottle (always fun to empty) that I've collected from various places over the course of the year. Despite one minor mishap with the glue gun in which I roasted the tip of my finger, the process was a lot of fun. The inspiration for the Mason/Witch Jars was, of course, Pumpkinrot. Not sure if he's the originator of these, but that's where I saw them first. Here's a link to see for yourself:

These are very spontaneous when I dirty them up. Whatever is on hand, whatever feels good at the moment, be it paint, jute, fishing line, fire, permanent marker, caulk, hot glue, or whatever. They'll look even better in their proper places surrounded by bones and skulls and what have you, plus when I fill them with snakes and spiders and all kinds of gross fluids...

Monday, September 12, 2011

One Man's Trash

Another entry in my long-running series of 'One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure.' Found this scrap piece of maintenance-free decking while on a walk (it was actually pretty heavy and sort of a pain to heft all the way home!) A bit on the small side for a gravestone, but I had a couple that had to be 'retired' last year as they finally succumbed to the elements.

The nature of the maintenance-free material doesn't allow for carving with a Dremel as it will just crumble, so I couldn't put a name on it. But a glued on cross, a coat of gray auto primer, some black spray-paint for aging, some black and forest green acrylic for effect, and boo!: Instant Gravestone! It took all of 30 minutes from start to finish, and most of that was waiting for the paint and glue to dry. It will fill the gap nicely in the back row where you don't have to look too closely...

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Scarecrow Pumpkinhead
Originally uploaded by Mstrsail

Wonder what the box of stuff is at his feet?

Saturday, September 10, 2011


And now for something completely different - a little shout-out to my alma mater who are playing their intra-state rivals the Iowa Hawkeyes today. Let's go Cyclones!

O we will fight, fight, fight for Iowa State,
And may her colors ever fly.
Yes, we will fight with might for Iowa State,
With a will to do or die,
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Loyal sons forever true,
And we will fight the battle through.
And when we hit that line we'll hit it hard ev'ry yard for I. S. U.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Working on a new look for the Hallowzing website. Still a work in progress, more updates will be made in the coming weeks. Right now I wanted to get the basic format up and running - this kind of gives you an idea of the direction I'm taking it. I'll try to keep you up to speed on any new updates as they happen. Hope you like it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Something Wicked

Another dark sign I made from the 'barn wood' collection. The saying is "Something Wicked This Way Comes..." from either Ray Bradbury's 1962 novel of the same name, or from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth,' depending on your reading habits. I went with a combination of both for inspiration - the font is Olde English, and the colors are very carnivalesque.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


A friend of mine was asked to tear down an old barn, with the caveat that he get to keep whatever he wanted from the job. When I say 'old barn' I mean OLD. This barn must have been ancient. The wood was incredibly soft and dry - almost like foam core - and light as a feather, with a bit of a musky 'barn smell' attached to it.

I was lucky enough to score a few planks from the haul with the idea of turning them into some cool Halloween-related signs. Here's the first effort. Not sure if it's quite finished yet - it feels like it needs something more - but I'm pretty pleased with the direction it's going. The actual quote reads:

"Those born on Hallowe'en shall see more than other folk."

-ancient saying

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The first month's sales numbers are in and I couldn't be happier with how my book: MODERN POE: VOL. I has done. My sincere thanks to all who purchased a copy, and a plea to ask you to help get the word out to friends and family. Modern Poe makes a great gift just in time for Autumn and just in time for Halloween! Thank you for your support, and thanks for spreading the word!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Young Musical

Coming soon to your town! (Unless you live in MN, that is. C'MON!)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

& More Swag

Some more cool swag from Bath & Body Works and Michaels.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Some cool Dollar Store swag I picked up with the fam the other day. We've hit all the major retailers on our hunt for interesting Halloween items: Michaels, Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, Jo-Ann Fabrics, etc. TJ Maxx is the front-runner so far (as usual) with Michaels a close second, but overall I haven't been too knocked out with the themes this year - much too cutesy and cartoony for my tastes (which is pretty much a reflection of the times and how nauseatingly commercial Halloween has become).

However, it's still early, so hopefully one of these stores - or some of the others that have yet to put out their wares - steps up and delivers some really cool, dark merchandise that taps into the true meaning of Halloween.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Glass Raven

An amazing Poe-inspired stain-glassed window created by my crazily talented sister-in-law. This beauty is hanging in our entry-way just inside the front door. The design is actually based off a logo by The Poet Oatmeal Stout, one of my favorite seasonal brews. I think it turned out fantastic - worthy of hanging all year round!