I am pleased to announce that the book to which I contributed original research, Understanding Necrophilia: A Global Multidisciplinary Approach, is finally in print! This is the first time my work has been published in print, and I wasn’t prepared for the grueling (yet fun and challenging) process it would be. The creator of this meme below has the right idea.
Looking ahead, December at My Horrific Life will be both a month of creepy Christmas cheer and a month of necrophilia, as I’ll be posting a review of Understanding Necrophilia (as soon as my contributor copy arrives) and reviews of complementary books. Stay tuned for our December podcast episodes as Todd and I discuss my research and our favorite Christmas-themed horror entertainment.
For a long time, I sensed a void in my life. Everything thing seemed meaningless and without purpose. Just as I had given up hope, a ray of sunlight struck the window of the local Hot Topic and what I saw gave me a reason to live. There was a hole in my soul shaped like an American Horror Story-inspired party dress covered in surgical tool print.
As it turns out, Midnight Hour created five dresses for Hot Topic, each dress inspired by each season of American Horror Story. I nabbed the Asylum Doctor dress (above) and the Freak Show dress (below).
Other clothes in the series include a Murder House maid dress, a Hotel bellhop dress, and a Coven dress coat. All of these are still currently available on the Hot Topic website.
This was my first year attending a Horrorhound show, and it ranks as one of my top conventions along with Crypticon KC and Rock and Shock. There are bigger shows with more guests, but in my experience, bigger shows are less pleasant for the simple reason that one may end up waiting in line two hours to speak to a guest for all of 30 seconds, and paying $80 (or more) for a single autograph. Then, if you want a photo with a guest, the only option is paying another $100-250 for a professional photo op, in which one is herded through something resembling an assembly line process. Brutally efficient, but basically, one is paying more for less. Perhaps I’m being a bit of a curmudgeon here, because the fans I met at the bigger conventions felt that this was money well spent. If autograph collecting is your thing, and you have the cash, I won’t further besmirch your enjoyment of such venues.
My priorities are a bit different regarding what I look for in a convention experience. Perhaps I was spoiled by my first convention experiences, because I got to spend a significant amount of time with some of the guests, whom I now consider my friends due to our ongoing communication. While I do have a modest collection of autographs, I’m more interested in the various guests as people, and not just for their respective work products. What are autographs compared to getting advice from Andrew Divoff on learning foreign languages (he speaks eight), insight into Ted Raimi’s daily routines for maximal productivity, not to mention guests’ personal stories that are never discussed in interviews? Horrorhound Indianapolis was one of those rare conventions that was big enough to never become dull, but small enough that there were ample opportunities to have extended conversations with guests, several of whom interacted with fans at the hotel bar.
Aside from my friend Andrew Divoff’s appearance, an added bonus was the Wishmaster reunion, which included the film’s director and special effects artist Robert Kurtzman, lead actress Tammy Lauren (her first convention appearance), and supporting actors Tony Todd (best known for his role in Candyman), and Ted Raimi (also of Xena: Warrior Princess and the second season of Ash vs the Evil Dead). This was my first time meeting Ted Raimi, who was one of the nicest guests I’ve met, but also quite intellectual and a fascinating conversationalist. Other personal highlights included meeting Bernard Rose, the director of Candyman and the criminally underrated Snuff Movie, a smart meta-critique of reality television and digital surveillance; and meeting Piper Laurie (Carrieand many other films), who now has her memoir Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoirin print and audiobook edition. While most conventions concentrate heavily on films and filmmakers, I was pleased to see many book vendors and authors at the event, including John Everson, author of the outstanding horror novelNightwhere.
As with all good conventions, there were ample activities aside from celebrity signings. I only attended two panels, both of which were outstanding. The Candyman panel featured some of the most thoughtful discussions of racism, classism, and other social divides. The Wishmaster panel not only had great behind-the-scenes story about that film, but also an odd and hilarious backstory about the casting of actual prostitutes as extras in Ted Raimi’s 1993 film Skinner [VHS]. There was also an ongoing film festival, most of which I missed. However, I made a point of seeing the new Kevin Smith film Yoga Hosers, which is a loose follow-up to his filmTusk. Yoga Hosers follows the two Colleens, who worked as clerks in Tusk. But as the film’ s effects artist Robert Kurtzman stated, despite a few horrific effects and monsters, Yoga Hosers isn’t a horror film at all, but rather more of a teen movie with a lot of smart one-liners. I think fans will enjoy Yoga Hosers if they keep that in mind; it wasn’t at all scary, but I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a screening.
And, of course, there was also the convention-within-the-convention, Maskfest, which showcased an astounding array of masks and other costume accessories. I nearly went home with a set of Maleficent or Black Phillip-style horns, until I considered I have so few opportunities to wear such things.
Even though four days of sleep deprivation from these activities left me broken and beaten upon my return home, Horrorhound Indianapolis is a show I want to attend again!
Andrew Divoff returned with his Djinn’s Hellabrew to the Lake Arrowhead Brewfest earlier this August. This batch of Hellabrew amped up the heat factor with the habernero pepper notes at the forefront, but still refreshing enough to win over those with an aversion to spiciness. This was the last collaboration between Andrew and Wicks Brewing Co. to produce the Hellabrew, due to Wicks entering a contract to produce another client’s beer for large-scale distribution.
As with last year, it was a special experience for me to assist Andrew at the Brewfest. Andrew is one of the nicest people I know, and he has a genuine care for his community.
This year was special, because Andrew raised money at the pour and on his website for a new scholarship benefitting two Rim High School students who wish to pursue a career in the arts. By the end of the Brewfest, Andrew raised more than double his original fundraising goal, which will allow each student to receive $1,000. As a pleasant surprise, Andrew was recognized by California state senator Mike Morrell for his work benefitting the surrounding mountain communities.
As a young person, I grew up in churches that viewed all rock music as inherently satanic, filled with subliminal messages intended to tempt unsuspecting youth into the occult and unspeakable debauchery. With his reputation for onstage chicken-killing (now debunked), sexual ambiguity, and distain for authority, Alice Cooper was considered one of the most disgusting examples of the supposed evils of the genre. The “satanic panic” pervading evangelical Christian culture was one of the most idiotic things I encountered in my youth. So there was a delicious sense of irony when I found out that Cooper is himself a born-again Christian who regularly teaches Bible Study at his church and runs a faith-based nonprofit. If anything, that made his stage persona seem even weirder.
A month ago, I had the opportunity to get a VIP pass for Alice Cooper’s show in Peoria. And thanks to the generosity of a fellow member in the Fans for Solid Rock Facebook page, I was gifted a nearly-front-row ticket. It was already an item on my “bucket list” to meet Alice Cooper. Imagine my surprise when I had the good luck to win the chance to be onstage with him! I was assigned the task of throwing oversize balloons into the audience during “School’s Out.” As cool as the experience was, I had a moment of terror in which I questioned my competence to throw balloons into the crowd. Looking out into the audience was a very different perspective! (Below are pictures of me wrangling an errant balloon and later skipping offstage with a crew member at the end of the song.)
As cool as winning the balloon throw was, I found the regular perks of the VIP pass to be entirely worth the money. (I admit, I was a bit scared when I saw the price online.) The VIP pass itself came with some fun swag, including a personalized “certificate of insanity,” tote bag, T-shirt, and a voucher for the online shop.
A couple hours before the show, VIP passholders were welcomed by members of Alice’s road crew and given a pre-show tour, which included a look at the stage and props. I couldn’t wait to get my head in the guillotine and see up close how the decapitation illusion works. As a bonus, we were introduced to Alice’s boa constrictor, Julius Squeezer, and given a detailed explanation of how those animals are cared for. The road crew were all incredibly gracious and had a lot of great stories about being on tour.
The concert itself was outstanding, filling a solid 90 minutes with both classic hits and lesser-played songs. Alice gave an energetic and captivating performance, but the surprise show-stealer was Alice’s wife Sheryl, who first emerged as the victimized woman in “Only Women Bleed,” in a bloody pink dress complete with massive shackles and a wind-up key protruding from her back. She later reappeared as the demonic nurse who torments Alice in “The Ballad of Dwight Fry.” Creepy costuming aside, it was her perverse and twitchy performance that was profoundly disturbing.
After the show, we were escorted to a room backstage where Alice met us after changing clothes. If I hadn’t already seen several of his interviews, the fact that he was sweet and soft-spoken may have been a surprising contrast to his stage persona. After signing some records from my collection we chatted about horror films for a few minutes, and he shared stories about how difficult it was to keep from laughing during the “serious” scenes on the films in which he appeared.
For anyone who wants to meet Alice and see “behind the scenes” aspects of his show, I highly recommend the VIP experience.
In future posts, I’ll be exploring various haunted locales I’ve visited. Recently, I tried some trail hiking at Hummel Park near Omaha, NE. Generally, being alone in undeveloped natural spaces is a calming a serene experience. Hummel Park is not one of those places. While I didn’t observe any paranormal activity during my time there, the ambiance was unsettling enough that I truncated my intended day hike to a mere hour. It felt safer to drive the area rather than walk alone.
The atmosphere at Hummel park is so unsettling that it gave rise to various legends, including that the park had been a Native American burial ground, the site of Satanic and occult rituals, and alleged lynchings. I don’t believe that these stories have been verified, but the park has been the site of at least two murders or body disposal attempts.
I may return to Hummel park at some point in the future, preferably accompanied by the local ghost hunting group. For example, I didn’t stay long enough to walk the legendary”morphing stairs.’ Allegedly, visitors claim that the stairs change and that they are unable to get a consistent count of the number of stairs on the trail leading toward the park shelter.
One wonderful thing about horror conventions–aside from meeting my favorite filmmakers–is the opportunity to form friendships with many other excellent people. One such person is Robert Whitus, sole proprietor of Drink With the Living Dead. I met Rob when I first met Andrew Divoff, and Rob had etched custom glassware to promote Andrew’s appearance at the event. Needless to say, I purchased some of his glasses at that event and at subsequent conventions.
[Pictured above: Rob showing off his glassware at Texas Frightmare Weekend; front and back images of limited edition barware adapted from art by Mirthquake and based on the film Wishmaster. Pictured left:limited edition barware adapted from art by Mirthquake and inspired by the films of George Romero.]
Rob has collaborated with other artists and brands, including Olivia De Berardinis, Metallica, Rob Zombie, Rue Morgue Magazine, and many others. However, his work isn’t confined to the horror genre and its artists. Rob will also take custom orders and will personalize glassware to suit his customer’s needs, making his work ideal for wedding gifts and other special occasions.
Another thing I like about Rob’s work-aside from the quality of the etching and the glassware itself-is the fact that Rob does EVERY aspect of his business by himself. Meaning he is the sole proprietor of Drink With the Living Dead, and he is solely responsible for etching his glasses and fulfilling orders. In a culture that is cluttered with corporate jargon about “teamwork” and other equally nauseating metaphors, or that outsources production at the expense of quality, artists such as Rob are a proverbial breath of fresh air.
The official Drink With the Living Dead website is under construction, but you can see other examples of Rob’s work and contact him at his Facebook Page.