Monday, October 17, 2016

Loving All Things October and Halloween - Gregory L. Hall

As my family huddles together inside watching the fire, smiling and sharing the warmth on this chilly autumn night, I think 'Our next house definitely needs a fireplace.' To be honest, I never liked that couch anyway.

I love everything October. Halloween is by far my favorite holiday, always has been since childhood. Once the summer fizzles out somewhere in September, I am giggling with delight as each leaf changes color. I’m one of the few people I know who actually enjoys when the moon comes out earlier. And I get to break out my luxurious collection of flannel shirts. I’d wear them yearlong but I’d look strange with long sleeve plaid button-ups and a speedo at the beach. Plus my flannel shirts would clash with my sandals and black socks. I am nothing if not a fashion plate at the ocean.

No, come October I feel I can be myself. Being a bigger guy, I thrive in the colder weather. The wind blowing through my beard. I can be a manly lumberjack man strutting into my corner gas station/deli for my morning coffee and fried egg and moose meat bagel. I drop my boys off at school riding my pet saber-tooth tiger. October speaks to me. I couldn’t be happier if I was front row at an ABBA concert. Well, maybe. We’ll call that a tie.

Then there are those ghosties and ghoulies that go bump in the night. I’m so lucky to live in Pennsylvania where Halloween gets more attention than Christmas. Sure, the chain stores fill with the usual blitz of commercialized decorations and ‘special’ Santa sales. But Halloween in Pennsylvania starts as soon as August gets out of our way. I see houses put up wicked displays of cobwebs with giant spiders, coffins, grim reapers and witches. Cornfields turn to mazes. And you can’t go five miles without finding info on yet another haunted house. I. Love. It.

We have several traditions in my house. Every Friday night through October is a different horror classic. Now that my boys are a little older, we can do John Carpenter or Wes Craven. Last year it was fun, and yet sad, to hear them laughing so hard at the original Halloween. Oh those corny slasher films from the 80’s! Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger can’t even compete with CNN nowadays. Of course, on Halloween day I go completely retro and play all the Universal monster movies back to back, starting with my favorite, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Now there was a kick bahookie original that never got any respect. Never turned into a Broadway play or appeared in any spooky TV series or spinoff movie reboot. You never see the Creature trick-or-treating. He didn’t even get his own breakfast cereal. Fruit Brute? Are you kidding me? Count Chocula is clever. Franken Berry is forced but I get it. But since when was the Wolfman called a ‘brute’? They stretched it so far to get a werewolf into the clique. Why not Creature Crunchies? He’s easily the most adaptable monster to swim in milk. It makes me so upset, my eyes flood with tears just talking about it… I need a moment… okay. I’m okay… So…I honor the Creature as my headliner every Halloween.

Our other traditions include playing Cthulhu monopoly, carving the biggest pumpkin we can buy and scaring the hell out of each other by hiding a screaming skeleton noise maker around the house. Jacket pockets are a good place, as are lunch boxes or underwear drawers. But my favorite place is inside a roll of toilet paper. If you’re going to crap yourself, I’m kinda doing you a favor.

I used to work at an awesome haunted house attraction down in Orlando. It was a two-story building, twenty-five different rooms, and the owners built sets from all the best horror flicks. You could walk past Hannibal Lecter’s cell, turn the corner and go into the Exorcist bedroom, only to run and find yourself in Leatherface’s yard. The chainsaw usually gave that location away. I didn’t get to play inside often because I was the ‘barker’ working the crowds out in front of the attraction. It was a dream job. Get dressed up as a character of your own creation and entertain everyone with comedy and scares all night. I was an undead mystic with a gigantic carved wooden staff who posed riddles to the patrons in line. I’d ask to see your organ donor card. If I could make you scream before you even went inside, I usually snuck a free ticket your way, if you were brave enough to take my hand. I actually got paid for this.

I learned several things from working at the haunted attraction. First, it’s far more effective to quietly stand behind someone and whisper in their ear than to jump out in front of them howling like a maniac. My wife and kids hate my past training oh so much. Hey but hey, here’s a fun one you can do at home. Don’t hide outside a bedroom door but rather kneel in front of it. When your victim opens the door, simply say ‘hello’ in any strange voice you chose. Their brain registers something is wrong but their eyes can’t figure it out. They see no one. Then they stare downward and the fireworks go boom. Other helpful hint, make sure the door opens inward. Found that out the hard way.

I also learned men talk big but are often the ones who crumble when spooked. I’d guess I made twice as many men faint than women. They just drop. It’s damn funny, in a ‘gosh I hope you’re okay’ kind of way, of course. I learned when a Brazilian tourist gives you the thumbs up, they’re not complimenting you on a job well done. It’s their version of the middle finger. Think about that next time you like someone’s post on Facebook. And I learned in twenty-five freakin’ rooms, the Creature from the Black Lagoon still couldn’t get any love. Oh, they dedicated a room to the Phantom of the Opera! What the hell? I played that character once, jumped out at the patrons waving my top hat and sang a show tune as I tap-danced past them. Management moved me back outside. We wouldn’t have had the problem if they simply gave respect to one of the greatest movie monsters of all time! Oh dang. I’m tearing up again… I’ll be okay…

It was in Orlando where I met a group of Goth kids who lived the vampire lifestyle. They thrived on being creepy and they loved to put fear into the tourists. I had to let folks know the vampires didn’t work at the haunted attraction so it might be best to run. But as I got to know them on a personal level, I found them to be good kids. Most were put into bad situations from broken homes or fell victim to some form of addiction. I found their stories fascinating. When I was searching for an original spin to write a vampire novel without actual vampires in it, these Goth kids were my inspiration. So I have to give a big tip of the hat to my dark young buddies for At the End of Church Street. But I wouldn’t give them a thumbs up, because that’s rude.

Looking forward to this Halloween, I think we’re going to do something different. We’re all paranormal TV show junkies so we’re probably booking a ghost investigation. We live near Gettysburg and they have a ton of tours, but we’re aiming at one where you can spend the night in some haunted building or farmhouse. I hope we at least see an orb. I don’t care if it’s a dust speck or a bug or a reflection of light off the camera lens, if it’s good enough to keep Ghost Hunters on the air for over a decade, it’s good enough for me.

I had a psychic friend tell me we’re always surrounded by the dead. They watch us constantly. I said “Like when I’m snoring on the couch? Or when I’m in my special room with the door locked and the fan on, humming away?” She said yes. Locked doors don’t keep spirits out of my bathroom. And they gather by the dozens. What the hell is wrong with the dead?

When I’m on the wrong side of breathing, I’m camping out in important locations. I’m spending a week snooping around Area 51 or finding out what they really put in McDonalds hamburgers. Okay, yes, maybe sneak a peek while Debbie Gibson is in the shower. What? What? She’s only my biggest crush, a pop icon and star of some of my favorite Sy Fy movies! When she sang ‘Only in My Dreams’, I know she was singing to me. I said just a peek! Cut me some slack, I’m dead dammit.

But I will most certainly tell you what I am not wasting my time doing. My ghost buddies will never hear me say “Hey, guys! Big Butt Bradley is on the toilet. Who’s with me?” I don’t care how popular Spot-a-Pots are with the other side. Boundaries, people. Of course, if my family and I are having zero luck during our ghost hunt this Halloween, according to my psychic expert I can hit a Civil War bathroom and get my EVP’s there. “Are there any spirits with me? Bang on the wall twice if you have to make Number One. Once if you have to make Number Two.”

No matter what happens, I’m sure my junior partners-in-crime will have a great time. And my wife will simply shake her head, wondering how I conned her into twenty-five years together. Now there is a woman, when she goes she’ll be on the express elevator to the top. Saint Peter will meet her with a comforting hug, say “We don’t know how you did it” and then hand her a wine cooler. We have two boys but she’ll tell you she has three kids. And we shine the brightest every October.

Remember, life could be worse. You could be the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Oh I had to go there, didn’t I? Lump in the throat… awkward… I will not cry… you good people enjoy your Halloween. I gotta go…

End of Church Street
Gregory L. Hall

Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing

Genre: YA Dark Fantasy/Horror

Release Date: October 2016

About the Book:

Homeless and with nowhere to turn, Rebecca De Rosa finds a family of lost souls just like her—the vampires of Orlando. Reborn, she revels in her new lifestyle of 'no rules'. Love whoever you want. Seek whatever high you wish. Live forever young. Every night's an adventure—hunting down tourists, challenging local police, screaming to the world vampires really do exist! It's Neverland and every dream Rebecca has comes true.

Until the first murder.

Someone else lurks in the shadows. Goths are found beheaded, with wooden stakes pounded into their chests. The hunters have become the hunted. As the bodies pile up, Rebecca and the Family are forced to ask who can you trust when the only person who believes you're an actual vampire is a vampire killer?

About the Author:

Gregory L Hall has a long history in comedy, theatre and improv. He is a national Telly Award winner and creator of the Baltimore Comedy Fest, which supported Autism Awareness. Many fans know Greg best as the host/producer of the popular live radio show The Funky Werepig.

As a writer his work has appeared over the decade in various publications, anthologies and a short story collection. His novels rarely stick to one genre, ranging from comedy and romance to intense thrillers and horror. His biggest claim to fame is he was once hugged by Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid. We should pause an extra moment to realize how awesome that is.

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