Thursday, June 28, 2012

Audio From the Attic: Underwood and Flinch

     The rhythmic rocking sound of the chair, see-sawed back and forth as the hermit gently pushed up with his "feet" and then allowed the momentum to carry him back down to the ancient porch. He seemed to be smiling beneath a long growth of beard—at least it appeared to be a beard. Something in the way the shadows played with light from the oil lamp as it flickered across his face, made the beard look like...moss. Yes, almost like a fine, Spanish moss. Regardless of what grew on his face, a smile danced beneath it. 

     All around the porch shuffling noises were heard, along with indistinguishable whispers of excitement. Attached to some of the whispers were glimpses of eyes of various shapes and sizes, eerily mirroring the lamp-light. It was an audience, and they were gathering for story time in The Hollow. The hermit ceased rocking for just a moment, closed his eyes, softly croaked, "Let's get started then," and resumed rocking. 

     From the attic, high above the porch, a pair of large shutters slowly swung outwards. The sound of a transistor radio humming to life was followed by jumbled speech as the dials sped forward. The sound came through the opening with a loudness and clarity that was out of character for such model radios. The garble hushed, and was replaced with the tune of a piano accompanied by a haunting violin. Then, a soothing voice followed the melody, "Hello listeners, and welcome to another episode of Underwood and Flinch, a novel written and performed for podcast by Mike Bennett...." 

     I did not grow up in an era of radio drama and have had very little exposure to it. Thanks to the popularity of podcasts, I've realized what I've been missing. Currently, I'm listening to a delightful novel/audio drama by Mike Bennett titled Underwood and Flinch. The novel is a vampire tale of one Daniel Underwood who retains a lineage of servants, the Flinches, and the drama that comes from the interactions between servants of a vampire master as a new generation comes to grips with Underwood's nature; not to mention the side plots which keep you yearning for their own outcomes. I will let you listen for yourself instead of giving any juicy tidbits away, but I don't mind saying that Mr. Bennett accomplishes something that really draws me in to a story—he makes the listener care about the characters. 

     Rather than make this a review and a synopsis of the podcast, I simply want to bring the novel to your attention in hopes that you will enjoy it as much as I have. Perhaps at a later date I could coax Mr. Bennett in to granting me a short interview. 

     I will say that when Mr. Bennett says he performs the novel for podcast, he truly performs. He skillfully delivers the role of each and every character, many of which have a variety of accents ranging from Russian to Spanish, Irish, and more. If you love vampires of the sparkly variety, this podcast novel may not be for you. If a vampire mythos in a style akin to that of Bram Stoker or Anne Rice—but unique in its own right—is more your cup of tea, then please give it a listen. I would like to note, as the author often does, that this podcast is intended for a mature audience. 

     Below is a link to the introduction of Underwood and Flinch which comes from one of Mike Bennett's other podcast series, Hall of Mirrors. I will be sampling Mr. Bennett's other works since finishing Underwood and Flinch (the ending left me very hungry for more) and I'll be happy to let you know what I think. Speaking of which, when you give it a listen, or if you have listened already, won't you let me know what you think in the comments below?

Image © Mike Bennett 2012

     Thank you to my new followers Little Gothic Horrors, Mr. Macbre, Ray Lukard, Hook's Haunted Hollow (I do love hollows!), and Rania.

     *NOTE* Mr. Bennett has brought to my attention his indiegogo page where he is hoping to raise enough funds to produce this wonderful novel in print! I will be aiding his cause after my next paycheck and I hope you will consider doing the same. Click HERE to contribute. Thank you! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Captured Scream Makers: Tristin From Flatline Radio

If you haven't heard yet, Flatline Radio is one of newest horror and haunted attraction podcasts to hit the airwaves. We were fortunate enough to have the host of this exciting new show, Tristin Pierce, wander a little too close to The Hollow. Join us in the "guest room," as Tristin finds himself interrogated about the show, his life, and the Code Blue Crew.

The hermit sat on a stump that poked up through the floor of the cabin, giving the impression that the home was built around the stump, but closer inspection showed the floor was an extension of it, as if the floor grew from the wooden stump. He was staring at the young man seated across from him. He scratched at his beard and grinned before speaking:

"So...Tristin, we've felt what you've been doing with your new podcast. Did you know that The Hollow changes and grows when someone spreads the Spirit of Halloween? Oh yes, and that's just what I mean by 'feeling' what you're doing with Flatline Radio. We're very pleased that you've decided to be out guest here." 
"Well I couldn't imagine turning down an offer such as this! Thank YOU for having me! You have such wonderful hospitality! Only—the fuzzy handcuffs were a little overboard...." Tristin said, wriggling his wrists. 

"You may be right," he chuckled. The hermit snapped his fingers and an elongated furry creature released it's small maw from it's own tail, freeing Tristin's wrists, crawling over them and down one leg of the chair. It traveled across the bark covered floor, up the hermit's leg, and into his lap. The hermit began petting it with one grey hand before continuing, "Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself before we talk about your show?" 

"My name is Tristin Pierce, or  you may know me better as Pierce, the host of Flatline Radio. My beginnings in the haunt industry were sparked from a very young age, when I became fascinated by the sheer idea of Halloween. The fact that one day out of the year, we can dress up as anything or anyone else, and not be frowned upon for doing so, it just excited me! As I physically matured, I mentally did as well, and so did my views of Halloween; the cute, happy costumes turned to dark, bloody sinister ones; candy corn turned into severed fingers; and the infamous fun line, 'Trick or Treat!' turned into agonizing screams of terror.
At the age of 13, I aspired to open my first attraction, and while it was never achieved, I still plan to open my own attraction one day. At 14, I began working at Arx Mortis Haunted Attraction, located in my quaint little hometown of Killen, Alabama. (Nice name huh)? Arx Mortis kick-started me into learning the bloody ropes of the haunt industry. When I was 15, I learned of a podcast that had the best name in the industry. It had everything—the best format, an amazing crew, and the most amazing fan-base. I contacted the owner and  revealed my idea of a segment featuring a younger haunter, and his views on the industry. Thus began my original segment that started me in the haunt podcasting industry—Fresh Meat: A younger View of the Horror and Haunted Attraction Industries.
Being part of this podcast, I visited many haunted attractions, ranging from my home-state of Alabama, an attraction in Tennessee, a haunted steamboat in Kentucky, and three different attractions in Ohio. Unfortunately, my enjoyment at this podcast was short-lived, as it seems to have met its demise just months after I came on board. But now, at 16, I own and operate Flatline Radio, which is still the haunt and horror industries' newest podcast; and to my knowledge, I am the youngest haunt podcaster to date." 

"An impressive list of achievements, especially for one so young." The thing on his lap made a noise somewhere between a purr and a growl. "The podcasting world is very lucky to have someone like you. So, on your new show, do you have a particular focus or format?"
"Flatline Radio aims to be one of the top haunt and horror podcasts on the market. We try our hardest to focus on events within the haunted attraction industry, as well as happenings and events in the horror industry—such as films, music, televsion, and what-not."  

"I see, and what about your audience? Do you cater to a particular age or focus group?"
"Our target audience has to be the children...of course I'm kidding..." Tristin said while moving a clinched fist to his mouth and  feigning a cough. "Anyway, we try to aim for any and all haunters and horror enthusiasts by offering segments that may reflect what the listeners enjoy themselves."

"A sense of humor! I like that...." The chair beneath Tristin shivered as the hermit laughed. "And what about the segments on Flatline radio?" 
"As for right now, we have six (I think) that come in every episode: Flatline News-myself, Haunted Meltdown-Robert Rage, Haunt Swap Shop LIVE-SFC Michael Freas, Random Haunt Facts-Raghead, SCARETours-Michael Bolton (who is our United Kingdom representative), and Rancid Reviews and Sinister Cinema-Jigsaw Jim." 

"Ah wonderful, a coterie of Halloween lovers! Can you tell us a little about your cohorts?" 
"Well, Robert Rage, (whom if you haven't guessed, is my dear friend Rob) is one of my dearest friends who has been with me through thick and thin, and has now found himself stuck in the podcast," Tristin said, while giving an evil laugh, of the mad scientist variety.  
"SFC Michael Freas also 'jumped ship' from the previous podcast and set sail with myself and Rob on the U.S.S. Flatline Radio. He formerly hosted the Haunted Europe segment on said podcast, but now hosts Haunt Swap Shop LIVE on Flatline.  
Raghead also works with me and Rob at Arx Mortis Haunted Attraction. We're not sure what he is, or why he is—just leave it at that. 
Michael Bolton just made his American debut on Flatline. Michael is from Somewhereinengland, England. Therefore, this makes us unique, in that we are the only podcast with knowledge of what is going on in the haunt industry overseas. 
Last but not least, is Jigsaw Jim. He coveres the cinematic scheme of Flatline. He is the only other survivor that boarded the U.S.S. Flatline, when the other podcast fell. He did the same segment, which is now being applied to Flatline Radio."

"Wonderful, we must 'invite' them to be our guests here in the future. I notice that you play various genres of music on your show, we love music in The Hollow, do you prefer certain musicians or genres?" 
"If you really pay attention, we use a slew of different music; we try to do something old and something new each week. For example, we may do a new 'Dubstep' song a the beginning of our show, and then a classic 'Stones' song later in the show."

"Do you release episodes often or do you like to keep us hungry for more?" At the mention of the word "hungry," a large crow caw sounded from the kitchen. "Oh quiet down girl!" the hermit said, "you'll get your fill soon." He glanced back over at Tristin, "I do apologize...she's so impatient! Now where were we? Oh yes—frequency of episode release." 
"At one time, we told ourselves that we would do the first and fifteenth of every month...but to that I said, 'Nay! We shall come out with a new episode every other week!' (that's not really how it happened, just how I envisoned it....) But yes, we had begun with a twice a month schedule, now we broadcast every other week." 

"I confess that, like Ellie there," he nodded towards the crow, "I'm a bit impatient as well, at least when it comes to waiting for my favorite podcasts to be released. 

I'm curious, how did you come up with the title of your show?"
"Any and all recognition for the basis for the logo and the idea for the name must go to my co-conspirator, Robert Rage. Honestly, all I did with the logo was design the graphic on my computer. I'm not entirely sure where the name came from, but it stuck, and I'm glad it did."

One of the hermit's eyebrows raised, his expression prompted by his feeling that Tristin was holding back some secrets concerning the origin of the name. "Oh I do love secrets!" he said—but decided to let the subject go. "So with all of the podcasts making a name for themselves, what sets Flatline apart from the others?" 
"The difference is that we play off our ages; we are younger haunters, as I am only 16 and Rob is 22, so we try to bring newer and fresher views to the table. The other podcasts are run by adults, and we've had the same views on the industry since the industry began. Being younger haunters, our minds tend to interpret things differently, therefore, this makes us unique. But let me assure you, although we may not be be as physically mature—mentally, we are. The show is professionally sewn together piece by piece, and while the show  may not be absolutely perfect, I do guarantee that you will have a quality product you will be proud to have taken an hour out of your day to listen to."

"Consider me assured!" he said, with twinkling eyes. "What about the future? Do you have plans for format changes or for the growth of Flatline Radio?" 
"Honestly, I believe that Flatline Radio has a good format. Basically, our format is this: intro, organized chaos, and outro. We also try to time our music for one song every 15-20 minutes. Now what I mean by 'organized chaos' is that we dont have a set time or schedule for segments, news, or music. We gather all or audio, pool it together, and just play 'eenie, meenie, miney, moe,' that way, you never know what's going to happen next; one week, news may be the first thing you hear, but on the next show, it may be on the last 15 minutes of the show, and the same applies for the rest of the show's segments. So I think, for now, the format will stay. But we are always looking for new segments and segment ideas. Right now, we're in desperate need for a home haunter/prop builder segment. If you have any other ideas for a segment, let me know!"

"'Organized chaos,' I like that....Speaking of the future, what are your personal aspirations in the haunt industry? 
"As I mentioned earlier, I plan to open my own attraction one day, but for the time being, I love being at Arx Mortis. Our crew is a tight-knit team family. I love each and every last one of them and I love being around them. Also, as far as plans for the future, I plan to grow Flatline Radio, and to–hopefully–make it into an award winning podcast that sets the example for everyone else." 

"Noble goals to have," the hermit said, as he stood up and walked to the back of the room, the creature on his lap scurrying up to his shoulder. He faced the back wall where two branches jutted through, one in each corner; they held  lanterns. He moved his hands in front of them and small flickering blazes came to life within the globes. He turned back to his guest. "I apologize for the interruption, it must be getting dark, to your eyes. Now...Just for fun, who would your 'dream interviewee' be for the show?" 
"My favorite contestant from SyFy's hit television show, Face Off, Matt Valentine. I loved his work and I was rooting for him until the very end. Unfortunately, he didn't win, but I still loved his work more than anyone else on the show." 

"Thank you. I'm sure you've gleaned some nuggets of wisdom from your experiences in podcasting, would you care to share any?" 
"Don't go into the podcasting realm looking for a fight; we all try to be friends with each other. Cross-promote, let them know when your new podcast is out, post on your podcast's Facebook when another podcast releases a new episode. Keep the peace, man...."

Tristin felt something twitch above his ear and he reached up to find a white daisy poking out from his hair. Laughter burst from the chest of the hermit, "I'm sorry! I couldn't help myself!" he said, while displaying the universal V-shaped peace sign with two long, grey fingers. The laughter became mild, "Ah... but you're right, peace among the community only helps it grow." After a moment he said, "What about your experiences outside podcasting and Arx Mortis? Do you have any to share?" 
"Well, when Arx Mortis isn't open, (some Sundays and Mondays) another local attraction opens its doors crops. Deadwood Hollow, which is a haunted corn maze and trail, are very good friends of mine. I have a redneck character, Doopert P. Jebidiah, and I push everything to the limit when they're open." 
"That sounds like fun! So you enjoy scaring people—a wonderful trait to have! Now tell me Tristin, what scares you when you go through a haunted attraction?" 
"Needles...." Tristin said cringing. "I'm extremely belenophobic, so if you know I'm coming to your attraction, prep your syringe, because as soon as I see it, chances are I'll 'flatline' myself!" 

"Oh, that's so good to know," he said grinning. "Decorating is an important part of the season for many, do you decorate your home for Halloween?" 
"My office, or the newly turned 'Flatline Studios,' is decorated for my favorite holiday 365 days a year, sometimes it's 366!" 

"I expect nothing less! And your family and friends, what do they think about your decorating madness and your passion for Halloween and haunting?"
"They find it odd that I have such an interesting hobby and often don't understand its importance to me. My father always asks, 'Now son, how can you make a lot of money doin' this here sorta thang?'" Tristin said, while affecting an exaggerated southern drawl. "I always reply, 'I can't. that's why you have to have a love for haunting. It's the same with your hunting and fishing, I just have a different hobby.'"

"They rarely understand us....Now for a question that is not only my favorite, but the answer has the potential to make this place 'grow' as I was telling you earlier; what is one of your favorite memories of Halloween?" the hermit asked, as he reached behind the stump and revealed an ordinary mason jar. He unscrewed the lid, and crouched in front of Tristin, then held the jar close to Tristin's heart as he waited for the answer. 
"It was the first time I went into a haunted house; I was twelve, and I was scared to death about going in. Luckily, my aunt forced me in. As soon as I got past the first two rooms, I was fine, and I was enjoying myself the whole way through. Not four months after my first haunt experience, I was working at Arx Mortis. I had the bug, and I still have it!" 

The hermit sighed while smiling, "Thank you very much," he said, as a mist flowed from Tristin and into the jar. The hermit screwed on the lid gently and placed it next to him as he sat back down on the stump. The blue-white glow flowed happily inside the container and illuminated the side of the stump, as well as one of the hermit's hooves and furry legs. 

"We're coming to the close of this little interrogation. If we decided to let you go, how would your fans get in contact with you?" 
You can visit us on our website, where you can send us an email from our homepage. You can also email us directly at You can find and like our page on facebook and send us a message there. 

The hermit leaned forward and said, "Do you have anything you want to add before we terminate the interrogation?" 
"I would like to thank the Code Blue Crew for anything and everything they do for me and for Flatline Radio, so I think that pretty much sums it up! Thank you for having me kind sir! It has been a fun interview and I wouldn't mind doing it again sometime! In the meantime, we'll be keeping our fingers on the absent pulse of the horror and haunted attraction industries; so lean back and let your blood slow, to Flatline Radio! Thanks!"

"The pleasure has been all mine Tristin," the hermit said, as he picked up the glowing jar and lifted it to his face, the mist illuminating his human-like eyes. "All mine...." 

It's so wonderful to see the future generation of Halloween and haunt lovers making their marks in the industry. Please listen to their latest episode in the media bar above or go to their website and download it. I feel their newest episode is the best one they've produced so far. Thank you Tristin and the Code Blue Crew for your hard work and dedication to the industry. I'm looking forward to seeing your dreams come true.

I want to mention that Flatline Radio announced, shortly before the publication of this interview, that they are offering 100% free advertising on their podcast! Anyone involved in the haunted attraction industry: vendors, haunts, websites, other podcasts, etc., can receive a free, 30 second advertising spot on their show until October 2012. This has never been done before. Jump on this opportunity folks. I know that if I made money with a website or business, I would be the first to sign-up.

Thank you very much to new followers, Aylmer and Jenn's Brain. Don't forget to explore their blogs as well.

I'm constantly fiddling with the format of my posts and interviews to try and bring something a bit different to Halloween and haunt industry blogging. I certainly appreciate your feedback on these changes; what you like, don't like—let me have it. Thank you kindly for reading!

All images used in this post are © 2012 Tristin Pierce and used with written permission. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Halloween Memories: My Last Trick 'r Treat

     Recently, Justine from Justine's Halloween asked me to share one of my favorite Halloween memories, and I promised that I would. Thank you Justine for asking, and for giving me a wonderful idea—I would like to collect Halloween and Halloween related memories. (Halloween related memories might be a visit to a haunted attraction during the off-season or a spooky memory at any time of the year). Not just mine, people I've interviewed, or those in the Halloween and haunted attraction industry; I want to collect memories from anyone that is willing to share. So if you have a memory, or several memories for that matter, you would like to share and that you fancy seeing published on a blog, won't you share it with us? Also, feel free to include pictures with your story. I would be glad to post it here, as written, or even re-write it into a small story for you. If you are so inclined, email me at and let's start this collection together.

     Each of your memories will be spotlighted as a post unto itself, to be discovered and enjoyed by lovers of this special season. You'll also have the opportunity for free promotion of your business, home haunt, blog, etc. What better way to share the spirit of Halloween? 

My Last Trick 'r Treat

Trick or Treat by Rado Javor

     I wish I had a very young childhood memory of trick 'r treating, perhaps one from the age of eight or earlier, which some hold on to and recall vividly when asked about Halloween. During my childhood, in my area of the Bible-belt, Halloween was never celebrated as particularly special. We even had children in school whose parents refused to let them celebrate "the wicked pagan festival." 

     Halloween was just a time for children to dress up, beg for candy, and go back home to swim through their sugary treasure hoards. Adults rarely dressed up, threw parties, or decorated their homes. Oh sure, many carved out some jack-o'-lanterns and hung a few cobwebs—and if you were lucky—someone would play a spooky cassette tape near their door. Maybe that's why my trick 'r treating memories run together, all except the last time I joined in.

     I must have been eleven or twelve, so I was one of the biggest kids out that year. There were a few teenagers who were up to no good, but some of us were still adhering to the ritual with excitement and...perhaps melancholy. My parents never warned me that I was getting too old, I simply knew that this year was my last year for trick 'r treating. 

     I was standing on the corner of the subdivision, and it was a huge subdivision at that—with so many blocks to explore that one barely had time to visit two to three streets. The leaves were heavy on the ground—as they tend to be in Tennessee during that time of year—the chill was light, and the sounds were so...happy. As I stood there with my bag in my hand, dressed as a pale-faced vampire (my favorite Halloween character), the children ran by me—laughing and screaming; and for the first time, I felt like a guardian more than a participant. The younger children smiled at me and the teenagers avoided me, or at least I imagined they did. 

     I came to the realization that the end to trick 'r treating was simply a transition—into a bigger Halloween adventure. As I walked up and down the streets, alone, collecting my candy—the world was perfect. In my mind, the adults seemed aware of my euphoria and they wore special smiles, just for me, as I was showered with treats. It was as if they were bidding me farewell, and I welcomed their adieus with an outstretched container—a container now consigned to hold more than just sweets.

     The following year, decorating our home and visiting local charity haunts became the start of the new adventure. Like any worthwhile adventure,it continues to grow, and you, my readers and guests, have become a special part of the adventure with me.  

     A warm thank you to Gabriel, Countess VonRauber, and Halloweenman666 for being my newest followers.

Trick or Treat © 2012 Rajo Javor

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Captured Scream Makers: Brian and Darryl from HaunTopic Radio

     "Hah ha!" was the cry of joy heard coming from half-way down the cellar steps, followed by what could only be described as the sound of a small, two-legged horse, galloping up the stairs towards the kitchen landing. 

     The hermit leapt through the door frame, landing next to the ice box with a muffled clop that seemed unnatural for someone his size. The landing caused dust to rise up from the wood floor as a small tornado of black feathers trailed towards the open window. A piercing, "Caw!" was only slightly higher in volume than another, "Hah!" from the hermit. 

     "Two! We have two this time old gal!" he said, as he grinned and swiveled his bearded head towards the window. The large crow regarded him with indignation as he clapped his hands together and trotted towards her. He snatched up a meaty slice of mushroom from the table and popped it in his mouth, still grinning a Cheshire cat's grin. 

     "Well, don't just perch there! We have to prepare the room for our guests! Go and gather the others and meet me near the north brook. They're almost here and I have only a pinch of time to gather my things."

     "There's a good girl," he said while shooing her out the window. For the briefest of moments he watched her melt into the dusky sky.

     He moved into the next room and grabbed his autumn leafed garb; the door opening of its own accord as he donned it. The hermit stepped out onto the porch and breathed to no one in particular, "They've done so much to help it grow. And now, Brian and Darryl are here—in The Hollow...."

I'm very pleased to have as my "guests" today, Brian Foreman and Darryl Plunkie from HaunTopic Radio. Their slogan says it best, "The Podcast for Haunters, by Haunters." I have had the great pleasure of listening to all of their episodes and I enjoy them very much. Without regurgitating my iTunes review, I will say that the casual and friendly format makes you feel like you're hanging out with a few friends and simply chatting about all things Halloween and haunt related. Brian and Darryl go out of their way to make you feel at home.

Press play below or click the banner to listen to their latest episode 

Now, Without Further Ado: The Interrogation

Brian and Darryl, first I want to thank you both for agreeing to participate in this interrogation. 

Brian: Thanks for having is a bit weird being on the other side.  
Darryl: Hmm, so this is what it's like on the other side of the interview table...weird. 

Before we get started, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves? 

Darryl: Hello, I'm Darryl and I'm a haunter.(Wow, sounds like a 12-step program.) I'm more of a ham though, so I love working a crowd coming through a haunt. I've always enjoyed Halloween, and a local historic site, Fort Edmonton Park, held their Spooktacular every year. The family went once and we took a survey at the end which contained a check-box...,"Would you be interested in becoming a volunteer?"which I checked. I spent 14 of the next 16 years there—one year off was because Brad Pitt closed the park down to film his Jesse James movie!—as an actor.
Instead of a large haunted house, each building had its own story or vignette. One street had them tied together in a loose story, with each playing a chapter or character in it, but not in a linear fashion; the visitors were free to wander to whichever one they wanted. And we had to keep them entertained—if they stood outside in the cold weather, what was in store for them had better be worth it! It became the art of telling a story; drawing them in, and setting up the scare, usually performed by others. As I became more experienced I helped other people tie their stories together or improve them, including props, setup, and coaching.
In 2009, I helped found dEdmonton: Canada's Halloween festival, a not-for-profit umbrella organization that spreads the haunted word by promoting local home haunters, retailers, filmmakers, artists, and events, for all ages and shoe-sizes. Our motto: The More, The Scarier!
In addition, I'm a member-in-waiting for our local hearse club, the Edmonton Bonewagon Association (part of the Western Canada Hearse Club). I don't have my own cadaver cab yet, but there will came a day that I do!
Brian: I was born in 1973 and I have always enjoyed Halloween since I could remember; from decorating my bedroom for the neighbor kids when I was younger, to scaring trick 'r treaters as they strolled across the front yard. I didn't really know the "Haunt Industry" was even out there until I started acting at a local haunt. After I found out how many other haunters were out there—I was hooked!
After acting for 3 years, I decided to venture out with a partner and open our own Haunted Trail-Backwoods Terror. It was designed and built with a very small budget but gained recognition very quickly in the area. (It's amazing what you can do with a little creativity.) Sadly, after 2 years, the business relationship dissolved. I took my knowledge and creativity and started, plus a home haunt here in my garage and back yard. Keeping involved within the industry keeps me fueled until I can get back into haunt ownership once again. 

Is there a haunt related name you prefer to go by and is there a story attached to the name? 

Brian: Brian is cool, but my alter-ego is "Scary Visions" was created because I needed a name that would describe all these visions I have swarming around in my head all the time. I tend to dream "big", so it felt like the right name to use. 

Darryl: Darryl is fine, but you may have seen one of my alter-egos, Pumpkin'Ed. His name comes from the fact that—well, he's got a pumpkin for a head, (and we hear it's hollow too!) combined with the fact that he's from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; where he helps run dEdmonton.

What topics does HaunTopic Radio focus on? 

Darryl: We're trying to be different from some of the other podcasts out there. We try to keep each show to a theme—whether that theme is interviewing one person or multiple people on a similar theme. 
Brian: We wanted to be different and take one topic in each episode and really dig it up. There are so many different people, places, and things out there in the industry, that we will never run out of stuff to talk about. 

Does HaunTopic Radio have a target audience? And if so, who? 

Brian: We feel that any haunter can benefit from listening to our show. Home haunters, pro haunters, vendors, Halloween fans, designers, builders, or anyone who enjoys a deeper look into the world of haunting. 
Darryl: We're targeting haunters of all ages (or that act all ages...) and people with haunt-related interests that have 30 to 45 minutes on their hands; whether it's working in the shop, at their desk, or during the commute to work. 

Is HaunTopic divided into segments? If so, what is the current line-up? 

Brian: We did throw in a new segment called "The Spyder's Web" in May, to see how everyone would like it. It's all about stuff you might find on the internet: websites, Facebook  pages, apps, other podcasts, bloggers, vloggers, etc. We're going to try to keep that segment as one podcast at the end of the month. 

What kind of music do you like to feature? 

Darryl: There are some wonderful dark artists out there, and more that we're discovering all the time. Artists that have a creepy or spooky factor are especially fun because you think of all sorts of creepy things while listening to them. 
Brian: We like to use music that we would use in a haunt or something that just makes your hair stand up when you listen to it. So far, we have used Midnight Syndicate and Prelude to a Nightmare tracks, but we have some other musicians on board for switching things up.

         (I like your style gentlemen.)

How did you come up with the title of the podcast? 

Brian: I wanted the name to have "haunt" in the title and one day I heard a radio announcer say, "This is a hot topic." and it sounded like Haunt Topic; the name was born. Plus, it kind of describes what the show is about, different topics in the haunt industry. 

What makes HaunTopic different from other podcasts out there?

Darryl: Not trying to be everything all at once. We're more like an in-depth news show, focusing on a topic instead of trying to include everything; more like a 60 Minutes instead of CNN. 
Brian: I started out as a blogger so it was natural for me to keep the podcast formatted like a blog post: focused on one person, one subject, or one idea. That way, we never run out of stuff to talk about. There are so many great stories out there!

What future plans do you have for HaunTopic Radio?

Brian: I like the idea of trying things, to see if others will like it. You'll never know what we'll add next. Things we want to keep the same: the time (under an hour), the focus (one idea or topic), and the vision (providing value for other haunters). 
Darryl: We'll try to add some more segments but they may not appear in every show. We're also committed to giving some prizes away, but you might have to listen to more than one episode in a month to get an answer to a question...devious,huh?

How would you describe your experiences so far in the world of haunt podcasting?

Darryl: It's easy—I talk a lot, and Brian is a great editor....(Sorry Brian, I'll pick up the slack!)
Brian: Everyone has been so receptive with the show and we get great feedback from our listeners. If you have sent in comments or emails to us, we try to respond to each one. As the show gets bigger, sometimes it is tough to answer everyone. But please, keep sending in your comments and questions because we LOVE the support. 

If you could interview any one person for the show, who would it be? 

Brian: I would love to get Eli Roth on and discuss his new Haunt out in Vegas, The Goretorium! So Rob, when he contacts you, let me know.

          (Didn't you know I have him on speed-dial?!)

Darryl: I'd love to interview Vincent Price, but unless we're going to conduct a seance...hmm, I don't know. Who would YOU like us to interview? Anyone you or your readers want to know more about?

         (I'm on board for the seance, but I'll think about it and get back to you!) 

Do you have listeners from outside the U.S. and Canada? 

Brian: Most of our listeners are from the U.S. but they span from around the globe. Here are the top countries in order: Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, China, Germany, and Mexico. We even have some downloads from the Ukraine! 

Who inspired you to get into podcasting? 

Darryl: I think the first real ones I watched were The Bloodshed Brothers, and shortly thereafter, Hellmouth. I was amazed they could do this every single day and still make it entertaining. 
Brian: I am a podcast junkie. I listen to many shows throughout the day, including stuff related to buisness, news, self-help, horror, and anything that looks interesting. But when I started out, Rotting Flesh Radio and Hauntcast sparked my interest as far as haunt podcasts go. I did some segments for RFR for a few months and decided to try it on my own. Darryl was on board and we created HaunTopic Radio. 

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to make a start in podcasting? 

Darryl: Have fun, be original, and most of all, be comfortable—it makes your guests comfortable too and reduces boring interviews. 
Brian: Find your voice. Be who you are because it will show through in everything else you do. There are other people out there just like you, and those people will love your show because you are not trying to be someone else. Like Darryl said, have fun and be comfortable. 

Are either of you currently working on anything else in the haunt industry? 

Brian: is my home base. Most of my activities and projects can be found there as well as all of my social media channels. That is where I, "Keep an Eye on the Haunt Industry and Everything Scary." 

Darryl: and our monhly YouTube newscast, dEdmonton, located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is dead-icated to letting the locals know what is happening around the city, to showcase artists both near and far that Halloween types might enjoy, and to showcase the local home haunters and events for all ages!

What are your haunt industry aspirations?

Darryl: Have fun! Oh, maybe became a famous haunt-repreneur (haunt entrepreneur!), but to keep haunt, horror, hearses, and Halloween exciting!
Brian: My mission is to keep providing value to other haunters and eventually open up another haunted attraction. I have a BIG vision for where I want to be and helping others seems to be consistent in that journey. I believe I am still in the early stages of my haunt adventure and am always trying to learn new stuff every day. 

Do you have a favorite haunted attraction?

Brian: I haven't even touched the surface on all the haunted attractions out there. But my favorite one is in St. Louis, The Darkness. It has great actors, large animatronics, and many scares throughout the building. But ask me that in a few years and I'll probably have a different answer. 
Darryl: Besides Disney's Haunted Mansion? I still need to see more before I judge anyone!

What scares you and/or what do you enjoy most in a haunted attraction?

Darryl: Distractions and scares from behind, which is why I try to use them whenever I can! Also, the supernatural, when you don't know if it's real or an effect; sends shivers up the back of my neck....
Brian: One problem about knowing how haunted attractions works is that I am always looking for the hidden trick. The only thing that really scares me is the actors who can get me when I'm not paying attention. I really enjoy haunts that keep things realistic and have a consistent theme. 

Do you decorate your home for Halloween?

Brian: Yes. Last year was my second year of home haunting. It's a lot different than operating a commercial haunt in many ways. You don't have to worry about many of the rules of owning a business but you have to tear apart your masterpiece every year and put it away. One day, I would like to buy my own building and sell my creativity to others. But until then, a home haunter I will be. 
Darryl: When I have time—it's a busy season! For the last few years I've done half of my garage with a few rooms along a single theme. 

What do your family and friends think about your passion for Halloween and haunting? 

Darryl: Some laugh, some help, but many are worried about me....
Brian: My wife thought it was a bit weird at first until she started hanging out at conventions and going through haunted attractions. After walking through our first haunt, she realized there was a method to my madness. It was like the "Ah-hah-moment." My kids like to help out by acting, building, and bringing their friends. Everyone has the same first response until they see for themselves. Then the Halloween virus spreads....

Could you share a favorite Halloween memory with us? 

Brian: When I was about 10, we started decorating my bedroom for the neighbor kids and friends. I lived in a house built in the early 1900s and it already had that creepy factor built in. We used a string on a rocking char, sheets as ghosts, and an old cassette recorder for sound. Now that was fun!!
Darryl: I think I was about Grade 5 and I dressed as the wolfman for school. This was before we knew about spirit gum or latex, so we used white glue to paste hair from a wig onto my face. After about 45 minutes, I couldn't move my face. But that didn't stop me from winning best costume in my school. 

Would either of you like to promote something other than the podcast? 

Brian: Just the HaunTopic Facebook fan page and twitter

How would you like HaunTopic Radio fans to get in touch with either of you? 

Darryl: Email us at Info@hauntopic, visit the website and contact us, or comment on the podcasts. 
Brian: Please leave us a review on iTunes; the more haunters that get to listen to our podcast, the more value we can leave in this world of scary. You can always join our weekly newsletter, The Haunter's Toolbox, and get some extra goodies that may not be on the site, as well as each episode we release. The sign-up form is on

Do either of you have anything you would like to add before we wrap up this interrogation? 

Brian: We just want thank you for all the support you have given us and for conducting this interview. And to EVERYONE who has left us a comment on the sites, in social media, or through email. We read each one and really appreciate your feedback. We hope to bring you more "Blood, Sweat, and Fears...."

I'm glad to give my support and I can't thank you both enough for taking the time to do this interview. I'm grateful for all the hard work you put into spreading the spirit of Halloween and haunting through your podcast, websites, blogs, and haunt activities. Your giving natures is just what the Halloween and haunt community needs. I wish you all the best in your endeavors and look forward to watching them grow.

I always enjoy thanking my new followers and so, I would like to thank Breethulhu, Peanutgnome, Dr Blood, Valeriote Design, Stabforddeathrage, Ellie Great, and Jess W. Campbell. If any of you would prefer different links or would like to share a link, please just let me know.

All images used in this post are © 2012 Brian Forman and Darryl Plunkie and are used with written permission. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Videos From the Cellar: Forest of Lost Souls

     The sound rose and fell. It seemed to take on a life of its own as it flowed through the cracks of the cellar door—out to the dark, bark covered guardians who caught the resonance, tossing it to the others, and so on–throughout the woods. The rich, playfully disturbing laughter came from one place and yet all places at the same time. Beneath the mirth, muffled screams—some of terror, some of joy, or a mingling of both—were slightly audible. 

     The cause for the Hermit's amusement came from outside the realm of The Hollow, a place some call "reality." He couldn't help himself, you see; something from the Forest of Lost Souls had been unearthed—a You Tube video!

     Forest of Lost Souls in El Dorado Hills, California, linked this video on Facebook and I enjoyed it from start to finish. Do you feel all giggly at the thought of watching people scared out of their wits? if so, I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did. I can't help but smile as I think about an attraction that frightens people to the point of falling down, and doing it without a pro-haunt budget. If the haunt is well-planned and the actors are doing a great job, the magic will happen.

     In addition to liking their videos and following their channel, consider visiting their Facebook page to leave them a scream of appreciation. 

     Many thanks to my newest followers: Bloodcrestmanor, Johnny Thunder of Hauntcast fame, and October Boy

Video © 2012 Forest of Lost Souls

Friday, June 1, 2012

Captured Scream Makers: Prop Mistress Terra

Something is Lurking in the Hollow

In these woods, we have some interesting critters. But something unnerving has been sighted lunging out of the undergrowth—a huge, growling, poisonous looking arachnid. No, this isn't the large, furry variety I used to curl up with at night (what? didn't you?); this one is  black, slimy, hungry, and none too friendly. I've heard tale that it scurried out from under a place called The Castle of Terra.

In this, soon to be reoccurring, topic I'll be capturing featuring scream makers—artists and entertainers of all varieties—throughout the haunt community and forcing asking them to tell me a little about themselves as well as spotlighting one or more of their creations. This week, it is my pleasure to feature You Tube celebrity and moderator, Terra and her pneumatic spider prop.

Terra took the time to feature a five-part tutorial on You Tube that covers rigging the prop and pneumatics, mixing and adding sound with AudacityVSA programming, and using the DMXoricist controller. As a bonus, you'll be treated to a walk-through of her ChromaDepth, 3D haunt. Now if all this sounds a little complicated for you then you're not alone, but be at ease in knowing that Terra breaks everything down for you in a way that is enjoyable as well as informative. I believe even beginners will be inspired to continue honing their skills in hopes of achieving these kinds of results.

The Interrogation 

First, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interrogation!
Thanks for asking me. I'm honored to be featured on your blog.
What name do you prefer to go by in the Haunt community?
Terra; I took that name from an icon character at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN). It was a fantastic year and so I wanted to model my haunt after it. Terra is close to my actual name of Tracy but sounds much more scary on the forums :) 
How did you get started in prop building and designing a home haunt? 
It’s HHN's fault. The hubby and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary of meeting each other. We had met on the Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship 10 years prior and they were still sailing. But, it was only a 3-day cruise at that point. So, we spent two extra days in Orlando and when we were purchasing our tickets at Universal Studios they asked if we wanted to also get the tickets for the special event haunt that was happening that evening. I’d never been to a haunted house and the idea scared the heck out of me. But, I was with my big protective hubby and said, “What the heck." Needless to say I was blown away and wanted to recreate some of that fun for our neighborhood.
What is the name of your home haunt and does it change year to year?
It’s called Castle of Terra and has three rotating themes: Force of Darkness, Vampyr Reign, and Zombie Apocalypse. They all have a post-apocalyptic theme so there isn’t that much set design changes but enough to keep it looking different year to year. I figure that returning a theme the third year is enough time for the ToTs to forget what it was like 3 years prior, plus–it gives me a chance to build the props that were planned that I had run out of time to do before.
What was the first prop you ever built?
We returned to HHN’s the next year after we had first discovered it and their theme was The Terra Queen. It was amazing and they had these props scattered all around the park that looked simple enough to replicate. When we returned from HHN I built "Doom" the next day:

How would you describe your experience with your first prop build?
I was shocked at how easy it was and the reactions from the kids in the neighborhood. They loved it, which just fired me up to top myself the next year.
What level of expertise would you assign to a prop like your “spider prop”? Beginner, intermediate, or advanced? 
It’s like all of the above? Heh. If you look at that video series the first part is the easiest. You just have to attach the purchased spider to the purchased pneumatic rigging. The programming is easy once you have passed through the learning curves. So, when I first started learning the programming it was very hard; now, to me, it’s very easy. That’s why I make so many tutorials. I try to help people pass through the learning curve much faster than I had to go through.
How long did it take you to complete the prop?
Building props is a start and stop process. I’m actually building several props at the same time. I use integrated haunt control and so the building and programming are done in batches. Integrated haunt control means there is one computer that runs all the props in the garage haunt. First, the props are built. Then, you write all the sound files. Next, you write the programs. Finally, you set-up all the triggering. Last year it took two weeks to complete the process because many of the props were already built the previous years. If you were to isolate the spider prop I would say–a day and a half.
What would you say is the most advanced prop you have built to date? 
It’s a tie between Terra and the Hell Hound. Terra was the first time I’d ever sculpted and, like an idiot, I picked a beautiful woman. If I was smarter I would have picked an ugly monster, that way mistakes wouldn't have been noticeable. The Hell Hound was hard because I was doing subtractive sculpting meaning that I cut away to form the sculpt. If you cut too much you are screwed, basically. LOL.  


"Hell Hound"
Would you like to tell us about your aspirations for haunting? Stay local, go bigger, or go pro?
Stay right where I am, which may be impossible. I don’t advertise the haunt and give any local interviews. I want to keep it just for our neighborhood. But, word is getting out and it’s getting a bit too much to handle. Last year we received over 400 ToTs. If we start hitting 600+ we may have to stop—which would be okay, actually… it’s a lot of work and I’m not getting any younger. But, I’ll always build props–one way or the other….
Do you have plans for a new project soon?
Yes, painting new ChromaDepth panels for the haunt. Last year was ambitious as we decided to go 100% ChromaDepth. It was a success but I need to make Vampyr Reign 100% ChromaDepth now. Not a big deal though–many of the panels from last year’s Force of Darkness will fit in nicely with the theme. I’ll be adding to it with an extended Skulls Room, Hell Growth Room, and a Graveyard.
If you could share one piece of advice with new home haunters out there, what would it be?
Don’t be in such a hurry to go big. Deciding to make a walk-through haunt is a time-sucking commitment. Only do it if you are ready. If you are just making displays for the front yard: ALWAYS PLAN FOR THE WIND!
Would you like to take a moment to promote anything specifically? 
Well, if anyone would like to take a peek at my tutorials there are two places that are good. If you like to just watch videos here’s my You Tube channel and for extended written tutorials that go along with the video check out my blog
Is there anything you would like to add before we conclude this interrogation?
No :) 

Again, I want to thank Terra for taking the time to visit us. Perhaps when I'm done "picking her brain" for prop building knowledge—I'll let her go.... 

Please drop on by and Terra's You Tube page, subscribe, and thank her for all her hard work in putting together the tutorial and doing this interview.

A big thank you to my newest followers: Dave Lowe, Halloween Spirit, Gothic Gourd Girl, Frog Queen, and Justine's Halloween.

A huge shout out goes to Brian and Darryl for featuring my blog on one of my favorite podcasts, HaunTopic radio. I can't thank them enough for supporting and promoting the blog. I hope to do a feature on HaunTopic very soon. 

All images and video in this post are © 2012 Tracy AKA Terra and used with written permission.