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.
"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 me...it 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 ScaryVisions.com, 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 ScaryVisions.com. "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: ScaryVisions.com 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: dEdmonton.com and our monhly YouTube newscast, dEdmonton.tv. 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?
How would you like HaunTopic Radio fans to get in touch with either of you?
Darryl: Email us at Info@hauntopic, visit the haunTopic.com 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 ScaryVisions.com.
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.