Oct 8, 2014

Halloween Web - Chad Savage

In today's Halloween Web, we chat with one of my spooky artist pals, Chad Savage. He doesn't mention it in our interview, but he also used his web wizardry to help bring my proposed idea for Creepmas, another blog-o-thon, to life when we both got fed up with Christmas invading the shelves in October. I saw stuff as early as the end of September this year. It's getting ridiculous! But we'll save my ranting for another day...

For the home audience, tell us a little about yourself.

I'm an artist and visual designer that caters to the horror, Halloween, and haunted attraction industries. My company, Sinister Visions Inc., has designed branding, marketing materials and websites for some of the biggest haunted houses in the USA. I create and release free scary fonts via SinisterFonts.com, which have been featured in movies, TV shows, commercials, on DVD, CD and book covers, you name it. I also own/operate Zombie Pinups and The Cult of the Great Pumpkin. You may not have any idea who I am, but there's a very good chance you've seen my work.

#TBT Zombo the Clown, TransWorld 2004

What do you think it is about Halloween that keeps it in our hearts as we get older?

I was lucky enough to have been a kid in the 70's, which was really a great time to experience Halloween. You had the imagery and decorations that your parents had accumulated from the 40's through the 60's, trick or treating hadn't yet been effectively ruined by overzealous parents, and in my case, I was fortunate enough to have parents with a dramatic streak, so they really ramped things up and played along, making sure that me and my sister had a fun, spooky time.

As I got older, the appeal of Halloween became a night to go out with a couple of friends and get scared, which is when I discovered my undying love for haunted attractions. For many years, I spent Halloween night going to as many yard and garage haunts as I could - that's pretty much all you could find back then.

As for what keeps it in our hearts? I wrote an Afterword for a really great Halloween-themed short story collection called "Harvest Hill" a few years back. Let me quote from that:

"Halloween, you see, has deep dark roots in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Those who dismiss it as a night for children do the holiday (and themselves) a great disservice. Halloween is ancient and powerful, with a history that few today really comprehend; I know that sounds like hyperbole, but hey, I've done the research. The imagery and iconography of Halloween tap into centuries-old traditions from all over the world; America has distilled many cultures' methods of celebration into something unique as practiced for the last 50 years or so, but as I said: Those roots run very very deep, stemming from a primordial shared ancestry and common primitive concerns. The Harvest. Communing with The Dead. The idea of spirits and dark things gaining access to our world. Confronting our collective fears by becoming them, if only for one night a year.

Halloween is all of these things and more. To many of us, it's powerfully nostalgic, representing an aspect of our collective childhood that is bittersweet to recall, knowing we'll never have it again. To others, Halloween is a chance to express aspects of one's personality that are frowned upon by society at any other time of year."

Chad-Savage-Costumes_02_Halloween-1987

Do you have a particularly fond/funny/scary Halloween story?

From my own childhood, I have very fond memories of my father, wearing a sheet and sunglasses a la Michael Myers, taking my sister Trick or Treating, and just standing at the end of the walkway to a given house, at the edge of the street, staring through the open door and not moving. At the time I hadn't seen John Carpenter's Halloween and I knew it was my dad; I can only imagine how he looked to the hapless mothers as they opened to door to give me and my sister treats!

More recently, when my daughter was 6 years old, we went trick or treating, went to dinner in our costumes, and as we were driving home we passed a cemetery near our house and I (jokingly) asked her if she wanted to go look for "spooky ghosts" in the graveyard. She surprised me by saying "Sure!". So we went home, got flashlights, and ended Halloween night that year wandering around a century old cemetery. We didn't find any spooky ghosts, but we sure had fun!

Any favorite costumes from Halloweens past?

As a kid, my favorite year was probably when I was Luke Skywalker. I also put together a pretty great Frankenstein's Monster costume.

As an adult, the most elaborate costume I've ever done was a cenobite inspired by the Hellraiser movies. It took weeks to make, but man, it looked cool.

What was Halloween like in your neighborhood as a kid?

I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a planned housing community on the side of a mountain. So it was weirdly urban and rustic at the same time - houses lined up along the streets, but acres of forest for the back yards.

Our neighborhood was pretty tightly-knit socially - all the families knew each other, all the kids played together, which is the perfect recipe for a great Halloween. Nearly everybody decorated their houses, some would set up little haunted houses in their garages, etc. My Aunt Lou would set up on our front porch as a witch with a bubbling cauldron and hand out cider and treats. It was pretty much the 70's version of what Ray Bradbury waxes rhapsodic about in The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Or a non-dysfunctional version of what Rob Zombie touches on in his version of Halloween.

What do you do to celebrate Halloween today?

I decorate the house in late September - total conversion. It takes hours. We hit as many fall festivals, corn mazes, pumpkin farms and haunted houses as time allows throughout October. We watch our favorite Halloween-centric movies and TV specials. I usually participate in a couple of Halloween-themed art shows, so I get to paint a lot. We just generally enjoy every aspect of October.

Halloween night is evolving; we used to throw massive parties when we lived in Chicago. I mean, EPIC parties. We (my wife and I) decided one year that we wanted to throw the kind of party you see in Halloween episodes of TV shows or movies, but never get to go to. So we did, for years. Then we had our daughter, and Halloween became about trick or treating. But our daughter turned 12 recently, so trick or treating may or may not be on the agenda this year - she hasn't decided yet!

Chad-Savage-Costumes_07_As-the-Vampire-Lestat_1991_with-Anne-Rice
Chad as the vampire Lestat with author Anne Rice
Do you have any yearly rituals?

Oh, Great Pumpkin, yes! I've been collecting out of print and unusual Halloween and horror music off the internet for 15 years. (Ed.: Same here!) I won't listen to it before September 15th or after Halloween. But during that time, it's *all* I listen to. I have a couple of shelves of Halloween-related DVDs; we watch as many as we have time for. We have a couple of favorite pumpkin farms that we go to, a couple of local artisan shops that we love to visit for their Halloween seasonal offerings. And as I mentioned, I paint more this time of year than any other.

I should mention, too, that amidst all of this, I'm running dozens of websites and social media accounts for Halloween and haunt-themed events and attractions, so that's a lot of my season, right there, too.

Inside the Spookster's Studio

The worst thing to get while trick or treating was: A mini-bible. Oh, and a handful of stale popcorn wrapped up in loose saran wrap. Eesh.

My favorite thing to get was: FULL-SIZED SNICKERS BARS!

Where can folks catch you online?

To find me on social media, visit my contact page at Sinister Visions.

Before you head off to your next house, swing by Halloween Mixes.
They're posting a themed mix album every day of the month!

And of course, check out all the other folks participating in the Countdown to Halloween!

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