Oct 2, 2014

Halloween Web - John Rozum

Welcome to Day 2 of the Countdown to Halloween!

Yesterday's post was pretty well received so I'd like to thank everyone for stopping by and their kind words. Today we'll be tapping into that same vein by featuring the other head of the beast that runs the Countdown to Halloween hub, John Rozum!

vampire-attack
The vampires in Salem are not the sparkly kind!
For the people that may not know you, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m primarily known as a comic book writer, though I’ve written for other media as well. I’m best known for writing the comic book series Xombi, Midnight, Mass., The X-Files and Scooby-Doo. I also have been creating cut paper artwork for galleries such as Gallery 1988, Bottleneck Gallery, Creature Features and Hero Complex, and for magazines such as Mad Scientist and Underneath the Juniper Tree. The bulk of what I do has some connection to my interests in monsters and horror.

How did the Countdown come to be? How did you get involved?

It just seems to have happened. I’ve always found a way to make all of October one long Halloween celebration in one form, or another. In 2006 I decided to do part of that via my blog and just share aspects of the holiday that appelaed to me, links to Halloween related sites and so forth that I thought other people might enjoy, as well as document my daily movie viewing throughout that month.

At the same time, a small handful of other bloggers that I overlapped with were also, independently, of one another doing their own Halloween Countdowns. We quickly began to promote each other’s countdowns and also provided links to other blogs that we came across doing the same thing. There was absolutely no organization to it, and no plans to formalize it. But we kept doing it, and we’d keep finding other people doing it. I began to compile a list of all the blogs that I knew of that were running their own Halloween Countdowns, including links, and that list also was shared amongst the various blogs bringing in more participants.

I think that if there hadn’t been that small handful of us who were already paying attention to each other’s blogs so that we were aware that we’d all thought to do our own Halloween Countdown’s and also began to cross promote each other, that the idea of trying to organize this would never have occurred. I felt that there were so many people pouring their hearts and energy into putting forth a daily post in celebration of their favorite holiday, that they all deserved more traffic, and an appreciative audience, which is why I started putting together the list of participants. From there a real community began to form, even if we all came together only once a year. Somehow, I guess because I compiled those list of participants early on, I ended up becoming the default organizer. All I really do though is check in with people every year to see if they’ll be joining us in the new season, and compiling new lists based on who will be taking part.

It was Shawn Robare’s idea to go beyond just passing the list of participants around and actually creating a home base for everyone. That’s how the Countdown to Halloween blog itself came to be. Now everyone could check in at one location and find all of the participating blogs, and make announcements, and so forth. The number of participants fluctuates each year. We lose people along the way and gain new participants, too. It definitely gets bigger every year. So far, this already looks to be a much bigger year than last, and there’s still people asking to be added to the list every day. Shawn also creates all of the headers and badges for the Countdown to Halloween each year. These have been a boon as well. Seeing those badges posted in the blogs that participate directs traffic to us from people unaware that there’s a bigger countdown going on than maybe just at the one blog they found the badge on. This often brings us new participants in the following year.

The great thing is that with hundreds of people participating every year, each posting at least one thing on an almost daily basis, there’s been very little overlap. If you want your Halloween overload, this is definitely the place to visit. I liken it to a virtual neighborhood where all of the houses go all out on the decorations and give out the best candy.

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

I think it’s really about our fond childhood memories. It’s just such a magical holiday. It hits every one of the senses. There are smells that go with it, colors, tastes, sounds; everything. It’s also a holiday where kids rule. You get to go out after dark, dressed up as something and ring the doorbells of people in order to get candy. There’s also the safe scare element of it too that partially comes from venturing out at night on a holiday where all of the trappings that go with it are on the dark side. I think it goes hand in hand with why the Haunted Mansion is the favorite Disney attraction of so many people.

John Rozum at Cryptozoology Museum
John at the International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine
Do you have a particularly fond/funny/scary Halloween memory?

My favorite Halloween was actually in 1984. I’d just moved to New York City the month before. During that day it was just a gloomy, overcast Fall day. My roommate, Steve Peros,  and I went to see a double feature of Freaks and the Rouben Mamoulian Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When we can out of the movie theater the city had magically transformed. There was that golden orange light of sundown, and the first trick or treaters were hitting the streets and the night only got better from there. I wrote about the experience here.

Any favorite costumes from Halloweens past?

I sadly have only come across one photo of me from Halloween. I’m guessing the rest of them must be on slides at my parents house. One of these days I’ll dig through those and see what I can find. My costumes were pretty much a parade of pop culture popularity as rendered by Collegeville and Ben Cooper; Casper the Friendly Ghost, Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes, the Frankenstein monster, a Frankenstein monster with 5 o’clock shadow and fangs that I thought resembled one of the Gargantuas, a jawa from Star Wars, the wolfman...

What do you remember about Halloween in your neighborhood as a kid?

From second grade on, we lived in a neighborhood where we were the only kids and there wasn’t any easy access to other neighborhoods. This meant we never came across any other trick or treaters, and the bulk of the houses made no effort to decorate, or anything. It also meant that of the six, or so, houses that opened the doors to us, we ended up with the entire bags of candy. One man in the neighborhood did at least go to the trouble of putting on a rubber mask and jumping out at us, but “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” it was not. We also did the school parades down Main Street, and various Halloween parties at churches (if you can imagine that now in the era of “Harvest Festivals”) and the recreation department. I did watch all of the Halloween specials on tv though.

What do you do to celebrate now, out in the real world?

Because my childhood neighborhood was such a dud, and because I don’t typically see a lot of houses going beyond maybe having a jack o’lantern on their front step, I decided I was going to go all out and be the house that all the kids talked about and remembered every year. Some neighborhoods I’ve lived in have been better for that than others.

No matter how dark the rest of the street was, you’d be able to spot our house from way down the block. I had over a hundred of the plastic trick or treat bucket jack o’lanterns with candles in them hanging in the trees along with hundreds of candles in jars placed throughout the yard, gravestones, life size skeleton marrionettes, ghosts, music, sound effects, eerie lighting, just lots and lots of stuff so that it was a full experience for the kids. It would all go up while the kids were at school on Halloween day, and come down again in the middle of Halloween night, so it would just seem to magically appear and vanish like Mr. Dark’s carnival in Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

Do you have any yearly Halloween rituals?

Other than throwing the yard up on Halloween, I decorate the inside of the house, and listen to Halloween related music all month long. I have a three day long playlist. I also watch at least one horror movie a day throughout October and blog my thoughts on them. I never dress up myself, because my energy tends to go into making stuff to put up in the yard.

Inside the Spooksters' Studio
The worst thing to get while trick or treating was Circus peanuts.
My favorite thing to get was anything monster related.

Where can people find you online?

There is my blog and my Tumblr page.
If anyone wants to join in the Countdown to Halloween, they’ll find all of the information they need to do so there.

 john-rozum-banner-fall-2014

I was a little surprised to find out John and I live in the same state. Hopefully we can hang out some time in Salem when it's not quite such a madhouse as it is this time of year.

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

8 comments:

  1. I love that John puts all that work into his yard in the time frame that he does. That does sound pretty freaking magical!

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    1. That sounds amazing. I'd love to do something similar but I have to get things up at the end of the first week of October or I feel like I'm behind the times.

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  2. Thanks Dex for the past 2 interviews. I was great to hear from the guys that have brought many of us together! And I hate circus peanuts as well.

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    1. How do you even get Circus Peanuts at Halloween? They don't make trick or treat sized bags do they?

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  3. I am loving these interviews! So fun to get to know the Countdown to Halloween folks.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! I'm glad I stumbled into the idea, even more so that I decided to get other people's input as you'll see in the coming weeks.

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