I'm Dr. Jose and I run the wildly mildly popular website Camera Viscera! Some people might know me from my contributions ("contributions" is a very generous way of putting it) to Nerd City. I also recently started contributing to Strange Kids Club, which I am most excited about! Lifelong gorehound who will talk anyone's ear off about any and all things horror, if they're willing to listen. Also: buy everything from the Camera Viscera shop so I can support my candy habit.
What was Halloween like in your neighborhood as a kid?
I spent my first few Halloweens in Chicago, but grew up primarily in Southern Illinois; lots of fields, forest, farmland -- the three F's. It was a sort of spread out college town. As a kid, I likened it to Haddonfield, Illinois from Halloween, especially the opening credits of Halloween 4. Those shots of the overcast farmland, the damp, weather-beaten farm implements -- all of that captured my own personal small town Halloween vibe perfectly. Of course, years later I found out Halloween was shot in California and Halloween 4 was shot in Utah. I digress.
But Halloween was always a fun time -- lots of little neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs to hit up for candy. The rich families (and therefore, better candy) were on the other side of town, so I didn't start hitting those until I got a little older and was allowed to venture off with friends sans parents. Trick or treating usually ended once all the porch lights were off; after that, it was head home and pour out my bounty on the living room floor and chow down while monster movie marathons played on the T.V.
Do you have a particularly fond/funny/scary Halloween memory?
One of my earliest Halloween memories -- if not the first -- was participating in a costume contest in an outdoor basketball court across the street from my parents apartment. This was when we still lived in Chicago; I couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old. The reason it's so memorable to me is because of the outfit I wore, which consisted of this BIG paper-mâché Frankenstein's Monster head that my uncle had made by hand himself. He painted it up beautifully, and it ended up being this perfect mix of funny and scary. I had a little black blazer on, a red shirt, black pants, black blocky shoes -- my family made sure I was decked out. The only problem was, that head was so big and clunky on my little frame, and I couldn't see out of it very well, and it smelled terribly of paint. Being a little kid, I didn't want to wear it -- I wanted to go as something store bought, like a GI Joe with a plastic mask and vinyl jumpsuit. In my young brain, I felt like my costume wasn't as good as the store bought kind.
I remember my parents walking me over to the basketball court. As I waddled over, I could see through the chain-link fence at least 5 or 6 kids wearing hockey masks and carrying plastic machetes, but still dressed like normal kids otherwise: puffy winter coats, corduroy pants, velcro ROOS. Still, I remember feeling shame and thinking: "Those are cool costumes." I remember it being so cold, and we were all lined up there on the blacktop, and I just wanted to be far away from there.
I don't remember who ended up winning that contest, but my uncle still has that mask in his basement art studio -- and I think it's the greatest thing ever.
Any favorite costumes from Halloweens past?
Besides the Frankie mask, one of my favorite costumes was when I went as a scarecrow. I was probably 11. For some reason I feel like it was my mom's idea more than mine just because of how into it she was. She did a really great job helping me with my costume. I mean, I really looked like a scarecrow: big droopy flannel shirt covered in patches, sack over my head with cut-out eyes and a red nose, straw hat, gloves, and straw sticking out of every conceivable opening. She also added something I'd never have thought of: mini pie tins strung from my arms. When I put my arms out, the pie tins dangled and bumped into each other, giving off a metallic clang. I participated in costume contest that year which was held at the mall, and I actually won! First place! My mom was probably more excited about that than I was.
What do you do to celebrate now, out in the real world?
My celebrating now consists of parties and get togethers with friends, fairly low key stuff. Also, if there are any theaters in my hood showing horror movies for the holiday, I'll usually go to those. I currently live in an apartment on the third floor of a building with a locking gate in front of it, so handing out candy is kind of out of the question.
I'd say Halloween is more of a month-long celebration for me now versus the one-day celebration it was as a kid. It was always my favorite time of year, and I loved all the imagery and ideas associated with it, but the freedom that comes along with adulthood really allows me to take advantage of the Halloween season in a major way.
Do you have any yearly rituals?
As trite as it sounds, it's not Halloween for me without watching John Carpenter's Halloween at least once during the month. So that could be considered a ritual. I definitely do my best to sample as many October beers as I can, and I've done that for the last several years -- so that's another one. Then there's the typical stuff: decorating, carving pumpkins, gorging myself on candy.
Another 'ritualistic' thing I do every year without even thinking: when September starts to come to an end, if I happen to be at the grocery store I just immediately bee line it to the seasonal section in hopes that they'll have their October stuff out. All the bags of candy, the decorations, the cheapo masks. Halloween specialty stores are great; they have everything. But for me, nothing beats some rinky-dink grocery store's seasonal section in October.
What do you think it is about Halloween that keeps it in our hearts as we get older?
Halloween fulfills so many little kid fantasies: you get to watch scary movies, stay out late, eat as much candy as you can stomach, and you get to dress up in crazy costumes. All these great things. But it's not that you're simply allowed to do all that stuff, you're encouraged! And as you get older, you're still interested in and want to act on those simple childhood fantasies -- but now you can tack on a few more activities to the list: parties, drinking, movie marathons. Who doesn't want to enjoy those things or feel the way they did when they were a kid forever? It's the ultimate "fun" holiday.
Inside the Spookster's Studio
My favorite thing to get was...It was rare occurrence, but I do recall getting a full sized candy bar in my bag/bucket/pillowcase. I mean, that's kinda like the quintessential get, right? And one final aside: I always felt sorry for those gullible, naive folks who left unattended candy bowls on their front porch, enacting some sort of honor system. Those poor, poor fools.
Where can folks find you online?
My site: Camera Viscera. I'm always updating my Facebook.
And when I'm feeling succinct, I post on Twitter.
And when I'm feeling succinct, I post on Twitter.
Before you run off to check out all the Cryptkeepers at Countdown to Halloween, here is today's audio Trick or Treat mix: New Wave Nightmare