Oct 1, 2014

Halloween Web - Shawn Robare

This is Halloween (season)!

Welcome to the first (hopefully) daily post counting down the October days til Halloween.

Let me preface the post to give you an idea where things are going this month. I thought it would be cool to shoot a few questions to the master monsters behind the Countdown to Halloween so we could get to know the brains behind the operation.

As October crept closer and closer, I started thinking I may not be able to make a post every day due to real life stuff (stupid life!). I then came up with the genius (thank you!) idea of hitting up people around the web and have them write my posts for me by answering the same questions.

Not everyone has replied yet (you know who you are!), but the ones I have gotten back so far have been a real joy to read. They've managed in one way or another to hit on a lot of the things I love about Halloween, so I hope you'll stay tuned throughout the month to see who'll stop by next. There will be a mix of Halloween Web and other posts.

Today's guest is one of the Countdown founders, Shawn Robare.

For the people that may not know you, tell us a little about yourself. 

So if anyone does know me (very unlikely unless you're related or are at my day job - Hey Daniel!) it's probably from my tenure running Branded in the 80s, a website dedicated to 80s nostalgia.  I'm also a co-host on the monthly Cult Film Club podcast, a regular 4th chair on the Nerd Lunch Podcast, and co-founder of the Countdown to Halloween.  Basically I'm just a guy who remembers what it was like to be a kid and I do my best on a daily basis to share those memories.  As far as upcoming projects, I'll be participating in the month long Halloween festivities at Branded with a 31 day celebration of my favorite film The Monster Squad. Note: You really should hit Branded in the 80s, Shawn has whipped up some rad Monster Squad trading cards!

What is the super secret origin of the Countdown?

So about 9 years ago I started my site and when the Halloween season came around I couldn't help but become transfixed and used my new soapbox to start talking about the holiday.  There were a handful of other blogs that I was reading that also seemed to be covering the holiday, folks like Kirk at Secret Fun Blog, Matt at X-Entertainment (now Dinosaur Dracula), Todd at Neato Coolville, and John Rozum.  I had a lot of fun following along with their posts, commenting back and forth and just meeting some fellow creative folks.  The next year when the holiday came around I decided to go full force and do a full 31 days straight of blogging since some of the other folks were doing the same and I ended up doing some fan art for the sites I was following the closest.  For me that was a seed of what would become the list. Like-minded bloggers were finding each other, and by 2008 John Rozum had compiled a list.  For that third year there were almost 50 participating sites, and basically we all started copying John's list and re-posting it, that was the real start to the Countdown.

After the season in the winter of 2008 I started thinking about all the work that went into trying to compile and share the list, at which point it occurred to me that it would potentially make things a whole lot easier if we created a website that was a hub, a home for the list.  So I did some research and ended up buying CountdownToHalloween.com in prep for 2009.  I sent out my idea to John Rozum and Jon Knutson (who was also helping to compile the list) and we agreed that it would be a good idea.  So I built the site on blogger and went to work designing the look and the participant banners so people could just plop one of those on their site instead of a huge blogroll of Halloweeny sites.  Fast forward a few years and we're up to around 250-300 sites participating in the Countdown each year.  John Rozum does most of the heavy lifting being the contact person for the list as well as maintaining it.  I pretty much re-design the site each year and create the new participant badges.

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

Of all the holidays Halloween is the one that all about creativity and fun and is free of dogma.  There's a history of good food, great music, and for one day out of the year you get to masquerade as anything you want to be.  I think this speaks to the artist and the kid in all of us and as the years go by and we all get a bit older I think it's essential to stay connected to that inner child.  Oh, and horror movies.  We get to watch lots of horrors movies and no one thinks we're weird for doing it, which is a blast.

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

When I was three years old my mom made me a pretty awesome Superman costume.  I was a huge fan of the Christopher Reeve movie and couldn't wait to go gallivanting around the neighborhood.  While I was out my mother dressed up as a witch in some rather convincing makeup and my dad made it a point not to tell me.  So when we got back to our house and I opened the door to go inside she popped out and literally scared the pee out of me.  Best and worst Superman night ever.

Any favorite costumes from Halloweens past?

My favorite costumes were probably when I dressed up as Wolverine as a teen and for my last year trick or treating (at 16 - don't judge me!) I had a lot of fun dressing up as Riff Raff from Rocky Horror (below, right) except I couldn't afford a wig, so I wore an old fireman's helmet my uncle gave me and I pretended (as Riff Raff) that I ate the fireman and stole the helmet.


What was Halloween like in your neighborhood as a kid?

I grew up in suburban central Florida and most of my memories of Halloween are of hot muggy nights were it was near impossible to keep the greasepaint from completely running down your cheeks.  In the 80s it seems like Halloween lasted longer throughout the night than it tends to these days.  I remember trick or treating well past 10:00 in my area and it was very common to hit up two or three whole subdivisions.  I also remember dressing up as Jason a lot.  Like at least 4 years in a row...

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

For me these days my celebration is two pronged.  One part starts around the beginning of September when stores start stocking their seasonal section.  The pop culture and branding lover in me goes nuts for a month going to every store with any bit of Halloween in the area and taking pictures of absolutely everything.  At the same time I spend a decent amount of time prepping for my month-long blog celebration, scanning, writing and designing.  When October hits it's all about sitting back and watching as many horror movies as possible as well as flipping through my dog-eared copy of the Vincent Price Cookbook picking out recipes to make on the weekends.  Sure, there's nothing creepy about the dishes per se, but I love the idea that Price compiled, tested and tweaked them.

Price cookbook
Yes, I am totes jelly!
Do you have any yearly Halloween rituals?

My yearly rituals include listening to the 1978 Halloween Horrors story and sound effects album at least twice.  I also have to screen The Monster Squad and Lost Boys at least once, and I try and catch a Vincent Price film that I've never seen before.

Inside the Spooksters' Studio
The worst thing to get while trick or treating was Toothbrushes!
My favorite thing to get was Smarties and Banana Laffy Taffy

Where can people find you online?

I'm @smurfwreck on Twitter and Instagram, and you can find Branded in the 80s on Facebook.

A big thanks to Shawn, not only for his time and co-creating the Countdown to Halloween, but for indirectly giving me the idea to get other people to answer these questions.

Be sure to check out all the folks participating in the Countdown to Halloween, they're waiting for you!


  1. Nice! I am so incredibly thankful for folks like Shawn and John who organize stuff like this. I love the Halloween Countdown!

    1. I would say the Countdown and the League (RIP...for now) were probably the two major sites that contributed to my meeting a lot of the bloggers I know today!

  2. Was really fun to answer these questions! I can't wait to read other folks' responses!

    1. Thanks for kicking things off! I'm psyched to share the replies I've gotten, lots of good stuff coming.