Friday, October 12, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 8: James "Dr. Terror" Harris

The Doctor is in…sane!   I met Dr. Jimmy Terrror, aka James Harris, about the same time I met Groggy, EKG, and some of my oldest friends in the horror blogging community; when I was doing the 30 Day Horror Challenge.  Doc and I discovered that we were kindred spirits when we both chose Mindy Clarke in Return of the Living Dead 3 as our favorite zombie.  He writes the blog Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (HERE) in addition to being one of the brains behind The Liberal Dead (HERE).  This guy always has interesting angles and unique concepts, from 3D blogging to his taking over of Italian Horror Week (my vote for best theme week EVER.)  A former member of a horror punk band and dabbler in filmmaking, Doc always has a lot of irons in the fire, especially considering that he’s juggling his horror business with a new youngun.  He’s also been teasing us with a promise of something cool for Halloween, so keep an eye on his blog for that, I have a feeling he’ll deliver the awesome.  Oh, and for the record, I’m gonna kick his ass (along with EKG’s) in Horror Jeopardy later this month on Dollar Bin Horror Radio.  So, Doc, take it away…

“When asked what I love about Halloween and what it means to me, it’s a really an amalgam of memories and not just one shining star in a full moonlit night. I want to go over it with you. I think it’s time we figured out this neurosis together. Let’s consider this a piece of writing therapy, a confession of sorts, and maybe it’s time to play Freud with myself. Hell, maybe once I get it down on paper I can stop spending half my paycheck on new tombstones and spooky wall-hangers every fall, but I doubt it. What makes me pull out all the decorations in mid-September, check all the lights twice, and make sure that none of my orange orb pumpkin friends are dented beyond repair, just to prepare for one spooky night at the end of October? It’s complicated, and I don’t fully expect we’ll actually get to the bottom of it right here, right now. Let’s get complicated and see if we can dig all six feet to pay dirt.
I was born October 24, 1980. That’s a week before Halloween. Do you know what that means?  A lifetime of costume parties filled with Halloween decorations, creepy cakes, and horror movies throughout my entire birthday week. It’s never been a problem. I’ve always enjoyed sharing the week I was born with America’s second favorite holiday. Every single birthday I dressed up as something; mostly as Dracula but occasionally a pirate or a hobo, the Wolfman once, Satan (or maybe just a devil) another time. I never did do Frankenstein or the Mummy as a kid, which was really more parental preference. I guess that’s why I grew up as a Bela Lugosi fan. You play Drac long enough as a kid, and you’re gonna start identifying with him. I remember the smell of the makeup kit my mom would buy each year. Each year she’d buy me a new cape and a new amulet necklace, which probably came with the kit. I love those fake teeth; the way they make your gums bleed a little. Ever try to eat a hot dog wearing fake vamp teeth? It ain’t pretty. You’d think everything I just said occurred on Halloween night, but it actually happened one week earlier on my birthday. I’d dress up and then again on Halloween. Some years I’d even have to dress up a third time for the school Halloween party.  I’ve always associated the two days of celebration. I’m one of the few kids who gets presents for Halloween (sort of).  So that’s one reason. The others are more complicated I suppose.
I remember leaving a Halloween party at my friend’s house on the street next to mine. It was a costume party for the neighborhood kids, and I was walking with a rather raucous group of ghouls and ghosts. I remember telling them a story about a movie I had just seen, Creepshow. I told them that on full moon evenings, not unlike the moon that evening, that a giant sign came out from behind the trees. It was a sign of the Creep and it said Creepshow and the Creep would laugh and music would play and… and… and… that’s all I remember. It isn’t much, but I remember that I loved scaring them. I was good at it. It’s probably why I would write fiction even in my early years, but the thrill of the good scare is all Halloween. That’s one of its core elements. Maybe I’ll write a few more scary stories sometime soon. It’s been long enough, but even if I don’t, there’s nothing like reading a good creep out on Halloween night, especially to a bunch of kids to whom you can give nightmares. I like to scare. I like to be scared, although I’m losing my taste for roller coasters and spin rides in my old age. I’m still a spook house junkie. So, I think that plays a big role in my love for October 31st. I get the chance to scare the pants off of people and it isn’t all that weird. I mean, they still look at a grown man trying to scare kids with disdain, but fuck ‘em. It’s Halloween assholes!
I’ve often spoken of my father’s influence on my viewing habits. He was the one who showed me everything… EVERYTHING. Halloween. The Exorcist. The Omen. He’s the guy who would tape them off of TV so that I could watch them without fearing me hearing one of the seven deadly words or see any boobies (although I could always tell he didn’t give a rats ass about his male child checkin’ out a sexy femme). He actually wouldn’t let me watch the version of The Omen from TV because he said it was too cut up. I wouldn’t understand the story, so he showed me the uncut version at about age five. I thank my dad every day that I’m a horror fan, and it plays a big role in my adoration for this holiday. I love Halloween because it’s MY television line up. It’s what I would show if I controlled the networks. I’d show them uncut though, and I’d make sure to run more cartoons and old favorites. We get so caught up in the horror movie that we forget that the original Halloween programming is a thing of magic (I’m sure the Son of Celluloid would wholeheartedly agree). SOC Note: Damn straight!  It’s nice to wake up early on Halloween and throw on the boob tube and realize that London After Midnight is showing. It may be a half assed cut up version with stills and title cards, but it’s something! It’s nice to go to sleep to Night of the Living Dead knowing that if you wake up in the middle of the night it’ll still be on some channel somewhere. It’s even better to watch the Garfield Halloween special or It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown or the Disney Halloween Treat.  If I have one gripe for the networks, it’s that they aren’t producing enough quality original programming for October and some of them are getting out of the practice altogether. Commercials too… more Halloween and classic monster based commercials would be a sight for sore eyes. So, I love that Halloween programming is on because I love spooky TV and that’s all because of my dad, but more so because it reminds me of the best times I spent/spend with my dad watching movies. We still do it. We watch The Thing on a Saturday afternoon and connect. He wasn’t a sports guy. We didn’t go out and throw the ball. We watched movies together. Halloween is a celebration of that time. I don’t think of it that way consciously, but it’s there… lurking the background.
I know you were expecting me to say that the reason I love Halloween is because the ladies dress up like creepy sluts and that’s entirely true. I know that you think the reason I love Halloween is for the candy, and I have false teeth to prove it (and no I didn’t lose my pearlies in the war like Ed Wood). I love the look of Jack O Lanterns. I love pumpkin seeds. I love covering my arms in pumpkin guts. I used to be a pumpkin and autumn beer addict. In fact I was a beer addict period,  which is pretty much why I don’t drink anymore. I used to buy every pumpkin beer I could find, drink them all during football on Sunday, and then pass out. It’s not exactly healthy, but I still love the occasional sip and to smell them. I used to love celebrating in Samhain ritual. There’s some beautiful rites out there and casting a circle using leaves always provided the best harvest symbolism. The wheel of the year still makes sense, but I’m not the spiritual fellow I once was. I still hold it in my heart though and think of it in very real religious terms.  I love going out for mischief night and still go out although I’m much more subdued about it now. No more hanging tampons dipped in Cranberry juice from jocks’ basketball hoops. The real reason is that I was raised on Halloween. Weaned on horror. Was taught from a young age that Elvira’s boobies were the finest boobies in all the land and that she was queen of Halloween. Celebrated it as if it was the day of my birth. Now that I have kids, I try to instill that same love for Halloween in them. The Harris’ are the new Addams’ in my mind, with a family history that is only beginning to be that spooky, and of course we lack that haunted, horrifying mansion, but we have time.  It’s who I am. It’s who we are."

*In addition to that great article, the good Doctor asked that I share these awesome vintage Halloween TV clips with you...

19 days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  19 days ‘til Halloween, Silver Shamrock.

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