Saturday, October 5, 2013

What Halloween Means To Me '13 Day 5: Phantom Troublemaker


As a blogger, podcaster, ring announcer, and all around Atlanta geek culture figure, Phantom Troublemaker is a man who wears many figurative hats and many literal masks.  The lucha-hooded lunatic can pretty much be spotted wherever toys, comics, wrestling, movies, or other various dorkery is being celebrated.  He’s also doing 31 days of Halloween coverage at his blog Needless Things, where yours truly will be a guest writer later in the month.  In addition to his personal remembrances of Halloween (and a few shameless plugs), El Phantasmas is gonna give us a rundown of some of the exciting stuff going down throughout October here in the horror capital of America.  
Oh, and for the record, I don't have a bone to pick about him pushing all the major Atlanta haunts except Netherworld.  If I was involved with another haunt, I would pretend we didn't exist too.  ZING!


“My name is Phantom Troublemaker and I am a big fan of Halloween.


I mean, obviously. Why else I would I be here on Son of Celluloid during the big month? Talking about Arbor Day?


I am the owner and operator of NeedlessThingsSite.com, the co-host of the Earth Station Who Podcast, and the Host of Monstrosity Championship Wrestling. I spend an awful lot of time and money on dorky shit because it’s what I love. Like many dorks my age it all started with Star Wars, but thanks to Granny Troublemaker I developed a healthy love of the gruesome, macabre, and unsettling when I was just a kid.

I used to live for trips to my grandparents’ house. Mainly because they made the rules there and there pretty much were no rules (for me, anyway). Not that I was some kind of wild kid, but I got to stay up late and do whatever I wanted. During the day Papaw Troublemaker would drive around Wilmington, NC (a city with its share of spooky history) on my earliest Toy Hunts looking for whatever was the hot toy at the time – most often GI Joe. At night, though, I would stay up late with Granny and watch the horror movies that came on TV.

My earliest horror movie memories of Christopher Lee as Dracula (the one true Dracula) and Horst Janson as the badass Captain Kronos. Hammer Horror molded those first years of exposure to the macabre, which I suppose is why I am so drawn to the more theatrical and lurid aspects of Hollywood horror.

I don’t remember when Halloween became so enmeshed with horror for me. My first costumes were a Rebel pilot, a scarecrow, and this thing. I don’t even know what that is, though I suppose it is fairly disturbing.

One thing I do remember is that my fascinations would come in stages. There was one year where I was into werewolves BIG TIME. Werewolf was on FOX as part of the channel’s original lineup and I thought that show was the coolest thing ever. It was around that same time that I saw all of the 80s lycanthropy flicks – Silver Bullet, The Howling, An American Werewolf in London. Each one seemed to offer something different, but they all had werewolves. And I loved werewolves. I wanted to be a werewolf. So for Halloween that year there was no question what my costume would be.

I remember the day my dad came home with the two werewolf masks. One resembled the classic Wolf Man that I had seen in that crappy, old black and white movie (hey – I was a kid) and the other looked like the more vicious and canine werewolves of the current movies. I knew which one I wanted to wear.

My dad was not a fun guy. I mean, he loved me and all, but he didn’t play too much. I don’t think I remember ever asking him to play with me because that just wasn’t his thing. He was a Grown-Up. An entirely different organism than me that got his enjoyment from doing taxes or shining shoes or nailing things into other things. I didn’t begrudge him that. I just knew he was best left to his own devices. But there were times when I got to see a side of him that I simply couldn’t comprehend. A side that would spend all Christmas morning setting up a brand-new Millennium Falcon toy and a bunch of Star Wars figures to look just like the scene from A New Hope. The side that might sing along to the soundtrack from The Muppet Movie. Or – on that Halloween in 1987 – the side that would put on that other werewolf mask that I didn’t want to wear and go Trick-or-Treating with me.

It was the only time that just me and Dad went Trick-or-Treating. Maybe the only time he went at all – I’m not sure. But we had the best time ever. We ran all over the neighborhood, howling and jumping out at people and getting as much candy as two shape-changers could carry. We were out way past dark and got home so late my mom was mad. But it was one of the best Halloweens I’ve had. I remember wanting to do it again the next year. I wanted to do some other kind of costume, but Dad just wasn’t into it. I think I even offered to break out the werewolf masks again, but his, “Aren’t you getting a little old for Trick-or-Treating?” put an end to that.

Over the following years I would experience varying degrees of Halloween celebration. I felt like I was always looking for the right party and never found it. Hollywood had set the bar too high. When you see Halloween parties in movies and on TV they’re fucking crazy. Bands playing, full haunted houses, and most importantly – everybody is wearing a costume. Nothing pisses me off more than somebody showing up to a Halloween party with no costume. Go the fuck home, asshole.

Parties just weren’t where it was at for me.

Then I went to my first haunted attraction.

I think it was called Tom Savini’s Chamber of Horrors (or maybe Terrors) and it was awesome. A truly creepy and exciting experience that I would never forget except for the fact that I had some bad habits back then and I don’t actually remember it all that much. But I remember the feel of it. It probably helped that one of the bad habits I had was with me; squealing and grabbing my arm and creating various states of arousal with every bit of contact. There’s nothing quite like going through a haunted attraction with a hot young lady hell-bent on having every bit of your attention. We hit a number of haunts that year, but that Savini one was the best; even better than local legend Netherworld.

It would be over a decade before I found another Halloween haunt-fest that equaled the one with Savini’s name on it. But when I did I knew that there was a good chance it was the best I would ever see. This was the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse and I cannot imagine there is a better Halloween attraction anywhere.

You can check out full write-ups on my site. I kept them spoiler-free, but since the AZA is different every year don’t worry about knowing too much. Here’s the lowdown – it’s like living a horror movie. Once you enter the attraction, you are fully immersed into a narrative. Your guides will fill you in on the plot, and they will probably die. Or they might turn on you. Or simply abandon you in the middle of an irradiated, zombie-infested facility.  And those zombies aren’t just going to lunge at you and wander back to a corner to wait for the next customer. Trust me – you had better run like hell. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I cannot possibly recommend it enough.

Last year the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse had two different attractions – one was your basic zombie infestation scenario, the other was very Evil Dead inspired and took the thrills into the woods behind the massive facility that houses the attraction. There was also an all-new walkthrough section where they would arm you with a paintball gun and let you clear a facility of zombies. Every year brings new innovations and I can’t wait to see what those maniacs have in store for 2013.

Another local attraction that has proven to be a lot of fun is Chambers of Horror (not to be confused with the above Chamber). It’s not the interactive rush that AZA is, but it’s a ton of gory and revolting fun that will put your stomach to the test. The idea behind Chambers is to bring the very worst and most disturbing of the torture porn genre to life. It’s a demented sideshow of the sickest sights Atlanta’s most deranged can think up. Think of this one more as a party destination. It’s located behind local nightclub The Masquerade, but you don’t have to go in the club to imbibe. Last year they were selling Jaeger shots right outside the Chambers doors.

Finally, I have my own Atlanta Halloween gig.

I mentioned above that I am the host of Monstrosity Championship Wrestling. If you don’t know, MCW is an independent wrestling company that features the most unique entertainment you could hope for – we combine the atmosphere of a rock n’ roll show with the intensity and excitement of professional wrestling. Each and every show features a blistering rock act the likes of Bigfoot, The Pelvis Breastlies, or Dusty Booze and the Baby Haters playing live amidst werewolves, vampires, zombies, demons, and the best pro wrestlers in the country going to war. If it sounds like I’m shilling for MCW, it’s because I am. I fucking love our product and want to share it with as many people as I can.

And guess what?

We’re going to get to do exactly that, because Monstrosity Championship Wrestling will be joining forces with horror rockers The Casket Creatures to invade Six Flags Over Georgia’s Fright Nights! Starting on September 27th, this tag team of terror will be reigning over the park with scheduled shows and random appearances throughout Six Flags’ Fright Nights-themed amusement park.

Okay, end of shilling.

Seriously, though – I am super stoked about this. I’ve never had an opportunity to perform in such a way at my favorite time of year with a potential for such huge crowds. I love Halloween and I’ve got some good ones in the memory banks, but 2013 (appropriately enough) looks to be the best one ever.
Even if you can’t make it out to the stuff I’ve mentioned or live out of town or whatever the case – just be sure to get out and do something spooky, Phantomaniacs. This isn’t the movies – the ghouls and ghosts aren’t going to come find you.”

 26 days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  26 days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock.

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