opening night

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I have been performing for fifteen years. Cabarets and madrigal choirs and bucktoothed middle-school plays. I love it all. I’ve got comedy/tragedy masks tattooed on my shoulder blades, for crying out loud. And haunted houses are still my favorite medium of all.

Every show looks the same behind the scenes. No matter how niche or cutting edge or avant-fucking-garde the performance, the crew is having the exact same squabbles over making the lights work and where to put the giant spider. (Maybe that last one’s just me.) After ten-hour workdays, after shoveling sawdust and spattering blood on everything in sight, it’s easy to stop caring. The magic goes out and the mundane rises to take its place.

Opening night announces itself. You pull all the levers and deliver all the costumes and hope for the best. And then you hear your first screams of the night. You toss a little blood in just the right places and hear breath drawing sharply in. Someone faints. Twice. True story. When the last stragglers run away screaming, you find your graying, zombified lover. And you scream together, because the screaming – the screaming is what makes all this worth it.

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One night down, five to go. This is what I am actually wearing today. I pitted ghoulish against cozy, and cozy won.

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officially halloween’s bitch

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This was seriously one of the best weekends I’ve had in a while. On Saturday I did makeup for a local zombie-themed fun run; on Sunday (Josh’s 26th birthday) I tabled for Nightmare at a pumpkin festival up in the mountains. Silly costumes, foliage, a huge-ass birthday cake that we’re still working on – oh, and getting to pop someone’s eye out, as seen above. This post is not for the squeamish, but if you’re squeamish, then why are you even here.

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My beloved steamfreak – and Nightmare’s monster mascot, Janey, whom Josh helped build.

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Cake cred to my mom, who I’ve mentioned before is a professional baker. Nutella outside, pumpkin/carrot inside.

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Holly asked for “zombie rock star”.

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Nightmare went to lunch in full makeup.

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to haunt and to hold

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It seems I can’t even wear my favorite sweater without being told to “go home” because apparently “it’s not even October yet”. Love you too, everyone. I just came out to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now. At least my sweater cares.

Even though it’s nigh October, haunt season started months ago. “Halloween is six weeks away, for Chrisssakes!” outsiders cry. Yeah, exactly – Halloween is six weeks away. I’d like to see you design, build, outfit, and rehearse an entire show in six weeks. My haunt, Nightmare Vermont, is the only one in the state that performs a complete coherent story rather than a series of skits. We write and produce a play from scratch, essentially.

…so yeah. You’d be freaking out too.

I’m so ready for fall, though. One last blaze of crunchy-leaved glory before seasonal depression settles in. Is anyone else champing at the bit for season 4 of American Horror Story?

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no rest for the wicked

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We opened last night. And, of course, Murphy’s Law dictated that I left my camera battery charging away in my bedroom. As such, I have no evidence of the glory that was my costumes. I’ll do my best to snap some tonight, though. (But seriously, fuck Murphy.)

I took these photos last week, but I haven’t had a single spare moment to edit and post them until now. “After Halloween” has become my stock answer when invited to do anything. From now until the 31st, I operate on three settings: work, haunt, sleep. Last night Josh and I stumbled in at around 1 (his haunt opened last night too), glanced at the pile of clothes on the bedroom floor – let’s be real, they’re mostly mine – and agreed “we’ll clean it up after Halloween.”

I wanted to show you guys what a haunt in progress looks like, though. To most people, haunted houses are perfectly polished spook, but it’s funny how normal it becomes when it’s your bread and butter. The unusual nature of the work kind of gets lost when you’re clomping around all “where’s that goddamn coffin?!” I suppose the same is true for any unusual occupation: our work looks exotic, but we’re just people. And I appreciate anything that humanizes the absurd and the larger than life.

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The Forest consists of a series of self-contained scenes all united by a single theme. This year’s is Merry Olde England; particularly inspired past themes include Twisted Fairy Tales and Creepy Carnival. Groups of audience members are led by cloaked guides through a meandering trail, with scenes installed along the way. Actors do each scene 40 times on a light night.

The entire Forest is lit by pumpkins, carved by a crack team of volunteers. That’s mine second from the right.

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Our venue serves as a series of bike trails for most of the year. During Forest time, the lodge’s racks of helmets and rows of spare tires are swapped out for greasepaint, pumpkins, and capes by the dozen.

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Our super haunted headquarters, filled with super haunted things like…uh, couches, and snacks, and floorboards.

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I love that I work in a place where no one bats an eye at this label.

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My super spooky sweater. One day I will own tacky sweaters for every holiday, even the obscure sectarian ones.

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I’d really like a pet ghost.

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It’s just like any other volunteer event, except for the coffin sneaking into the frame. No biggie.

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The wax museum is one of our classic scenes, though with content modified to fit each year’s theme. As this year’s theme is Merry Olde England, the museum features the first three wives of Henry VIII. I filled in last night as Catherine of Aragon, and I got a few good scares by periodically disrupting my frozen stature to beckon to the audience.

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It’s still running! Get tickets here.

two devils went a-haunting

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I’m almost sorry for the dearth of outfit pictures in this post. Almost. I think the absence is more than compensated for by the garish, ghoulish delights awaiting you after the jump.

If you’re not into Halloween, feel free to skip this one. But if you’re not into Halloween, why are you even here.

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I’m a haunter. Not only am I madly in love with a fellow haunter, but we both maintain fairly important positions at competing haunts. I’m the costume director for the Haunted Forest, an outdoor haunt held at a local bike trail; Josh is the art director for Nightmare Vermont, a bloodier event that specializes in stage combat. The Forest is the campier counterpart to Nightmare’s gore porn, and we both throw in the occasional mindfuck. Needless to say, ’tis our season for near-constant shop talk, copious notetaking, and lurking obscenely around every Halloween store in the county.

These photos are a visual record of the hours we’ve spent over the past few weeks soaking up every plastic skull and bloodstained corset this county has to offer.

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Yes, you can do this with makeup. We often do.

On the 28th of this month (which happens to be Josh’s 25th birthday), we’re dragging ourselves out of bed at seven to help with makeup for Vermont’s annual Zombie Run. Zombie Run is a 5k fun run in which the entrants are divided into zombies and victims. The whole run is framed as a chase, and we do some pretty damn intricate makeup.

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Spirit Halloween is practically a museum. I could spend hours there, and Josh and I often do, tinkering with the animatronics and exclaiming over the displays.

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I’m totally coming here on November 1st and buying every one they have left.

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When it comes to seasonal decor, I like glittery kitsch. Josh likes muted steampunk. We both like bloody and gothic.

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I was really pleased with the variety of costumes in the little girls’ section. There’s not a damn thing wrong with a girl (or a boy!) who’d rather go as a princess than a vampire, but it can be hard to find a truly creepy costume for the spook-conscious little witch. I wish I’d been able to get my hands on blood-spattered tights as a kid! Hell, I’m disappointed that Spirit doesn’t carry them in adult sizes. Josh promised to help me make some, though.

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Sometimes people just really like tiny coffins. No judging.