Howlin’ Halloweens

by Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry

Halloween is one of our favorite times of year. You can’t go wrong with the spooky and the creepy. The gory and the gruesome. The fun and the fear. It’s a time when nearly everyone gets excited. Kids and adults run through the streets dressed as vampires and ghosts and werewolves and zombies. There are decorations, candy, parties, haunted houses and more. What else could you want?

Sure, most people who know us would say it seems like we celebrate that stuff all year around. After all, our book Wanted Undead Or Alive, nominated for a Bram Stoker award, deals with the struggle of good vs. evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from ghosts to vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. And Jonathan often writes about zombies (Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Dead of Night, Patient Zero, Marvel Zombie Returns). Show up to any of our book signings and you’ll find vampire fangs, chocolate eyeballs, a zombie hand and zombie blood, a black crow, a rubber brain, etc. It’s all a whole heck of a lotta fun.

So, in the spirit of Halloween, we decided we’d share our favorite Halloween memories.

Janice Gable Bashman: I love everything about Halloween. It’s the ultimate search for thrills and chills…and candy. Lots and lots of candy. My brother and I and our friends used to leave as early as possible and return home as late we were allowed, trying to hit as many houses as we could. Pillowcases stuffed near the end of the night, we’d approach this one house we always saved for last, our anxiety and excitement building all evening. The lights were off as usual, but we knew someone was home. The eeriness only added to our fun. We cast our eyes left and right, wondering what would happen next. Would someone jump out from behind a tree? Would shrieks rend the air? Nothing. Nothing happened as we crept up the tree-lined path. It was always the same dark and scary walk.

At the door, we rang the bell, eagerly awaiting what was to come. Rang it a second time when no one answered, then a third, knowing it was part of their plan. Some years, we only had to ring it once; other years it was four or five times. Finally, the door opened accompanied by a screech to reveal a dark hallway punctuated with a few orange and black candles in the far distance. As our eyes adjusted to the light, out popped Mr. and Mrs. Fear, faces hidden by masks, bodies cloaked in costumes, childlike excitement in their eyes. They scared us every time although we expected it. What really struck me was how much fun they had scaring us kids. We jumped and screamed and they smiled and laughed, big hearty laughs that came from deep in the gut. We laughed too, snuffing out our fear—we couldn’t help it—and then we grabbed a candy bar, yelled thanks, and ran away, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Fear to prepare for their next victims.

Jonathan Maberry: I have almost too many Halloween memories to fit into a book let alone a blog column. So I’m going to cheat and give you two short ones.

When I was fourteen, the librarian at my middle school was the secretary for a group of professional science fiction and fantasy authors that included luminaries like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, L. Sprague De Camp, Richard Matheson and many others.  One Halloween I had the chance to sit down with Ray Bradbury—who is one of the kindest, smartest and most interesting people I’ve ever met. We talked about what he called the ‘art and science of writing’, and as a Halloween present he gave me a signed copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes. That copy is put away safely, but every year I buy a new copy of the book and read it on Halloween—and then give the copy to someone who has never read it before.

On a creepier note, when I lived in the Elkins Park suburb of Philadelphia my wife and I would visit our friends to share some wine and hand out candy; and usually the father–Randy—and I would drive his daughter to neighborhoods where there was active trick-or-treating. One year, after we dropped her off, Randy and I were walking along looking at the decorations (some of which were amazingly elaborate) and we saw a guy dressed as Michael Myers (from HALLOWEEN). Big guy, and wearing a really authentic-looking costume. At first we thought that it was cool, but later we saw him standing on the far side of a street where there were no houses. He was just standing there watching the kids.  This time we got a different vibe from him. It was the kind of vibe that sends up red flags.

We walked to the end of the block to keep an eye on Randy’s daughter, and when she went into a friend’s house I suggested we double back and check out the guy in the mask. He saw us coming and walked across the street and disappeared into a crowd.  We looked for him and didn’t see him. Then, after we’d walked back to the end of the block Randy spotted him standing at the far end of the block under a street light. He was staring at us. I turned around and started walking toward him, but he went into a yard and by the time I got there, he was gone again.

So, after making sure Randy’s daughter was with friends (and adults), we got in his car and drove around. We saw the guy one more time, walking the opposite way down a one-way street. He kept turning to look at us.  We had to circle the block in order to come up the street the right way, but when we did he was gone.

Nothing actually happened, but we cruised the neighborhood for quite a while. We both thought—or maybe ‘felt’—that there was something truly wrong about this guy, but we had nothing to base it on other than feelings. And understand something, I am rarely creeped out by people. I’m big and I’m a martial arts master-instructor and former bodyguard, so people seldom give me the heebie-jeebies, but this guy gave me a seriously bad vibe. Maybe it was all innocent, or maybe it was someone just screwing with our heads…but I still believe that there was something ‘wrong’ about that guy. That was a really spooky night.

Wanted Undead Or Alive includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics and fantasy artists. In stores everywhere.

Janice Gable Bashman is author (w/NY TIMES bestseller Jonathan Maberry) of Wanted Undead Or Alive (Citadel Press 2010), nominated for a 2010 Bram Stoker Award, and Managing Editor of The Big Thrill (International Thriller Writers’ newsletter and ezine).

Her short fiction has been published in various anthologies. She has written for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, The Writer, Wild River Review, and many other publications. She is an active member of the International Thriller Writers, the Horror Writers Association, and Mystery Writers of America. She is a speaker at conferences including BackSpace, Thrillerfest, and The Writer Stuff. Visit Janice online at JaniceGableBashman.com, http://twitter.com/janicebashman, and http://www.facebook.com/janicegablebashman.

Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer.  His novels include the Pine Deep Trilogy (Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man’s Song And Bad Moon Rising); the Joe Ledger thriller series (Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, The King Of Plagues, And Assassin’s Code); the Benny Imura Young Adult dystopian series (Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, And Flesh & Bone); the Scribe Award-winning film adaptation of The Wolfman and the standalone horror thriller—Dead Of Night. His nonfiction books include the international bestseller Zombie CSU, The Cryptopedia, They Bite, Vampire Universe and Wanted Undead Or Alive. He has sold over 1200 feature articles, thousands of columns, two plays, greeting cards, technical manuals, how-to books, and many short stories. His comics for Marvel include Marvel Universe Vs. The Wolverine, Marvel Universe Vs. The Punisher, Doomwar, Black Panther and Captain America: Hail Hydra.  He is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founder of The Liars Club; and is a frequent keynote speaker and guest of honor at conferences including BackSpace, Dragon*Con, ZombCon, PennWriters, The Write Stuff, Central Coast Writers, Necon, Killer Con, Liberty States, and many others. In 2004 Jonathan was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame, due in part to his extensive writing on martial arts and self-defense. In October he’ll be featured as an expert in a History Channel documentary on zombies. Visit him online at JonathanMaberry.com, www.twitter.com/jonathanmaberry and www.facebook.com/jonathanmaberry

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