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Kenversations™
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by Ken Pellman (archives)
October 24, 2001
Ken takes a look at some Halloween traditions.

A Full Year of Kenversations

Although I’ve been doing work for LaughingPlace.com since it launched, it wasn’t until I was asked by The Fearless Leader to write a monthly column that I started to contribute on a regular basis. This is edition number twelve of Kenversations™, and the column hits the one-year mark next month. It is nice to be associated with the LP name, and to be able to answer proudly to inquiries that yes, I write for LP. But enough about all of that.

My Halloween Traditions
It’s late October once again, and I’m feeling old once again.

Why?

This used to be one of the most exciting times of the year for me, as the days led up to October 31 and the only day of the year I could express my morbid self by putting on a costume, applying gory special-effects make-up, and acting stranger than usual.

I remember how I used to get dressed up in a costume and go with trick-or-treating with my family and friends in my friendly suburban neighborhood, and take home a sack full of candy that would last me weeks.

The frights turned all-too-real when one of my sisters, who was ten years old at the time, actually caught on fire! She was wearing a cape and it brushed over an open jack-o-lantern that had an actual candle with a flame poking out of the top. Remembering the admonition to "stop, drop, and roll", my sister survived, though she was severely burned on a leg and an arm.

Years later, being the sensitive sibling that I was, I used plenty of "burn" effects in the make-up I applied to myself. My sister said it was way too realistic. I was first bitten with the tendency towards gory make-up for Halloween in eighth grade, showing up to school with a cleaver lodged in my head, supplemented with pencils stabbed in the ol’ noggin as well. I won an award in a costume contest. After that, I was hooked.

Then I got too old to trick-or-treat. I know it may come as a shock to those of you high-school seniors who are still planning to get some free candy this year, but yeah, after a certain age, you just seem pitiful when you go trick-or-treating - especially if you are too lazy to put together a costume.

Anyway…

I had this partner in crime… Francisco. He was a Chilean guy I went to junior high school with (that’s middle school, kids). We made disturbing videos and films at school and at home. Well, they were disturbing at the time - remember, this was before Ren & Stimpy, South Park, etc. Working on an award-winning clay animation production, we parodied the Claymation™ term and came up with one that seemed more appropriate for what we were doing… Goremation™.

Alas, we moved up and our high school didn’t have a filmmaking class, and our energy had to be redirected to home video and… Halloween. Thus was born our annual Goremation™ production of live theater in the foyer of my family’s house. We made ourselves look as damaged and gory as we could, had eerie music playing, made quickie dummy cadavers to place in view, had rubber creepy crawlies strewn about, and glow-in-the-dark skulls purchased at Disneyland Park (trust me, I’ll eventually talk about Disney).

Adults coming to your door were far more disturbed than the children, who were either entranced or comically entertained, depending on their age. All of them, though, were happy to get the candy. I wonder how many parents confiscated what we passed out for fear that we, being the freaks that we were, might have tampered with it?

If I recall correctly off of the top of my head, Frank and I did this for five years, the final performance together being later in the year after graduation from high school. He and his family returned to Chile shortly thereafter. I think I let Goremation™ go dark a year, and then resumed performances without Frank for a year or two. It was expected. We’d actually hear people approaching the door and wondering aloud what "they’re going to look like this year." When Goremation™ failed to return, trick-or-treaters asked the poor members of my family that ended up passing out the candy what had become of me.

My buddy Rick, much more the Halloween enthusiast than I, invited me to join in with something he was doing with a friend of his, Shea. "Boot Hill" in Woodbridge was my new Halloween happening. I think it lasted for three years and I think I was there for all three. It wasn’t until the final year that I was finally unleashed as the "Bush Zombie" (Hmmm, from Gore-mation to Bush Zombie). Rick and Shea did an excellent job of creating an atmospheric experience, complete with a thorough backstory. Local press even covered us. Shea was really good and making props and creating his own make-up & costume, and Rick got our friends to do professional sculpture work and music. Shea’s mother was extremely gracious in putting up with us as we rearranged her driveway and lawn.

Until I became the Bush Zombie, there was nothing that jumped out to scare you. I was totally invisible in the limited lighting, hiding under a net in an opening between bushes. Even after I grabbed people’s legs with a large ghoul-glove, they still looked right at me and did not see me. I even grabbed the ankle of Imagineer Tony Baxter (another Disney reference!) Heck, even Rick couldn’t tell that I had left and gone inside for munchies, and carried on a conversation with an empty space until I popped out the front door behind him.

Rick moved and got hitched. Shea went to work on Episode II (don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about). "Boot Hill" evaporated.

This year, it appears that, as the case was last year, I’ll be working too late in the evening to put together anything at my place, which would actually be a great set. I need to plan ahead and avoid this situation next year. I need to stay young at heart. The fact that I didn’t do anything last year and probably won’t this year makes me feel old!

Last year, I went early to the Hallowed Haunting Grounds, an incredible labor of love put together by a regular Disneyland Park guest (another Disney reference!) with help from friends. If you can drop by to see this on any of the nights it is materializing, I highly recommend it. It features some of the same effects as The Haunted Mansion (Disney!), in this guy’s front yard. Even Imagineers (I don’t need to say it again) are impressed, and people line up around the block. Go late if you can, when the crowds have eased up. I’ve been visiting for a few years now, and definitely plan to return this year.

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