How I became the Monster

     I grew up in the reasonably typical suburbs of Rochester, NY.  As a kid in the 1970s, my folks would dress me up in whatever costume struck my fancy each year (Planet of the Apes, Gandalf, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and a Cylon Centurion all come to mind).  

     Like any kid, I loved the candy and the costumes.   However, I really got into the mood of the evening.  Halloween night just feels creepy and sparks the imagination.  This was only added to by the occasional neighbor who would be playing some creepy music and have extra special decorations.  Halloween always let me escape.  It’s like a great game of make-believe, except on this one night it seems like everyone’s in on the game.

     By 1982, I was 12 years old (and a bit tall for my age).  I suppose I wasn’t too old for trick-or-treating but was starting to get concerned looks from folks who saw my size and figured I’d be back later to vandalize their house (an activity I never chose to take part in).  Earlier that year, the Chicago Tylenol murders had occurred and the resulting panic had many people worried about receiving or being accused of giving tainted treats.  Halloween was almost non-existent that year, and for a few to come.

     Years passed, and I sadly found myself without an outlet for Halloween.  That is, until I met the monster. 

     I can remember it as clear as day.  I was working at a bookstore in a small outlet mall, in October of 1988.  It was a slow night and I was sitting at the desk reading a novel.  Suddenly, I heard a couple of children screaming and looked out into the hallway, just in time to see two little kids go running by the front of the store.

     We never had any type of commotion there so I sprung up to see what was going on.  Reaching the entrance to the store, I looked down the hall to my left.  There I could see the pair still running and turning the corner into the busy part of the mall.  It was about that time that I became aware of a peculiar creaking sound coming from the hallway behind me.  I turned around to see what it was and was immediately breathless. 

     There, towering over me (I’m 6’4″) was a 9′ tall Frankenstein’s monster!  Obviously I knew he wasn’t “real”, however, the suddenness of it all really threw me for a loop.  With wide eyes, I stared in wonder at the thing, not at all accustomed to meeting anyone who was even a little taller than me.

     The monster just stared at me with piercing eyes and slowly bobbed his head.  My rational brain came to the conclusion that he must be a man on stilts, though at the time I was only familiar with old-fashioned peg-stilts, which these were not.  I must have looked quite silly standing there and about the time that I realized this, I noticed that the monster was holding out a piece of paper for me to take.  Slowly, I reached up and took the paper.  Upon doing this, the monster patted me gently on the head (as you would a small child) and then walked off down the hall.

     I stood there and watched him leave.  Only after he was out of sight did I stop to glance at the paper.  It was an advertisement for a Haunted House, being run by a local charitable organization.  On the bottom of the page, in bold letters, the text read “volunteers needed”.  Instantly I knew how to enjoy Halloween again.

     The following day, I showed up at the haunted house to volunteer my services.  The woman in charge thanked me for coming and asked me to wait just a moment, as she had some issue which demanded her immediate attention.  I sat there in the dressing room with amazing costumes lying all about.  A few minutes later, she returned.

     “Do you know how to walk in drywall stilts?’ she asked.

     “Umm, you mean like the big Frankenstein guy?” I responded, “I don’t know how to walk on any kind of stilts.”

     “Oh, it’s easy.  You’ll be great”

     Always a rather timid person, her reassurance wasn’t having  much of an effect on me.  “You don’t understand.  I can’t even roller-skate.”

     She proceeded to explain to me that “big Frank” was their marquee attraction.  Unfortunately, the fellow who normally played the monster had fallen ill and that of all of their volunteers, I was the only one who was big enough to pull off playing the part of the monster.

     I protested a bit more but before I knew it, I was strapped into the stilts and monster costume.  Her husband and brother held my hands and I timidly made my way to my spot in the haunted house.  There, they leaned me up against the wall and told me to just kind of stretch out my arms and moan when people came through.

     Well, I won’t go into great detail here but let me tell you this.  Regardless of your age, if you ever have the opportunity to work in a haunted house, DO IT!!!  Bit by bit, I got the hang of the stilts (they’re really not bad at all).  Oh my, I had so much fun that year that I still smile when I think about it.

     At any rate, I proceeded to work for the haunted house for the next few years.  In my early 20s I saved up enough money to buy my own stilts and monster suit.  I would go out to the costume parties at bars as the monster and dance the night away.

     Over the years, I actually turned it into a small business of sorts.  As “Monster For Rent“, I hire myself out to entertain at birthday parties, Halloween parties, Wegmans, farm markets, and different companies who want to draw some attention to their business during the Halloween season.

     As things grew a bit, I took my show on the road to as many Halloween destinations as I could find.  In 1996, I had the honor of being named “King of Halloween” at Haunted Happenings, in Salem, MA.

     The years have taken me all over the country and I’ve tried to catch as much Halloween fun as I could.  Presently I reside in the small town of Wellston, Ohio (just about an hour southeast of Columbus). 

     Thank you for reading.  Have any favorite Halloween memories?  Please share them below.

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6 thoughts on “How I became the Monster

  1. Great story!

    I’ve been a huge fan of Halloween since I was young. We lived far enough out of town that we didn’t get trick-or-treaters at our house, but we dressed up and went out and our church (believe it or not) had a party every year. Once, we teenagers were allowed to use the church basement with its dirt floor and real cobwebs to have a haunted house. We brought people through in small groups and everyone had a great time.

    When I went to college in Ohio, I was delighted to discover that the different JCs groups put on haunted events. We would stand in amazingly long lines to get in and had the best time getting scared.

    When my daughters were young, I really had to tone down my Halloween enthusiasm because they got scared so easily. I had to do a kinder, gentler holiday that just about killed my love of Halloween. But, my oldest started to get interested in the ghostly, creepy, haunted Halloween kind of things I love, so my enthusiasm came back.

    Now, for the last few years, we’ve had a haunted graveyard that we add to and get a ton of trick-or-treaters who visit. (BTW, we live near Rochester, NY!) We never know what to expect, weatherwise, so it’s always a challenge. Last year we started a Halloween party tradition, so the inside of the house also gets the royal treatment. This year, our theme is classic movie monsters and your costume really caught my eye – it’s awesome!

    I wish you well with your business. You obviously love what you do – and that’s the best possible job!

    • Thank you for the kind words and for stopping by! Yours is a great story as well.

      I believe you about the churches. I’ve actually worked hand-in-hand with some churches over the years and it’s all been good, clean Halloween fun.

      I’ve also caught a couple Jaycees haunted houses over the years. As I recall, their organization really helped kick the whole concept off.

      Wow! Great to bump into someone from western NY. Spent the first 30 years of my life in Rochester and during quite a bit of that, I worked for Wegmans.

      Best of luck with your Halloween party. Sounds like a ton of fun!

  2. Great story, I enjoyed reading it :).

    In Poland we don’t have Halloween (although, from what I’ve heard, people start to adapt that holiday and celebrate it, but it’s going to be years before we get REAL Halloween). Instead, we have All Saints Day on Nov 1st, and All Souls Day on Nov, 2nd. The latter is a day for remembering our loved ones that passed and visiting cementeries, but a lot of people does so on the 1st of November already. The graves get decorated with flowers, and lots of candles and lamps are lit. We pray and think.
    My best memory of that time is going to the cementery late in the evening. November is quite chilly in Poland and it gets dark early, so you walk among the graves lit up with hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of candles. You can actually feel the warmth of the flames over the cold air.
    This is how it looks like: http://tadeuszsolecki.prv.pl/photogallery/Zaduszki.jpg

    My first memory of Halloween is from when I came over to Ireland. In the first year I lived in a rather dangerous district of the city and I was told it’s was safer not to come out, so I actually… missed it.
    The next year I was flying back from Poland on October 31st, and I completely forgot it was Halloween. By that time I was living in another place, a lovely area with family houses. It was dark and quite cold already, but I was amazed by all the light and decorations, hearing people talking and children laughing. Too bad I didn’t have any treats for them… But the overall feeling was more like family celebration, not a creppy-scary thing.
    Funny as it is, at the age of 30 I’m just learning about Halloween, but I do enjoy this holiday. We dress up at work every year and I’m already thinking about a costume for this year, as I make it myself instead of buying one.

  3. Do you still live in Wellston? I’m helping organize Wellston’s Independence Day celebration this year (on July 1), and we’d love to have Uncle Sam on stilts!

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