Into the laboratory

With the holidays and the bulk of the winter behind me, I’ve decided that it’s time to head down into the laboratory and start working on my monsters.

Zombie Walk Columbus 2012 is just over 2 months away and there will likely be other zombie walks or “halfway to Halloween” parties which pop-up as well.

My challenge this year is to make a new “friend” for my Frankenstein’s monster costume.  Ideally, I’m looking to design something which will blend more easily with non-Halloween events.

At the moment, I have two particular ideas which are striking my fancy.  I’m hoping that some of you folks will lend me your input as to what you think would be best.

Before starting this process, I determined certain criteria which would guide me in my creations.  First, being a stilt-walker and thoroughly enjoying interacting with folks while wearing stilts, I knew that I would have to incorporate the stilts into the costume.

Despite wearing the stilts and being roughly 9′ tall in them, I also have to make certain that whatever I come up with will allow me to have all of the mobility and functionality of a normal person.  I’ve seen many stilt suits over the years which were more like “constructs” than costumes.  That won’t work for me.

If I encounter stairs, I need to be able to climb them.  If I want a beer, I need to be able to drink it.  Lastly, if I want to dance, I need to be able to dance.  All of this has to be accomplished without having to remove any of the suit.

I also need to focus on looking good in the broad daylight.  My Frankenstein’s monster suit looks fantastic in a dark bar or sauntering down the street at 10pm.  However, it loses some of its mystique on a sunny afternoon.

With these thoughts in mind, I’ll get on to my ideas.


Zombie Uncle Sam

I’ve been toying with this idea for some time.  I’ve not been able to find any precedent for a stilt-walking zombie.  However, there is a fairly common theme of zombies retaining certain abilities and human traits even after they’ve been turned.

At the same time, Uncle Sam on stilts is arguably the most iconic stilt-walking costume.  As a matter of fact, it’s rare for me to tell someone I’m a stilt-walker without them immediately asking, “do you dress up as Uncle Sam?”

Therefore, I suppose it’s not too far of a stretch to say that his poor fellow was out doing his  Uncle Sam routine, just as the zombie outbreak occurred.  He’s infected and when he turns, he just ends up shambling along on his stilts, much like “regular” zombies retain the ability to walk on their feet.

While not a stilt-walking Uncle Sam, there is also the fact that in 1996, there was an Uncle Sam zombie movie.  While B-grade (even by zombie movie standards), I suspect that there are some diehards out there who will appreciate the connection.

The only minor drawback to this idea is the fact that Uncle Sam’s hat is traditionally rather tall.  Extra height will only make it a bit more challenging to get in and out of buildings.


Robot/Mechanized Suit

I’ve noticed that it’s quite common for folks at zombie walks to not only dress up as the living dead but also as police & military members who have come to fight off the waves of zombies.

An acquaintance of mine and fellow stilter portrays Iron Techtron.  This fantastic costume is part robot and part Hokie-bird (the mascot for Virginia Tech).  I’ve been following him for years and he really puts on quite a show.

This got me thinking.  If there were to be a zombie outbreak and the infection spread slowly enough, wouldn’t it be feasible to create a robot or mechanized suit to help fight off the zombie menace?

Zombies wouldn’t have any natural attraction to a hunk of moving metal so a mechanized unit could walk among them unmolested.  This would facilitate recon and assault.


Well, that’s what I’m looking at.  What do you folks think?  In your opinion, which direction do you think I should take?  Please leave a comment below.  I’d appreciate any input that you care to give.  Thank you for reading.


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.

Does anybody really like Candy Corn???

     I love Halloween.  I’m also rather fond of candy.  That said, I can’t stomach candy corn.  I think that everyone has certain items in a candy bowl which will remain until all of the others are gone.  Well, for me the candy corn never even makes it into the bowl.

     Let’s say I happened to be shopping for an assorted bag of Halloween candy and I had two bags to choose from.  If one bag contained some candy corn and the other bag had some live ants running around in it, I’d likely choose the one with the ants!  This is largely because I can understand why the ants would be there but I have no idea what candy corn would be doing in my bag of Halloween candy.

     Apparently, the confection was created in the 1880s by a fellow named George Renniger.  I’m sure his Wunderle Candy Co. had good intentions for their product, so I can’t fault them.  Hell, everyone makes mistakes.

     What’s curious to me is the fact that I’ve never met a single person who did like the stuff.  Trust me, I’ve asked around.  If I could have traded away all of my candy for say Hersey Bars, Tootsie Pops, or even Smarties, I’d probably weigh an extra 20 lbs. now.  Unfortunately, it seems that it is equally despised by all of my friends and acquaintances.

     Cleary, someone must be eating it.  According to the National Confectioners Association, more than 20 million lbs. of the candy are produced each year.  Where the hell is it going?

     I’m forced to think of the old fruit cake joke.  You know, the one which states that there is only 1 fruitcake in existence but people keep passing it off to each other as a gift.  Perhaps there are really only a couple pounds of candy corn in the world and somehow it keeps showing up on Halloween.

     In the name of science, I’m asking you, do you like candy corn?  Seriously, I’m begging you.  If you like candy corn or know someone who does, please let me know.  Somehow the world would make just a little more sense to me, if I knew that there was a reason for the sugary mess to still exist. 

     I hope I haven’t sounded to harsh about the poor candy corn.  Everything deserves its moment in the spotlight.  I just wish that some other type of candy was most commonly associated with Halloween.  For myself, I have one in mind.

Forest Park Retirement Community (Victor, NY) 10.23.09

     This was my first event with an older crowd.  When I say “older”, I mean that most of the residents were over 90 years old.  At any rate, a good time was had by all.

     High point of the night was the fact that a number of them could actually remember seeing Frankenstein in the theater, when it was originally released!




What exactly is Monster For Rent?


What exactly is Monster For Rent?

     He’s a stilt-walking monster, standing at just under 9’ tall.  In his younger days, he worked at various “haunted houses” and “haunted hayrides”.   Now as a more seasoned monster, he spends the Halloween season, hiring himself out to entertain at birthday parties, Halloween parties, grocery stores, farm markets, and different companies who want to draw some attention to their business during the Halloween season.

     Originally from Rochester, NY, the monster spent a number of years residing in West Palm Beach, FL.  Currently, he resides in the quiet town of Wellston, OH.

 So what does the monster do?

     Really that depends on the specific event.  The overwhelming majority of the time, he’s called into action to shake hands and pose for pictures with party-goers and customers of the various events that he’s hired to perform at.

     At company functions, he’s been used to pass out advertising literature, march in parades, draw attention to certain displays within a store, or even stand by the side of the road to help draw in business.

Can the monster talk?

     Sadly, no… The mad scientist who created the monster neglected to give him the ability to speak.  However, he’s become quite adept at communicating with folks through hand gestures and head bobs.

There will be lots of young children at my event.  Will the monster be too scary for them?

     While it is true that a 9’ tall monster might seem pretty intimidating, the monster very rarely scares any little ones.  In his experience, children who are afraid of Santa Claus, clowns, or the Easter Bunny may also be afraid of the monster.

     The monster has become quite adept at scanning the crowd for signs that any of the little folks are looking a bit uneasy.  When he detects this, he avoids eye contact and focuses on the folks who are close by, shaking his hand and posing for pictures.  Generally, this allows any timid youngsters to move along and not suffer any frights.


The monster is so big.  Will he fit in my home or business?

     Aside from being just under 9’ tall, the monster is able to fit just about anywhere that an event might be held.  He’s easily as maneuverable as any “normal” person.  As such, he’s able to duck through regular doorways, climb stairs, and pretty much go anywhere required, doing what needs to be done.

There will likely be big crowds at my event.   Will this be a problem for the monster?

     Not at all.  The monster is very sturdy on his feet and has full peripheral vision.  Whether he’s indoors with merchandise displays or outdoors in a throng of people, the monster is very adept at moving about in tight spaces.

Could the monster hold a sign to promote my event/business?

     Yes, absolutely.  The monster would be able to hold/carry any sign that any other “normal” person could.

Any chance we could dress the monster up in one of our uniforms?

     Sure.  Aside from being rather large, the monster would be happy to.  Over the years, he’s worn t-shirts, aprons, hats, & buttons from those who’ve used his services.