On the evening of Saturday October 26th, 2013 I arrived in Elgin, Illinois for their amazing “Nightmare on Chicago Street!” The previous year I’d shown little restraint in talking up this occasion; gushing about it being the BEST Halloween event I’d ever attended. In that regard I make no apologies and stand behind my hyperbole. It was not only fantastic from a horror/Svengoolie fan’s perspective, but from a Terror Dave one as well. In fact, in many ways, it was something of a game changer.
The 2012 event marked the first time in my Sven-chasing years that the Svengoolie camp invited me behind the scenes to join them. This was something I’d neither expected nor felt worthy of and remember pinching myself several times that evening to ensure I wasn’t suffering from a horror host hallucination. I’d grown up idolizing the Chicago legend, Rich Koz, and to be allowed so close while being treated like a friend from both him and Jim Roche (his buddy and assistant) was a dream come true.
It was also the night I’d be introduced (by Sven) to the great Elizabeth Haney from Acme Design. In the months that followed, when Svengoolie suffered a health scare and the Terror Daves were at odds, she would prove herself not only to be one of the most well connected horror gals in Chicago but also a damn good friend.
Two weeks before this years event, Elizabeth called and asked me if I’d take lots of pictures for her and her BFF, Alice Moring (the woman behind Nightmare on Chicago Street) since they’re both so busy they don’t actually get a chance to enjoy it. This request was about as demanding as asking me to breathe since I’d every intention of doing so anyway. At the same time, getting an official nod, along with a press pass, made it easier and was further proof of what a great person Elizabeth is.
I parked in a nearby garage and started hoofing it over to the area designated as the “Safe Zone” of Elgin’s ZDI (Zombie Defense Initiative). At first glance, their definition of safety looked a lot more like zombie bedlam to me…
I’d barely entered the perimeter before spying Elizabeth scurrying by one of the stages. She would remain in constant motion for the next seven hours.
Elizabeth was carrying a construction horse which I offered take for her but she’d have none of it. Despite her small frame, she continued lugging that apparatus about half a block while I walked guiltily behind as she led me to Svengoolie headquarters. It was the same spot as last year…a boarded up space with “Uncle Sven Wants You” signs (a copy of which I’ve been trying to get my greedy Goolie mitts on since last year) hanging all over it.
She brought me inside and I saw the spot here Svengoolie would be signing autographs. This time, however, it had his new coffin prototype lid hovering nearby.
It seemed odd seeing it just sit there as backdrop, especially considering all the fanfare it had received the year before (story HERE). I’ll never forget the energy of that night as 1,000’s of Svengoolie fans screamed their approval during its unveiling. The following days its image would light up the Internet as well as appear in local newspapers.
Last March it also served as a sort of replacement for Svengoolie himself at my Brookfield AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) chapter’s Vital Grounds fundraiser dinner while the host (our usual headliner) recovered from his heart attack. Yes, there was no doubt that the prototype had performed valiantly during its brief tenure until being replaced by the actual coffin that following September. Now, its destiny fulfilled, it hangs on the walls of Acme Design like a frozen Han Solo in Jabba’s Palace…unless summoned as eye candy for an event such as this.
Elizabeth introduced me to her husband, Dave, before assigning him to the important task of hanging rubber chickens from the chandeliers.
One of the things her and Alice did differently this year is create their own uniforms which not only gave them a retro-military look but also color coordinated with Sven. Seeing these two made me wonder if I shouldn’t have dressed up as a Svengoolie version of the Superman comic’s photographer, Jimmy Olsen…or would that only end up irking Jimmy Roche his real one?
“Here, put this on,” said Elizabeth as she handed me an orange construction vest. “As long as you’re wearing this you’ll have access to everything here at the event.”
My first job was to place a Svengoolie sign on the construction horse before putting it out front; something I was thrilled to do. I mean, one could argue that this was the first “official” Svengoolie act in my entire fanatical Sven-chasing career.
In between odd jobs such as this I’d go outside and snap photos noticing that a fresh batch of zombie cocktails had been made while others fired up the grill. All this amid the sounds of one very frightening looking band performing.
While preparing for Svengoolie’s arrival, a man dressed in a lab costume walked in and announced that he’d driven up from Tennessee to perform at this event and was really hoping he could get the host’s autograph. Elizabeth took down his name so she could make his dream a reality. As he walked outside to his steampunk inspired wagon, I decided to follow. I’m always interested in talking to the newer out of state Sven fans though have ever proven to be as colorful as this one. I learned that he’d only recently discovered Sven on his local MeTV affiliate but, after just one viewing, “was hooked.”
By dusk the streets had become full of fans. I went outside and videotaped as much as could. Elizabeth was particularly happy to point out the local barber shop that now served as a make-up station for Clare Ramsey. This talented artist has done make-up effects for films such as Narnia and Quantum of Solace as well as the most recent Dr. WHO series.
This year featured a street dedicated to steampunk fans creating an interesting mix with the horror crowd. In some cases, the two genres were mixed in with grisly results.
That should not, however, suggest that there was a shortage of your garden variety zombies.
Sitting inside the room Sven was slated to appear was the talented artist, Mitch O’ Connell. He was selling a book of his creations, many of which I’d seen before such as on the cover of the CD, “Mostly Ghostly,” which the other Dave featured in one of his “Music to Die for” posts (and you can check out, HERE).
Soon Jim Roche appeared which meant that Svengoolie had entered the building.
Coming up…Svengoolie arrives!