Tales of the SSQQ Halloween Party
By Rick Archer, October 2007
Over the years, the SSQQ Halloween
Party has grown to the point where it might be considered a Legend.
From the very first party on, our Halloween Parties have been popular
events. Halloween and dancing seem to go hand in hand. The
party has grown so large it attracts
crowds approaching 300 people.
The studio is so full that we completely fill 2 dance floors with
wall to wall people.
our first SSQQ Halloween Party was held at
apartment clubhouse. The second party was
at Stevens of Hollywood in 1979. Starting in 1980, the rest of the
parties have been at
our location on Bissonnet. Simple addition
shows we have had more than a few parties. 2007 marks Number 30.
With this many parties, as you might imagine, over the years
things have happened. Some of the stories are
funny, some are odd, and one
incident was downright frightening. We
hope you enjoy the anecdotes!
Tales from the Crypt
Shortly before the night of the 2000 Halloween Party, I came to the studio to discover a mystery - Dracula had been "disturbed".
If you are new to the SSQQ Halloween, it helps to
know that Dracula and his coffin serve as centerpiece. "Dracula" is a big part of SSQQ Halloween. More people have had their Halloween pictures taken with Dracula at the studio than any other monster.
It must be because Dracula is so cute and photogenic. Or maybe he is just
in a very strategic spot in Room 2.
I credit Southern Importers for giving
me the idea to have a semi-realistic Dracula.
Southern Importers posted an incredibly realistic Dracula
lying in repose next to their front door. People would line up
next to his coffin to marvel at how perfect the sleeping Dracula looked,
only to suddenly flinch in terror as Dracula's hand would rise swiftly
to grab them!!
I was fortunate not to fall for their trap.
I was in such a hurry that I just glanced at
Dracula in admiration and kept on going. A
few minutes after
entering the store, I heard screams
followed by nervous laughter. Curious, I decided to see what was going on.
I discovered six or seven people where surrounding
Dracula's coffin in animated conversation. Every time a new person
walked in the store, they would hush and wait to see what happened.
If the newcomer stopped to look, sure enough the hand would jump up to
grab him or her/. Screams would be heard throughout the store and
everybody who was in on the joke would laugh.
I didn't have a clue how they pulled off this trick so I began to watch
from a distance. I discovered the policeman who runs security at the store had wired up Dracula's hand using fish line.
From a remote vantage point 20 feet
away, he could wait for the perfect moment to jerk the wire.
He would definitely have gotten me too. What a great trick!
While I observed, I saw one poor lady
who completely fell apart.
Our victim was ranting and raving about how great Dracula looked.
She had 5 kids with her and a girl
friend too. Just fooling around, this lady actually leaned over the
coffin to expose her neck.
She dared Dracula to bite her.
The policeman's timing could not have been better. Up leapt that hand and out came a blood-curdling scream that would have made Janet Leigh proud.
Actress Janet Leigh's scream in "Psycho" is
the most famous movie scream in screen history.
Her daughter Jamie Lee
Curtis carried on the family tradition in "Halloween".
Well, guess what, this woman's scream was real. She was terrified!
I hoped to duplicate this horror magic
at SSQQ. My friend Larry Carlton
offered to help. At the time, Larry taught shop at a Cy-Fair high school. His teams won many state contests under his guidance.
I told Larry that I wanted a great coffin.
His students made a terrific life-size
coffin for me as a class project.
It was incredibly authentic.
Unfortunately for my purposes making Dracula
proved more problematic. The costume was
no problem, but finding an adequate torso was. I bought an inflatable body, but the results were mediocre.
Again Larry came to the rescue by bringing body parts to the studio: arms, torso, head, legs... all held together with stakes.
Unfortunately the SSQQ Dracula proved too flimsy to jerk around with fish wire.
Every time we jerked the chain, his arm came off. What a
Wouldn't it be fun to terrorize some dance students? Oh
well. Instead over the years we have
learned to be content just to admire the impressive coffin with Dracula lying peacefully in repose.
Former SSQQ instructor Judy Archer
had a real talent for making Dracula look good. She
created the Dracula costume and would bring
Dracula him to life so to speak every year
about a week before the party.
It would take Judy about half an hour of careful
concentration to complete her task.
After that, we just let him lie there and be gruesome
until the party. Then people would line up for the chance
to have their picture taken with him!
Dracula typically minds his own business during
his celebrity week at the party. He isn't much fun to look at,
so we usually put a blanket over him during class.
One night In 2000, I came to the studio early. I noticed the
blanket had been removed from Dracula and I could see that his head
was no longer attached. Nothing was damaged, but
his body parts were
clearly out of place. Hmm. This was on a
Thursday, just two nights before the
Dracula wasn't damaged, just 'disturbed'. Someone had obviously been messing with Dracula. I showed Judy who agreed he had been
With a frown, Judy immediately set about redoing Dracula.
Neither of us could figure out what had
happened to mess him up so much. It
didn't seem like vandalism but rather mischief.
was solved the next day. I always have my
friend Solomon, a carpenter, at the studio to help me with the
Halloween Decorations. There are always small construction
projects where he is invaluable.
This Friday morning, Solomon brought a friend named Luis along to
help. Solomon and Luis helped me set up the SSQQ Haunted House.
As the three of
us walked through Room 2, Solomon pointed out Dracula to Luis and said something to him in Spanish. Luis frowned deeply as Solomon laughed. I asked Solomon what the deal was.
The story went like this. Every Wednesday night around midnight Solomon's son Joel cleans the studio with the help of
Solomon's wife Rosalva and
his daughter Dulce. Apparently a couple nights earlier Joel was sick, so
his sister Dulce asked Luis to take Joel's place
in the rotation.
To set the scene you need to know the studio is a scary place late at night after the lights are off. The studio gets VERY dark.
Until you turn on the wall lights all you have to see by is the eerie glow of the red exit lights.
For example, one night at Halloween time in
1999 I was frightened so badly I actually screamed out loud!
I was closing up and the last person to leave the studio. As I was leaving I glanced over my shoulder and was frightened to see a man crouching ready to leap at me... it wasn't till after I had jumped
into a "kung fool/ready for battle fighting stance" that I realized it was the new standup Wolfman
(see the picture at right) we had just bought for the studio.
Obviously I was quite relieved but that didn't stop my heart from beating furiously for quite a while!
My subconscious had reacted to a very real threat!!
Getting back to our story, Dulce, Joel's sister, is about 21 and very pretty.
Physically Dulce is barely 5 feet tall and quite thin. It
turns out Dulce has a sneaky side. Using her mother to set Luis up, Dulce turned out the lights in Room 2. She put a broom right next to Dracula's coffin, then
showing a lot of guts she actually crawled into the coffin
alongside Dracula and closed the lid. A couple minutes later Rosalva asked Luis to go into Room 2 and get the broom next to the coffin.
More than happy to help, Luis walked into the dimly lit room.
Just as he reached for the broom, Dulce's arm reached out of the coffin to grab Luis as she roared, "I vant to suck your blood!!"
Luis screamed bloody murder and exploded into a dash out of the studio for the street!
Rosalva watched the whole thing. She was convulsed with laughter at her
daughter's practical joke. Luis in the meantime had crossed
Bissonnet before coming to a stop. Rosalva had to cross the street to calm Luis down and
coax him into returning. Luis eventually pulled himself back together, but I am sure he visited a place in his psyche most of us would rather not experience.
Back to the Top
The SSQQ Haunted
SSQQ has an excellent Haunted House. It isn't easy to make a good Haunted House. Just as an example, the Haunted House at the Renaissance Festival
in 2001 was so lame even my daughter Sam, age 10, was yawning as we left the place.
Despite spending a great of money on terrific displays, the place just wasn't scary at all. Ho hum.
Most terror revolves around what you can't see. Therefore we keep our
Haunted House quite dark. Very dark.
It is quite an adventure to walk through our Maze in Room 6. To create
the Maze, we hang several 6-foot tall black felt curtains from the
ceiling to make many twists and turns. Did I say we keep the room as dark as
And the screams from
'Psycho' and the music from 'Halloween' and 'The Exorcist' definitely
don't make the walk in the dark any easier. In total darkness with creepy music, shrieks and screams,
you may indeed conclude you are more than slightly worried as you
begin your trip!
Ghosts fly in the air. Things in the
dark touch you. Bats and spiders rub against your faces.
Our guests definitely
develop a respect for the adventure. Newcomers to the Haunted House always say their
trip through the SSQQ Haunted House turned out to a whole lot spookier than they had expected.
There is just something about wondering what surprise might lurk around
each dark corner that gives people the creeps. Their imaginations are usually working overtime as they slowly take each cautious step!
Some visitors even encounter genuine terror!!
Back in the 80s and the early 90s, the SSQQ
Haunted House used to consist of a long walk through a darkened
Room 4 with the creepy music playing. Ho Hum. Cute but boring.
In 1998 Judy Archer got the idea to hang several 6-foot black felt
curtains in Room 5. Helped by Susie Merrill and Tom Flaherty, this
was the true start of the SSQQ Haunted House. I have to hand it to
Judy; I originally made fun of the idea. But once I saw how
effective the curtains were, I was very impressed. Now I wanted to
We got serious in 1999 by moving the curtains to Room 6. We added
many more curtains and improved the music. With its many twists
and turns in the darkness, the walk became a true Maze. Judy added
a laboratory, hanging skeletons, a graveyard, and a Psycho
The 1999 Haunted House was very cool. Even better it was
a complete surprise to our guests. Not having ever gone through it
before no one knew what to expect.
Everyone was sweating a little when they exited, then they
turned around and thanked us for helping them get into the true
spirit of Halloween.
The Haunted House definitely sets the tone for the Party.
TALES OF HORROR - THE M AND M GIRL!!
In 1999, our first Haunted House paid
as at least one guest experienced true terror that first night!!
That evening a gorgeous redhead named Gayle Luber came traipsing la di
da through the Maze with her
boyfriend Steve Mink. She and Steve were
colorfully dressed as M&Ms. In the grand style of little Red Riding
Hood, Gayle carried a basket full of M&Ms.
Gayle stopped to laugh at the ghoul standing still in one of the curves in the Maze.
Gayle told Steve this was the most pathetic monster she had ever seen.
Just as she started to poke the Monster to prove how fake it was, the Monster
came to life and reached for her!
Caught totally off guard, Gayle let out the most blood-curdling
real-life scream I have ever heard!
Her scream was easily as good as the one from the famous
Psycho shower scene. It should
have been. Gayle's scream wasn't faked; it was
In her panic,
Gayle threw her basket of M&Ms in the air and jumped into Steve's arms
all in one motion. As the result of her terror, hundreds of M&Ms came raining from the sky. As they landed, the
M&Ms scattered all over the floor.
I was in another part of the Haunted House at the time.
That scream scared me! That scream was real! It
sounded like someone had been attacked! Or
maybe someone had fallen
and been hurt. Frankly, I was pretty worried.
I made my way through the
secret passage to locate the sound of the terror.
Just about the time I arrived was
when I heard Gayle begin to laugh.
Peeking from behind a curtain I realized
Gayle had fallen victim to Patrick Steerman (pictured with Sharon
Crawford). Patrick was an SSQQ Staffer who
had volunteered to greet
people inside the Maze. None of us had imagined just how effective
Patrick and his ghoul outfit would be,
but obviously he was very effective!!
Later at the party I asked Patrick what had
happened. Patrick explained his
simple technique - he just stood there in
a corner. If no one paid attention to him, he continued to
motionless prop. In Gayle's case, a couple people had just passed
Patrick without incident. Watching them pass,
Gayle let down her guard when she saw how
harmless Patrick was. This made her even more
vulnerable to his trap!
I will never forget this incident. Not only did I hear the scream
first-hand, the next morning I
was given a vivid reminder.
In order for classes to be held in Room 6 on Sunday, we
always have to dismantle the Maze the morning after the party.
Although the curtains come down a lot faster than
they go up, it is still requires two hours of four people working
together to finish the job.
The morning after Gayle's moment of terror, I was up early to begin the cleanup.
As I took down the curtains, I couldn't keep my eyes off those M&Ms
laying there on the floor. The longer I
worked, the more my desire grew. Pretty soon I
was certain they were talking to me.
"You know you want to eat us! We taste so good and you are
so hungry! mmmm!!"
Yeah, yeah, I know they had millions of germs on them blah blah blah.
Let me tell you something - if you get hungry enough, those
germ arguments lose
a lot of their power!! I fought the urge, but the charms of the M&Ms
continued weaken my resistance. The
siren call of the M&Ms grew louder and louder.
Finally I had to have one. Making sure
no one was looking, I reached down and grabbed one off the floor.
I ate it! That's when
discovered it had a peanut inside!!
Uh oh! That did it!! These M&Ms had nuts
in them. Now I was completely helpless.
You know how you spill something in the kitchen and you call the dog to
come eat it up? Well, that was me. My resistance caved in and
I became an M&M tramp. I spent the rest of the morning carefully
ridding the floor of all M&Ms by eating
What a marvelous cleaning technique!! I had so
much fun I even took a picture of them. Such wonderful memories.
By the way, for you germ experts, please note the dark lining of filthy
dirt on the wall. Also please note that ten years later I am alive
and doing fine. So put that in your bonnet and figure it out.
By the way, there is a cute footnote to this story.
Steve and Gayle were Swing Kids who originally met in Swing classes at
SSQQ. After a lengthy engagement, they got married in May 2002.
I am so
glad to see they weren't too traumatized by Patrick's monster!
Back to the Top
I love Halloween. As a Scorpio due to
my October birthday, astrologically I am supposed to be fascinated
with the Occult and the Hidden Side of things. Well, this pegs me to
a Tee!! I get the biggest kick out of the costumes, the
monsters, and the legends. While most people prefer Christmas, I
freely admit my favorite time of the year is Halloween without a
doubt. As a result, the SSQQ Halloween Party has always been a labor
However not everything associated with the
Halloween Party has been fun. There have been quite a few headaches
that I could have done without.
in 1998 we had just finished installing
$50,000 of new dance flooring. We were so proud of our floor!!
It was just beautiful. So imagine my
shock when I looked up and saw some guy roller skating around the
dance floor! Not only did he barely avoid knocking down
dancers as he flew by, he was skating to his heart's content.
Now many dancers wear special shoes that
are designed particularly to protect elegant surfaces such as our
Who on earth is
stupid enough to wear roller skates on a perfect
dance floor without even asking first?
gentleman came as a Scarecrow one year. It was a great outfit
complete with real straw. In fact I am sure he saw a scarecrow in
some field and stole it on the spot complete with rags, hat, and
straw! In retrospect I guess if he had known what a pain in
the butt his outfit would turn out to be, I suppose he would have
thought twice. But the fact of the matter was that as he
danced around the room eventually every piece of straw in his outfit
ended up on our floor.
It took hours to clean that straw up.
It was everywhere!! Indeed each night for a week I was still
finding straw in places I didn't know even existed. Straw that fell
from his outfit was found in every room that night including the
lady's bathroom too. How the straw
got in there I am still curious to know!
Another incident that I have never gotten out of my craw was the
disappearance of my 'horror tape'. Even before the Haunted
House, we used to have one room that was dark and creepy. In the
background played a Horror cassette tape. I am a bit of an expert on
Horror music since I have bought so many of them. Screams, creaking
doors, thunder, eerie ghost sounds, you name it, I have heard them
all. And yes, they all help to set the mood.
What made my
favorite Horror tape so good was it combined organ music with
vocals. It turns out the spookiest sound of all is the human voice.
This particular narrator would give me the creeps with his
suggestions of eternal damnation, stories of disembodied souls, and
the dangers of entering the mansion on top of the hill! It was
a really spooky tape.
One night in 1992 as we cleaned up
after the party, I opened up the cassette player to retrieve my
wonderful Horror tape only to find it was gone. Someone apparently
noticed the excellence of the tape and took it home with them. What
has always hurt the most is that despite buying every Halloween CD
or cassette since the theft of my favorite tape, nothing has even
come close since. I am still so aggravated!
Then of course there is my own stupidity to deal with. The
dumbest mistake I ever made was the Dance
Wax episode of 1980.
To set the scene, in September 1980 I was
asked to leave Stevens of Hollywood for good. I was given two
weeks to find another place for my dance classes. Fortunately
I got lucky. I was taking private dance lessons from a teacher
named Glen Hunsucker. His studio was called 'Dance Arts
Unlimited'. Glen specialized in teaching
jazz, tap, and ballet.
Glen had recently relocated to a much larger place on Bissonnet. He
said he had two extra rooms I could use.
sub-leased the two rooms.
We officially moved in on October
20, 1980. My thoughts quickly turned to having a Halloween
In order to have a Halloween Party, Glen said
I would have to pay
extra rent to use the entire studio.
In addition I had to bring in my own sound equipment and
make sure all the decorations were down the next day.
I agreed to the terms.
The night of
the 1980 Halloween Party, a visitor to the party begged me to
use dance wax. This was a new request.
As you will see, in regards to the
dance wax incident, no truer words
have ever been
spoken. I was about to learn another painful
lesson the hard way.
I knew absolutely nothing
about dance wax. I had never even heard
of dance wax before. I had no idea how
dance wax was even supposed to be used. Whenever
my group went dancing, we would leave the studio and go to
some club. Dancing here at Dance Arts was
a new thing.
wax didn't sound dangerous.
I looked at the man and decided his idea
seemed like an innocent request. So
I said sure, go ahead and use it!
Then I walked away to begin my next
Halloween Party chore.
Left to his own devices, the
man reportedly emptied two entire cans of dance wax.
He didn't know anything about it either!!
To make his girlfriend happy, he
sprinkled all the contents from
both canisters all across the floor.
It didn't take but minutes to discover this
dance wax was murder! The dance wax coated the entire
floor with a surface so slick we could have played ice hockey in
there that night.
What a nightmare!!
No one could dance. Everyone complained.
Ordinarily a little dance wax is useful for
sliding your feet in Western dancing, but this was ridiculous. People
were even having trouble standing up! Soon my
ears were burning. Oh my gosh, people were mad!
I was sick in my stomach. I got out a broom and swept the stuff
up (the picture was taken the night of the
dance wax blunder).
It did no good. The damn stuff was
glued to the floor. I had no idea what the
antidote to this stuff was.
The dance wax effectively killed the party an
hour early. I watched helplessly as all my guests shrugged their
shoulders and took off. I was fit to be tied.
After everyone left, I got a mop and worked over the
entire floor. It still did no good! I had not a clue how to get
this wax off the floor. Two hours later I was
I decided I had no choice but to give up and
A few hours later I was awakened by a phone call.
It was Glen Hunsucker, the owner of Dance Arts. The moment I
answered, he started screaming at me about the dance wax!!
Glen was furious that I had ruined his
His jazz dancers were completely unable to dance.
Jazz dancing requires quick stops and changes of direction.
Each time a dancer would plant their
foot, the foot would keep going. There was
absolutely no traction. The dancers were literally
afraid of hurting themselves, much less being able to dance.
My mistake was a fiasco!
immediate solution was to move his rehearsal to the backroom where I
usually held my classes. Although
the room was much too small, at least this
area had no wax in it.
Then he hired a man to get the wax up professionally. The
bill - which of course I had to pay - was over $500.
That bill really stung. That was a
lot of money for me in those early days of my career.
Still the money was nothing compared to the psychic pain. I think I
stayed in Glen's doghouse for an entire year over that incident. He
reminded me of my stupidity at least once a month.
One year later, Glen raked
me over the coals when I asked to use the studio for
our next Halloween Party.
He made me beg, crawl, and plead for a week before he
finally relented to let me use the studio again
after ruining the place the previous year.
I was so
miserable about the whole thing.
Naturally you assume
the dance wax incident was the worst thing
that ever happened at an SSQQ Halloween Party.
haven't told you about the Halloween Party from Hell a
year later. Interestingly, as you will see,
the dance wax story actually played a major factor in this event.
Warning - If you are squeamish by nature, do not read the
following story. It is a tale of misery you will find hard to
Back to the Top
The Story of
Sometimes in a morbid moment you wonder what
your epitaph might be. I suppose if my friend
Mike Fagan has anything to do with it, I will have a very unusual
Mike says the thing he will remembered
me best for is that
I got rich selling a dance where people paid me a lot
of money to teach them how to dance poorly.
THE MAKING OF THE
The Monster Mash is actually
a pretty clever dance. It is a simple dance, but when
you look closer you will see each movement fits the music
like a glove. I think Mike is being a little hard on me. You
don't suppose he is a little jealous maybe? I mean,
after all, Mike has to work for his money!
inspiration for the Monster Mash began in the spring of
1992. One night at Practice Night a lady named Stacy and her
girlfriend Trina were watching as I taught our Sock Hop line
dances. As they sat on the chairs behind me, they were
twirling their arms and making goofy points with their
fingers. Amused, I went over and asked them what they were
Stacy said she was a dancing raisin from the
California Raisin commercials. This struck a chord. By an
odd coincidence, I had discovered a $5 CD of California
Raisin music at a music store and bought it on a whim. On
the album was the California Raisin version of Marvin Gaye's
classic "Heard it Through the Grapevine".
Mike Fagan is a former
Texas State Whip champion who in his spare time just happens to be a genius.
Mike went to Stanford, then received a
PhD in computer science from Cal Berkeley.
Today Mike is the head of the computer research dept at Rice University.
As an academic, Mike regularly slaves long hours for little pay investigating the secrets of computer engineering.
As someone who is accustomed to being around very bright people, Mike loves to tease me that I
have found the one profession - dance teaching - where
'intelligence' may not be necessary
Mike is one of my best friends, but he does have the irritating ability
to tease me better than anyone I know. Over the years he has had
way too much fun at my expense. As the saying
goes, with friends like him, who needs enemies?
As smart as Mike is, there is one thing about me he has never been able
to figure out. The question that has bothered Mike ever since he has
known me is how one night in 1992 I ever managed to get
ONE HUNDRED people to
pay me $10 a person to teach them how to look ridiculous
It may just be envy. After all, Mike
is a highly-educated genius, but he doesn't always
get paid very well despite his incredibly difficult work.
At the same time, when compared to Mike, I am about
as smart as a moron.
Yet Mike has always been impressed that one
day in the
grand tradition of PT Barnum ('there's a sucker born
every day') I managed to separate
seemingly bright people from their hard-earned cash with amazing ease. In a sarcastic, yet oddly
affectionate way, to this day Mike remains stupefied that people who
appear to have brains and jobs would fork over $10 to take a Halloween Line Dance Crash Course
and that I was clever enough to talk them into it.
So how did I do it? Well, I can't say I
put a lot of foresight into my Monster Mash Scam, but I did use one
trick - I refused to show anyone what the dance looked like. No one knew what
the dance looked like.
There's an old saying: "I'll give
you a peek and show you the rest if you'll buy me a house in Hollywood
West." Or, in other words, curiosity killed the cat. You get
the picture. For some reason, people were actually very curious
what my silly new dance looked like.
THE MAKING OF THE MONSTER MASH
If you can permit a moment of
immodesty, I think the Monster Mash is actually a pretty clever
dance. It is a simple dance, but when you look closer you
will see each movement fits the
music like a glove. I think Mike is being a little hard on me. You don't suppose he is a little jealous? I mean, after all, Mike has to work for his money!
The inspiration for the Monster Mash came six
months earlier in the spring of 1992. One night at Practice Night a
pretty lady named Stacy and her girlfriend Trina were watching as I taught
our Sock Hop line dances.
As they sat on the chairs behind me, they were twirling their arms and making goofy pointing
motions with their fingers. Amused, I went over and asked them what they were doing.
Stacy said she was pretending to be a
Dancing Raisin from the California Raisin commercials.
I laughed. How clever!
Then I had a flash. Stacy's move had struck a chord.
By an odd coincidence, I had recently
discovered a $5 used CD of California Raisin music at a music store.
I looked at the titles and bought it on a whim.
On the album was the California Raisin version of Marvin Gaye's classic "Heard it Through the Grapevine".
I was intrigued. Since I was already teaching Sock Hop Lines, I
wondered if I could make up a dance based on Stacy's Raisin
I spent the next couple days choreographing a line dance to the
California Raisin "Grapevine" song. I incorporated Stacy's arm movements and added a few of my own. I also took suggestions.
Pretty soon I had a
very clever little dance!
When we debuted the Raisin Dance at the 1992 Sock Hop,
it was a huge hit. Everyone got
a big kick out of it.
As Halloween rolled around, my memory returned to the success of the Raisin Dance six months earlier. We had always danced the
Four Corners to "I'm Your Boogie Man" by KC and the Sunshine Band at the Halloween Party, but that was about it for line dances. Quickly my thoughts latched onto the goofy Halloween song "Monster Mash".
As I choreographed movements to the song, I would ask people what they thought. The universal reply was "too graceful".
I was locked into the 1980s
Thriller Video, but my advisors visualized the stiff, awkward movements of Frankenstein.
They told me they couldn't imagine a monster dancing very comfortably.
The whole idea of the song was a bunch of corpses, i.e. 'stiffs', coming alive to dance at Halloween time. "They did the Mash, it was a Graveyard Smash".
Finally I realized my mistake. I had
been fixated on the sophisticated
dancing of Thriller, but my
moves didn't fit the concept of the song.
With the suggestion to make
the dance uglier, now I was able to think out of the box.
So I turned my toes in, touched my knees, and lurched around… bingo!!
Immediately my critics smiled. The uglier the dance got, the
better it looked.
Now that I was off of Michael Jackson and thinking more like Weird Al
Jankovich, I was ready to rock.
I got a wonderful inspiration to copy an ancient dance from my youth called
The Freddy from a Herman's Hermits song. The Freddy was a
very stupid dance from the Sixties where straight arms and straight legs would fly
out at the same time. It looked ridiculous 30 years ago and it still did now.
If I had a conscience, I would have done Society a
favor and allowed The Freddy to die a
much-deserved death, but like a fool I resurrected it from its grave.
All I had to do was change the move a little by lifting the arms with the elbows bent
and the hands pointed down. It looked
Now that I had a
perfectly awful movement to fit the phrase "They did the Monster Mash",
I smiled with great satisfaction. I was on to something!!
Next I added the popular Monster Stomp as a take-off on old-fashioned barn dancing. Everyone liked that too.
Then I added a toes-in lurch pattern
and called it The Frankie
Twist. As you can see in the picture
at right, The Frankie
Twist was perfectly awful.
The second half of the dance was complete. Now I was
ready for the finishing touch. I added the Igor Shuffle, a pattern called
Monster Attack, and a pattern called Scary
to complete the first half.
I thought the dance was extremely clever. It fit the music perfectly!
I was proud of myself.
Halloween Party would be the event where I first unveiled the
I decided to teach the Monster Mash
in a Crash Course that would begin two hours before the Party
started. I told everyone they better learn it because we were going
to film them dancing it at the Halloween Party, then show it on the
studio TV the following week. That got their attention!
They could be movie stars!
Then I began to
manipulate their curiosity. Earlier in the
year the Raisin Dance had been such a big hit,
I was able to play off its popularity by telling my students
that the Monster Mash was even better. I
teased my students endlessly with little peeks and of course
they played along by begging for more.
I said, 'No way! Come learn it at the Crash Course!'
Of course they protested, but I could see they were hooked.
Shame on me. I was a smooth-talking guy!!
Please don't misunderstand. I could have cared less about
making big bucks. I was just having fun! I knew
I had cooked up a very cute, clever little dance and I was
just as proud of it as any writer would be after getting his
first story published in a magazine. My students knew
I was playing a game with them and they fed off of my
I announced in every class for
weeks that we would teach the Monster Mash and all the other line dances
in a Crash Course that began a couple hours before the party.
The chance to show off on TV, the curiosity about
the dance, the memory of how much fun the Raisin Dance
had been all worked in my favor.
Coming to the studio an hour early was convenient and the whole
thing sounded like fun. The buzz was
huge. I don't know who to thank, but apparently the leaders of the
"In-Crowd" decided coming to the Halloween Party Line Dance Crash
Course was the 'In Thing' to do that year. At that point
a bunch of people decided to take it as a group.
Those people turned around and recruited their friends.
Without my knowing, the idea snow-balled into something big.
On the night of the
1992 Halloween Party, we had 100 people show up for
the Monster Mash Crash Course. I
was astonished. Never in my wildest imagination had I expected
a crowd this big!
Sure enough, 100 people showed
up at 7 pm the night of the
party in order to be the Very First
Humans ever to learn the amazing 'Monster
I sense that the reader is having a
hard time believing this too, but I swear it is true.
ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE.
MIKE FAGAN'S JAW DROPS!!
Shortly after I started
the Monster Mash Workshop, Mike Fagan came to the studio early to help us
set up for the party.
He wondered why the parking lot was so full of
cars and asked some people what the big deal was.
They pointed down the hallway, so Mike wandered into Room 1.
Mike stopped at the door.
His mouth dropped in amazement. He watched in
total shock as
100 students practiced the precise footwork of the Monster Mash such as the
Monster Stomp, the Igor Shuffle, and the
I noticed Mike out of the corner of my eye and
waved to him. Mike had been teasing me for weeks about the
in a good-natured way. But now it was
almost too difficult for Mike
to restrain himself. Let's
speak candidly - the
students looked pretty silly dancing the Monster Mash. But it was
one thing for them to look silly. That Mike could handle.
But it was much harder to hold back the belly laugh when he realized just how seriously the students were taking the
One man asked me how far to turn his toe in on the
A woman asked me how much to bend her knee.
From the corner of my eye I thought Mike would
We took a short Break.
After all, this Monster Dancing can be very tiring!
Mike immediately cornered me. He was laughing his head
off to see so many people. That's when I mentioned
they had each paid $10 for the Crash Course. That is
when Mike stopped laughing. He had
not realized I charged MONEY to learn this dance.
"Are you telling me you
are making $1,000 teaching that stupid dance?"
I simply smiled back.
Why upset him any further?
"Those people look
terrible!" I nodded quietly in agreement.
"They are paying you $10 a person to teach them how to dance
poorly!?" I nodded again.
Mike nearly went into shock. His
face indicated total astonishment.
His eyes became glassy. Mike was a brilliant
scientist with a PhD in one of the toughest fields in
academia, but I had just made in a
couple hours nearly the same
amount as he made in two weeks work at Rice University.
Mike was having a lot of trouble wrapping his brain around
the injustice of the moment.
He looked at me and said, "How did you do it?"
The tone of his voice was vaguely reminiscent of the classic
line 'I am not worthy'.
This moment was special because without a doubt it marked
the most respect Mike has ever shown me in our entire 20
year relationship. I will always savor Mike's
incredulity as one of the crowning moments of my wonderful
Mike could be seen shaking his
head in disbelief for the rest of the night. Perhaps you
might imagine how much I savored this moment. In fact I enjoyed it so
much that I had an evil idea. With a smile I told Mike I usually
got even more people and that this was a slow night. It took him several
years before I confessed I had been pulling his leg.
Mike has never recovered. Each year at Halloween Time Mike
still gets that
haunted look. He will rant to anyone who will listen how amazed he is that I
continue to persuade people year-in year-out to part with hard-earned cash for the privilege of looking awful.
What Mike didn't know was that those huge numbers were a one-time
aberration. Mostly it was just curiosity and the chance to get in the
mood for the party early. I am sure if most of them had a clue how goofy the dance
was, the numbers would have been much less.
Sometimes it doesn't hurt to do the Fan Dance, yes?
And to be honest, I was pretty surprised myself at the number of people
who came. I hadn't expected to have anywhere near this many people show
up, but I never told Mike Fagan this. I
just let him continue to think I got 100 people on a regular basis.
One more thing - we haven't charged people to learn the Monster Mash in
years. I started teaching all the Line Dances for free during the week
before the party long ago. But I have never told this to Mike. He
continues to believe I make $1,000 every year for teaching the Monster
Mash. Let's leave it that way.
That same night we debuted the
Monster Mash at the 1992 Halloween Party.
With 100 people screaming their
heads off in laughter, the Monster Mash
was just as big a hit as the Raisin Dance had been earlier in the year.
What made it fun was the freedom to
dance the Monster Mash about as spastically as humanly possible. Yes,
the critics were right. The uglier we danced it, the better it
looked. There was no doubt about it - the Monster Mash was
the first dance ever created where dancing badly looked better
than dancing gracefully.
It was the Revenge of the Two Left
Although I deeply appreciated the artistic and financial
success of the dance, in retrospect I wish I had chosen a
different costume to dance in for the debut.
I looked totally ridiculous as the Head Monster wearing a clown
costume. By the way, that's my daughter Sam, age 1,
and her mother Judy in the picture. I
guess I wasn't very scary, was I?
Mike didn't let me forget it either. In
his bitterness, he lashed out at everything.
I was so pleased with the reception to the
Monster Mash that the following year 1993 I choreographed a dance based on the song and video
"Thriller". Then in 1994 I
added yet another dance based on a song called "Monster Rap".
three dances I had choreographed to three other famous line dances -
Four Corners ("I'm your Boogie Man"), Slap Leather ("Ghostbusters"), and the
Cha Cha Hustle ("Black Magic Woman") -
we now had six dances to perform. Just like the Sock Hop Party,
now Line Dancing had become a major part of each new Halloween Party.
it all started with that night in 1992 when I saw Stacy practicing
her little move which inspired the Raisin Dance.
However I was disappointed when the two newest dances - Thriller and
Monster Rap - were widely
ignored. I couldn't figure out
what the problem was. I was just as proud of these two
new dances as I was the Monster Mash and
I couldn't figure out why no one liked them.
Then it dawned on me - they were too difficult for people to pick up on the spot at the party!
Both songs involved some pretty sophisticated
I realized most people skipped
Thriller and Monster Rap at the party
because they realized they looked foolish.
And unlike the Monster Mash, 'foolish' didn't
cut it with these two dances. These
dances rewarded 'good dancing', not 'bad dancing'.
Frustrated with the rejection of these two excellent line dances, in
1998 I decided to change my tactics. Rather than make people take a Crash Course to learn the six dances, I decided to just give the
line dances away for free.
I decided I would rather make less money if I could have more people participate in the Line Dancing
at the party.
I have never told Mike Fagan about
this decision because he
wouldn't be able to understand it. He may be smart, but he gets
confused by the lure of easy money and dance
So in 1998 we began to teach the dances for free. People could simply come an hour early from 6-7 pm
each week night
before the party, learn the dances, then stay for their regular 7-9 pm class.
As a result, for the past several years anywhere from 10 to 30 people
make an effort to show up early to learn the dances ahead of time.
This turned out to be one of the best moves I ever made.
Now when we start the Line Dancing at the Halloween Party,
the floor is crowded from wall to wall with Monsters dancing
their fangs and claws off.
It is a real
treat to see. The costumes are so good and the
dancing is so good that at times it looks like a scene
straight out of the Thriller
Video. It is really a lot of fun to watch!
And let me add that of all the 6
dances we do, the one people still talk about is the
Monster Mash. It was the dance that started the
tradition and it is the dance that makes people laugh.
Monster Mash is indeed a Graveyard Smash.
And this is a good thing!
Back to the Top
Want to read some more Tales of the SSQQ Halloween Party?
Check out the Story
of SSQQ Halloween Costumes
THE 1981 HALLOWEEN PARTY FROM
This is the absolute true story of the longest and most frightening
night of my entire life.
I have always loved throwing my Halloween Party.
Dancing and Costumes go so well together and it is always
fun to promote a little mischief. People
appreciate my efforts. They compliment me on hosting
such a well-run party. Of course I enjoy the kind words,
but inwardly I always smile at the part about the 'well-run
party'. These people of course have no idea
about all the screw-ups I made in the early years while I
was learning my lessons.
Of course most of the screw-ups occurred at one particular
party. The 1981 Halloween Party from Hell
was a catastrophe of unbelievable proportions. Get
ready to be amazed at all the crazy stuff that happened.
I promise you will not be disappointed.
One serious warning - this is definitely one hell of a good
story. But it is also very creepy. If it is nighttime
and you are alone, be sure the doors are locked and your
trusty dog is nearby. Now click the Devil and
away you go!