Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre in Jefferson, WI

RIP Summer: Tales from the Mental Shed

It’s September, which means Spooky Season is upon us. These days, Halloween is more stress than fun. I’ve already been knee deep in it since at least July, getting Wisconsin Frights ready for the season.

I don’t enjoy Halloween like I used to, since I work with horrific and haunted subject matter nearly every day of the year and my house is filled with real bones, antique Ouija boards, and other oddities.

Most of the fake, overpriced Halloween decor just doesn’t cut it next to the real stuff.

It’s even harder to get into the Halloween spirit when it’s 90-plus degrees outside.

So I’ve been on a steady diet of horror movies and 80s horror soundtracks.

“Dream Warriors” has been stuck in my head for months.

It’s a bit of a reprieve, I suppose, since this time of year it’s usually either The Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” or “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo.

This summer was generally depressing and demoralizing, and I had little time (or ambition) for the adventures we usually embark upon once school lets out. The daily scramble to make ends meet in the current economy means constant work, little sleep, and limitless anxiety.

Wisconsin's Satanic Highway

We did finally get out this past weekend for an excursion down Wisconsin’s newly minted Satanic Highway to the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre. There, I met Madison-area horror host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis and had the first authentic drive-in experience since my parents took me to the Starlight when I was five to see a Dokken cover band (this was the mid-1980s) and be permanently deranged by Pink Floyd’s film The Wall.

SIDE NOTE: If you’re a fan of American Movie and Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt, there’s a brief nightmare scene with some hooded cult members in Borchardt’s short film Coven that was filmed in the parking lot of the Starlight before it was torn down.

Highway 18 drive-in theater in Wisconsin

I was inspired to finally make the pilgrimage to Highway 18 (it’s about an hour’s drive) after watching this documentary about the Mahoning Drive-In.

Highway 18 drive-in theater in Jefferson, WI


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♬ Quirky Suspenseful Indie-Comedy(1115050) – Kenji Ueda

Aside from this trip, I lived almost exclusively at my desk for the majority of the summer. But I did take the opportunity once in a while to waste precious time on pointless projects that help ease the unrelenting hum of creative energy in my brain.

Here’s a few things I’ve been working on:

Ed Gein Tour

There’s an Ed Gein documentary series coming to MGM+ this month, so I’ve been preparing my Gein-related content across various sites for the onslaught of trending search traffic that may bring when it’s released. While digging through archived files for photos from past Plainfield trips, I discovered some smartphone footage I had forgotten I shot during the 2015 visit I documented on Cult of Weird right here.

So I edited those clips together, stabilized the footage, and cut out all the gristle for a short tour of key Gein locations in Plainfield. Watch it above or click here to view it on Youtube.

Wisconsin Frights Halloween Guide

Wisconsin Halloween Events & Activities

Wisconsin Frights has been steadily growing in traffic over the last few years, and even more so this year, but it always explodes during Halloween. So since I’ve decided to offer advertising options on the site for the first time in years, I also decided the mundane Halloween page needed to be more interesting.

See it here: Wisconsin Halloween Guide

3D Skull

I was testing out some of the new 3D features in After Effects beta. It kept crashing, but I managed to render this short experiment:


Mental Shed Studios

I was sitting poolside in California with an old friend in September of 2019. We were discussing the potential of starting a new music project together for the first time since 2006. We passed a few tracks back and forth after that, not amounting to much. I had little time to focus on music, and the situation only worsened when some of my aging hardware started dying.

But we finally started getting together on a semi-weekly basis this summer to hammer out some ideas.

It’s a mental struggle for me because I’ve been exclusively (and unsuccessfully) writing and recording by myself for well over a decade now. The self-doubt and self-loathing that comes from that is crippling, even when I’m working with someone I started playing music with in the 9th grade.

Regardless, we’ve managed to make headway on a few songs I’m pretty stoked about. It’s a little edgy, a little ethereal. Dissonant, beautiful. Organic, synthetic. So far, so good.

For us, music is life. But it seems as though the accessibility and lack of physicality has changed many people’s relationship to music. It’s an indistinct, intangible thing that exists in the background of Youtube and Tiktok videos. The world doesn’t seem to value or care much about music anymore. We talked about what that means for musicians today. What’s the point? What’s the end goal? And is there some way to get people to care again?

Probably not, honestly. But it lead us to this:

Creation Myths Podcast

Creation Myths Podcast

To be clear, I don’t want to do a podcast. I’m not a radio personality. I will be bad at this in all the possible ways.

But it seems like a thing we should do.

Because art is a collective expression of life, and wisdom, and feeling. Artists pour their souls into their work and it means something. It’s cathartic and transformative. And maybe, if someone in the crowd at a bar knows why the artist on stage creates, how they create, and where it comes from, they will care and it will transform them.

We’ve been figuring out the logistics and talking to a couple potential guests. I worked up some graphics and am (slowly) winding up the marketing machine. Follow along so when we start recording episodes, you can see just how much I should not do a podcast: InstagramYoutubeFacebook.

What I’m Listening To

Tales from the Crypt

Since we started considering doing a podcast, I thought I better listen to more podcasts. I’ve gone through phases of listening to Lore, Welcome to Night Vale, and a few horror fiction productions – Creepypasta, NoSleep, stuff like that.

I decided to check out The Last Podcast on the Left. It pops up on my radar from time to time because, like Lore, they cover much of the same stuff I’ve written about on Cult of Weird, and someone usually points that out in the comments.

I also recently discovered The How NOT To Make A Movie podcast, which is a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining look behind the curtain at why Bordello of Blood,  the disappointing follow up to the first Tales from the Crypt film, Demon Knight (a near perfect film), ended up being so terrible.

As told by the people who made it, no less.

Before this podcast, I didn’t know about the movie they originally set out to make called Dead Easy, a Tales From the Crypt take on New Orleans and voodoo.

And now I feel a little emptier inside knowing that Dead Easy never got made.

As far as music goes, I had an awakening this summer.

Ronnie James Dio

Black Sabbath’s Ronnie James Dio era happened over 40 years ago (Heaven and Hell was released the year I was born) but somehow it’s flown under my radar all this time. Now, thanks to this Dio documentary, I’ve discovered the majesty of those recordings. Dio’s voice over Sabbath riffs…holy hell.

For at least a month, “Heaven and Hell” and “Children of the Sea” were the only songs playing in my car.

What I’m Watching

Amityville Horror house

Amityville: An Origin Story

I recently watched Amityville: An Origin Story on MGM Plus. I wasn’t going to. Despite my work researching and writing about the history and legends of “haunted” places, I’m generally pretty skeptical and cynical about the paranormal.

Still, Amityville was the quintessential haunted house story for anyone growing up in the 80s. And ever since watching My Amityville Horror, I’ve been somewhat invested in understanding the perspectives of the Lutz children who lived through the supposed haunting and spent their lives in the shadow of it.

The MGM Plus series is interesting because it provides new insights, including first-person accounts from people close to the Lutz family who’ve never spoken publicly about it before. And, much like the Charles Manson series before it, Amityville does a great job of cultivating atmosphere and context, while brandishing little-known details to tell an old story in a new way.

After watching the series, I wrote this: 16 Weird and WTF Moments from Amityville: An Origin Story

Jason Goes to Hell

Friday the 13th: Jason Goes to Hell

It’s been a long time since I watched Jason Goes to Hell, the most-loathed installment of the Friday the 13th franchise. I was never a fan of parasitic worm Jason, either. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it this time around. It’s not the most thrilling, the plot is not great, and the kills are definitely subpar, but it was all glorious nostalgia for me this time around.

A New Nightmare

Same with a rewatch of A New Nightmare. I used to think the whole meta approach that film took to A Nightmare on Elm Street was dumb. I probably still do. But it didn’t bother me this time, because it just reminded me of watching it with friends as a teen in the 90s – when I last watched it.

Tales from the Crypt

Tales from the Crypt

I started watching the 1972 Tales from the Crypt film over a decade ago, but didn’t make it more than a few minutes in before I got distracted by something else and never found my way back. I put it on recently while working and finally finished it. It’s an anthology film comprised of five segments, each based on an original EC Comics story. They’re not as edgy as HBO’s Tales, and the Cryptkeeper is just a bald guy in a robe, but they still have some bite.

With that said, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Tales from the Crypt episodes eventually find their way to streaming. I’m not ambitious enough to put in the DVDs anymore, but the series would be on 24/7 if I just had to click a few buttons.

Come on, HBO. Let’s make it happen.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t bought a new book in a while. I like to have physical copies of books I can hold and page through, but I’m entirely out of space for them. As it is, I have bins full of books in the basement that I don’t have shelf space for.

And then I caught a mention of the dread-inducing “Funhole” at the heart of the 1991 horror novel The Cipher by Kathe Koja.

The Cipher by Kathe Koja

And I needed to read it.

Original paperback copies of The Cipher are a little pricey, however, so I broke down and bought my first Kindle book.

I’m still working on it, but rest assured that yes, the Funhole is quite dreadful.

Speaking of books…


Murderabilia by Harold Schechter

True crime author Harold Schechter’s new book Murderabilia: A History of Crime in 100 Objects comes out later this month and unless they’ve changed it (the layout has definitely changed since I posted the screenshot in this post) my photo of German serial Peter Kurten’s head hanging in a dark corner of Wisconsin Dells will be included.

As a Schecter fan and a collector of macabre objects, I’m particularly looking forward to this one.

It makes the summer’s dirge all the sweeter.