November 25, 2003
That's One Scary
By Elizabeth Stieber
Northeast Times Staff Writer
Dracula. The Werewolf. Freddy Krueger.
These ravenous, evil beings have spooked us into squeals of fright, covered
eyes and occasional outbursts of “Look out!” at movie theaters and sleepovers
for decades. But for the many fans who adore horror
films, it’s the nostalgic childhood memories or just the thrill of chills
that have them scouring flea markets, shops and eBay for a copy of a movie,
a doll or a poster from the typically cult classics.
David Hagan, who lives in Clayton, N.J., is a horror film buff who has made a
living of selling such memorabilia on the Internet. Now he has found a way to
bring the best and the bloodiest together for fright-flick fans, all under one
It’s called Monster-Mania Con, and it’s touted as the first horror
film and collectibles convention of its kind in the Philadelphia area. The
hell-raising freaks from both old and new scary movies will be there . . .
well, in the form
of films, collectibles and the actors who
portrayed them, of course.
“If you like horror movies,” Hagan said, “this is for you.”
The three-day fright fest takes place this weekend, Sept. 26-28, at the Clarion
Hotel and Conference Center, Route 70 and Interstate 295, in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Convention highlights will include more than two-dozen celebrity guests, including
Doug Bradley of Hellraiser fame, Ben Chapman and Julie Adams from the Creature
From the Black Lagoon, Kane Hodder and Betsy Palmer, who played Jason Voorhees
and his mother in Friday the 13th, brothers Stephen and Charles Chiodo, who
made Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and various stars of the Hammer Studios
films. The guests will sign autographs and answer fans’ questions all
Movies will play throughout the expo, including a special full-costume presentation
of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a 3-D showing of the Creature From the Black
Lagoon and the world premiere of the newest horror flick, Flesh for the Beast,
due out in theaters soon. There will even be a tribute to Philadelphia-area
television horror host Joseph “Doctor Shock” Zawislak, who died
Hagan chose to start the event on Sept. 26 as a tribute to his late father,
also named David, whose birthday coincides with the
convention’s opening night on Friday. Hagan, a Kensington native and
1977 Northeast Catholic High School graduate, shares fond childhood memories
movies with his father.
“I was always a fan of horror movies,” Hagan, 44, recalled. “As
my father was a fan and he would take me to the theater and we’d buy
the Monster magazines.”
Their favorites were the Hammer Studios horror films, which brought numerous
Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy films to the big screen from the 1950s through
Over the years, Hagan collected and traded rare 1960s horror movies and posters
with friends. When he discovered the Internet auction site eBay, Hagan began
selling and collecting the paraphernalia and noticed a surprising demand for
the items. Five years ago, Hagan created a Web
site, www.monstermania.net He bought
up monster action figures and other items through wholesale purchases from
toy distributors, and before he knew it, he had a regular stock of clocks,
movies and posters to sell on his
site. Even Hagan’s two sons have joined the business. Like their father,
they love the terror and gore of horror films.
About three years ago, Hagan began traveling to conventions and befriended a
number of horror film stars. On a road trip home from a Pittsburgh convention
last year, Hagan and his oldest son, David, came up with the idea of presenting
Monster-Mania Con. At the time, the closest horror film expo to Philadelphia
was Chiller, in East
Rutherford, N.J. He called friends Ben Chapman and
Caroline Munro, who readily agreed to join in. Word of Monster-Mania Con spread
among the horror film convention circuit rather quickly. Before they knew it,
Hagan and his sons had booked 30
“Like an insect that became radiated into a giant monster . . . that’s
how the convention spread,” Hagan explained, putting it in terms that
a true horror fan can understand.
According to some of the horror film veterans who will be at Monster-Mania
Con, folks love to get a scare from the big screen as much as ever. Prior to
in Friday the 13th, Betsy Palmer never
would have figured she’d be an in-demand guest at a horror film convention.
The 77-year-old actress has done a lot over her 55-year career, including working
with Jackie Gleason, acting on the Broadway stage and serving as a panelist on
the 1960s TV game show I’ve Got a Secret. Palmer only took the part as
Jason Voorhees’ mother in Friday the 13th to buy a car. She admitted she
didn’t think anyone would see the movie that made the hockey mask synonymous
with sheer terror.
Friday the 13th has spawned nine sequels, and it’s a factor in the current
film that gives us a clash of the killers, Freddy Vs. Jason.
Palmer starred only in the first film; her cameos in the sequels were archival
After the 1980 horror flick, Palmer landed a number of roles, including a regular
spot on the TV series Knot’s Landing. But she still gets Friday the 13th
fan mail from around the world.
“It’s the most amazing thing,” Palmer said in a phone interview
week. “A couple of generations of kids wouldn’t even know me if it
weren’t for that (movie).” Stephen and Charles Chiodo, two-thirds
of the Killer Klown creators, the Chiodo Brothers, will display clown masks at
the horror expo and the film’s demo reel.
The Chiodos know their film is still a cult hit — last year, Killer Klowns
from Outer Space was released on DVD and has been selling rather well. Stephen
Chiodo, who directed the 1988 film, said he got the idea while driving one night.
He tried to imagine the scariest image he
could think of — and a creepy clown peering at him from a passing car
came to mind.
He described the concept to his brother Charles, who elaborated on the image,
and the idea just took off.
“The film taps into a primal fear,” Stephen Chiodo said in a phone
interview last week.
Stephen, Charles and youngest brother Edward run a production firm and a visual-effects
company. In fact, it all started with making monster movies using action figures
and a Super 8 camera in Long Island, N.Y.,
Like Hagan, Stephen Chiodo and his brothers were influenced by the horror films
they grew up with. Stephen was a big fan of the pioneering special effects
crafted by artist Willis O’Brien, the chief technician for the 1933 film King Kong.
Chiodo believes generations of folks continue to see scary movies because, deep
down, they want that “roller
“It’s living vicariously, getting the thrill and excitement without
getting hurt,” he said.
Monster-Mania Con will be presented at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center
in Cherry Hill, N.J., on Friday, Sept. 26, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday,
10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 per day or
for a weekend pass. For more
information, visit David Hagan’s Web site, www.monstermania.net
Reporter Elizabeth Stieber can be reached at 215-354-3036 or