ATL's King of Halloween:
Eddie Ray embraces horror of the holiday.
Eddie Ray believes in Halloween.
He doesn’t just like to dress up for a costume party or put a bowl of candy out on the doorstep for the neighbor kids. He believes in Halloween— the history, the rituals, the mythology.
“I understand the decoration part of it and everything, but you’re supposed to have a pumpkin lit on Halloween night wherever you’re sleeping because it wards off spirits,” he tells the GA Voice.
Ray has taken that longtime belief and dedicated September and October of every year to celebrating the holiday and spreading Halloween fear, becoming the event’s biggest advocate in Atlanta.
When he’s not working as a production coordinator on shows like “Squidbillies” or “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” for Adult Swim, you can find the gay East Atlanta resident working at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse haunted house, shooting a Halloweenthemed version of his “Sparkle Hooves” web series, working on his latest short film, riding a float in the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade or finishing up his latest short film “Satanic Panic 2: Battle of the Bands,” premiering Nov. 22 at the Buried Alive Film Festival.
‘YOU HAD ME AT APOCALYPTIC’
Ray’s passion for all things Halloween goes back to when he was four or five years old with his imaginary friend Colleegia, who had a pumpkin head and a ghost’s body.
“I think it started there because every time I see that pumpkin image it reminds me of a friend or something that took care of me, like Mary Poppins or something,” he says from his home at the Roosevelt Historic Apartments, an eerie-looking former all-girls school built in 1927 and converted into apartments in the late 1980s. The endless hallways and interior color scheme echo the Overlook Hotel from “The Shining” so much that you half-expect to turn a corner and run into the film’s creepy twins. And yes, Ray moved there because it looked spooky.
His first Halloween costume was Bugs Bunny. As he grew older, he took more and more interest in and ownership over the holiday. By 12, he had taken over putting up the Halloween decorations every year at his family’s Riverdale home. His interest never waned as he made his way into adulthood, and his enthusiasm has won over potential critics.
“I’ve learned that people enjoy when people are doing something they’re passionate about, because some people just aren’t passionate about things,” he says.
All the videos and short films Ray creates are presented under his production company, “Ebola Entertainment,” the YouTube account of which recently passed two million views. However, recent headlines have led to some commenters talking less about the content itself and more about the Ebola virus.
“The last Sparkle Hooves was in Out On Film and people were laughing, but then the credits roll and it says ‘Ebola Entertainment’ and you hear people go ‘Ooooooo,’” Ray says, laughing. But he says he’s used that name for years and has no plans to change it now.
He’s been a frequent participant in the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade, either with Chamber of Horrors, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse or this year, Adult Swim. He dressed as a banana and sang the song “Banana Split Girl” to the tune of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.”
Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse was created by Plaza Theatre owner Jonny Rej and Shane Morton, master of ceremonies at the Silver Scream Spookshow. Rej and Morton reached out to Ray when the idea was in its infancy.
“Johnny and Stewart were like, ‘What do you think about an apocalyptic truck stop kind of place?’ and I was like, ‘You had me at apocalyptic,’” Ray says. He’s taken part ever since.
‘IT’S OKAY TO BE SCARED’
Ray also has a popular movie review blog with over half a million hits so far, and the content goes Halloween-heavy once the season rolls around. He recently posted an extensive guide to Halloween in Atlanta, and he once presented a ranking of his favorite Halloween films, or as he called it, “My Top 35 Spooky Ass Films I Watch During Halloween.” The 1978 John Carpenter classic “Halloween” nabbed the top spot, of course.
“That’s probably the first movie that scared me when I was little,” Ray says. “I have memories of lying in bed with a cover over my head and it was on TV and you hear the music and I remember going, ‘Shut the fuck up with that music, I don’t want to hear that music.’”
But he learned to embrace the fear and gain an appreciation of it over time.
“You realize that that was important that I was scared. It’s okay to be scared,” he says. “I can’t imagine not having those memories of being afraid because now I can’t watch movies and be scared. I can tell you if it’s scary for other people, but I’m not scared watching it. I miss being afraid of watching something.”
He doesn’t hesitate to name the most overrated horror films, citing the “Saw” movies.
“I love violence and I love vulgarity and blood and guts and everything but I just think their characters are weak,” Ray says. “You should be able to take these characters, pull them out of the movie and put them in a grocery store, and would you still want to hang out with them in a grocery store? If that works, then I think you got cool characters.”
He’s going as “Scooby-Doo” villain Zen Tuo to this year’s Rock and Roll Monster Bash on Saturday, Nov. 1, but as for the big night on Friday the 31st?
“I’ll have to work at the [Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse] haunted house for sure, I probably won’t get out of there till about 1 or 2 in the morning,” he says. “But I will have a lit pumpkin there.”
Halloween fanatic Eddie Ray in his element, surrounded by Halloween and horror film memorabilia (Photo by Patrick Saunders)