Connecticut Post (Sunday)
Fright Haven founder publishes book on top horror films
Charles F. Rosenay of Orange was 4 years old when he fell in love with classic monster movies, even though it took him four times to get through the “Bride of Frankenstein” without watching it through his hands over his eyes.
In his house, his family watched movies on TV in the evenings, especially campy and classic monster movies. To get him through this movie, his mother cooked Jiffy Pop popcorn, covered them in blankets and left the lights on. “By the third night, I was watching the whole thing and by the fourth night, I was loving it, reciting some lines back and that was it,” he said.
Such is how a lifelong love of monster and horror movies was born. A DJ by trade, Rosenay, who wears many hats in the world of pop culture, also founded and hosted Fright Haven, an annual fall attraction in Stratford for years before selling it. Music and horror are his twin passions and pre-pandemic, he was organizing Dracula tours to Transylvania, Beatles tours to Liverpool and ghost tours to Europe and "haunted" places. He also ran a Beatles festival in Connecticut.
“All of what I do, I could not do [during the pandemic]. Everything I did stopped,” he said. He found himself thinking up a project he could work on. He came across about 80 "Top 10" lists relating to horror movies he had saved from years ago when he wrote an online horror happenings newsletter.
Getting 20 new lists together with help from a range of celebrity contributors, Rosenay published “The Book of Top Ten Horror Lists,” which comprises 100 lists. Celebrity opinions include music and baseball Hall of Famers, a member of the Beatles and the Monkees, and renowned actors, including actor-now-astronaut William Shatner, who just flew into space. Before Star Trek, Shatner appeared in memorable episodes of
“The Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits.” Rosenay wrote themed bios on each listmaker and assisted by Janet Davis of Stamford, put a book together in a relatively short time.
The list makers took unique angles from the best “dying in the forest scenes” to the "10 best comedic horror movies" or "best horror movie soundtracks."
“I had amazing lists and it’s best served not just to horror fans but to people who love celebrity stuff. And who doesn’t love a Top 10 list?” Rosenay asked. “One of the most interesting ones came from John Lennon’s (half) sister, (Julia nee Dykins Baird]), who said she never watches horror movies. She gave me a list, which blew my mind and it was the horror aspect of Shakespeare’s works.”
Sara Karloff, daughter of classic monster movie actor Boris Karloff, told Rosenay she doesn't like monster or horror movies but wanted to support his project so she gave him her top 10 list of things that scare her; number 10 was “writing this list.”
Late Connecticut actor Ed Asner, who died just as this book debuted over the summer, was one of the hardest people for the author to get, but Rosenay was determined. After sending a letter to Asner’s home, his studio, manager and publicist and not getting any responses, Rosenay learned Asner was performing on Broadway. He had a messenger-delivered letter sent to the actor at the theater along with a box of chocolates. That did the trick and Asner sent him an autographed photo comparing Rosenay’s tracking skills to Scotland Yard. He also included a Top Four list, making him one of the few people in the book to get away without doing a full Top 10 list.
“The one that surprised me most was getting William Shatner because of his status and how busy he was,” Rosenay said. “He’s the only one in the book who got two chapters.” One is his list of film picks and the other is a chapter Rosenay wrote on Shatner’s work in this genre.
A book of just lists would be a bit tedious and humdrum to read, but Rosenay’s witty bios make the book fun to read such as disco queen Gloria Gaynor’s chapter, which starts with the classic line, “First I was afraid, I was petrified…” from her hit song, "I Will Survive."
“That was a fun part of doing the book,” he said. “The two most fun things were writing the bios and now being able to go to conventions and book signings, that’s such a thrill.”