“The Book of Top Ten Horror Lists” has a hundred lists, gathered by a local promoter/entrepreneur from lots of celebrities (mostly actors and musicians) sharing their favorite horror movies. Some of them don’t like horror movies, so they opt for other scary subjects instead. The book is as unpredictable and shocking as many of the movies it recommends. The book was released this month by BearManor Media.
Here are 10 horrorstruck observations about the bizarre origins of this creepy collection, compiled by a Connecticut “cryptmaster.”
It’s in the cryptmaster’s blood
Charles Rosenay!!! has had three exclamation points legally attached to his surname for decades, so he knows something about excitement. As a lifelong Beatlemaniac, he has promoted Fab Four festivals throughout the state, and used to edit one of the top Beatles fanzines in the country, Good Day Sunshine. But, as he writes in his introduction, he’s been a “monster kid” just as long, exposed to multiple screenings of “Frankenstein” by his mother when he was just 4 or 5 years old.
As if Rosenay!!!’s hyperpunctuated name wasn’t alluring enough, in the horror realm he goes by the moniker Cryptmaster Chucky. He founded the Fright Haven Halloween attraction in Stratford, acts in horror films and organizes “Dracula Tours” of Transylvania.
It takes a looooong time to make a book of celebrity lists
“The Book of Top Ten Horror Lists” was 10 to 12 years in the making. It began as part of a “Horror Happenings” column Rosenay!!! did for the now-defunct examiner.com website. “It became a monthly thing, the most popular thing in the column,” he says, “a daily quickie, a little tidbit.” Through the pop culture conventions he organized, he started reaching out to celebrities for their own lists. The “Rock Con: Weekend of 100 Rock Stars” he held in New Jersey in 2010 was particularly bountiful.
Lists morph eerily into books
Rosenay!!! says that for years, people have been asking him “When you are you going to do a book?” His standard answer is that all the years he spent publishing a 80-page fanzine “felt like doing a book six times a year.” Then, he says, “the pandemic hit. I couldn’t do conventions, or tours, or anything that I usually do. I started going through the lists. I had 80.” So he reached out to 20 more celebrities, among them ‘60s rockers Gary Puckett and Tommy Boyce. “Then there was the editing, proofing, typesetting...
Horror lists are inescapable
“I thought I’d have this out for October of last year. That was my naivete. It took a year more. But if it had come out last year, I would’ve gone crazy not being able to do talks or signings.” This month alone, Rosenay!!! did an online event at the Mark Twain House, was part of the Bizarre Bazaar on Pratt Street and attended a horror convention in Indiana.
Celebrities come in many shocking forms
“The Book of Top 10 Horror Lists” starts auspiciously, with a list from a man who died long before the book was conceived. Rosenay!!! unearthed an old list of favorite horror films compiled Forrest Ackerman, the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, an inspiration to generations of horrorstruck youth. Since the lists in the book are listed alphabetically, the one from Ackerman (who died in 2008) comes first. His list of verified old-school classics (the newest of which was made in 1945) gives the book a solid foundation that others can veer off from.
Ashey C. Williams, who co-starred as the middle section in the infamous horror flick “Human Centipede,” has a list. So do former child stars Bill Mumy of “Lost in Space” (and three episodes of “Twilight Zone”) and Barry Williams of “The Brady Bunch.” Eerie Von, bassist for the creepy bands Danzig and Samhain, would seem a natural choice but what about Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield? One contributor “who a lot of people won’t know,” Rosenay!!! says, is Clay Cole, who hosted an “American Bandstand”-like TV dance party show in New York City in the 1960s. “Clay Cole was so honored to be in this book. He gave me his list in 2010, and died later that year, so he never got to see it published.”
Scary people get scared too
Many of the contributors work in horror films themselves, and bring special knowledge to their lists. Biance Allaine, winner of the coveted Golden Cobb Award for Best Rising B-Movie Actress in 2011, narrows her list to what she calls “Dying a Horrible Death in the Woods Films.”
Not everyone plays by the rules
“I wanted the credibility of the Karloff name,” Rosenay!!! says. But Boris Karloff’s daughter Sara said “Charles, you know I don’t like horror movies,” instead coming up with “Ten things that scare me”; #10 is “doing this list.”
One list emerged from the library
The longest list in the book, not in terms of items but word count, is from John Lennon’s younger sister Julia Baird, whom Rosenay!!! got to know through his Beatles conventions and tours. “I hate horror movies but I want to be in your book,” she told him. Her list of “Top 10 Horrors in Literature” runs from several Shakespeare plays to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde” to William Golding’s “The Lord of the Flies.” “It’s like a college,” Rosenay!!! marvels. “She whipped this up especially for this book.”
Lists lead to more lists
The book ends with a list of the “Top Ten Most Listed Films” in the book. There are actually 20 films on the list, but by the end of the book everyone’s too terrified to count. The top five are “The Exorcist,” “Psycho,” “The Shining,” “Frankenstein” and “Dracula.”
The editor can’t make the writers like his faves
Rosenay!!! laments that one his personal favorite films of all time didn’t make anybody’s list: Brian DePalma’s outrageous 1974 horror comedy “Phantom of the Paradise,” starring Paul Williams as an evil music producer who steals a mad composer’s rock opera version of “Faust.” Rosenay!!! uses his own list in the book to mention some of the horror movies he’s actually appeared in, including the Connecticut-made “Dead Survivorz,” “Halloween House” and “Tiny’s October 31st,” all of which had scenes filmed at the Fright Haven haunted house attraction in Stratford. It’s a good way of bringing this wide-ranging book back to the intimacy of local horror-fan communities.
It will never die
“What’s great about this book is that it’s evergreen,” Rosenay!!! says. “It won’t get old. Everyone loves a top ten list. You can see how many of your own favorites jell with others.”
Christopher Arnott can be reached at email@example.com.