Our first interview is with Shawn and Lynne Mitchell, professional artists, award-winning home haunters and proprietors of the Mitchell Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida. The Mitchells have just put out their second volume of their How To Haunt Your House series, which details all the cool and creative things they do to create a spooky atmosphere for Halloween.
Hello there, and thanks for joining us on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween! Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your work.
We are Shawn and Lynne Mitchell of Pensacola, Florida, and we are co-authors of How To Haunt Your House, Books 1 And 2. We were married on Halloween almost 20 years ago. Shawn grew up in a house with several real ghosts and I once lived in a house with a poltergeist. Together we watch any and every ghost story we come across and have a fondness for collecting things of the orange-and-black variety. We lean towards old-school horror that was born in the black-and-white era. Sense any theme here?
Oh, definitely. And I can relate to those old-school horror movies--for me it's almost like watching one of those reality shows. But tell me, how did you meet and become husband and wife?
We met on a high school journalism trip to Disney World in which we have only memories of going to the Haunted Mansion. Technically, it was on the bus. He sat in the seat in front of me and annoyed the hell out of me. I was a book worm. He was persistent. Six years later, we decided to join forces and seek out the great mysteries of life... and death. The rest is still being written.
Very cool. So tell me about how you got into home haunting. What inspired your Cemetery?
We were sort of born to it. We didn't hear the term home haunting till six years ago. It never occurred to us that you could haunt your house while still alive! We didn't have to stretch our imaginations too far to create a cemetery and dress up the house as dark and spooky. It was a work of cinematic art. We were imitating our favorite movies, plus Disney had just released The Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy. We just had to create some Pepper's Ghosts of our own!
Well, we're all Haunted Mansion fans back at the Monster Shop, so your work definitely has our seal of approval! What gave you the idea for your How To Haunt Your House books? Do you plan to do a third volume?
Shawn and I both have had jobs where we designed books, posters, newsletters and such, so we had some publishing experience already. Self-published print-on-demand books had really gotten a foothold in the book world and we did some research on it. It really was simple to do a book oneself now--we could do the photos, write the text, design the book and print it all ourselves. Why wouldn't we do it? How To Haunt Your House, Book 3, is currently in the works with new projects already started.
Then we'll probably be seeing you next Halloween, too! But you have some different artwork at your other website, Rabbit Hole Productions. What other kinds of art do you do?
Shawn does Disney-style hand-painted animation cels and comic-book-type artwork. I do digital paintings the one month out of the year when I'm not working on Halloween.
You've done the Mitchell Cemetery since 2005. Share with us your favorite memory of the Mitchell Cemetery.
During our first year of the Mitchell Cemetery, there was a woman in the neighborhood who stopped by with her 80-year-old mother. She really wanted her mother to see the Cemetery. We all helped her make the walk from the street through our uneven backyard, holding flashlights to light the way every step. Her eyes lit up and she looked as if we had really shown her something magical. It was a great feeling. It reminded us that kids weren't the only ones who could really get something from what we did.
Very true. What are you planning to do for Halloween this year? (Besides your haunt, of course!)This year we are determined to take it easier--we aren't doing the Cemetery or a party. We did just get finished with some landscaping on the front yard this year and have some great future Halloween plans for it, but this year just might be a pumpkin patch. We need to scale back and refocus. Writing three books in three years has proven to be a challenge. It's been an exciting adventure. We don't need to prove ghosts exist--we already knew they did. We just want a chance to show people what it would be like to see one... to excite the imagination to the possibilities of the unknown... and to keep the Halloween spirit alive in us all.
And that Halloween spirit is something we all definitely need! The Mitchells' books are available at www.howtohauntyourhouse.com, with links to purchasing on Lulu, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. You can also get great downloads for your own spooky projects and see videos of the Mitchell Cemetery at their website. I had a great time talking to the Mitchells, and I hope you get these books for your own Halloween collection--they're fantastic stuff!
I'll be back soon on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween--see you there!
Francesca "Frankie" Franken