SCARE TACTICS ARE THE BUSINESS PLAN.
BURBANK -- If the deformed Frankenstein's monster with a lolling tongue by the door of Dark Delicacies scares off some potential customers, they probably wouldn't have liked the store anyway.
The landmark shop for horror buffs at the edge of Burbank draws even the most famous aficionados of the macabre.
Guillermo Del Toro, acclaimed director of the nightmarish "Pan's Labyrinth," has browsed the aisles, along with horror movie legend Wes Craven. Neil Marshall, the director of subterranean creature feature "The Descent" and the upcoming "Doomsday," bought his Halloween wedding invitations from the iconic store.
"Every time we're in L.A. now, we come here," Marshall said before a poster signing at the shop last week. "The guys who run it treat us like family."
Entombed within are hundreds of horror and fantasy books, CDs, DVDs and accessories, many of them autographed. And Del Howison, a 54-year-old with a long mane of hair as white as bleached bones, is the crypt keeper.
Howison, known to some as "Dark Del," said his hair started turning white when he was 14 -- and, no, it wasn't from the shock of the slasher and monster flicks he loved.
"Horror and fear is not a bad thing," Howison said, noting that a good horror movie is like "taking your car on a highway after a year of city driving and blowing the carbon out."
Since he and his wife, Sue, opened Dark Delicacies 13 years ago, they've amassed a wide variety of horror items.
"We didn't realize the scope of horror until we started bringing stuff in," Howison said.
There's the standard slasher fare: "Saw" posters, movie murderer action figures and obscure DVDs that promise plenty of blood -- like "Automaton Transfusion," which is "undead and unrated" and has a photograph of a white-eyed man dragging his legless body across a blood-smeared floor.
For the ladies, there are skull-studded purses and accessories. And a creepy connoisseur might enjoy comic books, classic monster items and autographed anthologies of horror tales.
And the best part about it all is that it's a safe scare, Howison said.
"People ask me, 'What's the scariest thing here?'" Howison said. "It's the newspaper behind the counter, because it's real."
The owner said his shop attracts people who work in the film industry.
"They have great stuff here. Obscure stuff," said Dick Grunert, 33, of Canyon Country, who writes and produces horror films and works for the Cartoon Network. "You can buy it on the Internet or buy it here."
And most of the customers, Howison said, are women.
"The books are really interesting," said Bobbie Goins, a 34-year-old who identifies herself as a "conservative Goth."
"There's a lot of wizard-witchery-type stuff."
During a recent signing that had the inside of Dark Delicacies packed with Neil Marshall fans, Howison stepped outside for a breath of fresh air.
He pointed to the island at the middle of the street by his store and said he liked the new landscaping -- a few palm trees and plants now sprout out of the fresh-looking median.
And on the island directly in front of his store, a squatty, stone tablet juts out of the ground, saying "Welcome to Burbank."
Howison giggled at the sign.
"It looks like a tombstone, doesn't that?" he said. "That works for me."
WANT TO GO?
Dark Delicacies is located at 4213 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank. Hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays.
2 photos, box
(1 -- 2) Del Howison and his wife, Sue, own the horror shop Dark Delicacies, located at 4213 Burbank Blvd. in Burbank. Howison claims his business is the only permanent store in the country that caters purely to horror fans.
John McCoy/Staff Photographer
WANT TO GO? (see text)