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Mad for horror.

Byline: Craig S. Semon

It sounds like it has all the makings of a creature double-feature - "The House of Poe" and "The House of Wax" (in 3-D). But, in fact, it's a way of life for two serious collectors. While one is into "movie paper" and the other's into "wax and latex," for Freddie Poe and Mac McDermott, horror isn't something sick. On the contrary, horror takes them back to the wholesome innocence of their youth and reconnects them with dearly departed family members.

Enter the House of Poe

To accommodate all his frightful finds, Freddie Poe has turned his Worcester home into the "House of Poe," seven rooms dedicated to monsters, ghouls and things that go bump in the night.

Although the usual Universal Studios monsters (Frankenstein, Dracula, the Werewolf and Mummy) are all there, Mr. Poe's shrine (or should I say mausoleum?) showcases lesser-known horror films from the silver screen, including "The Ape," "The Black Cat," "Black Friday," "The Invisible Ray" and "White Zombie."

Not only is he a horror collector, Mr. Poe, who turns 52 on Halloween, is a horror connoisseur. He writes a monthly column for Movie Collectors World magazine called "How to Collect a Monster," a tongue-in-cheek homage to the film "How to Make a Monster." He even took his nom de plume of Dr. Vollin from a character Bela Lugosi played in "The Raven."

When he is not critiquing or collecting horror film memorabilia, Mr. Poe is a boxing coach at the North End Gym in Oxford.

"A hobby is not supposed to fill the time; it's supposed to pass the time. Norman Bates said that," Mr. Poe insisted, referring to the character from "Psycho."

His vast collection reaches back to the silent films era up to 1968's "Night of the Living Dead." More than 400 framed items hang on his walls. Overall, Mr. Poe estimates that he has thousands of lobby cards once displayed in theaters, hundreds of movie posters, hundreds of movie stills and plenty of "'60s monster toys."

Besides filling him with a sense of nostalgia, Mr. Poe said his macabre shrine is actually a loving tribute to his mother, Emma, who died in 1994.

"I think if she saw this today, she would be frigging impressed," Mr. Poe said with a momentary prayer. "As early as I can remember, my mother was a big movie fan and she used to emulate all the movie actresses and stuff. And she was always watching movies, always watching movies."

At the impressionable age of 4, Freddie and his mother watched the "Shock Theater" presentation of "Frankenstein" on television. From there, everything for him was monsters.

In a time when doctors still made house calls, Freddie's mother asked the family physician, Dr. Arthur Haddad, if it was bad that little Freddie was so into monsters. It turns out Dr. Haddad's brother-in-law was John Zacherley, the host of "Shock Theater." Not only did the doctor say "monsters are good for you," he encouraged young Freddie's obsession by giving him a "Passport to Transylvania,"a gimmick of the Zacherley fan club, and a signed 8-by-10 photograph of the horror host.

"That was it," Mr. Poe exclaimed. "After that, I just was hell-bent on horror."

When he was a North High School student in the early 1970s, Mr. Poe bought his first black-and-white horror movie still (Lon Chaney Jr. in "Dead Man's Eyes") at the former Ephraim's Bookstores in downtown Worcester. He bought other "movie paper" - essentially anything movie-related that is on paper - from collector Blackie Seymour, who used to live on Belmont Street.

Emma Poe, an avid bingo player, used to tell young Freddie that if he was good, she would give him half her winnings. And, it turned out, Freddie was very good and, when it came to bingo, his mother was very, very lucky.

"She would come back home with $500 and whip $250 at me," Mr. Poe recalled. "I'd march right up to Blackie's and start buying lobby cards, three sheets, and it was all cheap back then. With $250, I was getting a lot of stuff. I was building up a good collection with that money and that went on for quite a few years."

Besides his extensive movie paper collection, Mr. Poe has transformed his muscular arms - through tattoos - into flesh and blood lobby cards dedicated to his horror heroes. More than 30 are represented in living color, including King Kong, the Werewolf of London, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

When he dies, Mr. Poe said he hopes to sell, even donate his skin to a collector. A fan of "good clean scares," Mr. Poe said the reason he's a "classic horror purest" is that he doesn't think today's crop of blood-and-guts slasher films are particularly entertaining nor are they any good for a young person's psyche.

"There's enough horror in the world without having to look at stuff like that," Mr. Poe said. "I'd rather watch a black 'n' white oldie, even silent, no blood and no gore and no killing. I just prefer it. I just don't like violence."

Enter the House of Wax

U.S. postal worker Mac McDermott has gone from delivering mail to delivering mayhem to the masses.

Once the house director at the former Spooky World theme park in Berlin, the former Leicester resident now lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., and works with celebrities booked for the annual Screamfest Horror Convention.

Mr. McDermott, 43, has been collecting horror memorabilia for 30 years. Besides 2,000 horror action figures, 200 high-quality monster masks and "an unbelievable severed head collection," Mr. McDermott collects life-size and strikingly lifelike sculptures of classic horror movie icons in their signature roles.

The most life-size wax figures Mr. McDermott had at one time was six: two Frankensteins, one Dracula and three Cartwrights.

"I bought the Cartwrights to make them into horror figures," Mr. McDermott said. "Hoss was going to be Leatherface, Little Joe, the teenage werewolf (both of which were played by Michael Landon), and Lorne Greene as Zackerley. I didn't have the heart to modify these figures so I sold them to a huge `Bonanza' fan."

Mr. McDermott still has the Lugosi wax figure sculpted by Henry Alvarez ("the master of wax"). Made in 1991, the Lugosi came from the Hell House of Hollywood and once resided at Spooky World.

While he keeps his life-size wax sculptures in storage in Massachusetts, Mr. McDermott said he has to have something wax in his house.

"I have a life-size Frankenstein head, custom, that's in my living room above my TV, so when I sit with my twin girls, we can look at that beautiful wax," he said. "And my girls, they love Frankenstein, too. Latex masks are cool, but wax is absolutely amazing."

Three years ago during hurricane season, Mr. McDermott was very concerned about his Frankenstein head melting, so he took it to the Jupiter police station, where they have backup generators.

"I said to them, `I know this is going to sound weird, but is there anyway you can hold this head here in the AC until my AC goes back on?'" he said. "These guys were awesome. They were so cool. They loved it. They thought it was so funny that I had a head of Boris Karloff."

Mr. McDermott's first taste of horror was being handed a "barf bag" when he and his dad passed by the old Capitol Theater in Worcester, which was showing "Mark of the Devil."

"I was a little kid. I just remember going by that line and saying, `Dad, what the heck is going on?'" Mr. McDermott recalled. "There was a guy with a loudspeaker saying people are throwing up in there and passing out. And I wanted to go in there."

Instead of taking his son to see "Mark of the Devil," Mac's dad took him to Toomey's Rent-All Center on Park Avenue to check out Halloween masks. And one mask, a Creature from the Black Lagoon (made by legendary mask creator Don Post), left such a lasting impression on him that it still connects him to his father.

"It was $45 30-something years ago and that was a lot of money," Mr. McDermott recalled. "So I said, `Dad, can I get that mask?' And he said, `Mac I'll take you down to Spag's. We'll get you a different mask.'"

Even though his father did buy him "a really cheap mask at Spag's that cost 99 cents" (which he still has), Mr. McDermott desperately wanted that "Creature from the Black Lagoon" mask.

For years, Mr. McDermott delivered mail to Toomey's and, for years, the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" mask was still up there.

"When my dad passed away (in 1998), I went in there and I looked up and they had a clearance on all the masks and I took it down," Mr. McDermott said. "I told Mr. Toomey, because he was one of my customers, `You know, I want to be honest with you. This mask is worth a lot of money.' And he goes, `You know, Mac. Take it.'"

Because of the deep connection with his dad, Mr. McDermott said the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" mask has become his most prized possession. He even speaks fondly of the Creature and compares him to Frankenstein, "just two monsters that were totally misunderstood; just nice guys that got a raw deal."

Freddie Poe's top 10 horror movies

White Zombie (1932)

Dracula (1931)

Frankenstein (1931)

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931)

The Black Cat (1934)

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

The Wolf Man (1941)

The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

King Kong (1933)


CUTLINE: (1) Mayhem master Mac McDermott, right, gets a grip on George "The Animal" Steele. (2) The life-size Bela Lugosi wax figure, up close and personal. (3) Freddie Poe, a horror movie expert and collector of rare sci-fi memorabilia. His Worcester home - "the House of Poe" - has seven rooms packed with frightful finds. (4) A trio of classic Freddie Poe horror posters: "Murders in the Rue Morgue," left; "The Invisible Man Returns," center; and "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein." (5) Freddie Poe's movie poster for "The Invisible Ray."

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Title Annotation:PEOPLE
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 30, 2007
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