This week’s Geek of the Week is Kevin, who runs one of my favorite websites for picking up horror merchandise, The House of Mysterious Secrets. Kevin really sets himself apart from most websites who deal in the same stuff, because takes a very personal approach and really cares about the stuff he sells. He picks out everything sold on the website himself, and if it doesn’t exist, as in the case of the exclusive House of Mysterious Secrets T-shirts he will make it himself as well. This really became clear while walking around the Monster Mania dealers room, Kevin was the only dealer not sitting behind a table. He was on the outside chatting with people and genuinely interested in what they had to say not just trying to finish the transaction, I think that really shows in how he operates his site. He is as passionate about his merchandise as the people who buy it, and that is rare.
So tell us a bit about yourself and your website The House of Mysterious Secrets
I am essentially a nerd. I have been a fan of nerd-type things my entire life. As a child I did all the right things I played with the Mirconauts, Star Wars, G.I. Joe and He-Man -you know the typical evolution of toys as a child. I was also deeply into Saturday morning cartoons, like I would get up extremely early and even watch Chief Halftown just so I could get the whole spectrum of Saturday morning. My grandmother got me into horror movies, and she at the time called them weirdo movies. So Saturday I would also watch Creature Double Feature and Doctor Shock, and I loved all that stuff. It wasn’t until my teenage years where I started to become weird, reclusive and the teen angst punk rocker, and listened to crazy heavy metal and punk rock music.
The House of Mysterious Secrets was something I did because I’ve got friends that have always run their own businesses like Joe and Jesses from Exhumed Films they have Diabolik DVD and I have always admired that, and my roommate Darren has his own recording studio. I have always been a fan of horror and I somehow wanted to get involved in it, so I did what any naïve person would do. I got a credit card for a ridiculous amount of money and I started buying stuff blindly not even realizing there was a whole concept behind buying stuff wholesale and selling it retail. I was just buying stuff. I was also selling my own stuff too. In time I was $20,000 in debt and realized that this isn’t right, and I started to get a better idea of how business works and things have turned around. I am still in debt, but not so bad anymore.
I had no real experience. I had sold stuff on ebay, but I knew I would be good because I cared about what I was doing. I cared about the genre. I consider myself a student of horror films. Like, it’s a never-ending quest to keep digging and digging and finding more obscure stuff. I relish more into films like Messiah of Evil and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death or Attack of the Beast Creatures, films that are just not Halloween. But I love that stuff too. I just love digging deep and finding obscure horror films and I use that for the business as well, I have been making some T-shirts and I did a Squirm T-shirt and the Creepers T-shirt . So I am trying to reflect the obscure stuff and fuse it in with the business hoping other people will like it too.
I’ve been doing this since 2004 and when I first started, I had a full-time job, and ran the website at the same time. I was so dedicated to the website that I really didn’t have a social life. I either had band practice, or would be at home working on the website, or boxing up orders. If there was something I had to do the night prior, I would get up an hour before I had to normally get up for work and box up orders. I am very big on shipping things out immediately, being an E-Bay user you know what it’s like. Two things I have always hated about dealing with E-bay is 1.They charge me $20 to ship a little pink eraser and 2. It would take them 2 weeks to ship that little pink eraser. So I am very strict about shipping the next day the order is placed, when possible even the same day and making sure the shipping prices are reasonable. Ever since I got laid-off I have devoted myself to the website, spending hours on it everyday working on it in way or another, or simply boxing up orders. I now have the opportunity to travel for shows, now that I am self-employed I have to do more shows.
Where did you come up with the name of the website, The House of Mysterious Secrets?
To any comic book fan, it might be a little bit obvious. It was interesting, at first the name of the site was Kevin’s Collectables, because the site didn’t really have a name and that’s what the distributors called it. So maybe for a month I operated as Kevin’s Collectables, and of course that’s completely unacceptable. I had to think of a name and for some reason I was thinking about The House of Mystery and The House of Secrets the two classic DC comic books and I just put The House of Mysterious Secrets together, I just sounded interesting. I kept asking a bunch of friends what they thought, and I think for the most part they liked it, but one guy laughed at it and said it sounded like a goth band he would have seen in high school. But I thought it was kind of cool, so I stuck with that name. I wanted something that was intriguing and nostalgic to someone who was a fan of those comic books, who would put 2 and 2 together and would be like, “that’s cool, he must obviously like these old DC comics”, that might entice someone. I like nods to that hoping that someone gets the joke. I think that’s half the reason I chose the name.
Philly has a very diverse punk scene and when your not manning The House of Mysterious Secrets you playing in the band Live Not On Evil , who are some of your favorite local bands?
To be honest in the local scene I’m a little out of as to what’s popular. There is one band, I have been to one of their shows, and I think they are fantastic Serpent Throne. They are wonderful heavy metal sort of Black Sabbath inspired stoner rock band, that’s just fantastic. I can definitely say I am a fan of them.
What about bands out side of Philadelphia?
The last band I saw that blew my mind was, and they have such a weird name too Mount Saint Helen’s Vietnam Band. What was stunning about them was that they had a 13 year old drummer who played a kit that had like three pieces, but he just destroyed that kit. They had all crazy time signatures, it was very indie rock meets rush. It was phenomenal. I love bands that try to write music that isn’t in the typical pattern, that at least give a damn about what they’re doing. Another one I like is High on Fire. I’ve been listening to a lot of heavy metal lately.
I know you also attend a lot of conventions and usually have a table setup, any in the future we should keep an eye out for?
This upcoming weekend, the last weekend of September I will be at Horrorfind. I’ve never done that show so I am looking forward to it. But after that the really interesting adventure, is this show Rock and Shock in Massachusetts. It’s a hybrid where they have the actual convention center where they have all the vendors, guests and usual show. Across the street they have this stadium where they have bands play. It’s a lot of metal bands I have never heard of but The Insane Clown Posse is going to be there with the latest version of The Misfits. So it’s kind of cool, kind of an interesting idea to have those two together, that’s the next BIG show. I have never driven that far for a show so that’s why it’s an adventure.
What are some of your favorite horror films?
Surprisingly some of the answers will be typical, the original Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Demons, Sleep Away Camp, The Burning, Phenomena or Creepers – the Argento film I saw that when I was 14 and not only did I fall in love with Jennifer Connelly, I fell in love with the music as well and it introduced me to Dario Argento – I was obsessed with that film. I love Messiah of Evil, it’s a very creepy, eerie film from the 70s that they are just finally putting on DVD. Phantasm, Return of the Living Dead I could watch that a million times, and the first time I saw that it scared the hell out of me too, as a young teen it creeped me out.
What about the newer horror films, any favorites?
I avoid them. It’s like Lucy and the football, right? Charlie Brown stands there, and Lucy’s got the football and she’s like “Kick the football”, and Charlie Brown is like “I’m not going to fall for that one again”. Inevitably he tries to kick that damn football Lucy pulls it away and Charlie Brown falls on his head. I find I do this with horror films, I find I want to appreciate them and support them but I just feel they just don’t get it. I’ll tell you what though, I did against my will see the new Dawn of the Dead remake, and surprisingly I liked it, I didn’t think I would. It wasn’t Dawn of the Dead of course, they could’ve just called that movie zombies in a mall. I also liked the Amityville Horror remake as well. I’m just so intrigued by the older stuff from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that I find myself, while I want to see these newer films I just find myself digging deeper and deeper into this well of obscure films.
What’s your favorite piece of horror memorabilia you own?
I guess some of the posters I have, like the few Argento posters that I have signed. I really appreciate those. If I had the money I would get into collecting more posters, but they are just so expensive. Like I have a Fulci’s Conquest poster which isn’t horror but it’s a great poster.
I like some of the horror masks as well, I have 3. You see one of them is the fat zombie from Fulci’s Zombie and that was a handmade one. The one in the middle is another original piece it’s Jason from Friday the 13th Part 6. The last one is mass-produced, probably made in Mexico probably painted by a 12 year old kid, but it’s beautiful.
What’s your favorite comic you read recently?
There are several, I am a diehard Creepy fan I only need 20 more issues to have a complete run. I was collecting them since the mid 90s and I paused for a bit because Warren book in particular got really expensive. When you’re a collector you rarely stay focused on one piece. I’m into anti-hero characters like Jonah Hex, but I only like reading the old school 70s and 80s Jonah Hex. I love Conan(Marvel), Judge Dredd and horror anthology books –House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Eerie, Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds. Oh, The Walking Dead I was a big fan of those, but I just recently stopped buying those.
What’s your favorite video game?
I sold my soul to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It’s a succubus that grabs you and pulls you in, I wasted a good couple of years playing that game. Honestly I am all about the D&D games, I love the sword and sorcery, building your character games. You know, giving them names you think are really cool, I love that stuff.
What’s your favorite movie you saw recently?
District 9, I saw that and really appreciated it. It wasn’t an typical film, it didn’t have a typical ending, everything about it was just so unique from the typical Hollywood movie.