Jon Steffens has been a horror fan since childhood. What began with a love of monsters and Halloween further developed with movies and horror magazines. As an adult, Steffens was able to turn his love of horror into a career, writing for Rue Morgue horror magazine and working at Heritage Auctions, describing collectibles for upcoming sales. He also co-wrote a chapter on horror magazines for Gemstone Publishing’s upcoming “how to” reference book, The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Horror. Steffens recently talked to Scoop about his love of horror and his work with Rue Morgue and Heritage.
Scoop: What do you like about horror?
Jon Steffens (JS): Pretty much everything! I enjoy the classic gothic atmosphere of Universal and Hammer films, while reveling in the monster effects and gore of 1980s creature features and slasher flicks. I enjoy comedy in my horror, as well as films so soaked in dread and unease that you’re on the edge of your seat the entire time. Be it film, television or literature, I love horror as an escape from the mundane.
Scoop: How long have you been a fan?
JS: I’ve loved everything about horror, monsters, and Halloween for as long as I can remember. I remember being a tiny little kid and seeing The Beast Within on TV, and the transformation scene wrecked me! I was completely terrified, but sold on horror for life.
Scoop: What initially attracted you to horror magazines?
JS: When I was seven or eight years old, I walked up to the magazine rack at our local Swif-T convenience store. Sitting with mostly-inoffensive humor magazines like Cracked and CARtoons was the third issue of Monsters Attack, with garish John Severin artwork depicting a wide-eyed, machete-hacked Jason Voorhees, reaching a gloved hand toward me. I had to have it. I begged my mom for it, she bought it for me, and I was hooked.
Scoop: Which titles did you read?
JS: Aside from the aforementioned Monsters Attack, I loved the comedic Cracked Monster Party, Fangoria, old issues of Creepy and Eerie I’d find at comic shops, occasionally Famous Monsters [of Filmland], and when I was about 20, I discovered Rue Morgue.
Scoop: Did that lead to watching horror flicks and reading horror literature?
JS: I was already reading any books on monsters I could find at that point, and would watch old Godzilla movies on TV, along with Ghostbusters, Frankenstein, whatever I could find that struck me as “spooky,” any chance I could. The first horror movie I saw in a theater was Critters 2, in 1988. I was six, and I convinced my mom to take me. Ah, the ’80s.
Scoop: Since you were a kid when you became a horror fan, what did your family think of that interest?
JS: They occasionally thought it was a bit much, but for the most part, my folks were cool with it.
Scoop: Did the magazines you read influence your preferences for certain subgenres in horror?
JS: Maybe eventually, but at first I think it was the other way around. I was always looking for something with werewolves, zombies, the Predator, or Jason in it.
Scoop: Do you still collect horror magazines?
JS: The only one I collect every single issue of is Rue Morgue, though I still have a few issues of Fangoria, HorrorHound, and Haunted Attraction in my collection.
Scoop: Do you store them in a special way for preservation?
JS: Oh, most definitely. Nothing fancy, just bagged, boarded, and in longboxes.
Scoop: What other types of horror memorabilia do you collect?
JS: I’ve had to wean myself from buying every horror DVD I see, but I’ll still pick one up from time to time. I also collect books, cheap Halloween decorations, and music. Not film soundtracks necessarily, but horror-themed rock n’ roll like the Misfits, the Vision Bleak, Shadow Windhawk & the Morticians, Savage Remains, Rebel Flesh, and others.
Scoop: Do you just collect their music or do you also get concert posters, shirts, stage-used props, and stuff like that?
JS: For the most part, just the music, but what’s really cool about many of the smaller bands is that when you order a CD or record from them, they’ll usually throw in stickers, buttons, patches, etc.
Scoop: As an adult now you’ve transitioned to writing for a horror magazine. What’s it like working on something that influenced you during your formative years?
JS: It’s really, really fulfilling, and a lot of fun. I’ve wanted to write for a horror publication since I was a kid, and seeing as how I’ve felt Rue Morgue is the best there is for a good 15 years now, I couldn’t be more pleased.
Scoop: What makes Rue Morgue stand out as the best one?
JS: The depth and wide range of coverage, for starters. We don’t only cover film, television, and books, but music, comics, video games, cultural events, folklore, haunted attractions, visual art, and more. Aside from that, the talent in our editing, writing, and art direction staff is absolutely top notch. I think the talent involved definitely elevates the publication beyond what’s expected from a horror magazine.
Scoop: What type of work do you do for Rue Morgue?
JS: I write album reviews and the occasional feature article for their music column, Audio Drome. I also write online content for the magazine – reviews and interviews relating to music and haunted attractions, mostly.
Scoop: Do your interviewees discuss the correlation between music and horror?
JS: Most definitely. That’s a question I ask pretty much every single time I interview someone.
Scoop: Has working on the magazine changed the way you view horror?
JS: Other than exposing me to international films I may have never come across, or a band I have yet to hear, it really hasn’t so much. I’m still into pretty much the same stuff.
Scoop: Your work with Rue Morgue led to a job with Heritage Auctions. What do you do there?
JS: At Heritage I’m a writer for the Music & Entertainment department. It’s my job to research and describe high-end collectibles in that venue, including rare records, autographed items, film scripts, stage-used props and instruments, posters, movie costumes, and more.
Scoop: Has working there influenced your collecting habits?
JS: I don’t think so. If anything, I collect much less these days, though that’s likely due to having two children.
Scoop: What are the most impressive items that’ve come across your desk?
JS: Well, my definition of “impressive” may be very different from my coworkers, but Alice Cooper’s stage-used guillotine from the 1973 Billion Dollar Babies tour was really jaw-dropping to me!
Scoop: What are some of the best horror collectibles that you’ve seen for the music and entertainment department?
JS: Though horror isn’t Heritage’s specialty, we’ve had so many amazing pieces come through over the years: Leatherface’s apron from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), a screen-used prop axe from Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, a prop crucifix from The Exorcist, a bunch of Kenneth Strickfaden-built electric equipment used in the laboratory scenes in the old Universal films, tons of set dressing props from Twin Peaks, a cape worn by Vincent Price…I could do this all day.
Scoop: I could listen to it all day! What’s the price range for that type of memorabilia?
JS: The opening bid prices vary wildly, from one dollar to thousands!
Scoop: Have you seen many horror magazines come through Heritage?
JS: Quite a few, from landmark titles Famous Monsters, Creepy, and Eerie, to lesser-known gems Castle of Frankenstein, Shriek!, and Horror Monsters.
Scoop: What’s the bidding like on horror memorabilia versus other genres? For instance, will a horror movie prop sell for more than one from another genre?
JS: Not necessarily. Each venue, and each topic/genre within those venues has fierce bidders. I think we could use more horror collectors checking out our sales. The horror collectibles do well, but I feel that if more of the horror-collecting public knew we had this stuff, they’d go crazy for it!
Scoop: Any chance you can convince Heritage to host a horror themed auction for Music & Entertainment collectibles?
JS: I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but I have been dropping suggestions for a horror-themed auction for a couple years now.