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Do the Monster Bash

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Turns out the Philadelphia area is one of the scariest places in the world (we're talking monsters here, folks, not traffic). In honor of Halloween, we found three frightening events being held in or within a short drive of Philly that will make you scream like a coed being stalked by Freddy Krueger. We've included the top activities, ways to ramp up the fun, and movies and books you should check out so you'll know when to howl and when to cover your eyes.

-- Andrea Sachs

Dracula Festival

WHERE: The Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia.

WHEN: Thursday and Saturday.

HORROR 101: Read Bram Stoker's "Dracula." If you're short on time, rent "Bram Stoker's Dracula," the 1992 Coppola shiver-fest that's as good as the book. Or go for the classic: "Nosferatu," the 1922 German silent film based on Stoker's novel.

THE MAIN EVENTS: The Rosenbach Museum and Library specializes in rare books and manuscripts, including Stoker's, and has been holding the festival the past four years. It starts with a Thursday evening lecture by Elizabeth Kostova, whose dark novel, "The Historian," stars bad-boy Vlad. On Saturday, visitors can peruse Stoker's handwritten notes, which include scribblings about alternate book titles. Also on view: an old woodcut of Vlad the Impaler and a centuries-old pamphlet listing Dracula's atrocities (fields of head-topped spikes -- ouch). At 4 p.m., associate director Michael Barsanti will discuss Stoker and his masterwork ($8 admission).

The festival culminates with the Dracula Parade, held in concert with Spiral Q Puppet Theater, which will provide larger-than-life Dracula-themed puppets. At 6 p.m., costumed folks will march around Rittenhouse Square, accompanied by spooky livemusic. Afterward, Spiral Q will perform an abbreviated puppet show of "Dracula."

WHAT A SCREAM: For the parade, skip the store-bought cape and fangs for one of Spiral Q's giant-puppet costumes, which include heads of garlic, bats and werewolves, which require two people to wear.

INFO: Rosenbach Museum and Library, 215-732-1600, Ext. 113, http://www.rosenbach.org/ .

Monster-Mania Con 7

WHERE: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Cherry Hill, N.J., about eight miles east of Philly (just over the river).

WHEN: Feb. 16-18.

HORROR 101: Watch "Saw" and "Saw II," then check out the third installment Friday when it opens at the cineplex. For a true cult classic, hunt down 1987's "The Monster Squad," available only on VHS (remember tapes?).

THE MAIN EVENTS: The convention, which was started by a horror film and memorabilia buff and his two sons in 2003, will be held three times next year. The February show ($35 for three days or $20 per day) will feature a room with wall-to-wall vendors selling such fright film items as movie props, posters and figurines. Meanwhile, in the autograph rooms, a dozen members from the "Saw" trilogy, seven stars and the director from "The Monster Squad," and the man-creature from the Black Lagoon will be on hand to sign their Hancocks and make small talk.

Horror movies also will be playing nonstop through the weekend. Some of the stars of those films will introduce them and participate in panel discussions throughout the event.

WHAT A SCREAM: At a Q&A session (or maybe at the hotel bar), ask horror actor Tom Woodruff Jr. which of his two characters -- Pumpkinhead or Gill-Man -- would win in a death match.

INFO: Monster-Mania Con 7, 609-634-2671, http://www.monstermania.net/Convention7.htm .

BlobFest

WHERE: Phoenixville, Pa., about 28 miles west of Philly.

WHEN: July 13-14.

HORROR 101: Watch the jiggly killer in 1958's "The Blob."

THE MAIN EVENTS: The film starring Steve McQueen and murderous Jell-O was filmed in and around Phoenixville, which has been celebrating its royal schlockness since 2000. BlobFest kicks off July 13 (yep, a Friday) at the Colonial Theatre, with live music, vendors selling horror and sci-fi memorabilia and meet-and-greets with monsters and other cultish characters. In addition, original cast and crew members will be reunited for the flick's 50th anniversary (the filming of it). Later that evening, the Colonial will reenact the famed "running-from-the-Blob" scene, which was shot at the theater.

The following day is a jumble of activities, including multiple screenings of the movie, a street festival and a display of the original Blob (red-dyed silicone with the consistency of cranberry sauce). That evening, settle in for a double feature of a B-rate flick and "The Blob." (Note: All events are free except for the movies, which cost $7 each.)

The event ends Saturday night, but you can spend Sunday touring the film locations, including the office of Dr. T. Hallen (one of the early victims) on Main and Third streets, and Barkley School, where the Blob was frozen to death. For a list of sites, see http://theblobsite.filmbuffonline.com/ .

WHAT A SCREAM: During the reenactment, hundreds of audience members flee the theater while being chased by a substitute Blob (a giant monkey, a crazy doctor -- anything with legs, really). Wear a costume -- popular choices are '50s housewives and nuns -- and warm up those lungs for the screamiest run of your life.

INFO: Blobfest, 610-917-1228, http://www.thecolonialtheatre.com/html/BlobFest.html .

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