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Masters of Horror: An Interview with Phillip Torrone, Senior Editor of Make Magazine

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This is another interview in a series of articles as we cover the people who make the horror/haunted house industry what it is. Today we cover someone on the cutting edge of using technology to scare people. Phillip Torrone, Senior Editor of Make magazine writes for one of the most popular DIY blogs and magazines on the planet. He also has a huge penchant for Halloween, having organized his own haunted house and run countless articles on DIY for Halloween enthusaists.

What is Make magazine?

Make brings the do-it-yourself mindset to all the technology in your life. Our magazine is loaded with exciting projects that help you make the most of your technology at home and away from home. Make celebrates your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your own will. Make is published quarterly since February 2005, and is a hybrid magazine/book (known as a mook in Japan). Make comes from O'Reilly, the publisher of record for geeks and tech enthusiasts everywhere. It follows in line with the Hacks books and Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks, but it takes a highly visual and personal approach. We've been called the "Martha Stewart for Geeks" – that's kinda fitting.

You launched a new magazine called Craft, what's that?

235306914_8f937fc869_m.jpgCraft is a bit like Make; it's the first project-based magazine dedicated to the renaissance that is occurring within the world of crafts. Celebrating the DIY spirit, Craft's goal is to unite, inspire, inform and entertain a growing community of highly imaginative and resourceful people who are transforming traditional art and crafts with unconventional, unexpected, and even renegade  techniques, materials, and tools; people who undertake amazing crafting projects in their homes and communities.

What are Make and Craft doing for Halloween?

I think Halloween is the holiday for makers and crafters, so we wanted to do a few things this year. Our blog is posting around ten or so Halloween projects per day – so check out the site each day in our special Halloween category.

We're also interviewing some of the makers of the incredible Halloween projects we're posting, those will run in the next week or so.

And last but not least, we have a massive Halloween contest. Anyone, anywhere can enter, and depending on what type of maker or crafter you are, you can enter all or just some of the contests. We'll have lots of updates and posts regarding all these, but this is to get you started and planning.

The Contests:

Hack-o-Lantern contest: Decorate a pumpkin in any way you see fit, or unfit. It's that easy. Then upload your photos to the Make or Craft Flickr photo pool and tag them "MAKECRAFTHALLOWEEN" or you can email them to us – just be aware that we're going to upload them to the Make and Craft Flickr photo pools. We'll also have a round up of ways to decorate a pumpkin as it gets closer to Halloween.

Costume contest:
Dressing up? Making your own costume? As long as you "make" something, you can enter. Any costume with homemade elements on it, in it, or used is okay. Take a photo of your costume(s) then upload your photos to the Make or Craft Flickr photo pool and tag them "MAKECRAFTHALLOWEEN" or you can email them to us, just be aware that we're going to upload them to the Make and Craft Flickr photo pool. We'll continue to post fun costumes and how-tos all this month as well.

Decorations, gadgets and more contest: Decorations at home, work, wherever, a haunted house, lawn gadgets, anything Halloweeny. If you're one of those makers or crafters who goes all out and makes their surroundings spooky in some way, take a photo! Then upload your photos to the Make or Craft Flickr photo pool and tag them "MAKECRAFTHALLOWEEN" or you can email them to us, just be aware that we're going to upload them to the Make and Craft Flickr photo pool. We will spotlight some of our favorite Halloween related projects all this month to inspire folks.


Treat-or-Treat contest:
This is the easiest one. If you have a blog, a website, MySpace or anything online, just post a link to Make or Craft. We will pick ten people we see linking to us. It works best if you have a blog-like site; we'll be using the Technorati service to track who is linking to us. You can post a link to us in your sidebar, a link about this contest, anything really. Do a post about Make or Craft, it doesn't matter to us, but we can see it best if it's on a blog and making it fun always helps (extra credit if it's a spooky story!).

Prizes! Besides the glory and fame of being a winner of the Make and Craft Halloween Contest, we're going to give away some stuff.

Hack-o-Lantern: We'll pick 3 pumpkins and the winner gets a MAKE limited edition Pocket Ref & Makers the book.

  • Hack-o-Lantern: We'll pick three pumpkins and the winner gets a Make limited edition Pocket Ref and Makers, the book.
  • Costumes: We'll pick three costumes and each winner gets Make year one (four volumes of Make in a collector's box) and the first issue of Craft.
  • Decorate/gadgets: We'll pick three winners and each will receive a Make controller kit and a POV kit.
  • Treat-or-Treat: We'll pick ten people who linked to Make and Craft and send the latest issue of Make or Craft (your choice).
  • Grand prize: We'll pick one of our winners as the grand prize – they'll receive: A Make controller kit, Make year one (four-volume collectors set), Craft, a POV kit and a box of Make magazines to a classroom/school of their choice! You want to win this, do it for the children!

Deadline: Have your entries in before Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006, at 1:59 p.m. EST. We're giving you a little time to take photos and get them up post-Halloween, but you can enter any time starting now. Contest is open to anyone on planet Earth or surrounding orbit.

What resources and articles are out there for folks who want to make their own Halloween costumes, gadgets, decorations, etc?

The Haunted Report and Make, of course! Others I'd suggest looking at:

What is your background in blogging Phillip? How did you get this job? What inspires you to create?

57169945_8a5ca125e6_m.jpgI always wrote technical and design books, and a few years ago I started writing for Popular Science's HOW 2.0 section, after that I started doing how-tos, video and audio on Engadget.com, started Hackaday.com (DIY projects, hacks, mods, projects) and later joined the team at Make right before launch. My goal as a writer and human being (at the moment) is to help change things for the better by showcasing, writing, and celebrating the things that people make. I'm not certain how to solve all the world's problems, but I'm sure it will involve everyone learning how to build (more) things.

What's the scariest Haunted House you ever attended?

Last year for sure, The Occidental Haunted House (a special collaboration between O'Reilly Media's Make Magazine team, local actors, artists and technologists) — I had a few jobs to do, hundreds of kids and adults looking to be scared — you want everything to go right and it did – still scary though!

Do you ever get scared anymore? What does scare you?

Not getting all the stuff done I want to.

Do you believe in real haunted houses? Ghosts?

There hasn't been any scientific evidence or repeatable experiments that indicate there are haunted houses or ghosts. That doesn't mean that people don't actually see things, human brains are pretty powerful generators of imagination. All that being said, I think this sums it up best: “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” – Sir Arthur Eddington

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