News of Otsego County

Halloween 2020

HORRORS! But To Brian Burger, Fear Is Spice Of Life


But To Brian Burger,

Fear Is Spice Of Life

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Brian Burger finds everything about horror movies scary, including the popcorn.

ONEONTA – For Brian Burger, being a little bit spooked is essential to a good quality of life.

“Everything seems a little better after you’ve watched a horror movie,” he said. “It gets the blood pumping. You get more oxygen.  And you feel better. The world seems a little nicer.”

Burger, a clubhouse assistant at Friends of Recovery of Delaware-Otsego Club Odyssey, has amassed a collection of cult and hard-to-find horror movies – as well as making one of his own.

In 2014, after working as an Orlando-based location manager on such films as “Sydney White,” “The Final Destination” and “Burning Bright” – that one featured singer Meatloaf and had future “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic on set – Burger partnered with director Juan Ortiz to produce “Jennifer Help Us,” the first feature-length film shot entirely on an iPhone 4S.

“We wanted to make something ourselves, but we had no money and no camera,” he said. “But we had a phone, so we decided to use that.”

The story follows a group of high school girls as the haze a fellow student, who then seeks revenge using a “haunted figure” involved the town’s long-buried secret.

Because they knew they couldn’t match a professional camera’s look, they shot the film to look like horror movies from the ’70s and ’80s.

Oneonta’s Brian Burger shows off his horror-movie video collection, which he shares with friends.

“We used the lower quality to our advantage,” he said. “That’s what a lot of these filmmakers did; they knew there would be quality loss on VHS, so a lot of times, when they’re restored on Blu-Ray, you can see the killer just standing there in the dark, where you wouldn’t have seen him before.”

He even mocked up a VHS cover for the movie.

The film played at national and international festivals, including Another Hole in the Head in San Francisco and Freak Show in Orlanda, as well as picking up the BloodGuts UK Horror Award.

“Jennifer Help Us” is available for free streaming on Vimeo, and may soon see a Blu-Ray release from Synapse Films, a company that specializes in cult film restoration, including 1977’s Italian horror classic “Suspiria.”

“They’re very interested in releasing it, but they want us to add 10 minutes in order for it to be on the shelves at Wal-Mart,” he said.

Burger grew up on horror movies. Like many kids, he saw his first, “Night of the Living Dead,” by sneaking out of bed one night. “I was intimately shook,” he said. “I’ve always been looking for something that invokes that feeling.”

He began working as a locations manager after a collage internship, seeking out sets for crews to film on.

“I did a film called ‘Zombies, Zombies, Zombies,’ that we shot in a strip club that was set to be demolished,” he said. “We shot for a month, but no one told the demolition crew, and when they went in, there was blood everywhere.

“They thought they’d come across a murder scene and called the cops!”

He moved to Oneonta in 2019 to work at FOR-DO, where he was invited by management to make his office into a comforting, self-care haven.

“My safe space growing up was the video store,” he said, “So now, my desk is a candy counter and I’ve got a wall of all the tapes I had in my basement.”

He even made fake signage, calling his office “Itty-Biddy Video,” and lends his videos, including essential Halloween watches like “Halloween III: Night of the Witch,” “Dark Night of the Scarecrow” and “April Fools Day” to friends and fellow horror enthusiasts.

And he hopes to connect with other horror filmmakers in the area, including having screenings of locally-made horror films.

But you’ll have to work hard to scare him. “The older I get, the harder it is to scare me,” he admitted. “’Hereditary’ did that. Getting scared in a movie harkens back to being a kid.”

COVID Can’t Stop Oneonta Halloween

COVID Won’t Stop

Oneonta Halloween

ONEONTA – Though limited in hours, Oneonta will still host their annual downtown trick-or-treating event this year, closing Main Street from 1-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.

Students from SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College – masked and gloved – will assist businesses in handing out wrapped candy in front of participating businesses. Face coverings and social distancing are required.

In COVID Era, Halloween Thrives


Halloween Thrives

Richard Butcher, left, and the Bernard-Wood brothers, Colt and Alexander, pose with their spooky Cooperstown display. (Jim Kevlin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Oneonta siblings Aubrey Morgan, left, Bella Barnes and Matthew Alley show off the enormous Halloween dragon at their River Street home. (Ian Austin/

COOPERSTOWN – Richard Butcher, Cooperstown, ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

“Our house was built in the 1840s,” he said. “It’s definitely haunted.”

Haunted or not, you can see a ring of spooky spirits day or night in front of his house at, yes, 71 Elm St. “At night, the center glows, like they’re doing a ritual,” he said. “It’s really creepy!”

With Cooperstown and Oneonta’s Halloween parades cancelled and trick-or-treating minimized, homeowners are taking more pride and care with their lawn decorations, creating elaborate scenes of ghouls and goblins to get passersby in the spirit of the season.

“COVID-19 really did a number on people,” said Butcher. “If people look at this, it might make them happy. My mom used to always decorate, so we wanted to keep the tradition going with our family.”

“Decorations are for everyone,” said Dan Alley, River Street, Oneonta. “Since there isn’t much going on for Halloween, we’re getting it all out now.”

Alley, a city firefighter, started decorating when his son, Matthew, was little, and has continued with his daughters, Bella Barnes and Aubrey Morgan. “It evolves every year,” he said. “The kids love it. We used to set it up while they were at school, and they’d run home to see what new piece we added.”

The family still has the first decoration it ever bought, a Mickey Mouse pumpkin. “This year the kids are home, so they were able to help set it up,” he said.

Most of the Alleys’ decorations are inflatable, but dad said they’re going to start moving towards solid decorations next year.

“We tried to get the 12-foot skeleton from Home Depot,” he said. “We had friends looking for it in Texas and Florida. But one way or another, we’re going to have a giant skeleton next year.”

They do, however, have a motion-activated skeleton dangling from the mailbox, which the kids put there to spook any postal workers who bring a package by.

Butcher, a tattoo artist, couldn’t even wait until October to start building his display. “You don’t know if it’s going to snow in October,” he said. “I came up with these cool ideas, so I just put it together in one day.”

The scarecrows, for instance, originally had smiles, but he wanted to give it a Halloween touch. “At first, I thought happy scarecrows were fine,” he said. “But then I thought no, let’s put masks on them, let’s make them creepy.”

And, of course, no tour of Halloween decor is complete without a stop by Jeff VanWinkler’s home on Grove Street in Milford, complete with an enormous spider web and a crew of masked skeletons out front, in homage to the essential workers.

“Halloween is fun!” said Alley. “We always make costumes for the kids and they always win the group costume contest at the Boys & Girls Club.”

Though they won’t be doing any costume contests, the kids are still planning to dress up and do some trick-or-treating. “The girls are dressing up as Barbies,” he said.

And this won’t be the last time you see Butcher’s house lit up. “I can’t wait until Christmas,” he said. “I’m thinking about making the whole front yard into an ice rink with Charlie Brown skating on it.”

Look for Christmas lights at the Alleys’ place too. “We’re going to be putting up a huge tree,” he said. “We want people to be able to see it from the highway!”

It’s Beginning To Look Less Like Halloween

It’s Beginning To Look

Less Like Halloween

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Come late October, there will be no parade of ghosts and goblins haunting Cooperstown and Oneonta.

The Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce won’t be seeking a parade permit, Chamber Executive Tara Burke told Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. “But many businesses are going to continue giving out candy, as they have for the last decade,” the mayor said.

For a second year in a row, Oneonta won’t have a parade either, said Mayor Gary Herzig.

In Cooperstown, Burke did advise Tillapaugh “about half” of the Village’s 20 businesses replied to say they would still be offering wrapped candy during the annual trick-or-treat event on Saturday, Oct. 31.

Village Trustee Joe Membrino, however, discouraged the idea. “I am very strongly recommending against trick-or-treating,” he said. “The idea of sending people into stores for candy is frivolous.”

Tillapaugh said that they couldn’t tell businesses or homeowners “what to do,” but said instead that the Village would work with the Chamber to create guidelines for a safe event.

“We want to issue strong recommendations that everyone wear face coverings and only travel in family groups,” she said. “This way, we can provide those who want to participate a way to do it safely.”

Suggestions included putting a bowl of wrapped candy out on the front porch, or standing
near the sidewalk to give out candy – masked, of course – in order to minimize travel to houses and closed spaces, such as porches.

“The last few years, we’ve been blessed with wonderful Halloween nights,” said Trustee Cindy Falk. “People can stand outside with candy.”

In Oneonta, Herzig said, “It’s a shame. Last year we had to cancel it because of wind and rain.”

This year’s parade fell victim to COVID-19, but the city, along with Destination Oneonta and Common

Council member Mark Drnek, eighth ward, who recently spearheaded the successful eight-week downtown dining event, are working to put together guidelines for families who still wish to participate in trick-or-treating both downtown and in the neighborhoods.

“We’re working with the downtown business community and Dr. Diane Georgeson, the city public health officer, to see what is feasible,” said Herzig.

No Cooperstown Halloween Parade, ‘Safety’ Encouraged In Trick-Or-Treating

Trustee Calls Tradition ‘Frivolous’ 

No Halloween Parade,

Trick-or-Treat ‘Safely’

COOPERSTOWN – With the COVID-19 pandemic still a threat, it’s all tricks, minimal treats this Halloween.

The Cooperstown Chamber has indicated to the Village Board during their meeting this evening that they would not be hosting a Halloween parade, citing COVID-19 concerns.

“I did speak to Tara (Burke) and she said the chamber would not be seeking a permit request for the parade,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh. “But many businesses are going to continue giving out candy, as they have for the last decade.”

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