Where Does “Spooky Santa” Go From Here?

Darren Marlar is attacked by a werewolf at the 2019 Holiday Horror Con!

(Spooky Santa podcast player at the bottom of the page!)

It began as a joke at the Holiday Horror Con in a suburb of Chicago on November 30th, 2019.  As a professional full-time voice artist who has a successful podcast telling scary true stories of the paranormal and the unexplained (Weird Darkness), wouldn’t it be fun if I used my Santa Claus voice to tell spooky Christmas tales – like the song “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” says, “…there’ll be scary ghost stories…

Image from Rankin/Bass “Santa Claus is Coming to Town: (1970)

I’m hired often to voice the character of Santa (I’m a full-time voice artist) but I’ve always loved the character of Santa Claus.  I strongly identified as a child with the Rankin/Bass version of Kris Kringle in “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” where he began with a red beard.  A REDHEADED SANTA!?!  Instantly, I knew I had been thrust onto the path of Santaness!  (Is that a word?  Well, it is now.)  HO! HO! HO!  Later, at the age of 16 years old I was hired to put on the suit for a private party – and I loved every second of it.  That was before I no longer needed the padding for the belly!  I may be a voice artist in a studio playing the man in red, but I’ve often seriously considered stepping into the character outside the studio.  And now may be the time.  I even bought a black Santa suit, just in case.  It arrived in the mail on December 24th – just in time for my annual rounds if I was the real thing.  Too late though to truly take advantage of otherwise.  But I’m ready for next year now!

Spooky Santa gets his black Santa suit on December 24th, 2019!

But the joke from the Horror Con turned into a challenge in my heart.  It continued bouncing around like sugarplums in my head.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  It made me think, why aren’t we telling scary stories at during the holidays anymore – aside from the occasional horror film which more than likely was released straight to video?

For generations, the tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was not only observed, it was eagerly looked forward to.  Ever since Charles Dickens’ penned the classic holiday novel about Ebenezer Scrooge and his life-changing experiences on Christmas Eve, we’ve been telling ghost stories during the holidays.  “A Christmas Carol” is not just a Christmas tale – it is a frightening, yay terrifying, ghost story.  So if Charles Dickens’ felt it appropriate to bring some holiday scares in 1843, why not take a page (no pun intended) from his example and continue the tradition?

So what began as a joke, grew into a challenge: have Kris Kringle tell scary stories.  Within a week I had the idea of Spooky Santa, and decided to have him tell stories that were appropriate for kids – while also being entertaining for the parents.  But then I wondered exactly what “appropriate” meant.  What kind of horror or ghost stories would be going too far for younger listeners?

One thing that really surprised me at the comic cons and horror events I’ve attended while promoting Weird Darkness, is that adults often like to share their love for horror and scares… with their kids.  I’m not talking “Goosebumps” or “Harry Potter” either, as I’d expect from kids under the age of twelve.  Oh no.  These kids were hard core horror fans. I had children not yet ten years old telling me they liked to binge-watch the Friday the 13th films, they loved the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and they even had strong opinions about each individual Halloween movie, sequel, and reboot.  If this is what the kids are watching all year long, what must they be watching in October?

Then I looked online for scary stories written for the younger audience – and honestly, most of the stories weren’t tame.  The coarse language was toned down of course, and there was no sexual aspects of the stories… but other than that it appeared anything and everything was fair game.  Disemboweled teenagers, children with their heads cut off and placed in their own arms, inanimate objects coming to life and murdering entire families, blood and gore in abundance throughout.  And these stories were for written for children?!?!

So I took a chance.  I found a few “for kids” horror stories that had a holiday theme and created the Spooky Santa podcast just to see what might happen.  The trailer for the show was posted December 3rd – with the first episode posting on December 13th (a Friday the 13th, wouldn’t you know!) and other episodes followed daily through December 24th.

Download numbers for podcasts are hard to gauge, but as of today, December 25th, Spooky Santa has over 3,000 downloads on Spreaker alone, not counting the numerous other podcast platforms where it can be found.  On my YouTube channel, the Spooky Santa episodes (audio only) have so far achieved well over 150 views on average for each episode. So – over 5,000 views in the 12 days the podcast has existed – and that’s only the numbers I’ve seen.

Santa Darren – the voice of “Spooky Santa”

I’m going to check with my podcast host after the holidays to check, but I think we can say Spooky Santa is a holiday hit.

But what now?  I’d like to look at other ways to use Spooky Santa outside of just the podcast.  Unlike the red-suited Santas that sit in shopping malls or get invited to private parties and corporate gatherings, where does a black-suited Santa who tells scary stories spend the Christmas season?  And what does/can Spooky Santa do from January through November?

If you have any thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them at letters@spookysanta.com.

Listen to “Spooky Santa” on Spreaker.

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