Cover Story - Professor Morté's spooky top 5

Why Atlanta is this horror host's favorite haunt

Little is known about the green goblin who calls himself Professor Morté, host to Atlanta's horror underworld. The alter ego of Shane Morton, makeup artist behind Adult Swim's "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell" and co-creator/effects head for Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, among many other endeavors, is said to be 500 years old. The oldest known photos of him date back to the early 1990s — he had more stitches on his face back then. Morté graduated from the famed Miskatonic University, the fictional college featured in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos stories. There he majored in necromancy with a minor in anatomical anthropology. "I got a PhD in Mad Science," he laughs.

But who is he really, and is his shtick for adults or children? "Children! I love children," he says. "They're delicious ... I mean delightful!"

Is he a good guy? Does he really eat kids? Perhaps we'll never know. But at the brink of Halloween 2014, Morté took a few minutes out from his favorite time of the year to talk about Ted Turner, haunted houses, and what makes Atlanta his favorite haunt.

5. Atlanta has a huge haunted house industry. "This year, now that Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse is only open on weekends, I can make the rounds. Camp Blood has been doing it forever; Chambers of Horror has really come along; Netherworld is one of the top haunted houses in the country. It's beautiful. I'm a big fan, and I worked with them for years. I'm a co-creator of Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, and we all try to work together. I'm doing stuff with Chambers of Horror and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling — there's nothing like seeing a bunch of kids chanting for this gay Dragula wrestler as he beats up homophobic redneck werewolves. There I go again, sneaking my agenda into the silly wrestling show. It might seem like it's just a vampire and a werewolf but there's something else going on."

4. People in Atlanta love metal, especially the dark stuff. "There are so many bands with a spooky edge here, even Biters, who aren't particularly spooky, but 'Hallucination Generation' was just the movie They Live repackaged as a music video. Tuk and those guys are beautiful-looking dudes who've cultivated a Lost Boys image. Then there's Gunpowder Gray, and Mastodon. They've always had horror imagery in their songs and videos and album covers."

3. A huge part of Atlanta's film and television industry is geared toward horror stuff. "James Sizemore's The Demon's Rook, 'The Walking Dead' and 'Vampire Diaries' were or are filmed here. Rob Zombie did Halloween II here. It's not just all of us independents making horror films — people ask me why I didn't go to Hollywood. I told them that Hollywood was coming to me. It might've taken 20 years but now it's happening. I'm working on Adult Swim's 'Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell,' and it's the greatest thing that I've ever been able to do with my art. It's the first satanic sitcom, and I heard that ratings-wise our first season episode 5 took 'The Daily Show,' and episode 6 took 'Jay Leno.' We were the highest rated comedy on TV without a publicist or anything. Season 2 is gonna destroy people. Everything is a monster."

2. People in the South fetishize horror culture. "Is that a backlash to church suppression? That's where it all comes from. I've read a lot of books on the sociology of the horror cycle. I know David Skal personally. He's the guy who wrote The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. It's a fantastic book in which he figures it all out: Horror cycles come about from war. All of those Lon Chaney movies about disfigurement and being an outsider started happening when people came back from World War I all disfigured. It was all about being an outsider and that was a direct result of the war. Southerners are the ultimate outsiders.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is really just a remake of The Old Dark House by James Whale. All the archetypes are there, and a lot of it is mired in Southern gothic. Those tropes are born out of this stuff, and does that have to do with the mad rush to get here? A lot of people came here through New Orleans and Savannah, and they brought a lot of mythologies with them."

1. Atlanta gets rated top nerd spot in the country all the time. "Why is Dragon Con and all of this horror fantasy stuff happening here? One name: Ted Turner. When the Superstation first happened, even on St. Simon's where I grew up, every day I woke up to 'The Little Rascals' and 'Ultraman.' When I came home from school it was Vincent Price movies and late-night horror shows. There was always crazy programming on the Superstation. Godzilla weekends where you could watch all of the Godzilla movies for two whole days. I think it warped all of these Southerners, and we all came to Atlanta. Guys like Johnny Rej of 'Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse' and Tom Bingham were working at the station as editors, and now they're making movies. I kinda speak for all of us in that Turner's early programming got into all of us all at an early age, and it affected us."

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