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Party Like the Dead, Benefit the Living

by Ann Morrow on October 25, 2012


Creature sculptor Jeff Brower is looking forward to laying his dead body to rest. His corpse, he reports, has been hanging out on his couch, and soon it will be removed to a funeral parlor—at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany. On Saturday (Oct. 27), one of the Armory’s ballrooms will be transformed into an authentic wake room, with funeral furnishings, a casket and a deathlike Jeff figure, which will be on view in full morbid propriety right down to its antique mortuary make-up.

Lenore Granich

“It’s very realistic, which is the scariest thing to do,” he says.

They don’t call it the “festival of the dead” for nothing. The wake room, along with Brower’s “meat locker” and “Frankenstein’s laboratory,” are just some of the ghoulish delights being offered by the 4th Annual Festival of the Dead Halloween party, to be held in the entirety of the turreted gothic Armory (the grisly meat locker will be found in the building’s real locker room). The benefit party will also feature one of Brower’s largest creatures ever, about which he is keeping mum, except to caution that arachnophobics may have a frightful time getting into the main arena.

“So much of this place already looks like a haunted mansion,” he says of the Armory’s Victorian interior, “I’m thrilled to get my hands on it.” Even, apparently, if those hands are being disembodied for the occasion (look for them on the ceiling, or maybe in the spectral window displays).

A professional model maker who is often referred to as a master of the macabre, Brower and his custom creatures, such as the giant bat that hovered within the old QE2 nightclub, have become local legend. And so it was inevitable that the fright-meister would join forces with festival impresario Lenore Granich for some eerie set designing. Granich and her co-promoter, husband Jason Berghela, started the festival in their home several years ago. It had to be relocated to the Armory, where it can accommodate more than a thousand revelers.

Though scaring partygoers out of their wits is just for fun, the festival has a serious purpose as well, says Granich, who by day is a trauma nurse at Albany Medical Center. “The mother of all Halloween parties” is a support effort for the hospital’s family trauma fund. A portion of the proceeds will also go to the Aurora Foundation, which helps with a variety of family issues.

The party’s carnival atmosphere encompasses bands—headliners the Erotics will be joined by Sirsy, Jacamo, the Swing Docs, Motor Home, and many others; three DJs; a menagerie of performance artists including magicians, psychics, a zombie-stomp dance troupe, and more; along with spooky art from Carried Away Coffins and others.

A hot and cold buffet and “startling drink specials” are included in the ticket price, but you must come dressed: No costume, no admission. You’ve been warned.

The Festival of the Dead will be held at the Washington Avenue Armory (Albany), on Saturday (Oct. 27), from 7 PM to 3 AM. Costume required. Tickets are $28 in advance only. Call 573-1392 for ticket purchase, or visit  albanyfestivalofthedead.com for more information.