Yellow police barrier tape warned passersby that danger loomed beyond its boundaries. Within the contaminated, cordoned off zone, a disposed cadaver pouch was besieged by hungry rats. Cobwebs and more placards cautioned that something had gone terribly wrong inside.
What's a reporter to do? Basic instincts say grab a notepad, pencil, camera and get to the source of the raucous noise seeping out from behind the sealed double doors.
About the crime: That would the Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company's "Monster Bash" at Spring Street Studios Saturday night. About those rodents: They were plastic. The ring leader? Party chair Karen Osborn, assisted by Dennis Draper and artistic director Jennifer Decker.
The thespians had mutated their home at Studio 101 into a whimsically dingy house of darkness where a ghoulish horde of 200 supporters bedecked in their finest hand-crafted habiliments "fished" mini bottles of booze from the black lagoon, cakewalked for prizes and grazed Prego chef John Watt's spread of tomato caprese skewers, shrimp, feta cheese tart, sliced roast beef and a gigantic chocolate sheet cake.
The brave Jay Menchaca stripped down to his unmentionables and entered the scene as a 49-year-old underwear model, changing his tight briefs six times.
After imbibing Camp Crystal Lake punch, a potent bright red potation that nods to the site of the horror film series Friday the 13th, and Saint Arnold Brewing Company suds, couples unrolled a whole box of toilet paper for the Wrap the Mummy contest.
Many took the theme to heart. Like Ryan Kelly, who was freaky as the monster in Clive Barker's Hellraiser. Houston Cinema Arts Society's Trish Rigdon rigged a cheap wig to summon Morticia. John Dunn spared no expense for his alien spy girl from Mars Attacks!, complete with laser weapon and sequined purse.
And then there was the brave Jay Menchaca, who stripped down to his unmentionables and entered the scene as a 49-year-old underwear model, changing his tight briefs six times throughout the evening.
After all was said and done, the Best Costume honor was awarded to Ananka Kohnitz, who fashioned a green-skin wicked witch with raggedy fabric, dangling skeletons and moving eyes affixed to a sexy Wiccan outfit.
Stephanie Saint Sanchez spun gramophone records — yes, mainly vinyl — to inject life into this undead themed fete. She did it with "Thriller," which roused an impromptu mob dance, "Monster Mash" and metal tunes by the Plasmatics and the Gruesome Twosome. At the request of a guest, Sanchez piped in Korean rapper PSY's "Gangnam Style," which was received with hilarious and appropriate horseplay — this journalist had to join in.
Trudging amid the tombstones were Melissa Mumper and Sam Smith, Blair Gulledge, Elissa Levitt, board president Dan Price, Candyce Prince, Vipul Divecha and Jennifer Wood, Beth Kungel Borck, Mark Roberts, Lyndsay Sweeney, Nikki Wuertz and Jeff Nunnally and many evil clowns, cheerleaders, zombies and B-horror film characters.