Going to the Halloween Extreme with Tom Nardone
Extreme Pumpkins.com is the outrageous brainchild of Halloween maestro, Tom Nardone. Extreme Pumpkins.com takes pumpkin carving to the next level-where hand drills put the super in “super gooper scooper” and a dremel puts the cheap, chip carver to shame. Nardone’s demonstrated use of power tools and pyrotechnics has inspired a whole legion of quirky, pumpkin designers and has lead to his wildly popular book, Extreme Pumpkins. Nardone’s successful “diabolical do-it-yourself” designs are also featured in the sequel Extreme Pumpkins II and continues with other Halloween hijinks in the recently released, Extreme Halloween. Tom has been featured on Conan, Regis and Kelly, The Travel Channel, Good Morning America, The History Channel, and MTV.
How did you get into Extreme Pumpkin carving?
TN: Every Halloween, I’d carve a pumpkin-or three or four-for my porch. I’ve always tried to scare kids. I lived in this neighborhood outside of Detroit-it was the first safe neighborhood outside of Detroit. So, people that lived in Detroit who had kids would literally pile ten kids into a minivan and drive them up to the neighborhood that I lived in. We’d get about a 150 trick-or-treaters a night. When you did something festive, like carve pumpkins, the kids really loved it because they were from Detroit and didn’t really have any neighborhood of their own. So, I started to carve pumpkins and one day, decided to see if I could do it with power tools. Between my buddy Matt and I, we have every power tool in the universe so we tried everything we had. While we were trying the different tools, I decided that I had to make a website out of it and called it Extreme Pumpkins.
So, what ideas are in your latest book, Extreme Halloween?
TN: It has all sorts of Halloween ideas like crazy costume ideas but not elaborate ones. More like lazy, last minute ideas. There are a million people out there who can create some sort of costume idea that no one has seen before but it takes a thousand hours to create. This book just keeps it simple. It also has suggestions for decorating your house, ways to scare kids when they’re trick-or-treating and recipes-how to make silly foods and drinks. There are also some large pumpkin sculptures to display on your lawn like a scorpion. One of my favorite parts of the books is the section on ways to scare kids who are trick-or-treating which I call “Candy Traps”.
What’s an example of a “candy trap”?
TN: There’s one that’s called The Dark Doorway. It’s real easy. You open your door all the way and then you take black fabric-two pieces-and tape them up in the doorway. At nighttime, without much light on the porch, it will look like the door is open and the kid is just looking into a dark, empty house. You stand right behind the dark fabric and then stick your head between the two pieces of fabric so that it looks like your head is popping out of nowhere and then you yell, “Rah!”. It scares the bejeezus out of them, especially if you’re wearing a mask. Another one that I make is called the “Trash Barrel”. You just take a trash barrel-a new one, not a smelly old one-although I suppose if you had the stomach for it, you could use an old one. Then I cut it up, to make a sort of transformer suit out of it which you can crouch down into it. When you crouch down, it looks just like a trashcan. So, you have your accomplice-in my case, it’s my wife-handing out candy to the kids that come to the door. The “trashcan” is posted near the door. So, the kids run up and get the candy from my wife. As they’re leaving, they’re busy looking at their bags to see how full it is. Then, all of the sudden, someone jumps up where there was no one before and screams. And THEY FREAK OUT! Then, they walk a few feet away and hide behind the bushes to watch the next group of kids be scared. You can easily scare 100 kids in a night.
Do you have any upcoming appearances or book signings?
TN: I’m doing some book signings but they’re mainly in Michigan. I do some paid gigs but there are only a few of those. The TV appearances usually start to book up around the beginning of October. Last year, was Regis and Kelly and Conan O’Brien.
How was that?
TN: It was awesome! I love to go to those things. They treat me great. They’re always super receptive to any ideas that I have and they think it’s funny. I think it’s hilarious because you’re on the show with real stars. You’re on backstage with someone like one of the Olsen twins and real celebrities and then, there’s me. They ask me what I do and expect me to say something like, ‘I cure cancer’ but instead I respond with, ‘I carve pumpkins’.
I noticed that a lot of your friends help create some of the videos on Extreme Pumpkins. You have one group in particular called The Bump-n-Uglies. Who are they?
TN: One of them is a friend of mine who works for me and the other is his brother. They’re a tag team of wrestlers. The name of my website is called Extreme Pumpkins and by talking to me, I neither sound nor really am very extreme. One time, I tried to record a video promo of myself saying, “This is Tom from Extreme Pumpkins!”. I looked back at it and thought, ‘you look like the biggest idiot in the world’. This isn’t going to work. So, I figured out that I need to be the straight man and that I need a couple of clowns-colorful characters. The guy that works for me is a riot.
What other projects are you working on?
TN: I’m working on some ideas for a fourth book but it’s more of book about how to be a fun Dad. I’m also trying to be a pumpkin ninja. That’s my theme for this year’s activities. I’m trying to mix the art of “ninjitsu” and pumpkin carving to see what I get. I make new pumpkin designs each year but what I think makes the website funny, is that I come up with new ways to carve the pumpkins. This year, “ninjitsu” is the theme. I already bought a ninja costume and a sword on-line.
Are you going to embroider a pumpkin on it somewhere?
TN: I’ve made shirts with pumpkins on them before because if you go to the store to buy anything with a pumpkin on it, it looks like an old lady, beaded sweater or a giant pumpkin shirt. I made my own pumpkin shirt for when I went on Conan. You know what-you know how ninjas wear headbands (I don’t think that they actually do), I’m going to make a pumpkin for the center of the headband.
You could get some pumpkin nunchucks.
Yeah, I ordered some nunchucks, too. They’re only $6.99! I’m also going to do some video of my ninja carving technique. If I’m seen flipping around, it’s all a camera trick.