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X-phile

The horror! The horror! For Barry McDonald, believing is not always seeing.

The thing about it is, Barry McDonald says, he doesn't think he actually attracts weird and creepy phenomena. "But I do seek it out," he explains. "And if you seek out something long enough, you'll find it."

Back when he managed the Officers' Club at the old Lowry Air Force Base, he'd walk into the ballroom and contemplate the carpet. "It was red with black dots," Barry recalls. "As I stared at it, my mind would open up and focus. Then all of a sudden, the red would fall away and begin to glow. And then I'd see myself standing on these tiny black rods, just miles high...I've always been able to open my mind like that. Always without drugs. And when I write horror, I will live it. I will become it."

The smell here is putrid,

I think that I shall never see a poet as dead as he pretends to be: Barry McDonald in his casket.The basement tapes: Barry McDonald in his basement dedicated to all things creepy.
John Johnston
I think that I shall never see a poet as dead as he pretends to be: Barry McDonald in his casket.The basement tapes: Barry McDonald in his basement dedicated to all things creepy.
I think that I shall never see a poet as dead as he pretends to be: Barry McDonald in his casket.
John Johnston
I think that I shall never see a poet as dead as he pretends to be: Barry McDonald in his casket.

With the flesh of the dead.

The maggot filled mouths,

Of the corpses in this house.

Flies buzzing around,

The gore on the ground.

Screams of terror,

In the house of horror...

Barry lives in Commerce City with his wife, Janet, and two teenage kids. In a neighborhood of tidy, middle-class homes, his place stands out like a hearse among Hondas. Headstones poke through the front lawn. A horse skeleton hangs in a tree. A coffin leans on the porch. The living room walls, tables and shelves are festooned with skulls. "Just wait until we put up the Amityville Horror windows," he says. "We start planning for Halloween in January. We're going to have Surround Sound, a strobe light and, of course, the fog machine. That horse skeleton is going to be turned into a demon. I've got a female corpse on order from Hollywood, from the movie Poltergeist. And next year, we're getting a bunch of skeletons that are going to be covered in latex and turned into corpses. Heavily rotting corpses."

When he's not looking for creepy stuff, writing poetry, playing rhythm guitar in his oldies band, the Impalas, or tinkering with his '81 Cadillac Seville "Death Machine," Barry works as a supervisor for a customer-service firm in Thornton. But in his perfect world, he'd be the fourth member of the Lone Gunmen on the X-Files.

He is 36 years old, blonde, bespectacled, bright, polite and slightly geeky. During frog dissection in ninth-grade biology class, he was probably the first to dig in.

"You could say that," he admits.

Barry is sitting on the edge of his black living room couch, hands folded earnestly in his lap. If it weren't for the horned demon skull beside him on the coffee table, he could be selling life insurance. Or, in this case, death insurance.

He began writing poetry at age fourteen, but wasn't widely recognized as a poet until 1997, when his wife submitted a poem titled "Snow" to the International Library of Poetry in Maryland. The poem, as well as a sonnet called "Thunderstorm," won numerous awards from the association, including the Homer Diamond and Editor's Choice. The attention was nice, Barry says, but "nice" is not the impression he wants to give.

"I don't want to go down in history as the guy who wrote soft, mushy stuff," he says. "I want to write pure, unadulterated horror: The corpse that looks at you and rips its heart out."

To understand why, he says, you must begin with the Indian Ghost.

When he was growing up in rural Ohio, Barry would slip away into the woods behind his house and become lost in his imagination. If he was playing explorer, he became Indiana Jones. If he was playing warrior, he became Conan the Barbarian. When he was ten, Barry became an archaeologist. Every day for months on end, he excavated the land near his home on the Black River, "where the Indians hung out." He unearthed a collection of arrowheads, pottery shards, grinders, stone tools and weapons that eventually landed in a private museum. But there, in what might have been a burial site, he also unearthed a "Casper-the-friendly-ghost-type deal."

It arrived one night when Barry was curled up under the covers with a flashlight and a Stephen King novel. Suddenly, the bedsprings squeaked, and Barry felt the weight of someone beside him.

"I thought, 'Oh, man. Busted,'" he recalls. "My mom was really strict. When you went to bed, you went to bed. So I flipped off the covers, ready to take whatever she was going to give me, but there was no one there."

A few nights later, someone -- or something -- ripped the blankets from his bed. Then his dresser drawer shot across the room. Then the dolphin mobile on the ceiling spun wildly. Then footsteps scrambled down the hall. Then his bed lifted off the ground and broke.

"It scared the hell out of me, especially the drawer," Barry recalls. "Of course, no one believed me. They thought I was doing it. I'd be sitting there playing with my cousins, and a toy car would move across the room. I'd think, 'Okay. It's here.' But my cousins would freak out: 'Aunt Joan, Barry's doing it again. Make him stop!'"

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