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O.C. journalist’s ‘Halloween Every Night’ site keeps spooky season going year-round

Jessica Peralta, founder of the "Halloween Every Night" website.
Jessica Peralta, founder of the “Halloween Every Night” website, poses for a photo with actor zombies from the “Night of the Living Dead,” at Maverick Theater in Fullerton on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Her website chronicles horror culture year-round in Southern California.
(Raul Roa)

For horror enthusiast Jessica Peralta, a particularly hectic weekend in September proved that Halloween is harder to kill than Michael Myers.

As editor and founder of the “Halloween Every Night” website, she covered the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival when it returned in-person at the Frida Cinema in downtown Santa Ana and offered an expanded slew of screenings and panel discussions. That same Labor Day weekend, Peralta darted off to Disneyland for Halloween Time, which welcomed guests and media back for its longest season yet after a pandemic hiatus last year.

Commuting between the two events signaled that things seemed to be going back to paranormal.

“I sense this enormous amount of enthusiasm,” Peralta said. “There’s a lot of really great haunts going on and they’re all on their game. They just want to get out, scare and have fun.”

Before starting “Halloween Every Night,” Peralta says her own penchant for all things horror may have started as early as the womb.

“My mom likes to say that when she was pregnant with me she was reading Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot,’” Peralta said. “I don’t know if that had any impact.”

What did make for a memorable impression was “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” As a young girl, Peralta recalls watching the golden era 1984 slasher film that her aunt had on VHS and finding a humorous anti-hero in Freddy Krueger.

Aside from horror, Peralta also had a budding interest in journalism.

“I always had an affinity for writing,” she said. “It came easier for me.”

Peralta graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a journalism degree and landed a job with the Orange County Register in 2001. “Later on, I started working for Squeeze OC, a magazine owned by the Register, and we did a lot of different types of entertainment stories,” she said. “I did a zombie issue and started covering Knott’s Scary Farm.”

Taking the beat a step further, Peralta filed a first-person dispatch from Halloween Haunt as a scare actor in a maze, a role she reprised for several years.

But the flurry of frightful events — and the opportunity to write about them — ended after Halloween leaving her with a bit of a horror hangover every year.

“Honestly, the month of October was so great, but then I would get depressed on Nov. 1st,” Peralta said. “I wanted to keep it going, and I knew that other people were like me.”

In 2014, she decided to take her twin passions the distance by founding “Halloween Every Night,” a multimedia website dedicated to year-round horror happenings in Southern California and beyond. At the onset, Peralta shouldered much of the workload, dubbing herself cheekily as “predator-in-chief” and “ghost writer.” Like any new journalistic endeavor, she built up press contacts and wrote articles that got the site’s blood flowing.

The timing proved fortuitous as the horror culture and industry only expanded in the past decade.

Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt transformation into a labyrinth of macabre mazes and scare actors lurking amid the fog clogged freeways with more revelers on their way to the event than ever. Midsummer Scream, an annual expo, began in 2016 at the Long Beach Convention Center and now bills itself as the world’s largest Halloween and horror show of its kind. In 2019, the Creep it Real expo set up shop in Orange County for the first time.

And “Halloween Every Night” was there to cover all horror happenings, big and small.

Zombie actors ignore the warning of Peralta's shirt as they surround the "Halloween Every Night" founder
Zombies from “Night of the Living Dead” ignore the warning of Peralta’s shirt as they surround the “Halloween Every Night” founder.
(Raul Roa)

When the coronavirus pandemic cancelled conventional gatherings last year and left neighborhood sidewalks largely bereft of trick-or-treaters, Peralta covered how the community pivoted — from drive-through tunnel of terror car washes filled with scare monsters (and lots of suds) to the Maverick Theater’s immersive, socially distanced and outdoor adaptation of “Night of the Living Dead” in Fullerton.

“It wasn’t a normal season, but honestly we kept pretty busy,” Peralta said. “We still went to quite a few events. I really loved the innovation and creativity that people came up with to make these events happen. It was a different way to experience Halloween.”

Getting into the act itself, “Halloween Every Night” produced an award-winning graphic illustration of a fleeing woman keeping 6 feet apart from a masked maniac with bloody blade in hand — and put it on a t-shirt.

As the community evolved, the site continued to grow as Peralta’s passion project when she wasn’t handling duties as editor of Parenting OC Magazine and filing freelance pieces for other outlets.

“We do have quite a few contributors now,” she said. “We have writers, video editors and graphic illustrators. We have a lot of young contributors so we try to teach them journalism. It’s all about fun with the focus of journalism as the root of it.”

Shawn Price, her partner, leaned on his own journalism chops to serve as managing editor. He shoots a lot of the event coverage footage that appears in videos.

Peralta prides her site on the trade experience it wields. Since going online, “Halloween Every Night,” has notched 25 O.C. Press Club awards for everything from illustration and graphic design to multimedia and specialty journalism.

She’s looking to expand her platform in any way possible. For now, that includes plans for a future podcast. In the meantime, the site continues to profile the unique personalities that populate the horror scene and a lot of the small businesses that operate from that shared sense of love for the culture.

Come the day after Halloween, there’s definitely no need for any spooky sadness, not while “Halloween Every Night” is around to keep the spirit of the season alive.

“You can hop right in and there will be plenty of content,” said Peralta of her site. “We do try to appeal to everybody. We just want to share this site with as many people as we can.”

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