The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

October 28, 2011

BILL EGGERT | Holiday’s a howl at ‘haunted’ hotel

— Halloween is again lurking around the corner, and Mother Nature is decorating her foliage with fall colors of orange, red and gold.

Shops have been selling Halloween decorations for a few months now, and kids anxiously prepare their costumes for their fun-filled night of trick-or-treating to pick up their treasure of candy from the neighbors.

Mom was always in the spirit of Halloween when my two brothers and I were kids, and I still enjoy the holiday.

My friend Blair Murphy, who I’ve known since I moved back to town a few years back, also revels in the Halloween season. An active member of the Windber community, he helped to get the Graham Avenue tribute for legendary rock and roll disc jockey Alan Freed, originally from Windber. Blair also produced an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” back in 2009. He is now shooting a zombie film in and around the Windber area.

Blair’s enthusiasm and youth­ful energy belie his 40-something age. He is equal parts Andy Warhol, P.T. Barnum, Ed Wood and William Castle.

Originally from New Jersey, he lived part of his adult life in Los Angeles. Murphy had the distinction of working in various capacities for three

20th-century pop icons: Dick Clark, Stan Lee and Prince.

His idols include figures like Orson Welles and Edgar Allen Poe, though his most seminal influence was his father, who owned a funeral home, obviously spurring Blair’s longtime fascination with the macabre.

His dad also made home movies, adding to his interest in cinema.

Blair’s home is the Grand Midway Hotel, a 100-year-old edifice that harkens back to Windber of another time. The three-story structure has had a colorful history, but perhaps none as unique as its current incarnation.

Murphy has almost singlehandedly renovated the hotel to an eerie and mysterious dwelling. It is filled with statues, wild animal taxidermy, and even a secret bookcase passageway, not to mention the various ghosts and goblins that are said to haunt the site.

Blair’s mantra includes the concept of “enchantment,” and part of his philosophy is: “Teach what you would learn.”

His community of artists who have gathered at the Grand Midway during the past 10 years include musicians, writers, filmmakers, poets; even an exorcist, a chef and a magician. They come from Johnstown and nearby Pittsburgh, and as far away as New Orleans. And all have an appreciation for the ghoulish.

Murphy hosts annual events, such as the Kerouac Festival, and recently started Dracula Con to tap into the renewed interest in vampires.

Both events bring in guests from around the country, including Butch Patrick (TV’s Eddie Munster).

With his fascination with the macabre, you could say that Blair Murphy celebrates Halloween every day of the year. He embraces the various aspects of the dark and mysterious, as well as his love of enchantment, along with his girlfriend, Deanna, and his multitude of friends who share an appreciation of things that go bump in the night.

The sound of mysterious footsteps and the cold air sweeping into rooms add to the ambiance that he fosters.

The hospitality that the host of the Grand Midway extends to his guests is quite reassuring to those who enter his hotel with any trepidation.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown native. You can read his blog at http://thebillvilleblog

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Bill Eggert
  • EGGERT AND CHILLY BILLY Bill Cardille brings back childhood chills

    One of the nice things about moving back to this area was being able to connect with childhood heroes from local television. Some, like Paul Shannon (“Adventure Time”) and Hank Stohl (“Popeye and Kinesh”), unfortunately have passed on. Others, like wrestling champ Bruno Sammartino and Bill Cardille (“Chiller Theatre”) are happily still with us.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • EGGERT6 Riverboat reverie on ‘uncle time’

    Thoughts of the summer months bring to mind annual weeklong vacations with Granny, Pop-Pop and Uncle Don in Pittsburgh. One memorable summer, “Unck” took me to see the Delta Queen riverboat, sitting majestically in the Monongahela River, moored at the Mon wharf.

    July 5, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Bill Eggert | ‘Whatever it takes’: remembering Chuck Noll

    Once upon a time there was a colorful yet inept professional football team, owned by an equally colorful Irishman who participated in sports during his younger days. Unlike their crosstown professional baseball and collegiate football team counterparts, the pro football team never tasted the sweet nectar of success for about 40 years. That all changed in 1969, when Steelers owner Art Rooney and his family found a wise, humble and grounded 37-year-old man named Chuck Noll.

    June 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert columnist  photo Life after Dad: A Father’s Day reflection

    One of my dad’s favorite movies was the 1947 classic “Life With Father,” starring the great William Powell (coincidentally also born in Pittsburgh) as the stern but lovable family disciplinarian.

    June 7, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert columnist  photo BILL EGGERT | Hollywood’s take on the Great Flood

    About 37 years after the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889, Hollywood decided to make a motion picture of Johnstown’s most catastrophic event.

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • EGGERT4 75 years of Batmania: The Dark Knight’s evolution

    The appeal of Batman is universal. We can identify more with Batman.
    Local resident Wayne Faucher has been a professional artist/inker on the various Batman titles for over 20 years.

    May 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert BILL EGGERT | Captain America: Sentinel of liberty for 70-plus years

    When I was a kid reading comic books, my two favorite superheroes (Batman and Captain America) were not really super; maybe that is why they were my favorites.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • BILL EGGERT AND FRANK COONELLY BILL EGGERT | Pirates: a rite of spring

    Opening day for the Bucs is March 31. Every year, hope springs eternal for Pittsburgh Pirate fans. Especially for the past two decades, since outfielder Barry Bonds’ errant throw allowed gimpy-kneed Sid Bream to score the come-from-behind winning run for the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 National League Championship Series.

    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert BILL EGGERT | Going home can sometimes be only walking distance

    One of the most popular topics during my eight years of writing this column is the one of looking into the past of the Johnstown (and my areas of Moxham and Richland) of my childhood. A lot of baby boomers relate to these time trips with a sense of nostalgia, remembering a kinder, simpler, more innocent era. Or at least that is the way we remember our childhood, looking through those rose-colored glasses.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads