Douglas Antreassian got hooked on spooky from annual trips to Salem, Mass., as a kid. In his 30s, he owned a popular haunted tour company and a hearse with dual flamethrowers.
At 46, he’s channeling the spirit of an 18th-century York reverend, who for 15 years wore a black veil over his head and neck, even while preaching. The increasingly erratic man earned the nickname “Handkerchief Moody.”
To embrace the character he fondly calls Hank, Antreassian wears a black suit and a latex and gauze mask that makes him look like a freshly laundered mummy.
“There was something wrong with me from very early on,” Antreassian deadpanned in an interview last week.
Antreassian, who grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Bath, started performing as Hank last year. He reads aloud tales of murderers and witches. As he preaches and rants, he mixes humor and horror.
He’s scheduled for a performance at the Winter Street Center in Bath on Oct. 25.
People also hire Hank for events. Once, he was even hired for a burial plot-warming.
The client was in her 70s, in good health and wanted a party with friends and family on her newly purchased plot.
“She had a very, very offbeat sense of humor,” Antreassian said. “I did my thing in a cemetery.”
Antreassian said he’s always had a theatrical flair. One time, sore that his disc jockey shift at a radio station was interrupted by a NASCAR broadcast, he went on air and simulated a car crash.
“I would do the voices of the ambulance driver or whatever, and I thought it would be my own little ‘War of the Worlds,'” he said.
It worked — and listeners believed it.
But management cut his hours, and he wasn’t long for the job after that.
Antreassian said he was taken in at an early age by Salem and the kitsch that’s sprung from its infamous Witch Trials. After his wife took him on a hearse tour of New York City in 1999 as a wedding present, he found his calling.
“By the next day, I had a business plan, the name for the company and a slogan,” he said.
Mass Hysteria Haunted Hearse Tours opened in 2000 in Massachusetts, after some wrangling with the Salem City Council. They denied him a vehicle-for-hire license.
“They thought the tour was in poor taste and they hadn’t read the Constitution,” Antreassian said.
For five years, he and his wife cruised the town in a purple 1969 Cadillac hearse with flamethrowers, pointing out cemeteries, haunted houses and other macabre sites.
“At some point, we decided we couldn’t see Gallows Hill one more time,” he said. “I got tired of the scenery, the congestion.”
The couple moved to Maine and divorced.
Years later, while reading the book “Mysterious New England” and its tale of York’s the Rev. Joseph Moody, Antreassian was inspired again.
According to the book, Moody shot and killed his best friend in a hunting accident but didn’t confess the crime until he was close to his deathbed. To the outside world, he just started wearing an eerie black veil. All the time.
“After that, Moody went barking mad,” Antreassian said. “He was what you would call a basket case. I saw that and thought, ‘There’s something I can do with that.'”
During his shows, Antreassian recites lesser-known works of Edgar Allan Poe and older pieces, including “The Ballad of the Jabberwock” by Leah Bodine Drake.
He wears either a white or dark-brown mask, and he allows himself eye, nose and mouth holes — unlike the Rev. Moody, he needs to be able to see and read. At the end of each show, a single member of the audience is allowed to go backstage and see him with the mask off — if they dare.
“I am definitely deranged during the performance,” he said. “Some people would say that’s all the time.”
Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, unexplained and intriguing in Maine. Send ideas, photos and dark tales to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go and do
Tales of madmen, murderers and the undead: An evening with the Rev. Joseph “Handkerchief” Moody (as performed by Douglas Antreassian)
Where: Winter Street Center, 880 Washington St., Bath
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 25
Cost: $15 at the door; reservations required in advance
FMI: HandkerchiefMoody.blogspot.com or 725-8786