Pumpkin King’s jack-o-lanterns light up Royston

Matt at work

[This story was also published on In Your Area, October 23, 2020.]

Beetlejuice, Wednesday Addams, and Rob Zombie will be appearing in Royston, near Cambridge, this Halloween – carved into pumpkins.

From infamous vampires to band logos, ‘Pumpkin King’ Matt Hayday is celebrating the spooky season by carving creepy pop culture icons into pumpkins every day of the month.

Matt Hayday has been lighting up his area in Cambridge by creating jack-o-lanterns with designs inspired by film characters and music logos.

Matt, 42, has been working on a different design every day in October, and is planning some surprises for the rest of the month.

He says he makes the carvings for his own enjoyment, and to bring some Halloween fun to others:  “I make them to brighten everyone’s day, because we all need that at the moment. I’ve been looking forward to October for a long time so I can get started. I would do it all year round if pumpkins were available”.

Eddie, mascot for Iron Maiden

Halloween is a big event for Matt and his family. Their love of the spooky is apparent in the designs he chooses for his lanterns, which include characters from films by director Tim Burton such as Beetlejuice, villains such as Freddy Krueger and Nosferatu, horror icon Vincent Prince, and Wednesday Addams of The Addams Family.

“I find stuff that I find cool”, Matt explains, saying that he is inspired by the movies that he loved growing up: “The 80s is the most influential era for me. I was a massive Star Wars nerd my entire life. From the moment I started watching movies, Star Wars was one of the first ones I ever saw, I started collecting all the toys. I’ve kept that going my whole life – I have a plethora of Star Wars memorabilia and artwork.”

A carved Darth Vader is among his creations, and fans of classic movies from the 70s and 80s will spot a number of well loved films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Back to the Future.

Darth Vader

A 1975 flick is the inspiration for the carving Matt is most proud of: “My favourite one is one I did last year of Jaws – the poster with the shark coming up from the bottom and the swimmer along the top. That is by far my favourite one because it was a really intricate design and it came out brilliant with all the rows of teeth. Also Jaws is my all time favourite movie.”

Music is another inspiration for Matt, who has carved Rob Zombie, the Public Enemy logo, and Eddie, the mascot for Iron Maiden. He’s also depicted other pop cultural figures like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons and Borat.

Music and film play big roles in Matt’s life. When he’s not creating his lantern masterpieces, he is a singer in heavy metal band Outcryfire, and also runs a movie podcast called Straight Outta Popcorn.

He explains that he first started carving jack-o-lanterns three years ago: “A local place to us, a farm store called Pearces which is awesome, every year they have these giant pumpkins. We went down there for my daughter. We were going to do them together.”

Matt turned to YouTube to find out how to create a pumpkin masterpiece, watching several videos before picking up his tools to give it a go: “I made a really awesome one – my first one was a Gremlins one, and my daughter did a Nightmare Before Christmas one. They were really great but then I kind of caught the bug.”

He finds designs online and prints them off, scoring the image onto the pumpkin before carving. This part of the process takes him about an hour to complete.

Wednesday Addams

Once finished, the lanterns are lined up outside Matt’s house in Royston, bringing some seasonal spookiness to his community.

Matt says that he finds the carving process therapeutic, and enjoys the sense of achievement when the pumpkin is lit up for the first time: “Along with making these pumpkins is a certain satisfaction when it’s complete.

“It takes a lot of patience but when you light up the candle for the first time, it’s quite magical, you can really take pride in it. Totally worth the hour or two I spent on it. I’ve got it down to quite an art now.”

Matt shares his work on his Instagram page at @matt_hayday, and plans to start a YouTube channel to share his tips for pumpkin carving.

“It’s so fun once you get into it and so satisfying when it’s done,” says Matt, who is encouraging others to give it a go: “Once you’ve figured out how to do it, the pumpkin thing is easy and anyone can do really amazing looking pumpkins with very little effort.

“Once you’ve figured it out, it comes like second nature. I love to see other people doing it and making their pumpkins and putting them up online. Literally watch four or five videos and figure out a way that’s easy for you to do it.”

The Public Enemy logo

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