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The Birth of UHM


Feeling nostalgic one night, and realizing that the site's anniversary was just weeks away at the time, I started typing up a blog on the message board. The blog eventually turned into a four part series detailing my early beginnings dabbling with sites before creating UHM. It was so well received by readers that I decided to make the entries public on the site's 12th anniversary. For those curious (or bored) enough, feel free to read on to see how one of the oldest and currently still active horror sites came to be...

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The Birth of UHM: Part I

I've been a fan of movies all my life. As a child, my mom would often rent films from the local video store and bring them home for me to watch. She'd sit me down in front of the television and I'd watch whatever she put on the screen for hours, no matter what it was, I'd watch it. It's through this that I learned to enjoy many films of many different genres. Although I was interested in horror (and watched a lot of it thanks to my mom being a fan), I didn't actually learn to love and appreciate it until I was a little older...

Aside from watching movies, I was also especially fascinated by those coming out. When I was younger (before getting a computer) the only way I knew what films were "upcoming" were thanks to magazines like Fangoria, Cinescape (when it was still around) and shows like Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight. There was also a show on the E! Channel that would show nothing but trailers, which I'd obviously watch whenever I could. For whatever reason, I generally enjoyed knowing what was coming out before other people.

I must've been around 14 (soon to be 15) when I got my first computer. This was a time when horrible dial-up was the only thing available and AOL was king of the interwebz. A time when you could safely browse porn without unintentionally installing a trojan virus; a time when Google wasn't dead set on ruling the world (it didn't exist then!) and Yahoo! Chat was surprisingly the best place to meet new people. Computers in households weren't as common either (people assumed I was rich, because I had one!), which meant very few websites for people like us -- horror fans.

So, when I started browsing the net for stuff (other than porn, of course!) I would search for info on upcoming flicks, primarily from our beloved horror genre. Since there were VERY few horror sites (and none of them dealing with upcoming horror) I'd resort to visiting general movie sites like Dark Horizons, Coming Soon, Upcoming Movies and Counting Down. Dark Horizons was one of my favorites and partially the inspiration for me becoming curious about wanting a site of my own.

I can't pinpoint when exactly I started to become seriously interested in creating my own site, but it had to have been within a year after I got my computer (possibly 4 to 6 months). Either way, I was very curious about how sites were created and questioned whether I could do one myself. It just seemed so cool to feel as though I could "own" a piece of the internet. I don't know when it was, but one day after visiting a handful of somewhat popular horror sites (at the time), for some reason one called "The Cabinet of Dr. Casey" was what inspired me to finally discover whether I could actually pull off my own site. Thus, I set out to create my very first piece of the internet I dubbed "HORROR UNDERWORLD."

The Birth of UHM: Part II

I knew I wanted to create a website, but I didn't know how the hell to do it!! BUT! I figured I had to start somewhere and I'd learn along the way.. So, I joined up with Angelfire (which was a free web hosting service at the time and before it merged with Lycos) and created my first site. It was pitiful -- a single page, with nothing on it aside from the default image of a little red devil holding a pitch fork, and a handful of links to horror sites I'd often visit below it. Pitiful or not, it was a starting point for me... and I was eager to learn..

I eventually figured out how to create links to other pages within my own site, so instead of one single page, I could have a link that leads to a second page and so on. HTML was the basis of all sites at the time, so I knew I had to learn it. I was never really one to read books, so I knew I'd have to teach myself from tedious trial and error. I discovered that if you right click a site and went to "View Page Source" I could see all the workings of what made that site. Through that method I gradually taught myself HTML.

I would copy lines of code, only replacing certain aspects to make it my own. I eventually felt confident enough to redo my site entirely, giving it the name, "HORROR UNDERWORLD", and actually having content on it, as opposed to just links. The content? Slashers!! The site had various images of our favorite slasher icons and a brief bio of each of them. It was great; I was learning so much, and so fast. I had lots of moving images and a badass MIDI song of the exorcist theme playing in the background! Unfortunately, my thirst for knowledge lead me to be labeled a "bandwidth thief" ..

Through viewing the source of these pages, I would copy the links to images from the very sites I often visited and used them as my own, essentially using up their bandwidth for my own gain. And.. eventually one of the webmasters caught on to me and called me out on it...

Ashamed, I stopped working on my site ... A couple days later I was back at it! .. Only this time, using my OWN images. I figured I wouldn't get in trouble again if I used images I uploaded myself, right? WRONG!.. I thought if the site was called "HORROR UNDERWORLD" I should have devilish and hellish-type imagery. Well, that led to loads of hate mail, calling me a "devil worshiper" and other things. I used pentagrams and upside down crosses and all sorts of devilish buffoonery and that apparently didn't bode well for the virginal eyes of many of the webs early visitors.

Though, that didn't deter me from my dream, but it did help me realize the faults in what I was trying to accomplish. Thus, I (once again) decided to redo the site. Only this time I wanted to go a totally different direction, but what direction exactly, I didn't know. However, one thing I knew for sure was I couldn't do it about slashers again, because that's pretty much what all other horror sites were doing at the time (aside from the very few that contained reviews) and I wanted to be unique. I wanted to stand out!

During this period I browsed my usual general movie sites to see what was upcoming within the genre, and then it dawned on me -- no one had focused a site solely on upcoming horror films, so why don't I be the first!? I quickly moved myself to Geocities (another free hosting service, before it merged with Yahoo! and closed down) and dubbed my new site "Fright Master's HORROR UNDERWORLD".

The Birth of UHM: Part III

USELESS TRIVIA: I came up with the name "Fright Master" sometime in the late 90's after getting bored of the username I had at the time (which I unfortunately don't remember). I looked at my current collection of VHS horror flicks in hopes of getting an idea for a new name and spotted a movie that I really loved (and still do) -- The Frighteners.

I used the name Frightner for a brief period (spelled in both caps and lower case, but I can't remember how it was arranged), but eventually got bored of that too, and decided to simply drop the 'ner' part and add "Master" to the end of it. Thus, Fright Master was born. The correct spelling of my name has capitals on both the first and last letters of each: FrighT MasteR. This is just my way of paying homage to the classic Halloween which is displayed as HalloweeN in much of the artwork.

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Deciding to add "Fright Master" before the title was the start of many changes for me and my new site. By this time I had really gotten a handle of HTML. I'd do all the coding with Windows NOTEPAD, which couldn't get any more raw than that, but also meant that I'd work VERY slow, because I would have to either write out the code myself, or reuse and copy-paste old code. Doing it all myself was naturally the best way for me to learn and memorize everything (a lot of which I still remember today, despite not using it anymore).

During this time I was around 15 and was obviously still attending school, so I'd spend odd hours of the night working on the new site, and do nothing in class but think and draw layouts of what I wanted to do when I finally get back home to work on it again. I knew if I was gonna focus on upcoming flicks I'd need to get as much info as I could. So... I searched the web and all my usual haunts for various upcoming movies within the genre. Once the basic setup was ready and some of the content was there, I launched it to the public.

Of course merely making it public didn't actually mean it was going to be seen. Thus, I went old-school (which I guess was new-school then?) and spammed the F outta the link in chatrooms, webrings, top 100 lists, and whored it out to other horror sites, hoping they would add it to their long list of links of other like-minded sites (anyone notice that sites now-a-days don't have a links page anymore? ).

It was starting to get noticed (receiving around 100 visits a day, which was a lot for a small free site back then) and I was FINALLY getting praise from fellow horror fans, instead of the hate mail that I once received. The site contained and detailed a number of upcoming films, as well as a small news and reviews section. It was truly ahead of its time as far as genre sites went. Though, the news I posted was simply re-typed from whatever Fangoria magazine had printed at the time...

As silly as that sounds, you have to remember that back then there really weren't many sites online that would post "news". Most of the news in the entertainment world came from magazines and television shows, so I couldn't just browse various online news outlets to find the latest news/info like I can now. After getting some complaints from viewers for using Fango's stuff (I credited them of course!), I ended up just removing the news section entirely (but it would later return with the debut of UHM).

As for the "reviews", they honestly were just simple one or two paragraphs of me spewing my thoughts on a particular movie I just watched, with a 1 to 10 rating slapped on it. Why did I use a rating system like that? Basically, that's how I always measured the quality of films and would often ask my friends what they'd give a movie based on that scale. Even back then I was as honest and raw as I could be with these movies. I'd write out these "reviews" as if I was talking to a friend, and that's how I like to think I still do them today.

I can't remember how long this new site stayed running (less than a year, I'm sure), but I know that the Summer before I started high school, I was already busy working on what would soon become Upcoming Horror Movies.com

The Birth of UHM: Part IV - The Final Chapter

USELESS TRIVIA: Around the time I created UHM, believe it or not, I also had a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan-site too. I had a pretty huge crush on her at the time while watching the Buffy series, and was obsessed with anything and everything she did. The fan-site really didn't have much on it aside from a brief bio on her career and a crapload of pictures. The site was just a way for me to pass the time and only existed for around a year, but I eventually gave up on it when I became consumed with working on UHM.

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School was over and I had all Summer to plan out and work on a completely brand new site. It would be an "official site" with its own domain name and server. No more hosting off free accounts and having crappy long addresses. No, this time I would have my very own "dot com". But what would I call it? I considered frightmaster.com (which is now a real site), but I thought it would be rather pointless, especially considering no one really knew who the hell this "FrighT MasteR" person was. I needed a better name, something that would capture viewers. Then I realized... there's an upcomingmovies.com, so why not an upcominghorrormovies.com!? SUCCESS!!

Getting a domain and a server was pretty tough work for me. I had really no idea what I was doing and to top it off, I needed a credit card to get things rolling. Of course I didn't have my own card (I was only 16, DUH!), so I used my moms. She was baffled as to what I was using it on, but luckily she let me use it anyway (thanks Mom!). So I owned upcominghorrormovies.com, but now I needed to host it somewhere. I eventually found a server for a decent price and after I got it I had to set up all my own info. Now-a-days you can purchase a name and host at the same time and with the same people, who also conveniently do everything for you, but back then you had to pretty much do everything yourself, but I digress.

I had designs and lots of content in mind for the new site, so I got started right away. I was still doing everything with NOTEPAD, but I eventually got a hold of Dreamweaver, which cut my work time in more than half thanks to the fact that I didn't have to retype or copy-paste everything. Once the design was in place, I worked hard on the content. I reviewed some films I saw (these were actual reviews with more than a couple short paragraphs) and added a bunch of upcoming flicks in what would later become the "UHM Database". Most of the movies I added I found from the old Cinescape site (based on the magazine) which actually had its own database of upcoming films. The news section also saw a return, this time I was able to find actual "news" on upcoming projects from other sites, so it was updated almost daily.

I was satisfied with the layout, the content was mostly finished, and I was eager to show the world my new creation. It was just a random day, and feeling confident with what I had after working on it for over a month, UHM was officially "launched" on June 24th 1999. Once again, I went back to my old ways of promoting it, throwing the link up on various other genre sites, and spamming it in chatrooms, but this time I felt different -- I was more confident and I felt as though I really accomplished something great and at such a young age. When school started up again I was proud to tell my friends that I actually owned my own site and with my own domain name. I was then and am now, still happy to own UHM.

It all started out as a hobby; a way to pass the time, but it eventually became so much more. After a couple short years I realized I could make money from it and things just progressed from there. More and more people would visit each year and it'd constantly undergo various layout and navigational changes. The site was constantly improving; constantly expanding. A lot of people don't know this, but the categories you see on the site now weren't introduced until years later. It wasn't until after someone casually suggested I should add sections like "vampires" and "werewolves" that it'd actually be a part of the site and has been since.

I never thought the site would exist as long as it has, but here it remains, with its 12th anniversary just around the corner. It's a weird thing to realize, but UHM has been online for almost half my lifetime. It will always be a special part of me, even after it finally closes its doors (a very sad day that will be). The site has gone through a lot of hardships, but overcame each and every one of them. From the message board getting hacked, to constant server issues that forced me to move from one host to the other. It always came out on top, and still remains as one of the oldest and still active genre sites on the web today.

Long live UHM. Even after its gone it shall always be remembered, in my heart and in my mind... as my first born.


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