Move is a real scream for Berwyn collectibles shop Horrorbles

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John Aranza

John Aranza, owner of Horrorbles, a horror shop in Berwyn. (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / March 27, 2013)

Matt Wilberg arrives. He has worked at Horrorbles for seven years. He carries two coffees and a box of Dunkin' Donuts. He mumbles, has a goatee, a potbelly and slouch; he bears a striking resemblance to Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons." "Matt is the Fritz to my Dr. Frankenstein," Aranza says.

Not Igor?

No, they say in unison. Igor came later: "Even Mary Shelley," Wilberg says, "she had a Fritz in her novel."

At his feet are two "Jason Goes to Hell" dolls, an alien from "Alien" and a "Creature from the Black Lagoon" head. Aranza continues packing Draculas: "The problem with these Bela Lugosi dolls was that they looked nothing like Bela Lugosi." So Wilberg has been using unsold Lugosis to make Svengoolies, Aranza says, referring to the longtime Chicago TV horror host, a kind of patron saint of Horrorbles. (Until packing began, the store's front window held an intricate replica of Svengoolie's corny-scary TV set.)

Aranza places a pile of empty collectibles boxes at Wilberg's feet and walks to the back of the store, past a menacing, full-size Darth Maul from the "Star Wars" series. He landed Maul, he says, because some guy was being thrown out of his house by his wife, and the guy wanted it to find a home.

Wilberg begins removing alien and vampire busts from the top of a display case. Then, as he works a replica cabin from "Friday the 13th" back into its Styrofoam container, they talk about "box nazis" (collectors who insist on original packaging) and how, weirdly enough, none of the people who played Jason in the "Friday the 13th" movies seems to get along with one other. "They're all about who the 'truer' Jason really is," Aranza says, and Wilberg chuckles.

The front door rattles.

Aranza unlatches the lock, and his other employee, Lisa Manson — "Yes, that's my real name," she says — moves through the store to the front counter. She turns on the computer and cues up some packing-day rockabilly punk. She looks around, stopping on an incongruity: a large Barbie doll, long hair obscuring its face.

"Matt," she says, "where did this My Size Barbie come from?"

"Back room," he says. "We're going to paint her hair black and make her 'The Ring' girl.'"

"That's like the creepiest thing in here right now," she says.

Wilberg is wrestling with a King Kong skull. He's trying to fit it back into its Styrofoam packaging. He's been at it for a few minutes. "This should be a game show," he says, "'Fit the Object in its Original Styrofoam Box.'"

Aranza walks by cradling an alien egg, looks down at Wilberg's dilemma and does that thing people who have spent most of their lives soaking up pop culture do — he riffs. He hears something in the way Wilberg says "box"; it reminds him of the moment Brad Pitt finds Gwyneth Paltrow's head in a box in "Seven." Which results in Aranza doing an anguished Brad Pitt: "What's in the box?! What's in the box?!"

Which spreads like a virus.

Wilberg says: "What's in the box?! What's in the box?!"

Manson says: "What's in the box?! What's in the box?!"

Then she takes the Kong skull from Wilberg and looks at the empty Styrofoam hole for a moment.

"Now watch," Wilberg says, "I've been trying to do this for like five minutes, and you're going to do it in a sec — "

Before he can finish, she has returned King Kong's head to its foam resting place. She walks away.

"Wow," Wilberg says, "scary."
Twitter @borrelli

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