☛ Burroughs 100: “William Burroughs with a Jack-O-Lantern he carved with a hatchet, October 31, 1996” Photo © Philip Heying. All Rights reserved.
Photographer Philip Heying took this photo on October 31st, 1996. Heying, who knew Burroughs since the 1980s, was interviewed in 2013 by Tom King for Burroughs 100, the official website of Burroughs Centenary. Tom King is a writer and the caretaker at the William Burroughs House. In the interview, Heying tells him the context in which the photo was taken:
I came for an early dinner on Halloween with Bernard and Francoise Heidsieck. There was a traditional spooky face carved on the pumpkin on the other side of the porch, but William’s hatchet job was really horrifying. It was the most intense jack-o-lantern I had ever seen so I asked William to pose beside it. You can tell by how the pockets of his jacket are sagging that he was carrying several weapons. He really was a dangerous guy.
Allen was visiting. He and William had decked out the front room for the trick-or-treaters. Jose Ferez-Kuri [Burroughs’ art dealer] had brought a dozen huge candy skulls from Mexico and William and Allen had set up a display of the skulls, just inside the front door, and all kinds of candy on the table. We had a nice dinner but no trick-or-treaters. At 7pm, past prime kid time, William was pacing. He was depressed that no-one showed up.
Around 7:15, they started coming. About 10 kids rang the bell, greeted by William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. You can see part of Allen in the picture, in the doorway. A couple of kids were dressed like Bob Dole. William spoiled all those kids rotten: showered them with candy, doted on them, posed for pictures… He was the model–if heavily armed–neighbor. Those kids went away with life-sized, mystical candy skulls in their bags, given to them by William S. Burroughs. (“Mystical Dandy Skull: Interview with photographer Philip Heying” by Tom King October 18, 2013).
One can read more about Burrough’s house where the photo was taken in an essay Tom King wrote about it during the Winter of 2014: “The View From Burroughs’ House. A caretaker’s view of the William S. Burroughs centenary in Lawrence, Kansas.”
Philip Heying currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas. He teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and continues to work on photo projects. Here’s how he tells the story of his relationship with Burroughs:
During his college days in Lawrence, he was introduced to William S. Burroughs and embarked on a friendship which lasted until Burroughsʼs death in 1997. Welcomed into his circle of friends–including such people as Albert Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin and Timothy Leary–he found himself the beneficiary of singular artistic insight and guidance. Burroughs showed him how art could effect real change, how it could influence human perception and cultural patterns. (Bio)
• • •