Send More Collectibles: Exploring the World’s Largest “Return of the Living Dead” Collection

Local Collector Spotlight: Louisville born horror fan, Jeremy Slawsky, shares with us his love of punk rock, zombies and the largest collection of “Return of the Living Dead” memorabilia amassed anywhere on earth!

“Sir, this is Colonel Glover. I’m sorry to disturb you at this hour, sir, but we’re at Q-2 status. It looks like we’ve found that lost consignment of Easter eggs. Yes, sir, pretty sure. They’ve turned up in Louisville. I’m getting confirmations on this from the Louisville Police Department. Louisville, Kentucky, sir.”

–      Col. Horace Glover, “Return of the Living Dead” (1985)

It was with this line of dialogue that I witnessed a packed theater full of zombie-loving, punk kids go completely berserk during an opening Friday night screening of Dan O’Bannon’sReturn of the Living Dead” at the old Showcase Cinemas on Bardstown Road, once a beloved beacon of pop culture in the Ville in the halcyon days of 1985.

Popcorn went flying. Girls shrieked with a mixture of horror and delight. One patron’s mind was so completely blown that he threw his arms into the air and screamed, ‘Noooooooo!’ as he ran up the theater aisle and out the exit. Clearly, most of us weren’t accustomed to find out that it was our city under zombie attack at the weekend horror show.

Nearly 30 years later, the impact of “Return of the Living Dead” still echoes in Louisville pop culture. The blend of punk rock aesthetic and music, comic book horror and comedy has made a permanent mark on the lives of many Louisville horror fans, but perhaps nowhere greater than on the psyche of Jeremy Slawsky.

Born and raised in Louisville’s South End and a graduate of Valley High School, Slawsky fell in love with monsters, horror and Halloween at a very young age.

“I was raised by my mom,” says Slawsky, “and she was responsible for most of my early memories of Halloween and horror. I’ll never forget the year I wanted to be the Incredible Hulk for Halloween,” he continues. “She painted me green with green food coloring dye, and she thought it would wash off before bedtime. I was green for a week.”

“But that wasn’t so bad,” admits Slawsky. “The kids at school thought it was cool. Worse psychological damage was probably done watching horror movies.”

“You know how most boys want to watch horror films because they might see a naked girl? Well, I was no different, but the first naked girl I ever saw in a horror film was in ‘Sleepaway Camp’.” Poor little Jeremy got an unexpected surprise at the climax of that summer camp slasher film!

Slawsky first saw “Return of the Living Dead” on a late night HBO broadcast, and he has never been quite the same. “When I first saw it,” admits Slawsky, “I believed all the local rumors that part of it was shot at Eastern Cemetery. Resurrection Cemetery (as it is called in the film) certainly looked like it could have been Eastern Cemetery at the time.”

Years later, Slawsky discovered the truth behind Resurrection Cemetery and the Louisville setting: The entire film was shot in Los Angeles and on sound stages in Hollywood and the film’s production designer, William Stout, was married to a girl from Louisville, KY. Stout had suggested setting the film in Louisville to director Dan O’Bannon who liked the idea.

“The cemetery scene used more prop tombstones than any other film up to that point,” says Slawsky. “They used every tombstone in Universal’s prop department, including tombstones originally used in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ in 1935.”

Slawsky has spent the last eight years of his life collecting “Return of the Living Dead” marketing material and memorabilia from all over the world, resulting in the largest and most complete collection of items from the film found anywhere on earth. His collection is staggering, and I was somewhat overwhelmed by the depth of it. He has most of it safely packed away in plastic tubs, but he kindly got much of it out to show me when I visited with him last weekend.

I couldn’t possibly photograph a collection of this size with any justice, but you can go to the Collector’s Quest website at to look at many of the individual pieces. “I’ve got 18 versions of the film on VHS and 17 versions of it on various DVDs, and even a couple of work print versions of the movie that nobody other than the film’s editors have ever seen before.”

“I became friends with the soundtrack engineer, Steve Pross, and through him I acquired the original master acetates used to make the vinyl records,” says Slawsky. “I also own the original record test pressings and the original reel-to-reel masters used to make the records.”

Slawsky showed me the original, full page ad that ran in the Los Angeles Times on opening weekend. He showed me several different paperback publications of John Russo’s original novel, originally written as an actual sequel to his “Night of the Living Dead” script, published years before the film was made. I was also allowed to see unpublished Polaroid photographs taken on the set of the film that nobody has ever seen before and an extremely rare original film crew t-shirt from 1984.

Slawsky has met pretty much every living member of the film’s cast, and much of his stash is signed by the stars and creators of the film, including one poster signed by the dearly departed director, Dan O’Bannon. Among the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individual pieces in his collection, I wondered what he considered to be the crown jewels of this ghastly treasure trove.

“Through years of correspondence with Linnea Quigley (who plays punk rocker, Trash, in the film), I finally convinced her to sell me her costume from the movie. So I have Trash’s outfit, her leg warmers, earrings, devil pin and her boots. I have both the boots used on screen and the stunt boots she used to run through the mud in the graveyard.”

“My other favorite piece is the William Stout pre-production design Tarman painting. It’s Stout’s first concept of what the Tarman zombie would look like. You can see the brush strokes,” says Slawsky, “and look at the bottom of the artwork. You can see a little white out. So cool!” Slawsky also owns a more recent Bill Stout original, a Tarman headshot that was recently used by Fright Rags to create a vintage style Halloween mask.

Is there anything out there that Slawsky doesn’t have that he’s still hunting for?

“One of the split dogs from the Uneeda Warehouse,” says Slawsky. “I know a guy that has one, and one day I will own one. I guess I’d also like to have the half-zombie on the slab from the interrogation scene, but I don’t know how I’d display that. I can see the split dog sitting on my bookshelf.”

Slawsky has recently been pursuing a side career as a horror artist himself, much of his original work inspired by his childhood memories of monsters and Halloween. You can browse and/or purchase his original artwork on Etsy at

Are there any other hardcore horror and/or Halloween collectors hiding somewhere out there in the Ville? Feel free to send me an email at and maybe we can feature your collection in a future collector’s spotlight!

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