Rockford father-daughter bond forged in fear

Family values explored in ‘The Meaning of Normal’

by BETH ALTENA

Anyone who knows Phil Mann can concede he does a convincing creepy. Surprisingly, so does his daughter, lovely 16-year-old Tiffany, a straight-A student who will be a junior this year at Rockford High School. The two were recently featured in a news segment titled “The Meaning of Normal” that proves family values can take a ghoulish twist and still make the memories of a lifetime. The news segment won WZZM TV 13 one of seven Emmy Awards the station was awarded this year by the National Press Photographers Association in the category of television. Nationally it took third overall and first in its category.

Mann works second shift at Steelcase, making family time tough to arrange around Tiffany’s schedule of school and homework. Their solution? Spend time together as the zombie groom and zombie bride at The Haunt. “This is their together time, scaring people,” explains mom and wife Debbie.

The Mann family has a long tradition of enjoying and creating haunted houses and considers a “haunt hunt” a nostalgic family outing. Two years ago Phil and Tiffany signed up as staff at the Grand Rapids spook house and found a perfect fit for their creepy creativity.

“I am so lucky to have my dad,” Tiffany said of the pair’s ghoulish hobby. She has Facebooked to her friends that her dad is cool. Any parent to a teenage girl will appreciate the gesture as atypical.

Perhaps the juxtaposition of straight-A school work, a real appreciation for dressing up as the dead to scare strangers and a daughter-dad relationship that is admirable helped give the segment its appeal. It was produced by Andrew B. Sudgen for WZZM-13, who Phil said “practically lived with us” during the filming. Mann is interviewed at his Steelcase job and at home, and Tiffany was filmed singing with the Rockford High School choir. And then there is the filming from The Haunt, where Tiffany moves with slack-jawed, broken necked jerkiness, dragging her damaged wedding gowned self toward screaming visitors. Dad, dressed as undead groom, likewise performs in deathly makeup, with vacant eyes and a lopsided, looming gait. Pure father-daughter fun.

“We get paid with scares and dropping people to the floor,” stated Tiffany. Clearly this is her idea of a good time.

Dad agrees. “Hearing them scream gives you a lot of energy,” he confided.

“We are making memories,” Mann said, and Tiffany agreed that she can’t wait for her second year performing as the dead at The Haunt.

Tiffany stated in the news segment that the time spent with her father in this unusual hobby has created a forever bond that she cherishes. Mann said he hopes someday Tiffany continues the legacy, walking as the undead with her own children, and maybe someday with her grandchildren.

View the show yourself online at: http://bop.nppa.org/2012/tv_news_video/news_photography/winners/index.php?cat=IJC&place=JC3&group=

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