The spooky, funny and just plain cool creations of Havertown’s Steve Clarke don’t fit the typical jack-o-lantern mold. Clarke is a multiple Guinness World Record-holder for his lightning-quick skills with a saw and a pumpkin—or a ton of them, if the contest calls for it. You might even see him in action on the Food Network. Most weekdays, you’ll find him in his sixth-grade classroom at Rosemont School of the Holy Child, where he’s been teaching for more than 20 years. Whether you want a veggie version of Harry Potter, Don Quixote, Speed Racer or just about anything else, Clarke can make it happen—and fast.
MLT: What pumpkin-carving records do you currently hold?
SC: I hold the Guinness World records for the fastest single pumpkin carved (24.03 seconds), fastest time to carve a ton of pumpkins (three hours, 13 minutes), most pumpkins carved in an hour (50), and fastest time for 100 pumpkins. The original record for carving a ton was seven-and-a-half hours; a single pumpkin was one minute, 18 seconds. Guinness, strangely enough, has different requirements for each record. A single face needs to have the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and eyebrows carved. The ton record doesn’t require ears or eyebrows.
MLT: Have you ever sustained any carving injuries?
SC: Sometimes my elbows get sore. When I was doing a ton of pumpkins, I held them with a death grip on top, and that doesn’t change much over three hours. I don’t use a knife, I use a saw—but I have poked myself a couple of times. The pumpkin juice is acidic, so if I have a cuticle peel or cut somewhere, that can definitely hurt.
MLT: You seem to have a pretty impressive clientele.
SC: I carved for former vice president Al Gore. I was invited to his Halloween party several years ago, and I suppose it was my first big break. The next year, when Gore was running for president, his people called and I ended up sending out pumpkins to various functions he was doing.
MLT: Do you have any plans to break your current records?
SC: That depends. The single face record is going to be really, really hard to break. A couple of times, I’ve come really close.
MLT: What’s Halloween like for you these days?
SC: It’s always interesting because I get a lot of requests the week before Halloween. First of all, it can be tough because I’m a teacher, which means I can’t always take time off. Second, it’s not a business. I do get busy, though, and it’s a lot of fun. I carve in our neighborhood community, and I carve for a party the day after Halloween at Bryn Mawr Hospital, where they do a candy trade-in for kids with diabetes.
MLT: What does your family think of your craft?
SC: My daughters enjoy it, but they pretend not to. I’d rather be the world’s best heart surgeon, actually.