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The Monster Troupe is a creative, processional arts volunteer group, celebrated for its dynamic participation in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Halloween Parade, which ranks among the top 10 Halloween parades in the US.

Last year (2023), on a Tuesday night, the parade attracted over 10,000 spectators. Known for bringing giant puppets and elaborately crafted costumes to life, the Troupe also features dancers and performers who add a dynamic element to their parade presence, enhancing the community experience.

Holly Cook, the founder and Ringmaster of the Monster Troupe, also affectionately known as the Monster Mistress, has an unexpected story: from Biotechnology to the Arts. After founding BIODESIGN International, a company specializing in the manufacture and distribution of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, Holly transitioned from a successful career in biotechnology to pursue her passion for the arts. Initially self-taught in paper mâché techniques, she began making masks for Halloween costumes, starting with Beetlejuice characters. Each year, Holly created new masks, inviting friends to join in the parade, eventually leading to the birth of the Monster Troupe.

Photo Credit Roger Goun Photography


Photo Credit Roger Goun Photography 2017  


A significant change occurred in 2017 with the creation of the 30ft Sand Worm, marking the Troupe's first venture into larger-scale puppetry. The addition of music and community-based dancers, partnering with Tia Almeida Pike, the Dance Mistress, enhanced the Troupe's processional performance and audience engagement.

Holly and her husband Tim's training with the Processional Arts Workshop in 2018 further evolved the Troupe's capabilities, leading to creations like the giant, illuminated spider with articulated legs.

Photo Credit Kendal J. Bush Photography 2018


During the pandemic, when the Portsmouth Halloween Parade was cancelled, the Monster Troupe pivoted to support the community by making 1,000 face shields for local hospitals.

They also engaged in street theater with the Pandemic Portsmouth Plague Doctor Promenade.

In 2021, with the return of the Portsmouth Halloween Parade, Holly was honored with the title of Grand Marshal. At that point Holly sought out Eric Bornstein (Master Mask maker) at Behind the Mask Studio & Theater to learn techniques to make herself a spectacular mask.

Photo Credit Melissa Punska 2021

Photo Credit Kenneth R. Goldman 2021


The Monster Troupe pulled out all the stops that year. The Troupe's performance, dubbed the "Grand Rumpus," included over 60 participants.

Continually drawing ideas and members from the community, the Troupe has crafted themes like the Piscataqua Sea Monster in 2022, and a Guy Fawkes-inspired theme in 2023, featuring backpack puppets and dancers performing to Leon Russell's "Right Place Wrong Time." The Monster Troupe has gained wide recognition in the NH press, NH Chronicle (TV), NH Magazine, and maintains an active presence on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, showcasing their innovative and community-focused spirit.


Photo Credit Roger Goun Photography

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