Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's It Worth To You?

We all like "free." My motto has for a long time been "Cheap is good, free is better." Once I learned the joy of shopping at "Curby's" I went all in. I can't drive by someone's garbage pile without slowing down to see if someone's thrown away something I can use in my Halloween display. And the Yahoo Group "Freecycle" is must-read Internet for me.

Yet as much as someone else's trash is my treasure, sometimes you have to pay up. Another saying, "you get what you pay for" is also often appropriate. While free may be good, sometimes paying is better.

Okay, where am I going here? My favorite Halloween podcast "Hauntcast" (alright, the only podcast I listen to) is going to a pay-per-download format. Beginning with the next show, (g)host Chris Baker will be charging the exorbitant sum of $1 per show to listen. Times being what they are, if he can't get the support of his listeners then he can't afford to put the show out anymore.

And that's why paying up for quality is sometimes worth it. I've listened to Hauntcast for hours on end while building props or just raking the leaves in the yard (don't ask what my neighbors think about me blaring out a Halloween show over my speakers well after Halloween is over). As a matter of fact, I listened to the show everyday during the month of October to build up the excitement of the holiday as well as whiling away the hours.

I've heard some of the other haunt- and horror-related podcasts on the Internet and have been left less than impressed. For me, the content of Hauntcast is far and away superior so why not pay to listen? He's sure to lose some of his listeners, who don't think it's worth paying for a podcast. It's a trade off everyone has to decide for themselves. For me, I know the value I receive out of the show and am willing to pay a dollar to continue hearing it. How about you? Would you be willing to pay for something you previously received for free? Would you pay for Hauntcast? Let me know in the comments section below.

If you haven't heard the show before, you can still listen to it -- for free! -- and see if it's worth your time (and money) by clicking here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

I'm guessing the malls will be filled today with fast-zombies as opposed to their slow moving, Romero-inspired cousins.

You won't catch me anywhere near a mall today, let alone being out on the roads. If and when I have to shop I'll be doing it from the comfort of my computer.

I recall going to the mall two years ago at Christmas time during the depths of the recession, and it really was as if we had a zombie apocalypse: the mall was deserted. It was actually a pleasure to go shopping then because you didn't have the crush of people all around you. Now, not so much.

Still, I'm able to scoop up some leftover Halloween items here and there that stores are practically paying me to take off their hands. Well, up till Wednesday. From today until December, the mall is a no-go zone for me. Y'all can deal with the feeding frenzy of the undead.

In the spirit of the season though, why not consider purchasing a gift from one of your fellow haunters. Items from the Etsy shops of ShellHawk, Stolloween, or Darkside Creations would make a wonderful Christmas present -- and you needn't go to the mall!

(btw, I have no financial interest in these three; I just appreciate their work and their blogs)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

It wasn't turkey they were eating at the first Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Is That All?

I just found out this first season of The Walking Dead is an abbreviated one. Only six episodes instead of the usual(?) 13. WTF?!

I guess everyone had to see whether there would be any interest in a zombie apocalypse TV series, but the overwhelmingly positive reaction has convinced them to re-up it for a second season. Good thing, because I love, love, love this show. Okay, sometimes the dialogue can be a little corny, and some of the characters seem like caricatures (Merle Dixon, could he be anymore a allegory for the Mason Dixon line?). But I can't argue with the contents of what they're showing and the gore has all been appropriate. Yes, I do like my zombie gore.

Looking forward to episode 4 next week and here's to hoping we get a flashback on how Merle escaped his handcuffs!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Halloween Retrospective

Unfortunately, my camera decided to break and the battery on the camcorder became inoperable so there's no real photos or video of the haunt. The one to the right was a little dark so I tried adjusting the photo settings and got something more along the lines of the ones below, even darker and more washed out. Then the camera chose to die.

Here's the only bit of video I was able to get before the battery went kablooey.

As can be seen (or not), the yard display was very dark so next year I'll need to get more flood lights to set an eerie tone for the yard and then highlight individual props, tombstones, etc. with the LED spots I made. Viewing the yard from the sidewalk directly in front of the house it looked okay, but it became apparent as soon as you walked up the path that it was very dark. Time to go read Skull & Bone again.
In all Halloween was better than it's been in past years. First, I didn't run out of candy this time (a first!) and we had more trick-or-treaters than in any year before. In prior years we've had anywhere from 10-20 kids, but this year we almost hit 30. We actually would have had more, but I enforced a strict "no costume, no candy, no exceptions" rule this year and actually turned a few older teens away who thought they could get away with getting candy while walking home from wherever they were coming from. I didn't include them in the totals.

By 8:30 p.m. though all of the ToTs that were going to come had come, no doubt because it was a school night. So I was able to run and return a Redbox movie, but upon my return found two adults strolling through the front yard with their dog admiring the display. One of them said they had come by last year with his granddaughter who ended up being too afraid to approach the house and would only look at the display this year.

There were a lot of compliments this year, and it was nice to hear as one group of kids left and were heading to my neighbors (undecorated) house, someone shout, "You've got the best house in town!" That was gratifying.
There were a number of new props I displayed this year, including my ScareFX-style Rockin' Granny. It did generate a bunch of scares as I had set it up to go off with a motion sensor so that was fun, and I enjoyed my Flying Crank Ghost. I thought it looked nice moving on the front porch. However, what seemed to creep out most people was my "wall crawler" Monster Mud prop, which actually became a roof crawler.

I had him situated at the end of the eave, looking over the roofline and illuminated him with a flashlight on Halloween night. However he was up there the entire month. As two brothers walked by during the afternoon, one stopped and said, "You've got a lot of really great things out here, but the one that really creeped me out the most was that one," and he pointed to the roof. "The first time I walked by I felt that something was watching me and when I looked I saw it sitting up there and it scared the hell out of me."
A lot of the kids were actually scared to come up the walkway because of it sitting up there, and my wife wants a bunch of similar props to display up there next year as if they're climbing up onto the roof. 

The graveyard is really just the scene setter and doesn't seem to carry much weight, at least not as much as the other props. I guess it provides the ambience for the other props to give their chills. But next year I need height. Almost all of my tombstones were of a similar (low) height, so I plan on introducing some obelisks and maybe a sarcophagus similar to the one the Davis Graveyard displayed. That would look splendid in the yard.

Other than the wind that ended up whipping up late in the morning, there wasn't much to complain about. The breeze really didn't threaten the props, as I heard a number of haunters say happened at their homes, but it made it impossible to use the fogger I had at the ready. I had been hopeful because the day dawned bright, clear, and still but by 11:00 a.m. a steady breeze was blowing making it impractical to use. That's two years in a row now with no fog.

The only prop I wasn't happy with was my reindeer/cat/rabid dog prop. The movement was much to subtle to bring any notice to it and I was unable to synch my iPod with it to have it snarl and growl. Because I had hooked up the player to the motion sensor as well, the "Play" button needed to be hit each time it was activated. I tried taping a nut to the play button but that didn't work either so I'll need a better option next year.

In all, I was happy with my display. The props, the look of the yard, and the increased number of ToTs that came by all made the work I did all year long satisfying. I think some better lighting options next year, a few more props (still want to make my gravedigger), and perhaps introducing ambient sound will make it even better. This was a learning year for me -- such as learning to make sure my camera works before Halloween -- and I'm looking forward to an even better effort next year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Scared of Halloween

Haunters like to say that you're never too old or too young to enjoy Halloween. While there are always stories that crop up about some group or another trying to ruin our haunting good fun, it's really scary when it's the government that says you can't enjoy Halloween.

No, I'm not talking about the local fire marshall shutting down a haunt for some unsafe practices, or the police who close down a site because the traffic becomes uncontrollable (I'd love to have that many people coming to see my yard display!). What I'm talking about is the government saying you're too old for trick-or-treating!

Every town and city has its do-gooders who think they know best what's right you. San Francisco recently voted to ban McDonald's from giving away kids toys with their Happy Meals. DeKalb County, Georgia, is suing a man for growing too many vegetables.

But Belleville, Illinois, has gone to the top of the list (or is that the bottom?) by telling teens they're too old to go trick-or-treating. Actually they're not alone as a number of cities around the country have cut off the fun for teens, typically saying once you hit 12 years old, you can't go out anymore on Halloween. It reminds me of the movie Logan's Run when once you turned 30 the government killed you off.

Being a libertarian at heart, I have trouble coming up with many instance where I think the government has a right to intrude in our lives, but this is just an over-the-top interference that conjures up some scary skeletons.

Could there be a bright spot in all this? The story says that though one 12-year old is bummed that the government won't let him get in costume next year, but he's looking forward to scaring the kids that come to his door next year. Sounds like we have a haunter in the making.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And Done!

Whew! I spent the better part of the day putting away the props and there's not a trace left that there were some very spooky goings on here. I'll be back in a day or so with a review of how things went this year, but the immediate assessment was it was very successful. Relatively nice weather, more ToTs than ever before (and I didn't run out of candy this time!), and basically the fruits of a very full year of preparation coming together nicely.

And to top it off, I got to sit back and enjoy the most awesome premiere of "The Walking Dead." I'll post more of my thoughts about that too soon, but it looks like it's going to be a great series. I mean, what other TV show could get away with a head shot of a child with brain splatter and all, all within the first few minutes of its start? It was a great way to end Halloween (as if that doesn't sound just a tad odd).

I can't relax too much, though. There's only 364 days till Halloween!
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