Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lack of Goodwill

Thrift stores like Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army are great places to find things for our haunts at discounted prices, but I'm beginning to see a trend where the discounts aren't so steep anymore. Maybe like all the air cylinders that used to be had on eBay for a steal or vent motors for a few bucks, haunter demand has pushed prices higher.

It seems the thrift stores realize they can earn a few more dollars for themselves while still providing a generally good discount. It's just not as steep as it once was.

I have a number of thrift stores within 15 minutes or so of my home so I try to make the rounds regularly just to see if there's anything I can use. I see some haunters on YouTube who go to these stores and come back with armfuls of stuff and they've spent less than $10. That doesn't happen in my area.

Today I was in one and saw a headset with a microphone. Since I participate in the Shadow of Palms video chat on Thursday nights -- you should stop by and check it out, lots of haunters from around the country just chewing the fat with one another -- I figured the headphones and mic would limit any potential feedback that sometimes occurs. However, the Goodwill store wanted $13 for it. I could buy one at Walmart for about $10, maybe $20, but I know it's new and if there's a problem with it I can return it. It just seemed a bit pricey to me, and I've noticed it on a lot of other items as well. That plastic head at the top that I plan to use as some kind of form was $3. Sounds cheap, but I don't think it was really worth more than a dollar or two.

So I think at least in my area the thrift stores are seeing a lot more business -- maybe it's the economy -- and they slowly inching their prices up. Of course, they have higher expenses too, like fuel and such which they undoubtedly have to compensate for, but they're not as thrifty as they once were.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unicorns & Pixie Dust

While most of the things I make are Halloween related, sometimes I get asked to make things for relatives that have nothing to do with haunting. The Alice in Wonderland-theme Sweet 16 party is one example. Pictured to the right is another one of those things that I was asked to make: a series of butterflies that will adorn the wall of a baby's room.

I'm supposed to make four or five of them, but I've been a slacker because I have been focusing on Halloween stuff mostly. So I finally completed the first one. It's made from paper clay over a cardboard base. The body was made from balled up aluminum foil and covered with clay.

It was then given a light sanding and covered with a Monster Mud-like gesso that provided a very smooth surface upon which I could apply the primer and two coats of paint. Two wire antennae were attached to the head and it was covered all over in two thin coats of gloss polyurethane.

Although I painted it to resemble a Monarch butterfly, but was really designed as a Blue Mountain Swallowtail. It thought the black and yellow looked better than the brown and purple I was told it should be. The heck with what they want! I wanted it to look somewhat more realistic.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Zombie Obamacare

UPDATE: I was mistaken. This is NOT an ad from Herman Cain (though if you saw any of his you'll understand why I thought it was one). The ad was actually created by Dr. Sinister Obamacare and he deserves all the credit...or a one-way pass to the mental hospital! Regardless, I think it's awesome. See the comments section below for his response.
Regardless of your politics, you gotta enjoy the admittedly wacky ads former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is putting out these days. His latest is a really off the wall one showing an "Obamacare" zombie that ultimately turns Cain into one too. Can you imagine the fun there'd still be if he had stayed in the race...and ultimately won?!

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Simple Pine Box

Looks comfy
A Minnesota woodworker is offering classes to people interested in making their own caskets. After building one for his own mother, he thought others might want to realize significant cost savings by building one for themselves or loved ones. And as every haunter can appreciate, some students have brought home their creations to first use as furniture before having to spend eternity it.

The company is called A Simple Pine Box and is located in the curiously named town of New York Mills, MN. They also offer casket kits with holes predrilled. Red cedar kits are $899 and if you really want a simple pine box, the kit is $699.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Map of the Dead

An awesome new service is available to help the hapless survive the coming zombie apocalypse. Called the Map of the Dead, it is an interactive map that will show you where the danger zones are across the country and where you can get the necessary equipment and supplies to make it through the End of Times.

For example, my area is apparently one that would be heavily infested with zombies, but as the screen cap shows, I have an Army National Guard unit close by, along with sporting goods stores, a gun shop, and grocery stores. It also highlights potential zombie breeding grounds by identifying local cemeteries.

According to the service, the purpose of the project is to help you find places near you that are likely to have resources to help you survive the zombie apocalypse. Or places to avoid. And while it admits the Internet will likely be down when the world is coming to an end, it recommends using the handy print feature to have a hard copy on hand.

Built by doejo, it notes that more man-made structures an area has the greater the likelihood of danger from large pockets of zombies. It would behoove you to move yourself to more open, rural areas...though as The Walking Dead has shown, even that can't save you from a herd. Before that happens though, now would be a good time to peruse the map and plan accordingly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Suicide Forest

The Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan is a place where people go to die. Every year, more than 100 bodies are found hanging in the forest, but many more remain undiscovered for years. It is called Suicide Forest.

Despite signs encouraging people to live and offering contact information to suicide prevention hotlines, many people still enter "Jukai," the sea of trees, where they subsequently end their life. While there's also evidence that some people do have a change of heart, there's an almost palpable sense that by the time they've gotten to this place they've already gone too far to change course. Notes, tents, personal effects -- and most ominously, a doll hung upside down with its face ripped off -- attest to their last despair.

According to, which hosts the above video, "After the novel Kuroi Jukai was published, in which a young lover commits suicide in the forest, people started taking their own lives there at a rate of 50 to 100 deaths a year. The site holds so many bodies that the Yakuza pays homeless people to sneak into the forest and rob the corpses. The authorities sweep for bodies only on an annual basis, as the forest sits at the base of Mt. Fuji and is too dense to patrol more frequently."

Many times you can tell which ones were unsure of whether they wanted to carry out the deal with death. Because the area where the suicides occur is one where you can easily get lost, those that may be harboring doubts wrap tape around the trees to provide a means of finding their way out should they change their minds. Yet all too often, a corpse is also found at the other end.

The video is a fairly haunting look at a completely strange phenomenon. It's well worth the 21:00 minutes it takes to watch.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Caught: First Robin of Spring

Cleaning out my garage the other day and I discovered way in the back, behind the table saw and under the lathe the first robin of Spring. Unfortunately, he looked like the last robin of Winter.

Not sure when he got into my garage, but I suspect it was sometime over the winter because there were several weeks, maybe a month, I didn't go into the garage. Of course, it's also possible the neighbor's cat caught it and dropped it there, but I've seen the results of the cat's handiwork and it's more a yardful of feathers than a little corpse.

Two years ago when I was visiting Noah Fentz's haunt (The Creepy House Next Door) one of his props was a set of corpse hands reaching out between bars in a basement window. One of the hands was upturned and sitting within it was the corpse of a bird. He explained that the carcass was actually several years old and had been sitting there ever since a worker had picked it up and placed it there. He figured there was something magical about it since it never decayed.

While my wife thought I should take my robin and incorporate it into a prop, I opted for discretion and disposed of it instead.

So next year, if winter seems especially long (assuming the world doesn't end on December 21) you'll know why. I killed the herald of rebirth.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Wouldn't it be awesome to have an Easter egg hunt inside a haunted attraction? Someone should do this.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Halloween" Returned to NYC Schools

No, we're not going to say sanity returned to New York City educators, rather they were caught with their pants down and backtracked quickly as the idiocy of what they were doing became public.

As you'll recall, NY's education department banned certain inflammatory words from its standardized tests. You know, incendiary powder kegs like "Halloween," "birthday," "dinosaur," and "computer." They were banned because simply seeing these words on paper would reduce a child's fragile psyche to the equivalent of a quivering bowl of Jell-O.

Parents, though, had more common sense than those teaching their children (naturally) and raised a ruckus over the ban. Ridiculed and mocked for their stupidity -- and it was a stupid decision -- education department officials folded like the cliched house of cards and said, "On second thought, never mind."

“After reconsidering our message to test publishers and the reaction from parents, we will revise our guidance and eliminate the list of words to avoid on tests."

Although test publishers are advised to "be sensitive to student backgrounds," there will be no words banned. While this is a victory for common sense, the advocates of asininity are always hard at work devising new ares of outrage so we must always be vigilant to their machinations.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Holy Death

Wearing attire very similar to a Grim Reaper, a Mexican saint -- one which the Catholic church refuses to recognize -- is being blamed for the ritualistic murders of two 10 year old boys and a 55 year woman. The victims were human sacrifices, their throats and wrists were slit open while they were still alive and their blood coursed around the altar of the saint, a favorite amongst the drug lords.

The saint, called La Santa Muerte, or The Holy Death, is typically represented as a skeleton wearing white robes and carrying a scythe or globe, or both. But that's not a hard and fast rule as the photo left shows. Unlike Dios de la Muerte, or the Day of the Day, a widespread celebration in Mexico, La Santa Muerte has been an underground cult, of which the Mexican Catholic church has condemned. Particularly because of its affiliation with the criminal class it is seen as more of a pagan worship ritual.

Although it had a clandestine following for many years, it is now coming out in the open and there are several shrines erected throughout Mexico in honor of the saint. There's even one in Mexico City, though in all the places there apparently is no formal mass being performed. Offerings are left at the altar in exchange for favors, and it's said the saint is a very giving saint.

In the three killings which exposed the ritual to the saint, eight family members have been arrested for their participation in the murders, ranging in age from 14 and up into their 50's. The bodies of all three victims, killed between 2009 and 2011, were found at the altar in Nacozari in northern Mexico. While no specific reason was given for killing the boys, the woman that was sacrificed was said to be a witch.
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