Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

When it came down to it, the pressure to make the Christmas Day deadline trumped my desire to blog (and vlog) the complete build of my nutcrackers. While a lot of things I was able to photograph, time constraints really prevented me from doing updates (you'll notice a dearth of posts in December).

But I did manage to complete the nutcrackers in time for Christmas. Well, almost. Christmas morning I was actually still putting a few details on the king and they were still bald. They only got their hair this past week and I still have to complete the king's scepter and the soldier's sword. Time enough for that yet.

Overall, though, I was pleased with how they turned out, though I don't think I want to build another set any time soon.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Bah! Humbug!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Steam Punk Has Jumped the Shark

Although I love much of the literature upon which the genre is based, I never quite got the whole steam punk-Halloween relationship. For a costume, perhaps, but I never understood what it had to do with haunting. Of course, I guess one could ask, what does a Medieval castle have to do with haunting too, yet I completely buy into that.

Fortunately, 12th century fortresses haven't had to contend with the pure evil that is Justin Bieber. Not so lucky is what was once the fastest growing subculture. The former mop-haired crooner recently released a Christmas video with a decided steam punk flair to it, effectively and quite suddenly making it very uncool to be associated with it. Add in a dollop of Macy's Christmas windows being done up in genre finery as well and you've got the makings of a very mainstream movement.

For all of you that may have missed the Bieber-ing of steam punk, I give you The Video.

I'm also not sure what all the break dancing has to do with steam punk (or Christmas for that matter) or why Bieber felt the need to grab his crotch in a holiday video. In fact, I find the whole video a fairly ludicrous take on a cherished Christmas song. I have no problems with updating a song for modern tastes. A lot of very good music has been as a result of redoing a song. But this video is just dumb. Sure, the production values are good, the choreography is good -- I don't know if I can say the singing, really, is all that good -- but it's just a dumb Christmas video.

Not only has Justin Bieber ruined a holiday song, but he's also infuriated an entire subculture who will now be forced to find a new trend to lead to the forefront.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Haunt TV

That was the name I was going to use for a YouTube-based video show I was thinking of producing. It was actually the reason behind my wanting to build a 3-axis skull: I wanted a foil to interact with and a talking skull would be great. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about that anymore.

"Dead with Dave" is the name of a new Halloween and haunt-related video show that debuted today. I knew it was in the works and was awaiting it's premier, and now having seen it, can say with complete honesty it was worth the wait. Dave, from Pandemic Haunt Productions, has produced a slick, fun, and informative program that covers a variety of topics that are of interest to all of us. And at almost 14 minutes, it's easily digestible.

All too often YouTube videos are rather boring set pieces (I've made a few, so I know of whence I speak) but Dave brings good humor and current topics with quality production values. And the set is pretty cool too (I've actually seen it first hand).

The topics covered this time around include a review of a really neat home haunt (you'll have to watch to find out which one; a tribute to the Cauldron Creep prop with a look at a number of versions that have come out; and a discussion of the upcoming haunt shows.

So I thoroughly encourage everyone to head over to the first webisode and check out this effort, particularly since with the demise of Hauntcast us haunters are left in need of something to occupy our time.

Oh, and if Pandemic sounds familiar, that's because Dave is the same guy that will be joining with me and Jay (Frightguy, from Grimlock Manor) in leaping into the professional haunted attraction arena. But that doesn't color my judgment. If the show sucked, I'd probably just ignore it because I'll have to work with the guy for the next year. But it doesn't. Really, it's that good and I look forward to more webisodes in the future.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You Hockey Puck!

As you may recall, myself, Frightguy from Grimlock Manor (Jay), and Dr. Death from Pandemic Cemetery (Dave) are joining together to put on a pro haunt to be held at Secaucus High School in 2012. Nominally a fundraiser for the school, we're not looking at it as "just a high school haunted house" but rather a venue where we can try our hand(s) at a pro-style haunt.

Today we met with the principal of Secaucus H.S., Dr. Bob, as well as some of the support staff that will be coordinating it on the school's end. While the first idea was to have half the gymnasium as the venue, it was then decided the new two-story foyer for their performing arts center -- yeah, my high school didn't have a performing arts center either -- would be a better location. While it did present some challenges (a 30-ft high wall of glass being one of them) it was definitely workable.

However, Dr. Bob offered a third alternative: the town's ice rink.

This isn't a small rink like you might find for roller hockey or something, this is a full-size -- NHL size -- rink! I just did a Google search and an NHL rink is 85 ft. wide by 200 ft. long, or 17,000 square feet total! The amazing aspect of this venue is that not only would would we have full use of the rink, but also the "midway" areas that surround the rink, the ticket booth foyer, the concession stands -- everything!

But wait, there's more! While that's almost too much space for us to fill, we would have immediate use of the space following the winter sports season. So we could start building early in the year and keep it stored right there under lock and key. And after the haunt was over, the high school has facilities to store all of the panels and props in trailers.

One last unique aspect of the rink is that it is adjacent to Route 3. Now anyone from out of state wouldn't realize what that means, but Jerseyans understand the incredible advertising opportunity this represents. The highway is a major, major highway heading into New York City and is one of the feeder highways to the New York Giants football stadium.

There's still a lot of work that needs to be done before we even get to that stage, but Dr. Bob seems like he is fully on board and supportive. So that means we need to come up with a professional presentation because it still needs to go through the Mayor's office (who is likely to be supportive) and the Township attorney's office (and we all know what sort of curmudgeons lawyers can be).

Halloween is apparently a big deal in Secaucus and the town comes out in full force. In past years when there was essentially little more than black plastic and kids yelling "Boo!" they had some pretty good turnouts. Hopefully, with a bit more professionalism and planning, we can far exceed those numbers -- and dollars raised.

After all, this is a fundraising event for the school. We're also approaching it as an educational opportunity for the students. They'll be able to learn construction and set design techniques as well as acting, makeup, costuming, lighting, sound, etc. All the things that go into creating a successful haunt.

Again, we're still in early stages but the situation has improved considerably and the stars certainly do seem aligned in our favor.

Keep an eye out here and on the vlogs of Grimlock Manor, Pandemic Cemetery, and my own Devil's Eve for more details and updates.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nutcracker Update

I've begun my Nutcracker build for Christmas and figured I'd update you on its progress. The reader's digest version says I've cut my Sonotube in half, cut out two wooden discs and screwed them in place in the bottom of each half of the tube, attached the toilet flanges, cut and stuck the PVC legs on, and cut and hot glued the corrugated plastic fins on the bottom of the tube to give the appearance the belt has cinched the coat.

Sounds like it should have taken me 10 minutes, but as any haunter (or hobbyist even) knows, nothing goes as quickly as we plan or like. Those few steps above took me two days. Admittedly I'm not moving at a blistering pace (and I'm battling a cold -- and losing!) but it is progressing and thus far looks as I pictured it. But there's plenty of time to screw that up. But below are some progress pictures.

Sonotube cut in half for torso

PVC pipe, to be cut into legs

Toilet flanges, to attach legs to torso

Cutting out the MDF discs to fit in tubes

Two discs cut

Drilling the tube to secure disc with screws

Hole and tube drilled

Disc attach, now placing flanges

Flanges attached

Nutcrackers doing a handstand

Shark fins

One fin attached

22 fins attached...ready for liftoff!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Graduating to the Next Level

If you saw Grimlock Manor's latest vlog on YouTube, you know Jay (FrightGuy) announced some exciting developments for the upcoming haunt season.

I waited for Jay to make the official announcement before saying more, but him (he?), Dave from Pandemic Cemetery, and myself will be teaming up to "go pro" this year, taking over an established annual haunt conducted by the junior class of Secaucus (NJ) high school. In past years it has gone by the name "Haunted High School."

Okay, "going pro" might be a bit of an overstatement, but my understanding is that the high school already has a pretty successful operation, featuring thousands of patrons passing into the nether realm each year, but they want to get even more out of their efforts this time around. That's where Jay, Dave, and I come in. We'll be the creative team behind the haunt and apparently will be able to bend the students to our will and use them for slave labor. Awesome!

The high school uses the haunt to raise money for the class each year and they want to step it up a notch in 2012 to do even more by bringing in someone to run it for them.

Naturally I have to thank Jay for the opportunity to be a part of the effort since he was the lead contact and graciously extended the offer to me to assist. I had to think all of about 10 seconds before agreeing to do it.

As Jay mentions in his vlog, we'll be meeting up this weekend for the first planning session, getting an idea of the layout and seeing how we want to tackle this. Definitely lots to do and with only 337 days to go before Halloween (actually less since it's open the weekend before) there's so little time!

Expect to see lots of vlog and blog posts about what we're doing, the building phase, and of course the final walk-thru. For now, check out Jay's vlog where he gives more details.

Nutcracker, Sweet!

Now begins the detestable season, wherein for a month I have to indulge my wife's preference for that other holiday. Part of that is building Christmas decorations. In the past I built a sleigh for the front yard, and a few holiday PVC candles (okay, I used them at Halloween too!).

This year however, is something slightly more ambitious. I'll be make a 6-foot tall nutcracker soldier (two, actually). This will be a challenge no doubt. We've seen some pretty impressive life-size nutcrackers at stores retailing for several hundred dollars apiece. A motorized one whose one arm moved up and down went for over $600.

My goal is to do it for substantially less though I don't foresee putting movement into it at this point (heck I'll just be happy to get it built in time for Christmas!).

The idea is to build it out of a Sonotube (the tubes used to pour concrete footings) and PVC pipe. I picked up a 16" x 6' Sonotube and a 10-ft length of 4" PVC. The plan is to cut the Sonotube in half to make the two bodies for the soldiers and the PVC will be cut into four 30" sections to serve as the legs. Four toilet seat flanges will attach the PVC to the MDF wood discs that I'll be cutting and inserting into the bottom of the tube. The head will be made out of paper mache.

Again, this is just the game plan, the idea I've got in my head. How it all turns out remains to be seen. But the first order of business I guess is to start cutting my tubes and PVC down to size.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Skeletons in the Closet

This year Walgreen created quite a stir when it offered a pretty realistic looking bucky skeleton for just $30. It wasn't the highest quality, but it was pretty darn good and it made itself available to all sorts of corpsing techniques, including the "plastic corpsing" method StiltBeastStudios popularized.

Walgreen got their skeletons from a company called Pitini Enterprises, which a lot of haunters found had a pretty scarce website. Skeletal, if you will. If you contacted them about getting more skeletons, no doubt you should have found an email in your inbox today saying they're taking orders for them. You have to pay up front in January and they'll ship your order in June. In addition to a new higher cost for the skeletons -- $35 (hey, supply and demand at work!) -- you'll also pay shipping costs, which they'll determine at the time (though you can get a ballpark figure by going to the FedEx site).

For me, I'll just take my chances at Walgreen again, assuming they get them in, and save on the shipping costs. I can't imagine they wouldn't order them again, considering the response they had last time. I wonder if they'll be charging $40 though to make a profit on them?

I had a chance at one point to buy six "Wuckies" all at once, but then thought, "Do I really want to spend $180 on skeletons?" My haunt wasn't up to where I wanted it at the time and six skeletons wasn't going to bring it there either. I did end up buying four over time but I barely utilized them as it was with all the other projects I had going on.

Right now I'm corpsing two of them, one using StiltBeastStudios' method and the other a more traditional technique. I'll be ready for them when they hit the stores again and while I'll have to pay a few dollars more, there's no real benefit to buying them early and in bulk from Pitini.

What are your thoughts on buying them early directly from the company?

UPDATE: Pitini Enterprises sent out a second email to clarify the first. It says the skeletons it's offering are NOT the same ones sold at Walgreen, but rather the better quality ones (screws and such at the joints) sold at stores like Spirit Halloween and costing upwards of $70 or more.

This sounds like a much better deal now and one I'm likely to take advantage of, either individually or as part of a group buy as suggested by wicKED.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Safety" Is an Evil Word

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred three score and six."

Revelations, 13:18

Pliant Corp. may have been proud of its record of safety, but one worker says the company was willing to damn him to an eternity in hell for his unwillingness to how his support like everyone else.

The food and personal care products packaging company had experienced 666 days without an accident at their facilities. It was company policy for employees to wear stickers proclaiming the number of accident-free days they enjoyed. Billy Hyatt, who describes himself as a devout Catholic, started sweating bullets as the days mounted towards that which symbolizes "the mark of the beast."

Rather than cut off his pinky finger, or some other injury that would ruin the streak, Hyatt asked if he could be exempt from wearing the 666 sticker and was originally told it would be okay. He alleges that when the day arrived, another manager told him his beliefs were ridiculous and to wear the patch or take a 3-day suspension. Even though he agreed to the suspension, he was subsequently fired.

While 666 is widely associated with Satan and appears in the bible, there are several other (some say better) translations of the early work which actually ascribe the beast's mark as 616.

But Hyatt might have been on to something, for a believer at any rate, because Revelations also indicates that if someone accepts the mark of the beast, he will feel God's wrath.

"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out undiluted into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name." (Revelations, 14:9-11)

Better to live with a three-day suspension -- or not work for the company at all -- than risk an eternity of fire and brimstone.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Turning a Mouldy Leaf

Like most of the podcast's fans, I was surprised and saddened to learn of the demise of Hauntcast. After three years of monthly, highly entertaining shows g/host Chris Baker decided to close up shop and -- horrors! -- concentrate on getting his personal situation in order.

After hearing of the decision, I decided to delay listening to the last show so that I could enjoy the final helping without distraction. Normally I like to have the podcast playing in the background while I'm building props, working in my shop, or sitting around and doing nothing. That actually resulted in my not catching everything that was discussed, but made re-listening to a show just as enjoyable because I was always catching new tidbits.

I finally listened yesterday and I came away with a better understanding of why the decision was made, though I'm no more happy about it than I was when I first learned of it.

There were some interesting tidbits gleaned from the show, such as the revelation that when the podcast went to the $1-per-download model they expected to lose half their audience, but in fact lost 99% of it! Holy cow! That had to be a disheartening wake up call, that your audience didn't think enough of what you were doing to pay less than a cup of coffee for it.

While I thought maybe there was too much complaining about the lack of support, now I understand why it occurred. It wasn't so much complaining as lamenting that there wasn't broader interest. And while it's easy for us to sit back and say Chris Baker ought to be giving us this quality show for free, the man has to pay his bills too. Throwing stones from the sidelines and saying he should soldier on for our benefit (I thought this myself) is easy; having to put in 80 hours a month or so for no remuneration is a lot harder, particularly in the economy we're in.

So I wish Chris and the Scream Team good luck. While Johnny Thunder mostly has a different sensibility about movies than I do (c'mon, JT, chop socky movies? Really?!) I still found his reviews highly entertaining, even while disagreeing with him most of the time (or feeling like I needed to take a shower, like when after he got all mushy over his review of "Let the Right One In").

The Mistress of Mayhem, Shellhawk, brought a mature, feminine, and dare I say sexy perspective to the show (Shell, baby, you can talk to me anytime with that voice). Of course, Denny's prop segment was just awesome and a welcome addition to the show. He brought prop-making to life.

The new kid on the block, Grimlock, was just getting into his groove on offering a good vibe of what could be found on the web (and not just because I count him a friend). Another new segment that was quickly becoming one of my favorites was Ed Gannon's "Something Wicked" piece, which gave an inside look at the professional world of haunting.

And right up there was Chris Baker's own interviews with haunting gurus. Some of my favorite interviews include Bruce Stanton of Reign of Terror Haunted House (Ep. 18) and the two-part series with Gary Corb of Hallowed Haunting Grounds (Ep. 13 & 14).

Still, I think most people like myself most anxiously awaited Revenant's "Theater of the Mind" segment. That was just good stuff, relating some of the most tangential material to haunting and Halloween. Thoughtful -- cerebral, even -- but always entertaining.

I've since surveyed the landscape out there to see what might be able to take its place. While each of these podcasts has some good points about them, I don't see any being up to the quality, standards, and completeness that Hauntcast set for the home haunting community.

Rotting Flesh Radio: Essentially geared towards the professional haunt, there's a lot of dry recitation of facts and figures, and a repetitive nature to some of the commentary. It could use a good dose of editing, but it does have the benefit of coming out weekly.

Rue Morgue Radio: Music (lots of music), interviews with industry celebrities, and movie reviews seems to take some of the best parts of Hauntcast (though it probably pre-dates it). Also professionally produced, it offers some interesting listening.

Scare House: Another professional-oriented podcast, this one from the folks running the Pittsburgh-area haunted attraction of the same name. It's interesting and sounds professionally produced, though somewhat narrow in focus.

Haunted Radio (Channel 66.6 HM): Probably the closest thing to Hauntcast I've found, it's another weekly podcast dedicated to Halloween and haunt-related themes. Perhaps the one drawback I found was letting some segments go on for longer than need be. A little tighter editing would really improve this show, along with some more animated voice work. It can sound a bit monotone at times. Overall, perhaps the nearest thing home haunting diehards can tune in to.

Halloween Haunt: A short (about 5 minutes or so) podcast on Halloween related topics, poems, and stories.

Musique Macabre: All Halloween and Horror music, all the time.

Horrorphilia: An eclectic assortment of music, reviews, and discussions about horror related topics.

I'm sure there are others out there, but for me none has everything Hauntcast had, which was news, information, humor, professionalism, and yes, even smarts! Having listened to all of the above shows at least once I appreciate all the more what it was that Chris Baker put into Hauntcast. He, the Scream Team, and the show will be sorely missed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Axis of Evil

I'm considering dropping $310 Canadian (around $305 U.S. at current exchange rates) with Boneyard Bargains for a fully operational 3-axis skull. It comes completely assembled with moving eyes and a Pico Talk servo controller already installed. There's no need to do any work or customization to it. Almost plug-and-play.

My initial inclination was to make my own. I've seen so many people on the forums using the Lindberg Pirate Skull and various servos to make their own, but I've yet to find a sufficiently (for me) detailed how-to on doing it. The closest I think has been Dr. Morbius's  tutorial on the Garage of Evil Network, but even then I'd probably like to see a few more steps included.

Then there's the modifications that need to be made -- filing parts here, shaving things there -- and making sure each part is just so. Of course, there's the servo controller that would have to be bought and hooked up to make it talk (I sling these terms like I actually know what I'm talking about).

I figure by the time I'm done I'm into parts at a cost of around $100 to $150. Then there's the time involved in doing the project. I'm guessing this isn't a weekend project.

Normally I'm all for being hands on and doing it myself, but in this instance I think the mark-up Boneyard is charging might be worth it. I'll lose some satisfaction in completing the task myself, but I'll gain a lot back and more by having a fully functional prop right out of the box.

What do you think? Is it worth dropping the coin for a plug-and-play solution or should I overcome my fear of working with electronics and reallysmallthings and tackle it myself? Let me know in the comments section.

And if you know of a highly detailed tutorial other than Dr. Morbius's admittedly very good one, let me know that too.

(Also, if anyone knows where you can pick up a similarly detailed skull for less you can share that too!)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I just read SpookyBlue's blog where he called November 1 "The Haunter's New Year" and realized he's right! We start planning, working, and building beginning today so this is the start of our new build year.

While the whole planning part took a back seat for me today as I tore down my display, I am ready to begin anew. I've got some ideas of things I want next year's haunt to look like, the direction I'd like it to go, but storage is the order of business today.

Still, this is the first day of the new haunt year, so Happy New Year!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Hallowe'en!

A simple Happy Hallowe'en wish to all my fellow haunters. I hope your holiday was filled with scares, screams, smiles, and trick-or-treater laughter!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Aww, doesn't it look pretty?
As I posted on my vlog today, the snowstorm that swept over the East Coast yesterday buried my haunt in about 6" of not so fluffy white stuff. The heavy, wet snow combined with trees that didn't have time to shed their leaves created a menacing situation.

At one point during the afternoon, you could literally stand outside and hear branches cracking and trees falling every few minutes. It was quite dangerous and my truck was even struck by a falling branch while I was driving to buy gas. Fortunately it was just a smallish one, about three-feet in length so no damage was done.

Not so pretty now, is it?
At least not to my truck. My haunt was another matter. The tree that stood at the curb in front of my yard and hung so lovingly over my cemetery entrance pillars split in half, with one half falling into the street and the other half falling onto my columns. Initially there was no damage, but the weight of the heavy snow was ultimately too much to bear and one of the pillars broke apart from the strain.

Other than the pillar, I also lost one tombstone and some plastic skull edging I had along the walkway. I should consider myself fortunate since all that was lost really was some foam insulation, which I plan to salvage and recycle, possibly making new tombstones out of them.

Splitting the uprights
The other problem was the loss of power throughout most of the town. So widespread was the damage from the storm -- I don't think one block escaped without at least one tree falling -- that power, cable, and Internet access was knocked out everywhere. I'm thinking Halloween has been in essence cancelled by the storm. If you'd like to see some video of the damage and extent of the storm, check out the vlog link above.

The one hope is that since school has been cancelled for at least Monday and possibly longer -- the local utility says residents can probably expect Wednesday to be the earliest they'll get the lights back on -- there may be more kids going out than otherwise. But since the power's out and the damage so widespread, maybe not.

Also, since I have no power I won't be having my haunt lit up this year. I will light up my two skull torches and should any trick-or-treaters venture out I'll be ready. A disappointing end to the haunt season, to be sure, but I'm all fired up for next year as a result.

Happy Halloween to all!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Nation Needs Some Nation-Building

Yeah, baby!
No wonder haunters don't get no respect. We're not doing our part in terms of Halloween spending!

According to the market researchers at IBISWorld, spending on the best holiday of the year comprised just $6 billion, or 2.6% of total consumer holiday spending. Halloween spending was the smallest percentage of the total, which amounted to some $228 billion. What are we doing people?!

As expected, the evil elves of Christmas spent the most $135 billion, or 60% of the total.

And what did people spend their hard-earned cash on? Costumes represented 36% of the total (Lady Gaga-inspired costumes top the list -- wtf?!), followed by candy at 31%, decorations with 28%, and cards a distant fourth at 5%.

Ed bleeds green
Of course, I don't think the researchers polled any home haunters for their survey, but then again, many of us are cheap so-and-sos and reuse and recycle regularly to keep our spending to a minimum. If there's any "greener" group of people outside of professional tree huggers, I don't know them. When it comes to the environment I'm generally on the side of rape, pillage, and exploitation, but get me building a Halloween prop and I turn all Ed Begley Jr.

While candy sales comprise almost a third of total sales, confectioners actually make 8% of their annual revenues on Halloween, making it the biggest holiday of the year for them (take that, St. Valentine's Day!).

People also waste $300 million a year buying costumes for their pets. Personally I don't understand the whole "pet baby" mentality that considers a dog or cat as a member of the household -- yes, I grew up with dogs, but the were just that, dogs (sorry for not being all sentimental, PETA).

That's about 30% of what we spend on our kids, which came in at $1 billion, but just to make sure we don't let Junior look better than us, we spend $1.2 billion on ourselves. Who says Halloween is a kid's holiday anyway?

Apparently we also like to get our drink on around Halloween, too, as it's the fourth drunkest month of the year, according to the Census Bureau (aren't they supposed to just count how many people are in the country every 10 years? I don't remember any questions on my survey about which month I got most drunk in). The lushes of Christmas beat us out again, coming in a drunken third place behind July (yay, independence!) and November (burp! Thanksgiving).

So, FWIW, here's the ranking of holiday spending in order of percentage of the total:

  • Christmas - 59.2% (Bah! Humbug!)
  • Thanksgiving - 13.4% (Thanksgiving?!?)
  • Valentine's Day - 7.7% (you bunch of saps)
  • Mother's Day - 6.5% (love you, mom!)
  • Easter - 6.1% (otherwise known as Zombie Resurrection Day)
  • Father's Day - 4.5%
  • Halloween - 2.6%

We've got our work cut out for us, haunters. So get out there, prime the pump of the economy, and spend, spend, spend!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dreaming of a White Halloween

What the hell?! Snow on Halloween? According to the weatherman, the northeast is set to get walloped with as much as a foot of snow in some areas over the weekend.

I know some haunters contend with these early snowfalls every year, but according to reports for the New York area this would be the earliest recorded snowfall since the Civil War!

Fortunately, I'm in one of the areas scheduled to get "only" 1" to 6" of snow and that by Halloween the weather should turn downright balmy with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 40's. So if we do get a small amount snow over the weekend, it may be melted come Monday and with the nice weather predicted we may still get a decent turnout of trick-or-treaters.

If there's snow on the ground, though, I know my wife will be pushing me to clear out the Halloween props faster than I already do and start putting up Christmas ones. This could be worse than seeing Christmas decorations in the store right after the back to school sales are finished.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Have You Chosen Your Costume Yet?

Ladies, if you haven't decided yet on what you're going to be on Halloween, here's some inspiration for you.

Just performing a public service for all the guys out there. You're welcome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Walking Dead Three-peat

Good news, Walking Dead fans: AMC just announced the hit show has been picked up for a third season. Apparently the first two episodes of Season 2 were such blockbusters in terms of the all important 18-49 year old demographic that they wanted to keep it going.

The AMC announcement said that the October 16 premier set a new basic cable record for viewers, scoring a 4.8 household rating and 7.3 million total viewers (I was one of them).

No doubt they got their money's worth out of the show. Was anyone else annoyed by all the commercials? I liked how the opening sequence went on for extra long, but AMC made up for it by seemingly cramming commercials in every 5 minutes.

Regardless, I enjoyed both episodes so far but hope they keep the advertising to normal lengths going forward. Sure they want to pay the bills, but the interruptions really spoil the flow. In anticipation of the show's return I had watched all six Season 1 episodes on Netflix and it was a pleasure not getting interrupted with commercials all the time.

But it's good to know that the series is making a big impact with viewers, enough that the studio wants to greenlight more of them.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

AMC's Mini-Doc: The Haunted Mansion

I just stumbled across a neat little behind-the-scenes look at a haunted attraction in Poughkeepsie, NY called Kevin McCurdy's Haunted Mansion. It's a walk-thru haunt that's been evolving over the past 35 years.
AMC's FearFest offers up a series of mini-documentaries (mini-docs) that take viewers on a tour of what goes in to operating such an immersive experience. There are 12 different episodes, covering everything from Designing the Scare to Casting the Haunter, Scare Tactics to looks at different parts of the haunt: the Doll Room, the Haunted Collector, the Frozen Family Room, and more!

This is an incredibly detailed haunt with many layers of scare, ambience, props, actors, and more. Below is the introduction video to the series.

It's a really terrific walk-thru of a walk-thru haunt. I recommend checking out all 12 videos. I'd love to visit the Haunted Mansion (though it won't be this year). Located in Bowdoin PArk in Poughkeepsie, it's about an hour and a half north of New York City.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pot of Gold

I thought to save myself some money and make my own homemade flaming cauldrons, you know, the ones the blow air out the top making a flame-shaped piece of silk "flicker" like flames.

I had two computer power supply fans gathering dust on the shelf, so I went out and gathered up everything I needed. For less than $8 I got two small cauldrons and a yard of silk fabric. I figured the challenge would be powering them up.

Actually it was, but Internet searches are awesome for finding answers to everything you want to know and soon enough I had them running.  What's proving to be the real challenge is getting the fabric to flicker. My guess is the fans aren't strong enough so they can't make the silk stand up. Oh well. I'll have to wait till after Halloween to tackle this project in earnest, but at least I have two nice cauldrons.

I figure, though, if anyone is interested in learning how to power up a computer fan, I'd show you below how to do it. May as well make this two-day exercise worthwhile for something.

Start with a computer fan and a power supply
This fan is 12 volts DC and about 0.5 amps. Match up your power supply with those numbers so that you don't burn out one or the other. My power supply was a 12v 1 amp phone charger (I think). I have a few laying around and sifted through them till I found one that fairly matched. Having more amperage is fine since the fan will only draw what it needs.

Cut connector off plug and adapter off fan
The fan had what I think is called a Molex connector on it, one of those small white squares that you use to connect it to the computer. Cut that off and unravel the wires. Do the same for the power supply, cutting off the plug end, which often times is a silver, barrel-shaped plug that you insert into a hole to connect it.

Now there is another way to do it by inserting the "hot" wire from the fan into the hole in the end of the barrel connector and attaching the ground to the silver part. I think joining them the way I did it however is more permanent.

Bare the ends of all four wires and join black to black and red to red. Oh wait! Your wires are like mine and there's no red on anything! In fact, the fan has four wires -- black, green, blue, and yellow! Sweet. Now what?

I'm sure electricians know the answer right off the bat, but for me it took trial and error. Black was easy as it always connects to black, and as it turns out it was the yellow wire that made the circuit. The other two may be for data and stuff, or so said one video I saw on YouTube. Join them together and that's it! Really very simply.

Join spliced wires together, hot to hot, ground to ground
In the photo below, I wanted to see if I could run two fans off of one power supply. The second fan was also 12v, but was like 0.56 amps. I spliced them and connected the black and yellow to their corresponding wires and it had no problem starting up or running.

Two for one!
What the heck, I'll also show you how I aged the cauldrons, using an oatmeal-and-sand method I saw Dave the Dead use on the discussion boards.

I started off using two small black plastic cauldrons that I got from a local Halloween store for $2.25 each. I then mixed together a bit of Elmer's white glue and water and added some oatmeal to it. I think Dave used instant; mine was regular steel-cut (does anyone know why that's a feature on oatmeal? I mean, if it was cut with plastic, would we know the difference?).

I then mixed in a few handfuls of sand. I have no proportions on any of this as Dave didn't provide any in his tutorial, but I can tell you you don't need a whole heckuva lot of oatmeal. I made enough to feed a whole coven of witches. I imagine one of those instant oatmeal packages would have been more than sufficient to cover these two small cauldrons.

You then smear the oatmeal onto the sides of the cauldrons. It is the oatmeal and sand that will give you your rusted texture later on. As I mention often, I have no patience, so I used my heat gun to help dry the oatmeal mix. I think the heat made the oatmeal swell giving it almost a cauliflower look when dried, which I thought was great.

I then sprayed them with black spray paint. Dave says to spend the extra two bucks and get real spray paint since it has extra paint in it unlike the quick color stuff. I'm cheap though and I had the cheap stuff on hand so I used that.

I then used my rust painting technique I showed on my vlog when I rusted two lanterns for my cemetery entrance pillars. I started off using a dark tan wash and pressing the sponge brush under the lip of the cauldron, let the color run down and did this all the way around. Then using a piece of sponge, I dipped it in orange paint and went over the surface making sure I hit the oatmeal. Over that I went with a brownish red color (more red than brown) to tone down the orange. And then over that I hit it with a light olive green to give it a patina.

Below is a close up of the oatmeal mix, dried and painted over. It also shows the access hole I burned through the side of the pot with an old soldering iron through which I was going to pass the fan motor wires through. I also have a string of 50 orange lights that I was going to put in the bottom of the cauldron around the fan, but now they'll just be in there by themselves.

So as I said, I have a nicely detailed cauldron and we'll have to see if the orange lights glow bright enough when they're situated on top of the fluted columns I have on either side of the front stairs.

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