Monday, June 27, 2011

Hitting My Stride

That basement remodeling project I recently talked about has really sucked the life out of prop building lately. While I've been working here and there on the cemetery pillars and my gravedigger prop, time that I would've spent building has been going towards, well, building. But not Halloween related stuff.

Today, for example, I had to go to the waste transfer station and dump all the debris that I've accumulated: plaster, cement, lath, and all around construction waste. When I pulled into the depot, it was empty except for one garbage truck, but the truck driver was nowhere to be seen and I had to wait for him to unload before I could go. After about 15 minutes he returned and started unloading, but that's when all the other dump trucks, garbage trucks, township vehicles, etc., started pulling in.

My mini-pickup with my itsy bitsy load of debris was probably seen as more of a hinderance than anything, so I was left cooling my heels while they had all these monster trucks pulling in and out unloading their debris first. Finally, after a half hour of waiting I was able to unload and go on my way, but what should have been a 15 minute run turned into an hour and cut into my day, time that I had planned on using for prop building.

Because when I got home my wife was there and had my honeydew list ready. So after all was said and done, I was able to squeeze a little time in for Halloween, the result of which you see here: the first layer of Monster Mud on the legs of the gravedigger.

By the end of the night I was actually able to get two coats on and am ready for the second layer of fabric to go over it. I'll describe my process in greater detail at a later time, but suffice to say I haven't made as much progress as I'd like and while there are still several months to go, I see that once again I'll be reining in my list of expectations.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hung From the Chimney With Care

I can tell you demolition went a lot faster before I started looking at everything as a Halloween prop.

I bought my house almost 5 years ago and have pretty remodeled it from the first floor to the third, knocking down walls, moving walls, gutting rooms, etc. When I decided to tackle a room it was a pretty quick process. Sledge hammer in hand, I'd set about beating the crap out of a wall until it submitted to my will. Fun, quick, and messy as all hell.

Then I got into Halloween and making props and now the demo work has become a laborious process. I break up the plaster walls carefully to protect the lath underneath so that I can use equal care to pry off the lath with a crowbar or cat's paw. After all, lath makes a helluva creepy wall effect.

This only came into play as I began the last stage of renovation: the basement. But before I could finish that, I had to demo the back stairwell. And what would normally have taken me about an hour or so to complete, ended up becoming a multi-day project to protect and remove the lath. Fortunately that's completed now -- well I still need to get a new back door -- and the lath has been bundled up and stored away for future use. Now I can get this project completed so I can move on to more important projects like building Halloween props.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Having the Time of Their Life

If you were ever subjected to the horror of the movie "Dirty Dancing," then you're familiar with Grossingers, the one-time luxury hotel getaway in the Catskills whose heydey was through the 1940's, 1950's, and even the 1960's. It served as the inspiration for the Kellerman's Mountain Resort where Baby got an education in love and life from Patrick Swayze. Ugh.

But the story of Grossinger's is pretty interesting all on its own and according to the Catskill Archive, "By the time of her death in 1972, (owner) Jennie had built Grossinger's into a sprawling complex of 35 buildings on 1200 acres that served 150,000 guests a year. It had it's own airstrip and post office."

No one has checked into Grossinger's since 1986 and the "sprawling complex" now stands abandoned. While much of everything has been stripped from the interiors (and exteriors) in the intervening 25 years, there are some eerie settings that would make a great backdrop for a haunted house attraction. Below are some photos showing the buildings, grounds, and interiors that make you want start selling tickets to a dark ride.

There are lots more photos in Steven Bley's flicker stream.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cobwebs and Crypts

Having finished half of my twin cemetery pillars, I decided to free up some space in my garage and stow the one finished prop beneath the porch where I keep all my other props. However, since my porch is enclosed in privacy lattice, I really don't take notice of them throughout the year.

Thus it was fun opening up the entrance and peering in to the dusty area and seeing my reaper, roof climber, Acolyte, gargoyle and assorted other props sitting, waiting patiently for Halloween to come around again. The cemetery pillar joined the other props and the lattice was secured back in place.for another 132 days...well, 101 days really, when I begin setting up again beginning October 1.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dust to Dust

When I've sculpted hands or heads, such as the one for my Madog gravedigger prop, I've used a home-made paper clay from cellulose insulation. I like the ability to achieve a certain level of detail very inexpensively. The one drawback I found, however, is the paper pulp itself is somewhat lumpy so that a smooth texture is difficult to achieve.

What I tried to do to compensate for that, on Madog anyway, was to cover it with several thin coats of Monster Mud. That gave me a very nice base to paint on, but I'd like to avoid having to use that extra step if I could.

My thinking, therefore, was to grind if possible the cellulose into a fine powder using a food chopper, you know, like the Braun handhelds that have attachments with high-speed spinning blades and containers. I used three different models (don't ask why I have three food grinders), but while a fine dust was made, the bulk of the cellulose didn't break down all that much. It became a little finer I guess, but perhaps because it was so light that it spun at almost the same speed as the blades and didn't get cut up nearly as much as I wanted. So I'll have to try another means of getting a fine powder without the expense of going out and buy a specific product.

If anyone has suggestions on how I might grind the cellulose I'd be happy to hear.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

These Boots Are Made for Walking

...or digging graves. I did some more work on my Gravedigger prop recently, paper maching the boots and today filling them with Great Stuff and a PVC pipe.

Er, what's that you say? You have no idea what I'm talking about? Okay, back up. I chronicled the building of my gravedigger's head and it basically sat there untouched since. I decided that I needed to get moving on him so at this month's NJ Make & Take meeting, I began anew, this time working from the ground up, so to speak.

Using a technique I gleaned (read, "stole") from IMU on the HauntForum boards, I started the boots by scrounging up an old pair of sneakers and put a cardboard calf section to give it some height.

I then paper mached the entire shoe. When it was dry, I cut out a strip of cardboard a few inches wide and wrapped it around the top, cutting a V-notch into the front so that it looked like it had been folded over. This was then mached and the top was covered as well.

On the toe area of the boot, I wanted to make it look like an old floppy style fabric boot, so I balled up some newspaper, taped it in place, and mached over it.

Today I drilled out a hole in the bottom of the boot through the sneaker as well as through the top. This is where a length of PVC pipe was inserted to provide a means of connecting it to the legs that will be built next, as well as a way of anchoring it to the ground with rebar so that it can be free standing in the yard.

As the picture at the top of the post shows, the Great Stuff expanded greatly on one of them. Tomorrow I'll trim off the excess, give it a coat of spar urethane to protect the mache, and then paint it black. I'll then be ready to move on to the next step, which will be doing the legs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yeah, Sweet Calendar Girl

I love, I love, I love my calendar girl
Yeah, sweet calendar girl
I love, I love, I love my calendar girl
Each and every day of the year
-- Neil Sedaka, "Calendar Girl"

Until bills assumed a larger part of my life, I used to love getting the mail. I even loved junk mail. I'd sign up for stuff just to get more mail and getting on mailing lists to get even more crap in my mailbox. These days, not so much.

But yesterday, my mailbox lid was down and thinking the mailman had been too lazy to put it back up, I was cursing him as I returned it to its place. But as it snapped shut I realized there was something stuck in the slot and I saw a Priority Mail envelop sticking out. Woohoo! Stuff!

Of course, when I saw the return address I knew right away what it was. A couple of weeks ago Chris Davis of The Davis Graveyard had a contest on her Frog on the Pumpkin blog for one of their calendars. Yeah, that's right, I was the big winner! A full year's worth of inspiration to hang in my workshop.

As an added bonus, though, she also included a set of five prints of the haunt. Sweet! Now I have to find a set of frames creepy enough to show them off!

Thanks, Chris. I wish you guys had chosen to live on the correct coast and lived in the northeast so I could visit your display (I don't seem to make it out to Oregon much). Your new abbey facade is going to be epic!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Twilight" Material She's Not

There's something about a good vampire that draws you to them. Nosferatu, Dracula, even 'Salem's Lot (well, the book anyway) knew how to get you close enough to dig their fangs into you. "Twilight?" Not so much.

However, apparently you really shouldn't drink the water south of the border. This Mexican woman took the vampire culture to heart and decided to transform herself into a deathless creature, including having titanium implants inserted for horns. Then again, she is a lawyer and we all know what kind of bloodsuckers they can be.

As the gentleman at the end says, tattoos are a lifestyle choice and I've got more than my fair share of them, but methinks this woman has taken it a tad far.
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