Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Haunted Mansion & The Gipper

Inside the Magic, a vlog/podcast of all things Disney, notes that "rare artifacts" from Disney's history, including many from The Haunted Mansion, will be on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum & Library from July 6 to April, 2013.

They posted a short clip of some of props that you'll be able to see such as the Hitchhiking Ghosts and the Attic Bride. Various collectibles will be on view as well. Anyone in the Simi Valley, CA, area may want to take the time to go check it out. The exhibit is being presented by D23, the official Disney fan club. Tickets to the exhibit are only $21 per person, making it a fun, affordable way to check out some great Disney memorabilia.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Meadowlands Zombie Walk

While I'm typically nonplussed about zombie walks -- I really don't get the point though I know a lot of haunters enjoy them -- the Meadowlands State Fair will be hosting one this Friday, June 29, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. (that's a lot of shambling to do).

While you're free to zombify yourself, they will have makeup artists on hand to do the job for you for a fee: basic zombie is $15, deluxe $20, and extreme $25. Of course, since it's going to be held at night how much is anyone going to see the makeup anyway. Can this be good?

But it goes to show how popular zombies  have become today and now permeate our society. While I might not be into zombie walks, I do appreciate anything that helps spread the virus.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Die & Save the Environment

Banana Leaf Casket
You've likely heard about the environmental movement's drive to reduce your "carbon footprint," but now there's a company that wants to help you reduce your "final footprint." The company, which goes by the same name, manufactures eco-friendly caskets made out of rattan, willow, bamboo, sea grass, banana leaf, and wood.

According to Final Footprint, there is enough steel buried each year to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge and enough concrete to construct a highway from New York City to Detroit. They're also quite expensive, running upwards of several thousand dollars each. Final Footprint's so-called "e-coffins" cost only around $1,000.

While you might be tempted to think cremation is a more environmentally friendly means of disposing of one's remains, Final Footprint says a single body requires up to 356 cubic feet of natural gas because humans are mostly water and produces 1.6–8.5 grams of toxic mercury (from dental fillings). If nothing else, these green coffins will certainly help you return to a natural state -- as in "dust to dust" -- faster than their steel cousins, which the coffin maker says is the only real purpose of a metal casket: to prevent decomposition faster.

Wicker coffins are certainly a greener alternative, but hardly the stuff nightmares are made of.



Thursday, June 7, 2012

Zombie Max

It's been a heckuva week for zombies. There's been an outbreak of cannibalism all across the country with people threatening to chew off a hunk of flesh, attempting to, and in several cases actually doing so. The so-called "zombie attack" in Miami has only been the most publicized.

But we now have a weapon. Ammunition maker Hornady Manufacturing has available Zombie Max bullets that are available in .380 ca. auto, 9 mm, .40 ca. Smith & Wesson, and .45 ca. auto. From the Cabela's website where you can buy a box of 20 rounds for less than $20, the green tipped bullets even come with tips for surviving the zombie apocalypse:

Lock ’n load with Zombie Max. From Hornady’s Z-Max "Zombie" green-tip bullets to the "zombie-apocalypse survival tips" on the box, this ammo is sure to start fun conversations. Even better, its top-quality Hornady components ensure accuracy and smooth cycling through semiautomatic firearms.

Now you can be prepared for the end of the world in real shoot-'em up style!

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Signs of the Apocalypse

As bizarre and disturbing as the zombie attack in Miami was the other day, it's not as isolated an incident as you might suspect. The Daily Beast has put together a map showing there has been a rash of attacks that are happening around the country. Actually, it seems concentrated along the East Coast at the moment.

By the way, in case you haven't seen it before, that's purportedly the face of the zombie attack victim Ronald Poppo.

If you go to the article, the actual map is hyperlinked and you can read about the actual incidents. However, they have left off a couple (when the apocalypse starts spreading, these things can increase exponentially) such as the case in Hackensack, NJ, where a man threw his intestines at police (even Time calls it a Zombie alert?!).

[EDIT: I see the map has been updated to include the Hackensack attack now.]

I do note that it was pointed out by an acquaintance it may not be a zombie outbreak we're experiencing, but in fact is a Wendigo that has been loosed upon us.

According to the esteemed Wikipedia, a Wendigo "is a mythical creature appearing in the mythology of the Algonquian people. It is a malevolent cannibalistic spirit into which humans could transform, or which could possess humans."

Although it could very well be two sides of the same coin -- popular culture may have missed that zombies are not necessarily only the dead coming back to life, but rather is a mass possession of humanity by a Wendigo -- it would appear there is some wickedness afoot, and rather suddenly too.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse Is Upon Us

Could Miami, FL, be ground zero for the zombie apocalypse? It could be as Miami police reported shooting and killing a man -- naked -- who was eating the face of another man, also naked. According to news reports, the man eating the other ignored police warnings to move away from the body, but instead continued devouring the man's face.

"According to police sources, a road ranger saw a naked man chewing on another man’s face and shouted on his loud speaker for him to back away.Meanwhile, a woman also saw the incident and flagged down a police officer who was in the area.

The officer, who has not been identified, approached and, seeing what was happening, also ordered the naked man to back away. When he continued the assault, the officer shot him, police sources said. The attacker failed to stop after being shot, forcing the officer to continue firing. Witnesses said they heard at least a half dozen shots."

Although police are blaming "cocaine psychosis" as the reason for the attack, it also sounds suspiciously like a zombie attack, though there was no indication of whether it took a head shot to finally stop the man.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Coming Collapse

There are a lot of reasons why I think the stock market is headed for a fall and a double-dip recession is coming our way, but the herald of doom has apparently already arrived: so far in the month of May, the S&P 500, generally considered a proxy for the overall market, is down 6.66%.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Zombie Fitness

To me, jogging is slightly worse than having my wisdom teeth pulled without Novocaine. However, when a new zombie app hits the Android marketplace sometime soon I may no longer have an excuse. Or have the need to go looking for one.

"Zombies, Run!" is an app designed to make running fun. You're living in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies have risen and are looking to feed on your brains. Your goal is to help keep your base camp well supplied and while you're out running you're sent off on a mission to find supplies and gear to keep your people stocked.

"You’re Runner 5. Hundreds of lives are counting on you. You've got to help your base rebuild from the ruins of civilization by collecting critical supplies while avoiding roving zombie hordes. Can you save them and learn the truth about the zombie apocalypse?"

You load up your mp3 player with your favorite songs and in between tracks you get your mission information, along with news reports on where zombies are and if you're about to run into a horde of them. Once you finish running, you load your data into the app and it keeps track of how well you're completing your missions. You learn more about the world you live in and as you succeed in finding medical supplies or tools you're able to attract more people to live in your base camp.

Currently the game is available only for the iPhone, but the developers have been promising one for Android phones "this Spring!" We better get it soon, otherwise it will be summer.

While I think it would be really cool if an app developer would combine an adventure game like this with Google Maps so that the actual streets you're running on would be used to plot your path -- "Main Street is coming up on your right but don't go that way, it's filled with zombies! -- this seems like a fun diversion that could make getting in shape a lot more tolerable for the perpetually lazy like me.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: National Haunters Convention

I attended the National Haunters Convention yesterday in Oak, PA, and was hugely disappointed by the show. The venue seemed smaller, the vendors fewer, and the supposed highlights of the event -- two on-site haunted attractions -- were a joke.

Part of the problem was likely due to Hauntcon being scheduled for the same weekend in western Pennsylvania. While I had considered attending the show, the six hour drive wasn't all that appealing and from what I heard from people who went to that show instead of NHC it wasn't all that much different there.

According to rumors that have trickled their way down to me -- and I'm way, way, way down on the list of "need to know" people, so it's like the old game of "Telephone" you'd play in school, a lot gets lost in the translation -- Hauntcon deliberately scheduled its show the same weekend as NHC in an effort to cripple the show. Regardless of whether it's true or not, it seems both shows ended up getting shot in the foot.

But NHC had its own problems that went just beyond the torn loyalties of vendors who would have had to choose one show or the other (and it seemed many chose "the other"), National Haunters Convention did the worst thing a company could: it over-promised and under-delivered.

As disappointed as I was with the vendors that were there (and I did buy some stuff at the show, but shockingly no one was selling air cylinders at the show and that was one thing I had hoped to buy), I can give NHC a pass on that, though I think it speaks volumes about which show the vendors thought was the more important one. What I can't forgive is the sloppy way NHC handled its marketing.

They made a big deal of having two haunted attractions on the show floor that were going to be run by The Psycho Trail, which bills itself as the best haunted house in South Jersey. There were going to be zombies and clowns around every corner with thrills, chills, and excitement. We'd laugh, we'd cry, we'd come back for more!

Um, no.

First, thank goodness I didn't have to pay to go through owing to having subscribed to Hauntcast. However, because the haunts were so lame, I don't think they were charging anyone. Good thing.

The first was a maze of chain link fencing. Since the top was open and the convention hall lights were on you could see right through from one end of the maze to the other. What you could also see was there were no actors and no props. Seriously, you were walking through a "maze" (and I'm being charitable describing it as such) and there was nothing to see. I do recall they had a metal shelving unit tipped over in one area and that was about it. Oh, and a couple of plastic things that may have been barrels cut lengthwise in half. It really looked like they had gone into the storeroom of the convention center and found some stuff not being used and threw it here and there.

Oh, and we were "attacked" by zombies: a cute teen girl and her 7-year old brother dressed inexplicably as a cop who jumped on a section of fence. We then asked him to go run and jump on the fence again so Joiseygal could vlog it. That was it.

The next haunt was the clown haunt. I have no idea what they were thinking. A couple of plastic masks were hung on the wall and hit with fluorescent paint was the extent of the decor, but because it was again an open haunt the paint had zero effect as you'd expect. And they did some imaginative work with Great Stuff (okay, snark has been turned off): on the horizontal 2x4's that held up the maze walls, they made long lines with the expanding foam and spray painted it orange. But only for 2 or 3 walls and they either ran out of got tired. Seriously, that was the extent of the decor. Okay, they did have Chuckles the Clown sitting in one room.

One section had some PVC cages in it, but no actors in there (note to Dave from Pandemic not touch the props in such a lame haunt, they will come off in your hands!). There was one clown -- I think she might have been the older sister to the other two "actors" -- who popped in here and there with a whoopee horn she blew every now and then. She did tell us to come back in October as it was going to be better then. Well, it couldn't possibly have been worse.

Although I bought a couple of things at the show, I didn't spending much money there because there wasn't anything really all that interesting -- or affordable for the stuff I was interested in. I bought a prop mask and some small body parts, but only because they were $1 each, and some Foam Coat from Hot Wire Foam Factory. Dave (who also puts on the awesome Dead with Dave show on YouTube) highly recommends it for coating foam props so a small, 3-lb container that cost $10 seemed worth it. I also bought a doll that reminded me of the La Santa Muerte dolls I wrote about last month. It was definitely overpriced for how it was constructed but I knew my wife would like it.

Some of the static props from one of the vendors looked like low quality stuff. Although their animatronic ones had some good movement to them, I'm pretty sure I could replicate for $20 what they were trying to sell for $400. All Scares was also there with their hydraulic props and while very cool and professional, it's just out of my league.

We did manage to come across one vendor, an author hawking his books, who managed to insult my friend's wife even while complimenting her. He told her she had pretty hair and bright eyes, but was coasting through life because of her looks. He then told her she was psychologically crippled because she read books for information and education, not for simple pleasure reading (she's a special ed teacher). Okay, way to go with turning off potential customers!

We did watch some of the "makeup wars" they had going on, and that was interesting too, though some artists were definitely more talented than others. I didn't attend any of the classes there, though I did get to meet Allen Hopps of Stilt Beast Studios. I admire his artistic talents a lot and it was fun to be able to meet in person people you see regularly online ("It's YouTube Wednesday!").

So in short, it was a huge disappointment and I won't be attending NHC again anytime soon. Sure some of the show's shortcomings were the result of a rumored personality conflict between the two haunt show owners, but NHC shouldn't have promised attendees they would be geting so much more for their money when in fact they would be getting a whole lot less.

I'm not sure I'm going to go to Hauntcon either in the future, if for no other reason than if the rumors are true, than that wouldn't be a show I'd want to support with my money. Both shows could have been good for their attendees (that's what it's supposed to be about, right?) and probably profitable for both, had not one or the other had too big of an ego.

While these shows are supposedly geared more for the home haunter, there really wasn't anything to suggest that at NHC this year, so I guess it comes down to it that if you're going to go to a haunt show, just save your pennies and go to Transworld.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Zombies Aren't Just Human

While popular culture typically says humans are the only species that can succumb to the zombie virus -- though on occasion dogs are subject as well -- science has now found that ants can become zombies too. Really.

The zombie ant fungus attacks the brain of the ant growing inside (and outside) of its head causing it to "march to its death at a mass grave near the ant colony, where the fungus spores erupt out of the ant's head."  How awesome is that?! And how freaky is it that real life nature can create something horror film producers thought they had a lock on?

Yet there already seems to be a cure, or at least a parasite the debilitates the fungus preventing it from spreading and allowing a colony of infected ants to survive -- presumably as zombies. Apparently the spores which spread the fungus are castrated by the parasite so they're unable to spread and infect more of the colony.

The article linked to above says "even though there are a lot of dead and infected zombie ants in the neighborhood, only a few of the spores of the zombie-ant fungus will become mature and able to infect healthy ants." Seems to me that we need the Zombie Research Society to look into how the parasites cripple the spores in ants and apply that to the spread of the zombie virus in humans. Moreover, it appears that zombification is not just a viral infection and we need to keep an eye out for such other types of pollination that lead to a mass outbreak.

It is good to know though that while nature can, in fact, create a true zombie outbreak, it also creates a defense against it as well. As always nature keeps things in balance.

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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Halloween" Banned From NYC Schools

We've raised a nation of sissies. Everyone's a victim. No one can have their sensibilities tweaked in the least otherwise it's a national crisis. The nanny state has run amok and the latest place it's reared its ugly head is on New York City standardized tests.

Fearing that some child's fragile ego may somehow be damaged if they hear the word, "Halloween" is forbidden to appear on the city's standardized tests. Why? Because it might upset some kid that thinks it supports paganism. Despite the fact that there's a whole global industry based on the holiday and they just might hear about it on the TV, let alone their friends and family getting into the spirit of the day, these unfortunate few will be reduced to quivering carcasses of jelly at merely having read the word.

But that's not all! Not only was Halloween banned, but so was "dinosaur" (some kids might not believe in evolution), "computer" (a kid might not have a computer at home and will feel bad seeing the word), "birthday" (because Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate them), and "slavery" (because it might make some people feel sad). Oh, and they can't mention terrorism. In New. York. City.

Moreover, they also can't allude to "rock 'n' roll," "dancing," or -- get this -- "pepperoni." WTF? No really, WTF?! The reason given was "persons of some religions or cultures may not indulge in" the food. If you want to ban something, ban freakin' tofu.

Yet as messed up as New York apparently is, they're incredibly not alone. Florida doesn't let kids see the words "hurricane" or "wildfire." California bans the word "weed."

Mind you, were' talking about a lot of historical facts here. It is so asinine as to be unbelievable. But it's what comes of an educational system that is so broken, so dysfunctional. I'm tongue-tied right now. I can't come up with enough pejoratives to call these idiots right now, I'm so flummoxed. And it's not just the Halloween part of it. This is just stupid, yet someone signed off on this somewhere. These are the people we are allowing to run our school systems.

This country is really doomed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Cauldron of Unholy Loves

I began working on my Cauldron Creep prop that we're constructing as part of the NJ Hookerman Make & Take group build. At the meeting we cut and put together the PVC frames and attached the vent motor that will control the head movement.

Tonight, though, I started working on the cauldron. I'm using a big plastic landscaping planter for my cauldron, but because it looks like a big flower pot, I wanted to make it look more like a witches cauldron. To that end I started adding cardboard ribs to it, much as I did on my Nutcrackers when I wanted to flare out their jackets, only this is the entire length of the pot.

I got this idea from the exceptionally talented SK Austin who, if you've ever seen any of his tombstones, you know he's meticulous in his work habits. He built a Cauldron Creep though and had used a rope-handled hamper he got from Walmart. Not exactly conjuring up images of witches on Halloween, he bulked it out with cardboard ribs, covered it with tape, and paper-mached the outside. That's what I plan to do too.

As you can see in the photo above, I've got my ribs on the pot and I'll be adding tape to the entire exterior over which I'll actually use paper clay, or as Halloweenville coined it, "Monster Clay." I'll put a pool noodle around the lip of it and I'll fashion some "iron" rings out of the clay as well. Underneath we'll end up using some of the inventive Great Foam techniques we've seen to create smoldering embers.

Overall it's a terrific prop that Devil's Chariot made and so many haunters have contributed to it that it just keeps getting better and better. This may become one of my favorite props.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I Was Bukkaked!

As part of the effort to resurrect Hauntcast, haunt vendors turned out en masse to support the return of the show to the airwaves. Discounts, prizes, props, and more were offered to the first 250 subscribers willing to pony up $100 for a year's worth of the show. G/host Chris Baker said it would be a prize bukkake if that many listeners subscribed.

There was little doubt I was going to be one of them considering how much I enjoyed and supported the show in the past, and today Hauntcast hit the mark. That meant the shower of gifts would begin, and after spewing the load of prizes over his listeners, it turned out I was actually one of the prize winners: a copy of Lynne and Shawn Mitchell's book "How to Haunt Your House Vol. 3" Awesome!

This was actually on my list of things to buy (along with the other two books) because I've heard such great things about the books. You can actually preview the books on their website and unlike many "haunt books" I've seen, these are sumptuous publications with gorgeous photos of how to build props and effects. It's a $38+ value and worth every penny. And I just got a copy.

Considering one of the other discounts offered was free floor passes to all three days of the National Haunters Convention which I was planning on attending anyway -- itself a $25 value -- I've almost already made back my subscription fee. I'm sure some of the other vendors that are offering discounts will enable me to do just that.

Best of all though is Hauntcast will be tearing up the airwaves again come April 4.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Coffin Corner

That old football term could apply to my workshop and storage area these days as I seem to be collecting (building) an ever greater number of coffins. The one pictured here is my latest effort. Built from old shelving I removed when I remodeled a storage room recently, I'm thinking of using it to house a motor I salvaged from an old box fan.

I had posted on HauntForum for ideas of what to do with the motor, which still worked, but suffered from having a fan that was dropped too many times so the fins broke off. Allen Hopps from Stilt Beast Studios suggested using it in a box or coffin and attach a chain to it. When the motor's turned on it makes a terrific racket.

I'm also thinking of either attaching to the bottom or simply having it rest on a narrow board like a 2x2 so that when the motor turns on it will rock from side to side. The board running the length of the coffin should keep it off balance to help achieve that rocking motion. A heavy chain wrapped around the outside will add to the noise.

Of course the coffin still needs a staining to distress the newer boards that were added to attach the lengths of shelving. Had I thought ahead, I had an old pallet I was saving that I could have used for the cross braces. I still could swap them out but after an afternoon spent building this -- damn! building a coffin is tough work -- I'm just leaving it as it is right now.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Man in Motion

The order of wiper motors from Monster Guts arrived this morning (great customer service, Dean, thanks!). Lots of animated props on the menu for Halloween this year.

As I may have mentioned before, last year's goal was to add some height to my graveyard and my two obelisks I made helped out in that regard. There will be other things added, including my grave digger (finally) and my planned Cellarer who'll be carrying a monster-in-a-box.

This year's goal is to add movement. In that regard the MIB prop will cover two bases there, but I'll also be making a Cauldron Creep at the next NJ Hookerman M&T scheduled for March 17, so one of the wiper motors is spoken for. I'll have another motor on standby for some future prop I have yet to decide on.

Additionally, I've made a coffin (out of foam) that will house a skeleton that rises up as it opens the lid that runs on a vent motor. And I'm continuing on my work on a skeleton "flipper" at the NJ/PA M&T group that's on track for a March 24 meeting. We'll be welding up the rest of the pieces and working on attaching the air cylinder.

In my spare time, I've also been working on a paper mache dragon's head that I'm anticipating will be attached to a scissors hinge. The head was originally going to be a snake's head that was going to be used in the high school haunted house, but since those hopes have been cruelly dashed I'm going to repurpose it for my yard.

I'm not quite sure yet how I plan to utilize it best -- that's the way we do, right, build a prop and then figure out where it's going to go? -- but I envision it lunging suddenly out of a a dark space as the treat-or-treaters approach.

Last (at least so far) is my Grave Escape prop that I made at the last NJH M&T. That one was challenging getting the movement to look somewhat natural -- if a skeleton trying to escape from a coffin can look natural -- but I'm really happy with the way it moves thanks to some special parts manufacturing Greg (niblique71) did. Now I just need to make my groundbreaking half-coffin to complete it.

So while it does sound like this year I'm going to have shit moving all over the place, in my mind at least it will be very cohesive and should provide a few scares to the (handful) of ToTs that make it to my house. The props will be triggered as the kids approach so I'm hoping for some good startle effects this year making it a little less of a static yard display and a little more like a walk-thru haunt though I'm no where near that yet.

Coupled with additional plans for more stationary props I'm hoping for a bigger event than I've had previously. Ambitious plans, I know, and I've had big plans in the past. But this year I'm actually accomplishing a lot of the goals I set so I'm hopeful I'll achieve a good many of them this time around.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing

We finally got word from Secaucus High School that they're not going to partner with us for their haunted house this year. Seems, as Jay from Grimlock Manor put it, they were overwhelmed by the "enormity of it all." Sometimes going from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds is too scary for some people.

While the Dream Scream Team of Jay, Dave from Pandemic Cemetery, Johnny, and myself are exceptionally disappointed at the lost opportunity, we're actually rather hopeful since the possibility of doing this haunt threw us all together and we're kicking around some ideas about what we can do together in the future. It may be a pro haunt, but it's likely to go in another direction first so it's still some exciting stuff.

With different skill sets and areas of interest we actually complement each other quite well. As individuals with a passion for haunting and Halloween, there's a very real chance something will come out of these fiery ashes. If nothing else, we'll still all be putting together our own separate haunts.

Below is the teaser trailer we had put together for the school that we had hoped to use to build anticipation for the haunt, while the artwork above was just part of the marketing materials we were putting together. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creepy as Hell

Right now, you've got to stop what you're doing and check out this home haunt video from Katzper's Haunt. No, I'm serious. Stop and watch this video. This is the creepiest damn thing I've ever seen from a home haunter.

Filmed by Noah Fentz, this is not your typical home haunt video but rather makes you feel as if you're inside a horror movie. The props are realistic and scary, the editing is professional, and it is just an all around haunting video.

I've mentioned before I've had the privilege of seeing Katzper's Haunt up close (Jeff and I made props together there), but even knowing the layout of the haunt and having seen all the sets used in person, this is still an amazingly creepy video.

So, yes, if you're still reading this, stop! Go check out the link. It will be well worth the time spent watching it.

Katzper's Haunt 2011

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Homemade Liquid Starch

In an effort to develop a list of Basics for working with paper mache (and to provide a repository of recipes that will be easy for me to refer to when needed), I'm adding another recipe to the series of tutorials I'm developing on making homemade ingredients useful for the process.

The first one was for homemade glue.

I use liquid starch to help harden my paper clay and strip mache projects. I could buy liquid starch, but again, it can get expensive. A 64 oz. container can cost around $4.50 or so. In the scheme of things it's not going to mean skipping any meals to buy it, but making your own is very easy and it's cheap too, literally costing pennies a gallon.

Homemade Liquid Starch

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tsp water

Boil the cup of water. While that's heating up mix the cornstarch with the extra water. Just as in cooking, you need to mix the cornstarch beforehand to prevent clumping.

Add cornstarch mixture to the boiling water and stir.

Wait for the mixture to clear and remove from heat.

Allow the liquid starch to cool and place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

I use the liquid starch in my paper mache paste, my homemade glue, and in my paper clay. Again, it's used as a hardening agent and helps bind the ingredients together.
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