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.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Paper Mache Class

If anyone's been interested in learning to do paper mache but really didn't know how or where to start, PM artist Jonni Good of Ultimate Paper Mache will be offering a free online class on her website of the same name, ultimatepapermache.com.

Jonni's website has recently become one of my favorite places to hang out, primarily because she's constantly active making new projects all the time and posting tutorials on how she does them.

As anyone who's read my blog or seen my vlog knows, paper mache (and Monster Mud) is one of my favorite mediums to work in. Paper mache will typically form the base of whatever project it is I'm working on, even if it ends up not being the main one at the end.

I'm also always looking for new techniques and methods to use and recently hit on Jonni's paper clay recipe. That is now a new fave of mine too. While it's similar to some other paper clays I've seen on the Internet (it's a toilet paper based clay), she's added her own not-so-secret sauce to the mix and has created a very smooth clay that's very easy to work with.

That's important to know because it will also serve as the foundation of the online instruction she'll be leading.

We'll be building a cat as our project, and while I wasn't initially enthused about the subject (I'm noit much of a cat person), there is a certain connection between cats (black ones, anyway) and Halloween. So I'm pretty sure I'll have an arched-back cat as my inspiration for the class.

If anyone would like to join in, it's only necessary to keep an eye on Jonni's site for the classes as they're posted. No need for registration. No sign up. No cost.

I'll also plug her two books (I think she's published at least three) that have to do with paper mache: Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay and How to Make Masks!

I purchased the first one as a Kindle edition and plan on buying the second soon as well. The Animal Sculptures book provides clear instructions and pictures for each step of the process and while the book is geared towards making animal sculptures (hence the book's name) it's easily extrapolated to any paper mache project. I'm currently using it to sculpt a prop head that I'll be using in my yard this year (I think he'll be The Cellarer, the monastery's commissary, who'll be carrying a monster-in-a-box prop) as well as using the paper clay to sculpt a large (3-foot) snake or dragon head.

I've already used the clay to make a skeleton's hand and lower arm for my Grave Escape prop (well, the radius and ulna are drying in the over right now).

The techniques and tools Jonni teaches are really useful for haunters and I recommend that anyone that wants to learn how to do paper mache as well as how to make their own paper clay (it's cheap and easy!) should head over to Ultimate Paper Mache right away. I hope to see you there!

image source

Lesson Plans & Videos:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hey, Nice Balloons!

Okay, not those balloons.

In coordinating the decorations for a baby's first birthday party, my event planner wife bought some balloons to fill up the hall. However these balloons weren't regular ones, but rather contained LED lights in them. 

I stole one of them from the bag, pulled out the card to activate the LED, and blew it up. It actually gave off a fairly bright light for being in a balloon, though it naturally shone brighter in the dark than in the light of the dining room. 

A bag of 15 balloons goes for $10, or $0.67 each, and the bag says they last for 15 hours. After 48 hours, though, I got tired of waiting and popped the balloon to get at the LED to see what it was all about. 

It's not an LED spot, like so many we've built ourselves, but rather just a light. It's house in a small plastic housing that contains two small button batteries. I'm not electronically oriented enough to know all the ins and outs of how these LEDs work, but I didn't see any resistor anywhere unless it's somehow built into the bulb. 

But I wonder whether at the end of the party I'll be to scavenge all these balloons and take the LEDs (well, yes, I will), and then use them in my props? For example, I'll be building a Cauldron Creep at the next meeting of the NJ Hookerman M&T group and could perhaps use two of the bulbs for his eyes. The lights come in all different colors so there could be a multitude of uses for them in the right settings.

If anyone has used these before or has ideas on the best way to utilize them I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recycling Corpses

Today's human body isn't all just skin and bone. In many instances, it includes titanium hips and steel pins (got a few of them in my hip).

When someone's buried, all that metal goes into the ground with the body. But when a corpse is cremated, the metal is not reduced to ash like the flesh and bone, but rather must be disposed of in some other manner (grandma's hip replacement just wouldn't look right or fit in the urn sitting on the fireplace mantle). Leave it to some entrepreneur to discover a lucrative recycling business: harvesting metal remains from cremated bodies. OrthoMetals, recycles some 250 million tons annually from cremations, which then goes into cars, plans, and wind turbines. Just think, you may be driving around in someone's cobalt-chrome knee replacement!

Yet body replacement parts may soon be getting cheaper to manufacture as engineers are using the latest 3D printing systems to stamp out new "bones." A badly deteriorated jaw was recently replaced with a titanium powder replica made using 3D laser printers.

While somewhat hard to wrap your head around, since we're all used to 2D copies made on our inkjet printers, a 3D printer actually spits out a life-size working copy of whatever it is you're copying. You can hold an actual "thing" in your hand -- and then use it!

There are a few companies now making 3D printers -- 3D Systems and Stratasys are two leading firms -- and they've just broken through the $1,000 price barrier. While that might sound like a lot, recall that it wasn't until Hewlett-Packard was able to break through the $1,000 mark with its inkjet printers that the technology became available to a mass audience. Today, it's just about cheaper to throw away your printer when the ink runs out and buy a new one than to buy replacement print cartridges.

I've become fascinated with 3D printers, as you can possibly tell, and this video lets you see just how incredible they are:

I can't imagine myself buying one just yet, but think of the possibilities for haunters. You'd never have to worry that Walgreen was going to run out of skeletons before you could get there and buy one. Just take one of the ones you already have and run off as many copies as you need on your 3D printing system! Need another skull for your display? Print it! A few more tombstones for your cemetery? Print 'em!

Between printing out new body parts to harvesting them after a body is cremated, we're in a brave new world of technology.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Homemade Glue

UPDATE: I've added an extra ingredient to my glue recipe -- liquid starch -- to act as a hardener and binding agent. The previous recipe worked fine, and I was adding the starch to my paper clay directly, but chose instead to put it in the glue since the glue will also be used in pastes.

Since paper mache is one of my favorite mediums (along with Monster Mud) I'm always looking to improve on the technique. I've progressed (regressed) from using white glue and water to glue-flour-water to what I like to call "pancake batter," which is nothing more than just flour and water.

With glue running upwards of $10 or more a gallon, the flour-water mixture is a heckuva lot cheaper and provides a just as durable bond. Recently I ran across a recipe for a paper clay that has the potential for doing away with the strip mache technique altogether.

Jonni Good (can her middle name please begin with a "B") of Ultimate Paper Mache has devised a clay recipe that can literally be painted onto forms and in layers as thin as 1/8" to 1/4" and which provides a shell every bit as durable as the layers of strip mache she previously used (she's been doing paper mache for 50 years!). You can check out her recipe here.

Yet one of the ingredients calls for white glue, which, as I mentioned before, is relatively expensive. So I set about to find an alternative that would serve the same purpose only at a cheaper price and came up with this recipe. It has just four five ingredients, all of which are likely in your pantry right now: flour, water, sugar, vinegar, and liquid starch (see my homemade liquid starch recipe here). Not really surprising I guess considering the paste I was making before, but in recipes that call for glue, I can now substitute this without feeling I'm betraying my inner cheap bastard. So here's an illustrated guide to making your own glue that should keep for months and months in a refrigerator.

Homemade Glue

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup liquid starch
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. vinegar

Ingredients: flour, sugar, water and vinegar

Mix the flour and sugar together in a saucepan.

 Add half the water and mix.

Mix till its relatively smooth in texture.

Add the rest of the water.

Mix until it has a smooth, creamy texture.

Combine the vinegar into the paste and mix.

Heat the mix until it starts to thicken.

I'd stop a short time before it starts to clump like this. You'll feel it start to thicken in the saucepan.

Allow the glue to cool and then store it in an air-tight container. I use a glass jar though I imagine a Tupperware container or similar vessel would suffice. Refrigerate.

In the new paper clay recipe it also calls for use of glycerin to replace the linseed oil it previously used. Glycerin is also relatively expensive and I wondered if I could make my own. Turns out you can make your own using lye, olive oil, sea salt, and a few other ingredients. It also turns out, you can no longer easily buy lye at your local supermarket because it's also a key ingredient in making meth. So it's now a controlled dangerous substance of sorts where suppliers have to keep careful records of who's buying it from them. Your local grocery store no longer carries it.

So I'll have to suck it up and use glycerin or opt for the original linseed oil. In the meantime, though, I've got a jar of glue for my paper mache projects.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Scary Times in NYC

Tonight I'll be heading into New York City with several other haunters to check out a new year 'round haunted house I found out about, TimesScare NYC.

Although I'm not certain, I believe it just opened last year and along with a few fellow haunters -- BobC and Noah Fentz -- we'll be seeing whether it's a worthy addition to the haunt world. It's themed after the Halloween movie (hopefully John Carpenter's version, not Rob Zombie's) and takes you through Haddonfield Memorial Hospital then to Michael Myers home.

TimesScare also offers live shows featuring illusionists, comedians, and magic, as well as two bars, "The Kill Room" and "The Parlour of the Paranormal." They serve absinthe there so I'll be sure to sample some and see if it's all it's cracked up to be. For the longest time you could only buy absinthe overseas (possession was okay; manufacturing it here was illegal) because of its supposed hallucinogenic properties. It was known as the "green fairy" and Vincent Van Gogh was said to have painted some of his most famous, surreal paintings (think "Starry Nights") while imbibing absinthe.

I doubt that what's on sale is anywhere near the strength of the real thing. Wikipedia has a pretty exhaustive entry on absinthe and the section on the United States pretty much confirms what I feared. The compound thujone, which is said to be the active ingredient that gives absinthe its unique qualities, is pretty much absent in any iteration sold here. Of course, the entry also says absinthe was never hallucinogenic and was probably the result of other additives in the drink. Maybe I'll save myself the $10 or so (if I'm lucky it will be that cheap) the drink will likely cost.

Prior to hitting up TimesScare though, we'll also be strolling through Greenwich Village (more commonly known as "The Village") hitting up some Halloween stores. Two in particular, Abracadabra and Halloween Adventure, are on the list.

We had also intended to go to Obscura Antiques & Oddities. You may know it from the TV show "Oddities" on the Discovery Channel. Unfortunately, they're moving their store to a new location and so it is closed during the month of February. Bummer, as that was going to be the highlight of my night (well, that and TimesScare).

I'll be vlogging what I can and hopefully I'll be able to record some video of TimesScare and maybe get an interview or two with the principals of the show, which I'll post to my YouTube vlog. Regardless, it should be a fun night hanging out with a few fellow haunters.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One Man's Trash

I guess you'd have to be a haunter to appreciate foam packing. I recently got a bookcase from Ikea and when I opened the box there was a sheet of foam inside about 18"x24" or so. As soon as I saw it I said, "Oh, cool! A tombstone!" Odd looks from the people in the room immediately ensued.

Now it is the cheap and flimsy white, beaded foam but this can be used to make a tombstone all by itself or, as I plan to do, glue it to a thicker piece of blue or pink foam to bulk up that one. In the past when I got a 7-foot piece of foam from a screen door box, I cut it into thirds and glued them together to make a single, thick(er) tombstone. This new piece will end up in a similar supporting roll. Unfortunately that was the only one inside.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A C-Note for Hauntcast?

Once more into the breach. Seems there really is a movement afoot to resurrect Hauntcast, only it's not what I think was being discussed in my last post about the show possibly coming back (I believe that turned out to be a stripped out version of Fright Flicks & Horror Reviews, which would feature just Chris Baker and Johnny Thunder, pretty cool all by itself).

The new movement, though, if you want to call it that, would be to have a real subscription format, but rather than just the $1 per show Hauntcast devised last time, it would be $100 for the year with a goal of at least 250 subscribers.

Obviously that would gross Hauntcast a minimum of $25,000 which would allow him to justify the amount of time he and his team invest in the production of the show, and speaking of the team, would allow him to pay a stipend to the Scream Team who've agreed they'd come back if they could get paid for their participation. In these still difficult economic times, it makes sense for everyone to want to maximize their own return for their effort. The real question is, of course, does it maximize the return of potential subscribers?

Last year when Hauntcast went pay-per-download, I paid for my own subscription, plus 3 or 4 more subscriptions: two for a contest I held and one or two for friends. That would have brought my support of the show to as much $60, so would another $40 be a dealbreaker for me? Doubtful, but it has to be admitted there is a lot of competing attention for really scarce discretionary money.

I subscribe to both HauntWorld and Haunted Attraction magazines, which go for around $50 each annually (and there's a new magazine coming out next month, Top Haunts, that looks really good), but you get just four issues a year (TH would be biannual, that's two issues a year for the numerically challenged). Hauntcast would be monthly. I also attend a few Halloween and haunt-related shows each year, which adds another $50-$100 a year to my obsession investment, but those are just one- or two-day events. Then there's of course the time and money I commit to making and building props each year, all with the knowledge I'm doing this for a few dozen kids -- at most -- who come trick-or-treating to my house each Halloween (last year, because of the snowstorm and power outages, there were just two kids that showed up, and two neighbors who stopped by to tell me they appreciated my decorating efforts each year). So obviously the risk-reward ratio is all out of whack when it comes to me and Halloween.

In the past I've said how much joy I get out of Hauntcast. It helps me while away the hours on prop building and just listening in generally. I was really getting into the new Ed Gannon segment that was introduced before the show ended and from what I've seen he might be willing to come back as well. That alone should be a big (haunted) attraction for many. It is for me.

Yet at $100 a subscription, that's no small commitment for listeners. When it was $1 a show, most of the subscribers melted away, and -- though I don't know why I think this -- I believe there may have been at most a few thousand listeners (2,000 or less). Can the show attract say just 10% of this number for what amounts to a nearly 10-fold increase in the subscription price? I find it difficult to see them pulling it off.

Without question, Chris's show was top quality. Just from my sorry-ass attempts at editing my vlog I see the time commitment necessary to do all the editing required for the two-hour show that Hauntcast became. And while I appreciated all the extra content Chris gave, undoubtedly from a sense of believing he wanted to give more to people who were paying for his product, it was a monumental undertaking.

My suggestion would be that Chris reduce the admission fee to $50, but cut the content back to the one hour or so that it was before the switch to the pay-per-download format. That would put Hauntcast on the same footing as various Halloween and haunt-related magazine subscriptions and shows and wouldn't necessarily require such an arduous time commitment on him or the Scream Team.

I think also when you have a longer format, you're almost of necessity trying to find stuff to fill in the time with. By keeping it to one hour, the show is much more focused and just the best stuff makes it to the airwaves. No doubt it's still a bear of a commitment by Chris, but I think targeting a larger mass market by pricing it at half the cost of what's being planned -- being the mid-tier Macy's of shows rather than Nordstrom (and we all saw what happened when he tried to be Walmart) -- would broaden his audience considerably. He might get 500 people paying $50 whereas finding 250 at $100 could be more problematic.

Whichever way the show goes, I'm pretty sure I'll be there. I'd understand people balking at paying $100 for the show, particularly during these lean times, but I'd bet Chris, JT, Shelly, and Ed would find a wider more accepting audience at a lower annual cost.

EDIT: Chris Baker just posted a video to address the issue once and for all, and I think it's worth a look:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A True Mache Master

I've seen a lot of papier mache art over the past few years of haunting, some great, some less so. But I've never seen the medium taken to the heights as it has been by Japanese artist Ryo Arai. The realism, texture, and level of detail make it seem incredible to believe this is art actually made out of paper.

I'd link to an artist's page or something, but anything I could find was written in Japanese and I couldn't tell if it was actually the artist's site or note (Google Translate didn't help at all).

For the Frog Queen
I found these images by doing a Google search, however, and it seems there was an exhibit at the ICN Gallery in London last year featuring Arai's work where, according to the exhibit's description, the works have been used "as book cover designs for a popular writer Kyogoku Natsuhiko's "Bakemonotsuzura" (Monster bag)."

It's worth the hunt to find more of these amazing sculptures.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hauntcast Resurrection?

Okay, I'm willing to give in to wild speculation. Is the premiere Halloween and haunt related podcast Hauntcast making a comeback? Is it being resurrected from it's ignominious death just three loooooong months ago?

As I said, I'm up for rumor-mongering, but the Hauntcast page on Facebook posted a cryptic status update saying "Somethings brewing in the podosphere." Immediately loyal minions (me included) jumped to the immediate conclusion Chris Baker is resurrecting the show. Who knows if it's true, but it's fun to muse over the possibility.

Truth is, the podcast domain has been a barren wasteland since Hauntcast left the airwaves. I think some vloggers on YouTube have tried to pick up the mantle, notably "Dead with Dave" from Pandemic Productions, but it's hard to argue that the 2-hour extravaganzas Baker produced with Hauntcast were just awesome Halloween ear candy.

Time will tell, I guess, but for now, we can imagine and savor the possibility of its return. Shelly? JT? Denny? Rev? Care to burst the bubble?
Related Posts with Thumbnails
/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */