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. 

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