Friday, November 1, 2013

November 1st, 2013

Halloween 2013 is over. Months of prep, research, building, painting, testing- all down to one night. Blood, sweat, fortunately no tears. But a fair amount of blood. All for about 3 hours of trick or treating. Is it worth it?


So many kids said "thank you for doing this for us." They thanked us for the time we spent making it, thanked us for putting in the effort, thanked us for making it special. "Thanks for giving us something to talk about tomorrow," one pair of teens offered.

Most of the kids made a point of telling us how much they liked the decorations. Parents too, but it's the kids we're doing this for. Today's trick or treater will be tomorrow's haunter, and we're giving them some great memories to draw upon. Thirty years from now, the kid who told me how great my house looked will be listening to another kid tell HIM how great his house looks.

Even better, there were many more houses with foggers, music, lights, and so forth. The trend in our neighborhood is for more decorations, and I have hopes that the next few years will see a golden age of haunted houses.

There were still the jerky kids who show up with little/no costume and barely mumbled trick or treat- but they were the minority and most of them came around. I can be...persuasive.

The fog machines put out too much fog- at one point we had zero visibility, and for much of the night the fog was actually covering about half the block- I turned it off as it was a traffic hazard.

It was a lot of work, and at the end of the evening I was completely beat- but riding a wave of euphoria from the great response.

The angels proved to be a big hit, and surprisingly scary. Quite a few kids (and adults) didn't want to come up to the house because of them. I made several trips down to the sidewalk to deliver candy to little ones too frightened to come up.

Can't wait for next year!

Drac, Drac Jr., and the SpiderWitch pose for a family photo.
The fog begins to creep across the yard
Drac Jr. prepares to venture in search of candy

About 6pm, foggers haven't really chilled the vapor yet- that's why it's billowing up instead of across the grass. Still, makes a nice, eerie effect and if you're already expecting something to jump at you, the fog intensifies that fear- so many kids completely freaked themselves out without me doing a thing!
From the front porch looking out. The music is "Translyvania" from Nox Arcana. GREAT music, well worth what I paid for it.
This is a pretty representative video of the evening. There are the kids who only want the candy, the kids who like the decorations, and the kids who are REALLY impressed.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nature Upstages Me

Still limping along with the boot of shame, so nothing new to report on outdoor prep. Been planning to do a test with the fog machines to see how much coverage we get, how dense it is, and so forth. Went out tonight to turn off the LED tea lights and votives, and saw that Nature had jumped the gun with a fog display of her own:
Looking out the front door. Cool moonlight on the graveyard.
View from the street.
The "girls" are lurking in the mist.
The house as seen from across the street.

The fog is much thicker than it appears through the lens- visibility is about 50 feet, with details washing out around 20 feet or so. Looking out the front door, there's a heavy mist along the walkway which bounces the light from the floods around and scatters it, creating some eerie shadow effects as you walk.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Light Test 2

Despite the broken leg, I got up on the ladder and hung the background lights up- I think that gives enough ambient lighting for the porch, and the amber color complements the glow from the LEDs.
Some pics with the camera, a bit less blurry now that the shutter doesn't have to stay open so long:

 The view looking up from the street. The blue spot hits the tombstones, the front walk, and the Weeping Angels by the garage, casting deep shadows.

I think the blue is an improvement on the red light from last year- the shadows are cooler, giving it more of a moon-glow feeling.
 Closeup of the tombstone area. This is always a hit with the families- they have their kids pose in the graveyard and take photos. Very satisfying to see how much they enjoy the atmosphere.
 The Weeping Angels- not as good as the BBC version, but they still look creepy at night. They need a better home- we'll work on that next Halloween.
 The front porch. It's not really this bright, but the exposure makes it look that way. There's enough light to safely get up and down if you're wearing a costume, but not much more. The LEDs work well with the candles, blending in with the yellows and oranges.
 The skull table. Not much to say here- it's a good way to display the candles since we don't have any more fixtures to place them on.

You can sort of see the detail of the "wax" dripping down the sides- hot glue makes a suitable substitute. The paint was antique white, which gave a nice ivory color to the PVC and glue.
 The left side of the porch, showing the wrought iron stands and the table. It also shows off the Scene Setter background SpiderWitch found- very nice!
Right side of the porch, candelabra and taper candles with C7 flicker bulbs. Next year we're going to make all the candelabras and candles hardwired to a plug- running up and downstairs to turn everything on/off is tedious. Painful with a broken ankle.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Progress Grinds To A Halt

Broke my ankle. In two places. In July.

I thought I had sprained it- ran for the bus and landed wrong on my right foot- and it was just taking a long time to heal, but I finally went to the doc and they showed it broken in two places. So now I'm wearing the "boot of shame" for the next three weeks.

Meanwhile, no climbing on ladders and no prolonged standing- so no work on projects. Good news is we're mostly done. I should be able to fix the rest of it up this coming week.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mission Complete! (more or less)

After a four-day marathon of activity, 3 hours after work Thursday and Friday and 9 hours Saturday and Sunday, we're "done"...

The to-do list consists of building the fog chillers, wiring the Angels to their final resting places, and taping the last scene setter to the garage door(s). I've got one more project which SpiderWitch added today (!!), but that won't take more than an hour. So for all intents and purposes, we're finished with our build.
Here's the front entrance:

At 6:30 pm you can barely make out the lights
At 7:15, it's fully lit. Much dimmer than it appears here, though
SpiderWitch wanted to do a "New Orleans" style cemetery, with the burial urns and lots of candles:
Cauldron Mk 2, now water resistant!

Grave flowers? Check. Lots of candles? Check.

Someone got up too early. Or is it late?

The twinkle lights and flicker candles look great!
 And some random pics around the haunt:
View from the street.

 Not a great shot, but this is the "test" ghost. It looks blue, but that's actually from the blacklight. I think it'll look better away from the blue floodlight.
 Don't Blink!
Everyone who walked by asked where the Angels were. So I gave in to the crowd and added one. It looked REALLY creepy with the blue light throwing the deep shadow on the garage, and if I didn't know better, I'd SWEAR it moved...
The skull surrounded by candles- classic horror!
And finally, some videos. Picture doesn't show the color, but you can see the flicker effects.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Candles, Rain, More Candles and More Rain

Not much to report today- the storm continued to dump on us all day long, with little pause. Still, I was able to work on the porch, cutting some more candles out of the PVC. I've got one 5 foot section to go, but with 15 feet cut I've got just under 30 candles between 6 and 8 inches high (for some reason, I ended up with 3 7-inch candles).

I tried to use the hot glue gun SpiderWitch bought me, but it didn't work- never got hot enough to create the drips I need to look like melted wax. So, that's on hold until we get a better gun. Meanwhile, though, I'll glue some of the candles together to create groups.

I've also been browsing a bunch of web tutorials on hard-wiring the tea lights. This would be a LOT easier than manually turning them on and off every night, not to mention cheaper as we wouldn't have to replace batteries. It seems fairly straightforward, but I've got more research to do.

Here's a quick pic of just the candles:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rain, Rain- Go Away!

This week was a literal washout- rain off and on all week, so only limited work outside. The forecast for Saturday looked good, so I planned out my projects intending to accomplish them in one marathon session.


Huge storm moving through the region- heavy rains all day today, accompanied by strong wind gusts. Forecast for Sunday doesn't look any better. So much for getting everything done. There were a couple of projects we had on the back burner, so I moved them up to the front. First thing was to soak a bunch of fabric in Rit Fabric Whitener, to give them a nice fluorescent capability. They'll be turned into some ghosts rising from behind the tombstones on the other side of the yard. We'll hit them with a blacklight for a nice glowing effect. The idea is to do something similar to the ghoulish figures in Fantasia:
The best part is when they first come up from the grave...

Next up was a continuation of the lighting for the front porch. The candelabras look great, but don't give us enough light for the trick or treaters. We either have to use an overhead light source, or add more candles.

More candles it is.

Through the use of LED tea candles, PVC pipe, and hot glue, we can create a large number of pillar candles quickly and cheaply. I was able to knock out about a dozen this afternoon in under 2 hours. We still need to add the hot glue and then paint them, but we can do that anytime, anyplace. Ideally, this will give us the necessary light level.

The next step is to drip hot glue down the sides to create a melted wax effect.
Then spray paint the entire thing a nice candle color and you're done!
We'll have to find some way of displaying all the candles
without it turning into another major building project.

The downside is turning on/off 50+ LEDs twice each night
But they look pretty cool...I guess it's worth it!
Next week we start setting everything up. I was hoping to have it all done, and not still building it during October, but as SpiderWitch pointed out, people like walking by and watching us set up the various parts of the haunt. So I guess if we still have to build a few things, it's not so bad. The hardest parts are finished at least.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Non-Rolling Stones Gather Moss

Took advantage of the calm before the storm (tomorrow) to work on our last few projects. First up was the Scene Setter- got that taped to the weed fabric, so the next step will be to hang it and mark the grommets, finish taping the seams, and then cut it to fit the wall. The hard part is done though.

After that was finished, I weathered the tombstones with a bit more black paint, then drybrushed with a sponge to get a lighter gray highlight. Added some orange-gray spots of lichen, then glued moss to make it look like it's been in the ground for years and years. Turned out pretty snazzy I think:
That's a lot of tombstones. 
Some close ups:
Final project was the sign for our cemetery. It was originally green with gray writing, but I figured  a metallic look would be better.
Might add glow-in-the-dark paint to the silver lettering.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Candelabra Light Test

Put the candelabras together with some heavy duty glue, hopefully this will hold everything more securely once it dries. SpiderWitch picked up some LED flicker candles (made from real candles!), so once we do a little touch-up paint, maybe some cobwebs, we'll be done with this project.

 Close up of the candles. They fit perfectly in the cups which held the bulbs when it was a chandelier, and they're vanilla scented!

The lights flicker like a real candle, and the wax body lets the light shine through. Very realistic effect.

Full length picture, the structure stands about 5 feet tall. It turned out pretty good, I'd say.

 This was taken about 7:45, the sky was a bit darker than it appears in the pics. Nice glow from the candles, not too much light being thrown off.

After it was completely dark, I checked it again. A very nice glow, and a fair amount of light- not enough for the trick-or-treaters, but a decent amount. 

Full-length shot of both candelabras. They stand about 5 and 6 feet tall, giving a nice spread of light as well as an interesting layout visually. Should we do one more? Still debating that...not much time!

 Drac Jr. wanted to get in on the action. First up is my smilin' vampire. This is a really good pic, because he hates the flash and normally blinks.
 Vampires don't smile, he assured me before the next picture.

This is his favorite pose, the cape wrapped across his face. Turned out pretty well, no flash and no overhead light- only the candles and the timer function to allow a steadier shot with the extended shutter.

Finally, a test of the lights using the porch light and ambient background light:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

T-minus 15 and counting...

With 15 days left until we begin setup, figured I'd recap what's done and what still needs to be done:

1) Weeping Angels.
Built, sealed, painted. Still need to determine wing attachment, then weather them.

2) Cauldron and logs
Done. But we bought a BIGGER cauldron, so I'm working on it.

3) Candelabras
Two built and painted, need to determine if we're doing a third, and then make candles for them.

4) Tombstones
Tinted some Drylok grey and painted the small tombstones with it, before giving them a light weathering. One more pass of weathering to hit the details and they'll be done.

5) Scenesetters
Looks like the adhesive will work on the vinyl, so next step will be to start working on whole panels. We're going to start from scratch and open the unused packs, as this will likely be the last year we use this material.

6) Spooky Wreaths
Wreaths have been painted, bones and tulle need to be applied.

7) Fog machines/chillers
Have trash cans, need dryer vent hose and then a test run of the foggers to make sure they work.

Rain forecast for most of this week. Looks like a race to the finish line.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Crazy Busy Day

Knocked off a bit early from work, so we hit the thrift stores for parts- got a good score with 3 chandeliers! Added bonus: found a NEW Halloween store- mostly costumes, but some props. Picked up a huge cauldron, immediately gave it the oatmeal and glue treatment.

We have our neighborhood garage sale tomorrow, so SpiderWitch spent the afternoon prepping for that while I worked on projects. Got two candelabras done, but what a pain that turned out to be!
 The two finished candelabras. The left one has been primed, the right one is ready for priming. You can see the original chandelier on the right; the one on the left has had the lamps removed for further assembly. (Which means, the damn things hang from the bottom via a hook, and I've no clue how to make them stand upright to hold a candle!)

 This one stands about 6 feet tall. It's not as sturdy as I'd like, but it's the best I could do with the materials at hand. Apparently, 1/4" threaded rod isn't a universal standard...

This one is a bit shorter, coming in at around 5 feet. Much sturdier. Same issue as the first one though- one set of nuts and lockwashers for 1/4" threaded rod doesn't work on another 1/4" threaded rod. Who the hell designs this stuff? I should be able to swap any 1/4" rod with any other 1/4" rod and have the hardware fit.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Updates- Weeping Angels and Cauldron

Hottest day of the year, and we're outside working on Halloween projects...

Got the Angels coated in Drylok and started priming them for painting. Also attached the collars to cover up the neck attachment points. Almost there...

Redid the cauldron- I wasn't happy with the shiny sealer, and the oatmeal kept flaking off. So I coated the whole thing in Drylok and repainted it. Much happier now.

I'll keep playing with the arrangement of the lights under the logs, but the concept works. Calling this one done.

Weeping Angels will be done by the end of the weekend!

Camera mounts are out, and I'm still on the fence about the Scene Setter for the side of the house. Still need to attach the existing panels to the weed barrier to give us a stronger decoration. Decisions, decisions...