Sunday, October 31, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 - Finale

The yard haunt took most of the afternoon to set up and about an hour to dismantle. There were only two set backs this year. One, a shortage of extension cords and power strips which was a poor thing to discover at the last minute since it was not an issue last year. Two, I have the music and sound effects burned to two separate CDs (just to show you what a backwards, no frills kind of operation I'm running). We were down to one CD player and the one I borrowed wasn't playing CDs either. A laptop in the bedroom window saved the day. Three, my usual nemesis -- the wind. I decided to put up the plastic jack o'lanterns with lit candles in them this year. Last year was too windy, and we're moving in the Spring, so I wanted to have them. During the early part of setting up, there was no wind to speak of. Once the jack o'lanterns were hung from the trees though, the wind started picking up and blowing them out. Most of them were out by the time trick or treaters began to arrive and by the time my kids were ready to go out (with me accompanying them) the wind had died down without any relighting having occurred. 

Things still turned out pretty well. 

I added three new graves this year. The above and two others. All were made from FedEx boxes, using a method similar to Dave Lowe's with hand cut out letters and adornments. 

The second grave, above, was for my son in memory of his dearly departed cockatiel. The third, I neglected to photograph, was an old faded headstone covered in moss.  To make up for it, here are some I didn't get pictures of last year that I reused.

The skull impaled tiki torches made a return, flanking the ends of our curved driveway. Here they are, not so impressive before dark...

And much more effective after dark. There were eight of them in all. 

At the time of the daylight shots above almost all of those plastic jack o'lanterns were still alight. A few hours later and what should have been a sky full of glowing orange orbs looked more like what you see above. 

All of last year's ghosts made it back this year, though Mark (who swam too close to a shark) is going to have to be completely replaced for next year. Cowboy Bob, the decapitated bride and the organ player were all back in fine form. 

New this year was a completely rebuilt Nosferatu. I had originally made him for a store window display, then the following year he migrated to my yard. When I moved from Ann Arbor, there was no way for him to come with me. He simply would have taken up too much valuable space in our shipping containers, so I removed his head and hands and saved those, and over the course of a few days build him a new body which was a vast improvement over the old one. We have a balcony overlooking the front yard that i wanted to station him in, and that's what I did.

You can see him much better in person than in the non flash photo above. The red light is a result of the extension cord shortage. The light was meant to go forward and below, and not visible from the ground, and I forgot to fix that once extension cords were obtained by my wife. You can't tell from the photos but I placed a small battery operated strobe light inside his head, so his eyes flickered. 

No, it's not Jesus risen. I had wanted to test a new concept I had on improving my plastic wrap and packing tape ghosts, but did not have the time this year to implement it. It will have to wait until next year. I did want at least one new ghost though, so I resorted to a scarecrow like figure which was just a big T made of pvc pipe, with a slight curve in the arm bar so the arms are reaching forward a bit. The hands are papier mache, the head is a plain white mask and a blonde wig attached to an empty plastic milk jug (1 gallon) with a sheet and sheer curtain and a hood. The eyes are battery operated rice lights fed into the milk jug. It cost about $8.00 to make, since I got the sheets and curtain at a thrift store on a 50% off day. In person it looked pretty great. You couldn't see the support pole at night, and she billowed and moved a bit in the wind. Kids were pretty creeped out by her and the vampire. 

As a bonus, here are some realistic earthworms I made for dessert for my son's sleepover the night before  and three views of the mask I made for him for his zombie pirate costume. 

I also made both my kids lanterns out of orange juice cartons with battery operated flickering lights that were very convincing. They wanted these because I was told that a pirate corpse and a Gypsy would not be carrying flashlights. 

Overall it was a pretty good Halloween, and a pretty good Halloween season. I hope it was for all of you too. Thanks to everyone who stopped by over the month, and hope you'll stop by out of season too. Everything goes back to normal here starting tomorrow, though it may take a couple days to change my banner. 


I am now going to take a much needed rest. 

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31

The outside of my house doesn't start getting decorated until almost noon. If everything works out I'll be posting those pictures late tonight. In the meantime here are a few photos I took inside the house.


Stop by late to night for the final Halloween post for this year. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30 - Movie

I was too busy finishing props for the yard, costume elements for my kids, taking one to a party and getting ready for the other's friends to come over for a sleep over to watch anything today. I'm still hoping I might get a movie in after my son and his friends finally pass out, but am not counting on it. After I scared them half to death by putting on my Teenage Frankenstein mask and slamming myself up against the sliding glass to my son's room from outside, I may have to wait a while. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Along with my regular movie viewing this month, I did watch a number of shorts including a bunch of Disney cartoons like The Mad Doctor, Lonesome Ghosts, Trick or Treat, and Mickey's Haunted House. I also took in a couple Looney Tunes cartoons, a couple episodes of The Milton the Monster Show, Groovy Goolies, The Addams Family, The Munsters and The Outer Limits. Somehow the inclusion of these shorts and tv episodes makes the month's viewing feel more complete. They're the viewing equivalent of the prize at the bottom of the box.


31 Days of Halloween - Day 30

Every year I mean to drive around town and take pictures of houses that have decorated for Halloween. Every year I wind up being so busy worrying about getting my own yard ready that I invariably never get around to it. Just over the course of regular travel, I only saw a few houses that had anything up at all in their yards, porches, or windows, let alone any astonishing yard haunts.

Today, while I was waiting for paint to dry on a few of my own last minute props I was putting together, I decided to go for a walk with my camera in hand and see what I could find. The following photos all came from a single neighborhood about a mile from my house, and spread over about half a mile of distance. Two of the photos come from the same house. There was also one other house that I didn't photograph because the man who lived there was in his yard giving me suspicious looks.  

It makes me happy when I see houses done up like this with no frills decorations that harken back to the 1960s and 1970s. It's certainly much better than the house I passed that had a pine tree in their front yard covered with bows make out of cutesy "Halloween" ribbon. They just don't get it.

What depresses me though is that I don't see more houses like this. You always hear statistics about how Halloween runs second only to Christmas in terms of money spent. On what though? Are all those billions of dollars simply going to candy? Or do I just live in the wrong towns? When I lived in Los Angeles lots of houses here done up, and there was an entire block in Venice, CA that had every house participating in a themed Halloween each year. The year I went it was a creepy carnival and each house was like it's own different sideshow exhibit. There were games and everything. In Ann Arbor, MI, there were some houses, but not a lot. Our yard decor definitely inspired a few neighbors to at least make a token effort. Now that I'm on Cape Cod, I'm seeing very little evidence that Halloween is a holiday that people actually participate in.

According to an article I found on Shellhawk's Nest about the husband of my daughter's third grade teacher, who created Brandywine Cemetery, a survey given by the National Retail Federation 50.1% of people will decorate their yards for Halloween. I find this statistic entirely suspect unless they surveyed the participants of the Countdown to Halloween, or people shopping in the Halloween section of stores. That percentage means that every other house should have decorations out on their yard for Halloween. Don't I wish that were true.

Does anyone out there reading this live somewhere where a large part of the population seems to have the holiday spirit and decorate the outside of their homes for Halloween? If so, please send me the real estate section of the newspaper.

One of the reasons I do as much as I do is because I want the kids that trick or treat through my neighborhood to have at least one house where they go "wow" when they see it. I also keep hoping it will inspire their parents to do it to their houses too.


Friday, October 29, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 - Movie

The Crawling Eye (1958) is the garish title that American distributors released the British Lovecraftian movie The Tollenberg Terror as. Written by Hammer screenwriter, Jimmy Sangster, and based on a six part television serial, The Crawling Eye was part of a wave of smart science fiction movies and tv programs meant to emulate the feel and success of The Quatermas Experiment (1955). If you haven't seen either, then imagine really good Doctor Who episodes.

U.N. Investigator Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker)  investigates strange goings on atop Trollenberg mountain in the Swiss Alps. Climbers have gone missing. One had his head torn from his body. Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell), a scientist studying cosmic waves from a secure mountaintop research station, and colleague of Brooks' tells him of a strange radioactive cloud that has remained stationary on the side of the mountain for weeks -- just like what they experienced in the Andes. There's also a telepathic girl (Janet Munro) drawn to Trollenberg and upsetting whatever's in the cloud. When the cloud begins to move, strange things happen. Another man is found headless, and the man he was goes missing. When  he's found, there's no blood in his body and he's determined to kill the telepathic girl. Then the cloud descends on the town below and everyone is evacuated to the research facility where they make a stand against the alien creatures.

This movie would make a good double feature with The Mist though The Creeping Horror is just a tad above average.  It gets a lot of points for being a smart movie with a weird enough premise and creatures. The cast is good, too, but the movie's pace stutters a bit and it doesn't really get going until it is almost over. Most likely this is due to trying to force a six hour television series into a ninety minute running time while keeping as many elements as possible. There were definitely a few characters who could have been removed in order to streamline the movie a bit. The stilted structure and characters who seem developed but don't have much of a function do lend a bit of naturalism to the film, making it seem a bit more real. This is no Quatermas, but I appreciate it for trying and almost making it.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29

Over the years I've pulled a lot of images of headstones from the internet. Some of these I pulled with the idea that they might make good visual reference for a comic book story, or a collage I was going to make. Others I picked as inspiration for headstones I might make for my yard as Halloween decorations. Others I picked because they were weird, or amusing. All of the images in this post come from that last category (as exemplified by the image above). I had never planned on reposting any of these so I did not take note of where they came from. Some contain watermarks so you can see the source, but most of the sources are unknown to me. I apologize in advance to anyone to whom any of these photos belong. If they belong to you, please let me know so proper credit can be attributed, or if you'd prefer I can remove these outright from this post.

I might have reconsidered the proximity of the words "poker" and "hard" but otherwise I rather like this one.

Read the first vertical line of letters for the coded message.