Sunday, May 31, 2009


One of my all-time faves. Been a fan of the Pogues forever... Give it a listen.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mechanical Spider

Although I've never been to Burning Man, and probably will never go (because of the desert in August and all the drugs and the lack of water and cool places to hide from the heat), I do like to see the crazy stuff people come up with sometimes. My hat is off to this guy!

Then there's this one from Wild, Wild, West, which is CG, 'cause those Hollywood guys took the easy way out:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chambers of the Mausoleum

Creepy... And...Pretty darn good!

Located in Riverside, California... Which is pretty scary the rest of the year, by the way...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Human Disco Ball

Found this little gem on the Instructables website.

Mirrored Disco Ball Halloween Costume - More DIY How To Projects
Someone has to be the life of the party!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Artsy Chiqua

Artsy Chiqua is my kind of gal. Though we've never met, I know the kind of girl she must be: smart, funny, gorgeous, and above all, scary.

She catches your eye, then pops it into a special little watertight case...
She invites you to a party, and when you bring an uninvited guest, she serves him up for a quick snack.
Check out her website here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Haunted houses need a certain atmosphere to be scary. For the most part, when one thinks of haunted houses, one does not picture a sunny beach house or grass hut in Tahiti.

One thinks of a dark house. Preferably on a lonely hill where the entire town must look at it daily, eyes drawn to it unwillingly. Looming. Foreboding. A haunted house the kids dare each other to break into, or at least touch the front door.

When the kids get there on Halloween night, they will feel chills, and the
hair standing up on the back of their necks. They will see lightning and hear thunder, but there will be, for now, only the threat of rain. There will be eldritch lights inside the house, flicking in and out of existence at the edge of their vision.

They will notice for the first time the graveyard next to the house. They will notice the odd green lights in the graveyard.

And they will notice the fog, clinging to the ground, reaching for them from amongst the gravestones. They will know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that something will come shambling after them from out of that fog.
Fog is a lovely weapon in the haunter's arsenal. It suggests evil, rotting, hidden things. If used properly, the cool temperature of the fog itself will reach down your TOT's neck and tickle those little hairs to attention. Remember, the movie is called The Fog because of fog's naturally creepy tendencies!
When I lived in L.A., I bought a dinky little 400 watt fog machine. (For those of you who don't know, fog machines need to heat up your fog juice in order to create the fog effect. The higher your wattage, the longer your output of fog.) Unfortunately for me, I couldn't seem to find the right spot for the fog machine because of a lack of outdoor electrical outlets and a funky house configuration. My first year in our current house, I was still a newbie in the fog department, and my results weren't at all what I wanted. I decide to hunt the internet for the 411 on fog. (Go to Got Fog? for some great info.)

What I discovered was this: I wanted a bigger mach
ine. More fog, less time to warm up in between cycles, and a programmable remote that allowed me to set it and walk away. I did some research and bought two Chauvet 1700 watt machines, because they had the highest wattage and the price was right for my budget. From what I've seen, once you go with wattage higher than 1700, you have a much larger and more expensive professional machine that is not nearly as portable as you might wish for a small home haunt. Do your research on the machine and get the one that suits your needs best. (Cheap DJ Gear has a 1/2 price sale that ends today, by the way!)

The down side was that by the time Halloween of last year came around, I was short of time and didn't do a dry-run with my fog machines, other than to make sure they were functioning. We placed one by the front door, which would have been fine except every time the door opened, the fog rolled in and hung around for a long time. We had to move the machine a bit...

Speaking of hanging around for a long time, if you want that deliciously scary low-lying fog, you need to a) chill the fog first, and b) purchase the right fog for that purpose. I'll address the chill factor first.

Build a chiller. It's worth it. Haunt Project has a number of projects to choose from and takes into account the average haunter's budget. I happened to use the fog chiller design from Got Fog? I liked it so much, I'm building a second one this year from a cooler found at a garage sale for $5. I'll do a little modification with a flat rain diverter end to disperse the fog in a wider pattern.

The type of fog juice you use is important. Many juices have irritating chemicals in them that will make asthma flare up for many people. (Think lawsuit, people!) For this reason, I went with Froggy's fog. Their fog has no irritants and was develo
ped for the son (now owner) who is asthmatic. It's great quality stuff. Again, choose the product that's right for your uses. Thanks to a Haunt Cast interview with the owner, I've purchased Froggy's Freezin Fog for this year at a fantastic sale price. (I can't wait till it arrives so I can play with it a bit.) You may need a fast-dissipating fog for the inside of your haunt-if you use a thicker fog, people literally will not be able to see (and say hello to your lawyer again!).

Froggy's Fog is also very knowledgeable about how to
best use the fog and get the effect you're looking for. Again, go to the Haunt Cast interview for that. I learned that if I mist my front lawn before using my fog machine, I can give the fog molecules something to bond to and thus enhance the low-lying fog effect. I also found out I can adjust my fog valve on the inside of the machine to better regulate my flow.

So folks, take time to think of your fog in advance, so you can pull down the great deals and also have control over it.

And above all, stay out of the fog!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hot Damn! I Got It!

There are days when I miss living in L.A. They don't happen often, mind you, because I've come to dislike the city up to a point. (I do miss my family, though.) Fortunately for me, a morning radio program that I've been listening to for twenty years is in syndication up here in the Sacramento area. I can tune in, and feel at home.

I tuned in on Wednesday while getting ready to do some running around, and got lucky.

No, not that way. Getchyer mind outta da gutta!

The boys-Mark and Brian to those in the know- were doing an interview with Dan Akroyd about Crystal Head Vodka. My timing, for once, was perfect. Of course, I had to trot by Beverages and More on Thursday to pick some up for myse---I mean, for my wonderful Mr. ShellHawk. After all, diamond-filtered vodka is something he is completely deserving of.

I couldn't wait until I got home to take a few pics to share with you all. I couldn't wait until Mr. ShellHawk came home so I could share this with him. He loved it!

I admit, I had read briefly about this on someone's blog awhile back, I believe before we could get it here in the California. (I think it was either Ghoul Friday or the Art of Darkness.) I just can't seem to remember where I saw it so I could give proper credit. Encroaching age...

If you have trouble accessing the interview, click on M & B on demand, wait for the list to populate, and click on the interview. It's so worth a listen!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brandywine Cemetery

A truly great-looking haunt. Brandywine Cemetery. Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I don't want to know what's in the darkness of this mausoleum. I really don't.

More images here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Halloween Must

I have, courtesy of a post by Perfessor Evil on Garage of Evil, found a prop I can't live without. It is absolutely something each and every one of us needs for every gathering, party, or make and take:

The Beer Coffin. Courtesy of Instructables.

Beer Coffin - More DIY How To Projects

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


"Huh? BHG and BHG? What the heck is she talking about?"

Better Homes and Gardens AND Badder Homes and Gardens. Two brilliant sources for A+ decorations (indoor and out) for Halloween and other times of year.

All of us know about Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. If you don't know about it, you were probably in a Turkish prison for the last forty years or so, or perhaps are just very good at playing hide-and-seek.

Be that as it may, you may not realize that Better Homes and Gardens has a nifty archive of Halloween projects of various kinds, plus some of their favorite reader submissions. Outdoor decorations (though nothing quite as cool as what we home haunters make), indoor decorations, costumes for humans and for pets.

I really enjoyed a couple of their table decorations, too. The one down side is that you have to put up with perky housewife terminology like, "Groovy Graveyard," and "Midnight Merriment Cemetery Decor for Halloween." And that last one was really deceptive advertising. I mean, Midnight Merriment makes me picture those good old days dancing widdershins around Great Grandma's old cast iron cauldron, not badly made tombstones!

Enter Badder Homes and Gardens.

At long last, I took the time to follow the link from The Art of Darkness' blog to Badder Homes and Gardens. I'm glad I did.

Snide, snarky, crude, fun-loving, completely offensive to those easily offended. I love every blog entry. The girls have a great sense of style and an eye for design. ("He has your father's eyes." "Gomez, take those out of his mouth!")

I found these pillows by brokesy through the Badder Homes and Gardens site.

There are lots of unusual finds on this site, so take a minute and check it out!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Zombie Ground Breaker

So here's why Auntie ShellHawk keeps nagging you to join a haunt group that does make and takes: Saturday's build at my CalHaunts NorCal meeting was a pneumatic ground breaker prop, based on the one done by Casa Fear.

And here's the how-to video:

The really huge bonus? We got to do it at Skulltronix, and get a tour of the facility! Woo-hoo! I also got to do some catching up with Perfessor Evil, of Haunt Project, and he let me know he's just culled a bunch of dead links from the site.

Thanks to the groundbreaker and the gravestone pop-up, there will be multiple skid marks made at my place on Halloween this year! Mwa hahahahahha!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Zombies in Plain English

A good teaching video for how to survive a zombie attack. Whew! I was worried, but these guys make it look easy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What to Do in a Zombie Attack

Wow! I had no idea there were so many educational films about this important topic!

Watch out for those Canadians!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pain. Excruciating Pain.

Meet Gnorman. Gnorman the Skeletal Garden Gnome.
I've been working on Gnorman for nearly the entire semester in my beginning clay sculpture class.
Three to four days a week, six to seven hours a day, on average.
I showed Mr. ShellHawk pics of Gnorman before Gnorman went into the kiln to be fired. He looked at the pictures and said: "That's creepy. You're weird. But I love you." Life is good, right?

I went to school early today. It's the end of term and the last day of school is Monday, so I wanted to start glazing Gnorman so he'd be ready for the glaze firing on Friday.

I got up and got myself to school at 8:00a.m., two and a half hours before class started, as is my habit. When I got to school, the kiln was cooling down. A couple of other students were there, students who were in their sixth semester of the class and thus able to judge when to open the kiln without getting in trouble. It was still at 230 degrees, so we didn't open it. We waited a half hour, then propped it open about an inch and a half.

I couldn't resist. I looked in.

My heart sank. Gnorman was lying up against the side of the kiln. It was obvious that parts of him had exploded in the kiln.

It was agonizing, not being able to throw the kiln open and assess the full damage. It was hours of waiting. Then, the moment of truth came.

This is what was left of Gnorman.
The only thing that survived was his hat, which I don't think I'll even bother glazing. My teacher was at meetings today, but she let me know not to pitch him as he may be able to be repaired. She hasn't seen him yet, and though she's the expert, I doubt I can repair him. There are cracks running the length of his body on the inside of the sculpture. Worst of all, he destroyed another student's sculpture when he exploded. So now, I feel guilty and terrible. This freakin' sucks.

I can't even begin to express my disappointment. This was essentially his third build, as I'd had problems both times I went away for an extended period of time. I have tentative plans to make another run at this concept, but honestly, I have projects for my haunt this year that I've put aside for school that I now urgently need to get started.

Where are the damn martinis?

Catacombs, Part 2

Mr. ShellHawk was kind enough to let me plunder his camera for more images of the Catacombs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tombstones Revisited

One of the biggest challenges the home haunter faces is making props that look real. I'm sure all of us have seen haunts that have many, many... Well... Cheesy, poorly-constructed props.

I get that not everyone is the Rembrandt of prop building, especially when we're just starting out. What we can do, however, is work on our powers of observation, and subsequently, reproduce what we see; if not perfectly, than at the very least, better than we did last year.

I am currently in a tombstone-free environment. Considering that I need to have a graveyard for the coming season, this isn't the best situation. It's easily remedied, however, by a trip through the magical pages of the 'net.

Horrorfind has a detailed tombstone how-to for several different types of stones. You can find out how to execute the obelisk, the standard headstone, and maybe one more elaborate marker. There are numerous safety warnings in regards to using foa
m. I can't stress enough how important it is to pay attention to these warnings.

Mourning Cemetery has a great how-to on the Headless Horseman headstone.

I've noticed there are different schools of thought in regards to using spray paint on Styrofoam. Some people love the immediate effect, some people have complained about the long-term results of the paint (read alcohol) on the Styrofoam. I suggest you make one or two of each and wait and see. For certain, always use spray paint in a well-ventilated area. Outside is best, and get yourself a good-quality mask with appropriate filters;it's worth the money to have the best you can afford. As much as we'd like to think, we're not immortal. There is always the risk of long-term damage to your lungs, and inhaled chemicals are generally bad news. Use your brain!

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Spooky Blue's tombstone tutorial. He uses a technique with paint and sand that should give you a very realistic result.

I emailed the Frog Queen over at Davis Graveyard awhile back to get her take on gravestone fonts. She was gracious enough to take time out of her day and send this back to me:

Here is my theory on fonts.

1. They need to be easy to read

2. They should kinda/sorta match the theme of the tombstone

3. I stick with the general design rule of no more than two fonts per tombstone (but just as I do in design, I sometimes break that rule :)

4. Larger fonts on the tombstones that are in the back

5. Longer epitaphs in a smaller, and sometimes more decorative font at the front

Things to keep in mind:

Larger, less decorative fonts can be carved with a Dremel - faster and cleaner.

Smaller fonts, need to be carved by hand. A few of my longer more creative font tombstones have taken over 2 hours to carve with an X-acto knife.

I follow my gut on fonts and ground that in a few simple design rules. Just because the tombstones are separate, does not mean that they can all get a different font.

That would just be too much. I try to keep to a basic 5 fonts:

Arial , Bell Gothic, Garamond, Trebuchet, and Minion

Then I mix it with a decorative font when I think it will compliment the message. I will also scale a font to help it fit on the tombstone. Sometimes I scale up only a part of the epitaph to make that word/saying stand out.

There are a few Halloween font sites out there. They are great for invitations and other printed materials - but many of them are too decorative (hard to read and carve) for a tombstone. For instance, I would not use the "Buffy" font, unless I was doing a Buffy Summers tombstone.

By the way, Davis GraveYard is doing two tombstone make and takes this summer. Check the dates here. Looking at their stones, it looks like it's worth the trip!

As a builder and an artist, it's important to take time to research your project. It really pays off to look at the real thing and model your project from personal observation. Take plenty of pictures from all different angles, and make certain they're as crisp and clear as you can get them. If you really want to stay realistic, visit an old, local cemetery, and stick with the general style of the tombstones you find there. I'm sort of a purist, so East Coast tombstones in a West Coast graveyard kind of bug me. But hey, that's just personal preference.

One thing you might do is start basic art classes at your local community college or Parks and Recreation. You'll notice you can improve the looks of your props in a relatively short time, once you have some basic knowledge. Also, if you can cut out the time for it, join a local haunt group. If your group is large enough, the different folks in it will have different skills to share, and they're generally kind enough to let you pick their brains. (Special thanks to all the guys and ghouls at my group, CalHaunts!)

Most importantly: have fun with it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Skulls for Sale

I admit it. I'm a 'ho. I have no shame or class or any of that stuff. This here's a blatant advertisement for yours truly. Sorry!

I've got two skulls I made up for auction on eBay. Please, someone buy them!
Little red skull here.
Little white skull here. There are more pics on their listings!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Wardrobe?

I have officially reached the point where I hate nearly everything in my closet, mostly because it reminds me of thinner times passed.

HATE that!

So to honor my newly found shapeliness (Not quite Rubenesque, but not too far from it), I picked a new wardrobe out for myself. Mind you, this is a fantasy wardrobe because:
1) I have no place to wear most of this.

2) The shoes will almost certainly kill my poor feet.
3) I haven't yet hit the massive Lotto win, and clothin
g made custom for me is likely to be pretty spendy.
4) Mr. ShellHawk would probably not want to be seen in public with me anymore, which would make me a sad panda.
Be that as it may, here are my offerings:

These hand-painted steampunk heels from Crafttastrophe, which I'm certain I can't live without. Simple, elegant, absolutely yummy.

This "Skullduggery" underbust corset (pray, ignore the size) from Luxuriawear. I'm certain I could wear it out to a job interview or something like that. Wouldn't it make a statement?

This corset from damselinthisdress looks great, and I could even wear it with jeans.Divadivine777 made this Victorian bustle skirt, which I'm certain would be just the thing for those boring trips to the grocery store.I really should have bought techdragon's Ladies Traveling Skirt for my recent European adventure. Paris may not have been ready for it, but I sure was!
And lastly, these lovely goggles from steampunk22. Surely, I can't be expected to read the fine print on the Nutritional Facts labels without them.

Friday, May 8, 2009

In the Know: Has Halloween Become Overcommercialized?

Great video. Serious topic. Watch it!

I'll be posting more pics from the Ossuary soon, so stay tuned. I also have a confession to make, so stay tuned for that, too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Adam Berg Carousel

A friend recently sent this to me. It's a film for Philips.

I always knew clowns were evil.

A better video quality version lives here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Viennese Skulls

We found these in a shop window as we were walking through Vienna. I can't read German, so I can't give you any story or history on these little gems.
I think the detail work on these is wonderful. I really wish I knew where they came from and how the art on these skulls came about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Black Halloween

Swine Flu at Halloween? Perhaps...

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Catacombs of Paris

Map here.
Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary, or The Catacombs to the rest of us, was created underneath Paris because of necessity. Paris had been growing during the 1700s, and of course, where there is growth, there is death. The cemeteries had seen a steady increase in residents, (I've always said, "Be nice to the dead. They outnumber us by quite a bit.") and were overfilled. Due to bad burial practices and mass open graves, Death's companion, Pestilence, strode through the city with impunity. Much debate had gone on about what to do about the growing problem, and after lengthy consideration, it was decided to move the remains to the nearby empty limestone quarries and start some new cemeteries outside city limits.It has been estimated that there are at least 185 miles of tunnels in the whole network of catacombs, though we only walked through a small portion of them. Millions are interred in the old quarries, six million in the blocked-off area we walked through alone.
We walked for quite a while before we reached the area where the bones were kept. They were stacked like firewood, sometimes going back only a few yards, sometimes for many. There were skulls used as decoration, a counterpoint to the miles of femurs; hearts shaped from them, skull-and-crossbone designs.

The deeper we went, the cooler it got. Water, filtered through the limestone, dripped steadily and dropped on our heads. At times the ceilings were quite low, and I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like to travel these tunnels without the electric light we enjoyed.

We also ran across several areas like this one. Places where the quarry workers had sculpted fanciful kingdoms out of the limestone. Flash photography is forbidden in the Catacombs, but unfortunately, boatloads of idiots ignore the rule as long as the guides aren't around. (I found this to be the case when I visited the Sistine Chapel, too. At least after all those priceless paintings are destroyed, we'll have plenty of poorly-taken, over-exposed snapshots of them.)
I'll leave you with several of the short video clips I took while I was there. Please excuse the quality. For more info on the Catacombs of Paris, click here.