Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dr. Frankenscream's Belwood Manor

Another fun haunt from one of our CalHaunts members.

See his photostream here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Up!

The latest edition of Haunt Cast is up, starring yours truly-with the rest of the Scream Team.


Scaredale Animation

This year, I had planned to do a Pepper's Ghost illusion in my husband's home office window. Like many of you, the best-laid plans blew up in my face and I couldn't get it done in time. Then, I saw this on the Creep Crafters Yahoo groups list, and may consider this as an alternative.

It looks amazing!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


From the exceedingly clever and funny Dave Lowe. I give thanks for Para Abnormal Comics. My preferred funnies, every day.

Pumpkin Carving

Wish I'd had this for Halloween!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bohemian Rhapsody

Via Mighty God King.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, it's Orson Welles and frozen peas. I was first exposed to this apparently infamous attempt at recording a frozen peas commercial by Mark and Brian when I was still living in the Los Angeles area. Orson Welles is asked to read some nonsensical copy and gets so annoyed, he walks out of the recording session. Yes, the man responsible for the great War of the Worlds broadcast walked out of the recording studio. I love it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winter Skulls



I honestly hope this movie lives up to the trailer!

I always wondered why no one had covered the topic of what would happen if vampires did win. No one had seriously explored the geometric progression of the vampire population and the ramifications of it.

Could be fun!

Monday, November 23, 2009

CalHaunts NorCal

We had our yearly wrap-up meeting on Saturday at my house. Every meeting is a potluck, and this meeting, of course, everyone brought their videos or slideshows of their haunts to show off. Here's one of the YouTube contributions from our group.

One of our members does a puppet show for the kids.

We had such a great time, ate far too much, had too much sugar and killed off two large bottles of champagne. We usually don't have the opportunity to socialize so much, because our meetings are make-and-takes and we're building a project, so the wrap-up meeting tends to be more of a party than a meeting. I'm good at parties!

Below, the rogues who made it out to my place. What a great group of people!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Few That Remain

Cleanup at the Nest went slowly this year. Oh, well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

We Are the Haunters

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fog Chiller Mod

Last year, I built a fog chiller using Got Fog's project plans. I liked the results, but I wanted to tuck my fog machines out of sight this year, yet still be able to pipe the fog into the yard.

I came up with this simple idea. I took a section of dryer vent, which you can extend and bend the way it best suits your situation. I like this, because once you bend it, it stays that way. I then purchased a guide for a downspout, which is also available at Home Depot or Lowe's.I extended the dryer vent and primered it, but used the wrong primer, unfortunately. (That's what I get for not paying attention and listening to the guy at Home Depot, who said I could use anything to primer.) If you try this, be sure to use metal primer.I didn't get around to stripping it and re-primering it this year, but if I had, I would then have painted it over with a flat black paint. The color really didn't wind up mattering this time, as I had it tucked among the bushes so it wasn't too visible. I also took some plastic paint and painted the downspout guide black. I then attached it to the vent with a 4" abs pipe fitting and some duct tape. I duct taped the other end to my fog chiller. I then filled in the gaps on the downspout end with Great Stuff. Below is the result. Not pretty, but effective on Halloween night.
This was all before I saw this video on using an irrigation pipe as a chiller. I might drill a few holes in my dryer vent pipe next year and see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Davis Graveyard Video Submission

Go here. Watch the Davis Graveyard video for the Home Haunters Association Video Contest. Watch it all the way through-then rate it. They so deserve to win-at least for having a home haunt for so many years and keeping the Halloween Spirit alive!

Do it. Or else.

Nightmare Playgrounds: Freakshow Carnivale

A new member of CalHaunts NorCal chapter. Hopefully, we'll get to meet at the meeting this weekend at my place. Wow, what a great haunt!

I think it's great he has so many actors there and that there is so much going on. They all obviously are having the time of their lives!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I have an opportunity. As with many opportunities, it's a mixed bag of gain and loss, and I'm not entirely sure whether to move forward or not.

To wit: I have a 1969 Dodge Dart (see pic here). It was my grandmother's car, she was the original owner, and I grew up in that car. I've been wanting to finish her restoration with a paint- and body-lift, but having been out of work this year, the project went to the bottom of the priority list. Mr. ShellHawk politely hates the car, tells me it's a hazard to drive (it isn't, it's in perfect working condition), and won't ride in it when I take it out to run errands. (Part of that is because the bench seat is set so I can reach the gas and brake-and Mr. ShellHawk is 6' 3", so his knees wind up only slightly below his ears.) There's been a civil back-and-forth going on for years regarding the Mighty Dodge and the getting rid of her, until he said something at a time when I was thinking about the wisdom of continuing to hang on to her:

"If you sell it, you get to keep all the money yourself."

Now, at the height of the economy, someone offered me $12k for that car. I know that's probably not what I'd get for it now, but still, it makes me think: What would I do with the money I can legitimately and selfishly keep all to myself?

My studio area was set up for the previous owner of the house. It worked for his needs, but doesn't work all that well for mine. I could use some cabinets for storage, a work bench/desk, and any number of other stuff to tidy up the space and make it more comfortable for myself.

But this is the car I grew up in.

But I could sell my kick-wheel and get an electric pottery wheel that's smaller and doesn't take up so much space.

But Oma and I went everywhere together in this car.

But I could put in a heating/air conditioning unit in the shop. And windows.

But this is the car I grew up in, man!

But you could put some money aside for the larger kiln you'll need later on!

You see the dilemma. I'm truly torn.

Of course, I could suddenly get lucky in my job search and start saving for the studio of my dreams, but I know that 80% of that money will be contributed to household expenses and it will take a long time to save.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Making of Quagmire

Most of you have realized by now that I name my pumpkin-based props after Family Guy characters. So herein lies the making of Quagmire.

I did not invent this technique, by any stretch. I ripped it off, fair and square from the great Spooky Blue, who was one of the first prop builders I found on the Internet. You can see his full tutorial on building the Moth Brothers here. I did everything according to his instructions, and came out with a pretty cool pumpkin guy. This is the second round of paper mache pumpkins I have done, as I traded Peter and Brian for a prop-1 controller for my pneumatic groundbreaker zombie (thanks, Dean!) and needed to replace them.

I started with my large Empire Plastics blow mold jack-o-lantern, and covered him with foil. I double-layered him, just to be careful, and used some scotch tape to tack everything down. Then, I gently wiped on a thin layer of WD-40 as a release agent. I then started the long process of covering this with paper mache, using Dead Spider's recipe for the mache glue, just to play with a new recipe. Each layer took me about an hour and a half, and I did about eight layers, maybe more. I left an approximately 1/4" gap on opposite sides so I could pop the two halves off the plastic jacko later, and I let each layer dry completely before I started the next one. I alternated one layer of newspaper with one layer of the yellow pages, so I could have a visual of how close I was to being finished with the layer I was working on.

Looking back, I really should have done ten or twelve layers, which would have staved off the sagging I had later, after I carved Quagmire's face. Also, typical of me, I got distracted by shiny things, and Quagmire sat between layers for several months before I got back to him, which is why I forgot what layer I as on. Procrastination is an ugly thing.
At long last, I got that last layer done. Gently, patiently, I took a screwdriver and pried the two halves off the jacko. I was very careful, so I wouldn't scratch the plastic.
I found out last year from Spook's tutorial that he used some neon-colored paint inside his, and saw how well it worked on Brian and Peter, so I did the same thing this year. I took a can of white spray paint-one with paint and primer in one, and sprayed both halves before I started to meld them together. I then took some neon orange paint (the kind they use to make the streets before they tear them up) and sprayed a layer of it over the white.
After the paint had dried overnight, I took some duct tape and duct tape the two halves together on the inside and outside of the newly made pumpkin, being careful to line up the edges as best I could. Spooky Blue calls the result a "mutant walnut," and it was. I went with it. After the duct tape, I put three layers of newspaper strips over the duct tape, inside and out, with the paper mache glue, letting each layer dry completely before applying the next layer.

Next, I cut the face, using a mixture of Sawz-All, Dremel, and razor knife. I twisted up some newspaper pretty thickly and duct-taped it through the hole I left on top of the pumpkin to make the stem. You can get very elaborate with the stem, or keep it very simple. For Quagmire, after I got the main stem taped, I had my young helpers design the rest of it.

I then took my Claycrete and mixed it with a little bit of water. I recommend using a mask for this step, as the paper mache floats around like dust, and that can't be good for your lungs if you inhale it. I applied the Claycrete (shown here on a different pumpkin) around the eyes to create ridges, then made more ridges for his teeth, to give him some depth and interest. Other places, I used rolled-up newspaper for vines, and duct-taped them down too. When I do this, I really wrap the paper tightly. Below, the tape job had sat in the heat for a few days, making the tape glue a little mushy, so I had to re-do it all before I started the next step.Next was the shop towel/carpet glue treatment. If you happen to have a full-body condom lying around for this step, I'd recommend wearing it. It is messy! Wear disposable gloves and your ratty-est clothes for this step. Carefully tear all hard edges off your shop towels, and then tear them into strips, just as you would tear newspaper for the paper mache step. Then, I take a healthy glob of outdoor carpet latex and smear it on the area I wanted to lay the shop towel on, and laid down a strip of towel, making sure all the edges and the middle of the towel had glue on them, too. You'll need to apply a bit to the back of the piece of towel you're working on ans you go. I also advise you to have the garage door open and a fan going, as the carpet latex is pretty strong-smelling. You can make some great textures and wrinkles with this on the second layer, which I really recommend. (It comes out it the paint job later. I did (with my helpers) two layers of the shop towels, making sure to cover everything in-between layers with a painted on coating of carpet latex. Painting a layer of latex after both the first and second layers is important, as you'll wind up with the cloth-like texture of the shop towels showing through on your paint job later if you don't. (UGLY!) I use a two- or three-inch chip brush, which are super-cheap and I can just toss it when it's done. You will NEVER get the carpet latex out of it, so don't even bother. Below, you can see the neon showing through.
Next, the paint job. Using all outdoor exterior flat paint, I painted on the first layer in brown, which I found in the "oops" section at Home Depot. After that dried, I sponged on a layer of this really gross green, also found in the oops department. I sponged on a layer of dark orange, then a layer of lighter orange, about three shades lighter that the dark. (If you go to your hardware or paint store, just find a dark orange you like and then find another one the you can see when it's laid over the top of the dark one.) I then took some of the light paint, put it in a separate container, and added a smidgen of white exterior flat to it, mixing it thoroughly. I used a dry-brush technique to bring out the ridges and wrinkles, and ta-da! Quagmire was done and ready to scare on Halloween night!

If you decide to do paper mache, I'd suggest you start working on it as early as you can, since it's a time-consuming process, especially for larger props. I usually have several mache projects going at once, so while one is drying, I can be working on another one.
Also important- seal the mache with a clear deck sealer, inside and out! And don't use flame inside to light them up, o.k.?

Dracula's Lament

I think I've seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall at least four times in the last year, and this has to be one of my favorite parts.

I wish I could have found the bit with the puppets!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yay! Yay! YAY!

Ahem. I am dignified. I do not say, "yay."

O.k. I do when I see House Bloodthorn posted "The Resurrection of Rose." I have so been looking forward to seeing this!

I sigh myself a happy sigh. Now I gotta go watch Pumpkinrot's video again.

A Few Things I've Learned About Prop Building This Season

1) No matter how perfect the humidity was for spray painting when you're almost ready to apply said spray paint, when you actually have the can in your hand and your prop before you, the humidity will rise to 110%, and therefore ruin all your hopes for decent coverage.

2) Ditto the heat index. It will rise to 110 degrees.

3) No matter how still it has been outside for the past three weeks, the instant you are ready to spray paint, 30 mph winds will blow in from nowhere. And stay long enough to put you at least seven days behind schedule.

4) Regardless of how perfect the gravestone pop-up worked during the test, the nuts will tighten to the point where, when you check your prop several hours later, you are certain the motor has destroyed itself in a puff of smoke which you, sadly, didn't witness.

5) The stirring witch project will work for everyone but you.

6) Ditto your Pepper's Ghost illusion.

7) Though you were sure you bought enough extension cords, you will be exactly one short on Halloween night. Even though you have twenty of the damn things.

8) Though you carefully checked your electrical box to verify the load before you plugged in your three fog machines, two air compressors, seven prop-1 controllers, Monster Guts Nerve Center, Flying Crank Ghost, pneumatic ground breaker zombie, and sundry other props, all circuits will blow the instant you plug in only half of these things.

9) Though you started building your props on November 1st of last year, on October 30th of this year, you will have a minimum of four props that defy all efforts at completion.

10) In spite of all your plans and successful tests, the head won't turn, the fog machine (which you know for a fact you switched on) won't run, and at least one of your spots (with the brand new bulb)will burn out-and you won't realize it until you review your pictures and video the next day.

11) The night you put out your tombstones, 50mph winds will destroy half of them, or at least pile them up in the middle of a major street, where they can be run over by the local grocery truck.

12) Though the weather report called for clear, still conditions, it will either snow or pour rain-and only for the four hours trick-or-treaters could possibly show up.

13) Some idiot will bring their three-year old to your haunt at 10:00PM. This child will get the crap scared out of them, bawl like you just killed SpongeBob, and their parent will give you the stink-eye.

14) Your neighbors will absolutely love you for it. And will thank you for all the effort you put into your haunt and the fun you brought back to the neighborhood.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Artist John T. Unger

I most recently became aware of this artist's deplorable and shameful plight through the Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom's blog. Apparently, John T. Unger is being sued by a large manufacturer so they can sell cheap knockoffs of his art. Read his story here.

Please spread the word about this situation any way you can. If this manufacturer wins, it will set a dangerous precedent for artists everywhere, who only want to profit from their own hard work.

As this is an ongoing legal battle, keep it classy and don't contact the company responsible for this action or badmouth them on your blog or social networking site. That could backfire on John, and the poor guy has enough on his plate right now.

Thanks for helping out!

My first edited movie. Please be kind; I've never done this before.

YouTube link here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Great Pumpkin Gift

The day before Halloween, one of my young helpers came by the house with a gift for me. Of course, she called first and teased me by telling me she had a Halloween gift for me-one that she said she made just for me. Of course I was intrigued. I mean, who doesn't want a Halloween gift made just for them?

I really didn't have any clue what it could be, so when she showed up with this painting and unveiled it with a flourish, I was pumped!
Since I took one photo of it with the flash and one without, I posted both, to give you an idea of what it looks like.

Honestly, though, the pictures don't do it justice. It looks far better in person. I plan to hang it in my home office, once I finish that project.

This young lady did some great work, and reminded me why it is so important to donate to the high school art department. She's a sophomore at the high school, and if this painting is any indication, an artist to watch in the future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pumpkin Artistes

I don't usually have a lot of real pumpkins in my display, not because I don't like or want them, but because I normally buy a few and then run out of time for carving. In spite of planning to carve the day before, so they're nice and fresh, something else gets zipped to the top of the priority list at the last second, and all my good intentions of amazing jack-o-lanterns go out the window.

This year, I got smart. I unloaded the job on my houseguests!

Yup, under the guise of wholesome, family bonding time, I palmed this time-consuming task off on my dad, sister-in-law,niece, and neighbor's kid. While I heard my dad grumble, "What was she thinking of buying all these pumpkins?!" he pitched in and did some good work.

Here, sis references Tom Nardone's Extreme Pumpkins for her masterpiece.
Niece Hannah has the potential to be a great Halloween nut, and certainly has a future in carving sick and disgusting pumpkins.
Paper mache pumpkin looks on as the graveyard is populated with new and evil brethren...
Here's one of mine. Tom Nardone would be proud as I carved this one in about a minute with a jigsaw and no pattern.
One of niece Hannah's contributions. Sis added some ketchup for that bloody effect.
One of my homegrown pumpkins eating another homegrown pumpkin.
Neighbor child donated the baby doll parts for this masterpiece by Sis and Niece. Eyeball swiped from a string of eyeball lights for the occasion.
A shot of some of the other kinds of pumpkins I made this year and last. I love how the hanging pumpkin pots turned out. I will definitely make more for next year. As soon as I dig out my studio.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Party Pics

The party went off with only the usual last minute frantic activity. My dad, sister-in-law and niece came for the occasion, as well as two couples from L.A. Dad, the typical stoic Swiss, had no costume. We anticipated this and borrowed a costume from our neighbors fort he occasion. He got into it with only a minimal amount of grumbling, and I think he looked really cute!There's moi, on the left, niece and Dad. Totally threw the last bits of costume together at the last minute. I did love the way the corset from Von Lancelot fit, and opted to leave the sleeves off for this occasion. Next time, I'll use the sleeves and add some other elements.

The witch and hummingbird flew up from L.A. to spend time with us. We just love them!
Harley Quinn, one of my fabulous helpers stopped by for a visit before heading on to Spider Rider's party. The lady in black was also a helper, and looked great in person!

From left to right: Spider Witch, the Golf of Mexico, the Maid, the Hippie Camera Man, and the serial killer. (They look just like everyone else, you know!)
Various helpers and their friends and relatives.
Aviator and Goddess.
Mr. ShellHawk as Dr. Horrible with his bud, the Aviator. I did the paint mod on his goggles for him, and I think they turned out great!
Dear friend as undead cancer patient and my art teacher, who dropped by to see the madness for a few minutes!
Zombie cheerleader and army guy, our friends from the L.A. area.
The Mad Potter of Biloxi and his wife, scarfing down on the home made tamales.

We had a fantastic time. We had maybe four tamales left and only a little of the carnitas meat. Everyone got along great, and my out-of-town visitors graciously helped bring props in that night and helped with takedown on Sunday. Since we left Monday for Hawaii, we didn't want to leave the graveyard up for the neighbors all week. It still seems odd to look out in the yard and not see the graveyard!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Back...Sort Of, Anyway

Hey, All! I'm back from my decompression trip to O'ahu and thought to upload a few pics from the haunt. There will be more, and I know one of my neighbors took a bunch that night he said he'd give to me. I'll share when they become available.