If you are interested, you can read a history of my past haunts before diving into this.
11-01-09: Well, that was fun!
10-27-09: More sounds, the failure prop, and a few last scares.
10-24-09: Costume, gags, and entrance.
10-18-09: A long-delayed update.
10-14-09: Began decorating the walls.
10-13-09: Started distressing the walls.
10-12-09: What have I done to my walls?!?!
10-11-09: Fireplace insert.
10-09-09: Grandfather Clock and wallpaper stamp.
10-07-09: Trent's Halloween Sound Machine.
10-06-09: Painted the flats.
10-05-09: Finished Garys cage and prepped the flats for painting.
10-04-09: Started repairing Garys cage.
10-03-09: Did the last of the distressing and worked some more on the door.
10-02-09: Started working on the door and did some more distressing.
10-01-09: Finished the staining and started the distressing.
09-30-09: Started to stain.
09-29-09: The (still not) complete paneling, and all about ReStore.
09-28-09: The (almost) complete paneling.
09-27-09: The fireplace mantel.
09-26-09: Why my Pepper's Ghost failed.
09-25-09: This years Haunt explained.
History of past Haunts
I did a lot during the last few days leading up to Halloween. I got the crackle in the speakers taken care of (it turned out to be the fact that the speaker cable was too close to the flicker circuits), I added a few last-minute decorations, did a test run with a bunch of toddlers, and a bunch more.
Here are some photos of the big night.
Here is a shot of one of the last-minute decorations. I bought a styrofoam wig-head at Goodwill for $2.00 and made a simple frame out of pvc pipe, stuck the wig head on it with an old lady's wig, threw a dress on it and stuck it in the window with a light behind it. Quick, easy, and it worked.
I decided to have my brother-in-law be the mad scientist and I would be the hunchback in the driveway guiding the trick-or-treaters into the garage. Here he is in costume.
My youngest daughter had been in the haunt every day since I started making it. She loved hanging out in there. Yet, when Halloween arrived, she was still reluctant to go in there. Here she is hesitantly walking into it.
And here is the mad scientist greeting her.
I threw together some glowing potions and melted some candles to place throughout the haunt.
Here's a better shot of the glowing potions. Nothing fancy, just a couple of highlighters emptied into a big jar of water, then distributed amongst the various bottles.
The fog wasn't behaving as I wanted it to, but it still worked.
Our graveyard was looking pretty good as well.
The previous pictures were taken by my neighbor. I took some as well. When I get some time, I will add those to this log.
Time to pack up and start working on next year's haunt.
I have been working primarily on the Sound Machine for this year. I created a new two-and-a-half minute ambient sound for the inside of the haunt that will replace the other ambient sounds which I feel are too loud and busy. I'm going to create a few more ambient sounds as well. I'm also going through each individual sound and chucking those that are too distracting.
I also had the official Halloween Prop Failure™ of 2009. That would be the grandfather clock. It sucks. It won't be used or even finished because it looks terrible right now and I don't have the time to fix it. It has officiallly been abandoned.
To replace the grandfather clock I installed the spider kid. This is an armiture that I constructed that is dressed in a Spider-Man costume and wrapped in spider webs. I haven't placed the spiders on him yet, but that will be done presently. Anyway, when the trick-or-treaters get close to it, it's head and arms jerk around. This has been a good, reliable scare in the past and I am falling back on it again this year.
I rigged up the ceiling to shake by way of rope and pulley. So I have four interactive scares as of this time. I might add another one, but I think that will be too much for such a small room.
Now, I'm having problems with my speaker setup. It's actually being caused by my laptop. When I turn on the flicker lights I get a popping sound in the speakers. I thought it was the fact that the power supply for the laptop was plugged into the same outlet as the power strip that has all of the flicker circuits in it, since the popping went away when I disconnected the power supply to the laptop. I tried using an extension cord from the kitchen which is on a different circuit and that didn't fix it. I moved around the flicker cables and that just made the problem louder. I moved the power supply for the laptop, stretching it out a bit, and (this is my absolute favorite) I now faintly hear talk radio coming out of the speakers.
My next step to combat this problem is to hook up my desktop computer to these speakers and see if that affects the sound output at all.
I'm back after taking 4 days off to install laminate flooring in our house. That was actually kind of fun.
Today I got to work some on the Haunt. There really isn't that much more to do to it. I installed some drapes in the entrance (made from some king size polyester bed sheets bought at Goodwill). I'm probably going to add some more to these, but you should get the basic idea from these photos.
I installed two of the gags that will scare the trick-or-treaters. The first is a painting that sits normally until you are next to it, then it suddenly and quite loudly shifts so it is crooked.
...and after it has shifted.
When the trick-or-treaters have turned to see the painting shifted, a skull will drop down inside the fireplace and watch them.
These gags are controlled by a series of ropes and pulleys that I manipulate from backstage.
Waiting to be triggered...
...after they've been triggered (painting is shifted and skull is dropped down).
Here's the finished dropping skull gag from backstage.
Right above that is the back of the shifting painting. The painting is bolted to the wall so it doesn't accidentally fall off when it shifts. There is a groove carved into the wall and a longer screw is inserted into the back of the picture frame. I've attached a 2.5 lb. weight to it held on with a washer and tied one of the ropes to it.
The ropes go up to the garage ceiling and over the haunt...
...to another pulley and down to the control panel.
My wife also started making my costume. I was originally going to be a mad scientist and my haunt was going to be my lab. Then I changed it to be a classic haunted house and I was going to be a cranky hunched-over old man who would answer the door and creep out the kids. Then my wife talked me into being a mad scientist and the kids will be in my house. I'll use some good sound effects to make it sound like when the kids knock on the door I have to stop working on my latest experiment and walk up a series of steps, bolt a few doors, and then answer the door.
We started my costume with the basic Dr. Horrible outfit (which I wanted anyway). We then added a bloody apron. We're going to do some more to it in the next few days. I of course will do up my hair a lot better and wipe that smug grin off of my kisser.
There are a few things to do still. I'm going to finish the grandfather clock and add a few more gags. I'm also going to re-code the Halloween Sound Machine program to allow for triggering sounds manually while the random sounds still play.
So, I've been busy over the last few days, but non-haunt related things have kept me from posting an update for this log.
I know, I know, that's not an excuse. Well, what can you do?
Here is what I have gotten done on the haunt since the 14th.
I started making the stuffed birds that will be mounted on the wall. I started with a few fake stuffed birds I picked up at The Halloween Warehouse in Beaverton, OR a few years back. I believe they cost me $10.00 each. My wife brought some wooden plaques home from work, so those were free. I also used some picture hangers and some wood stain. This is the same wood stain that I used on pretty much everything else in the Haunt, and it costs me $5.00 a can at ReStore. I also picked up some "Ornate Plates" that will hold the names of my victims that were transformed into birds, killed, then stuffed. Lastly, I found a gnarled piece of wood that came out of my old fish aquarium. This is what the birds will be mounted on.
First I stained the plaques and cut the piece of wood in two. This was much harder to do than expected. That aquarium wood is some tough stuff.
Then I mounted the wood onto the plaque using some basic screws. Again, this was much harder that expected. My drill bits were smoking after drilling into that aquarium wood.
Then I simply mounted the birds onto the branches using the wire built into their feet and some extra wire I happened to have lying around.
... and the owl.
Heres a view of the stuffed birds on the wall. I still need to make the name plates.
Another project I started is making a ceiling for my haunt. This is one of those "you really didn't need to do that" projects. I know I didn't need to do that, but I did and I don't regret it.
I basically took some 4' lathe strips and made 4' X 4' sections to hang from the beams that are suspended from the garage ceiling.
Look at the last photo in this update for a better view of the ceiling.
I also started adding some decorations to the hallway. First I mounted a double-headed morning star.
Then I added a painting in the hallway and another in the main room. The painting in the main room has the eyes cut out. This is where I will watch the trick-or-treaters from.
Here is a view of where I will be standing. I cut out round eye holes, but I'm thinking of making the hole bigger, like the other holes in the walls, only without lathe strips. Note the big board mounted on the wall towards the right edge of the photo. This is going to be my "control panel" that I use to control all of the gags in the haunt.
I also started on my first official gag. This is a skull that I will lower into the fireplace like a skeleton is in the chimney and is peeking down at the kids.
I also started setting up the cemetery. There won't be a caretaker's shack this year as that monstrosity was dismantled a few years ago. You can see Gary hanging in the tree. I think he's happy there.
And here's another view of the haunt.
I still have some work to do on it, but I won't really be available to do any of it for a few days.
Well, now that the heavy lifting is complete, and the walls are all distressed, I can start decorating the haunt. I finished distressing the walls by applying some black spray primer on the peeling paper around the holes in the walls. I wanted them to look like the holes were burnt away or something. I also applied some plaster to the lathe strips to give their silhouette a more roughed-up look.
After that, I finally got to start hanging drapes and filling candlestick holders.
Have a look...
Here are a few shots using the flash so you can see what all is involved. Notice the plants growing through the slats in the holes in the walls. Incidentally, that is not the final location of the grandfather clock.
I hung a few drapes on the garage wall. I'm not done hiding the wall but it's mostly covered. The cabinet hasn't been filled with props yet. I have a bunch of potion bottles and things like that that will go in there, along with a black light to make some of them glow. Also, the skulls and candlestick holder aren't going to go there. That was just my daughter playing around. I think I'm going to put a creepy painting on the wall above the cabinet. I also want to paint the cabinet so it's not so white, but that's last on my list of things to tackle.
Here are the same shots without the flash. It's not really this dark in person.
Here's a closer view of the fireplace flat. I am going to melt down the candles and hopefully get some really wicked melted wax drips going, but I'm going to wait until the afternoon of the 31st to do that. I'm also going to work on a few "gags" as I call them. By gags I mean tricks to scare the kids. A few that will pertain to the fireplace flat are a big painting above the fireplace that will sit straight until you get close, then suddenly and loudly shift so it hangs crooked. Another one is a skull mounted upside-down in the fireplace that will lower to peek into the room. That one is my daughters idea.
Here's a closer view of the opposite wall.
The same views without the flash.
I don't know about you, but I personally think that it's starting to really come together. I still have some work to do, but the end is in sight. There are a few things that I'm not going to implement until the 31st, such as melting the candles, hanging spider webs, hanging black thread, and I think there was something else, but it's late, I'm sick and heavily medicated, and I really don't have the brainpower to think of what it is.
I had better sign off for today.
Okay. The walls are looking alot better. I started distressing them by simply spraying some black primer in strategic (random) locations, but focusing on the top and bottom edges of the flats, and that made a world of difference. The pictures really don't do them justice.
Here are some shots of a flat without any distressing next to one with the primer applied.
I also took this opportunity to attach two eyelets to the top edges of each flat. These will serve two purposes. The first is that I will run some cable ties through these eyelets and around beams suspended from my garage ceilings, just for added support. The second is that once Halloween is over, I can tie them together, or simply run some pegboard hooks through them to help store them out of the way. Here is what I am talking about. Each eyelet is exactly 2" from the edges of the flats.
So, I got all of the flats distressed, at least basically. I'm going to do some more, but the primer has been applied. Notice in the following shot how you can see some gaps between the flats. I took care of that too.
After painting them all, I took a box knife and tore up the paper I had applied over each of the holes in the walls, thereby exposing the lathe strips. I also took some Simpson Strong Ties and aligned and attached the flats together (except for the wall with the fireplace, that comes tomorrow). The flats don't align perfectly, but good enough for a haunted house.
These are the Simpson Strong Ties that are holding each of the flats together. There are two attached to the back of the flats at each of the seams.
For the regular flats I just use strap ties.
For the deeper flats (doorway and fireplace) I use corner ties to attach to the regular flats on each side of them.
And here you see the haunt as it is now with some of the proper lighting.
Tomorrow I am going to do some more distressing of the walls, finish attaching the flats to each other, and maybe work some more on the grandfather clock.
Well, this was an interesting day.
I covered the nicely painted walls with this hideous pinkish color using a stamp that my wife made. Well, the color is gross, the stamp didn't work all that well, and the whole procedure took most of the day. It would have been so much simpler to just buy the wallpaper like I wanted to originally, but no, I had to do things the hard way, just to save a few bucks.
I need to keep reminding myself that I'm only halfway through. Tomorrow I get to do the fun stuff: wall distressing. Basically, I get to beat the hell out of the walls so that hideous pink isn't so hideous.
In the meantime, here are some photos showing how I ruined my walls (man, this is embarassing)...
This is one of the hallway flats. Notice that the pattern doesn't go all the way to the top. Yeah, that was really slick of me, not planning that part out well enough.
Here are a couple of views of the newly ruined room and hallway.
I am going to fix this disaster tomorrow...
Sorry for not updating much lately. It's really hard to get anything done on the haunt over the weekends since I have my family with me, and my wife and I are working on redecorating the inside of our house.
That being said, here is what I got done over the weekend.
I realized that the fireplace insert was officially on my "I'll do it later" list. I don't like it when things end up on that list. That means they never get done. Because of that, when I notice that something has landed on that list, I immediately switch gears and put it at the top of the "Do it now, you slacker!" list. That was my focus this last weekend, and I'm glad to say that it just might be done.
Here's what I've done...
I started by putting together the insert, which consists of some sheets of plywood hinged together. The whole thing folds down nicely.
I took some 1/4" tape and marked off some lines. I would have added more vertical lines, but I ran out of tape, and at $3.49 a roll, I didn't really think is was worth it. I actually think it turned out better like this.
I then covered each section in a thin coat of plaster, just to add some roughed up texture. Here's one section covered.
I then sprinkled some sand on it and peeled up the tape.
Then I just repeated this process for the rest of the insert.
After drying, I placed it behind the fireplace flat.
Here's what it looks like from behind the fireplace flat.
It has a red flicker light and the fog machine will spew forth a nice low-lying fog that will drop down into the fireplace from the "chimney". Here's a shot with the red light going. It really looks a lot better in person.
I was planning on spraying some black primer in parts of the insert to look like wood has been burnt in there, but my wife thinks it looks fine as it is. I'm going to test it out with the fog machine before I make a final decision on that matter.
Sorry for not updating yesterday. I got tied up with family stuff.
I was working on the Haunt, though. I started building a grandfather clock and my wife finished making the stamp for adding the pattern to the walls.
Here are pictures of the clock and the stamp...
The clock is not really planned out, which is making it a pain in the ass, but I'm confident that it will come together in the end. I mean, I have a plan, but it's all in my melon.
I plan on using the stamp to finish the walls this weekend. I expect that whole process to be one of those "Why am I putting together a Haunt again?" experiences.
Had a bit of a slow day for Haunt construction. I am on hold awaiting a custom made stamp to use for decorating the walls. My wife is carving one by hand and it should work well, but it's taking some time since she has a lot of work to do these days.
I was also getting some work done on our house. Well, actually it was under our house. That is complete now, so I should be able to concentrate on the haunt for a while.
I did make a quick run to ReStore today. I ended up getting a new doorknob for the door in my Haunt, as well as some cool andirons for the fireplace. I also got another can of the stain that I used for my wainscoting, in case I want to do some more for next year.
I started working on a new "soundscape" for Trent's Halloween Sound Machine. In case you haven't had a chance to use this program yet, it is a little app that I made that plays Halloween sounds randomly. It is fully customizable, and it will play indefinitely, until you tell it to stop. This program is free, and I am actually working on a new version that incorporates 5.1 surround.
This years soundscape will have more time and attention given to it than the soundscapes for previous years. When it is complete, I will share it with everyone.
Here are the links to the two versions that are available. The normal version is good for an outdoor yard display, and works really well if you have a large speaker for the thunder. The "indoor" version is catered more for an indoor haunt. The version that I am currently working on will be an indoor version as well, but with more custom sounds.
Trent's Halloween Sound Machine ~50 MB
Trent's Halloween Sound Machine - Indoor ~100 MB
I painted the flats today. The color turned out pretty well, but the whole deal with the peeling wallpaper didn't turn out well. The paper is all buckled and warped. In the end, I only covered the spots where the wall is broken and you can see the lathe strips. My plan is to finish the painting tomorrow (read on for more details) then using a box knife I will cut most of the paper away, leaving jagged strips hanging around the holes in the walls.
Tomorrow, the plan is to finish painting the flats. What I want to do is decorate them to make them look old and gaudy. I'm going to find a sponge stamp cut in the appropriate shapes and stamp on gold paint. Then I'm going to use some other techniques to age the walls.
Anyway, here are a few photos. You can see Garys newly repaired cage in there as well. Sorry for the masking tape.
No pictures today as all I got done was finishing Garys cage and prepping the flats for painting tomorrow. I am applying some dark red paint and after that dries I will paint on some details so hopefully it looks like wallpaper. I will be adding some paper underneath in parts which will be peeling off. I'm really not that optimistic about this part of the project. I wish I had been able to find enough wallpaper in just the right pattern to do this instead of painting. I have the feeling that this is going to be the one part of this years Haunt that I am really disappointed in.
Oh well, all I can do is go ahead with the plan. If this works out, I will be done with the flats this week and I can begin with the decorating.
The good news is that Garys cage is fixed and stronger than ever. I think it's going to last quite a while, now.
I was busy with "family stuff" today, and probably will be tomorrow as well. I did manage to start repairing Garys cage. This is a cage made in the shape of a toe-pincher coffin that stores Gary the rotting corpse. It is made of simple lathe strips stapled together. Like an idiot, I didn't use wood glue when I initially built the cage. As a result, the whole thing broke apart after the second year of use.
I'm taking it apart and putting it back togehter again, but this time I'm doing it right. Wood glue!
I didn't get a lot of time to work on the Haunt today. I managed to add some "bolts" to the door and I did what I believe will be the last of the distressing to the flats. Have a look...
I also brought the rest of the Haunt supplies down from the attic and started some much needed repair work on "Garys Cage".
Today I distressed another flat...
...and started work on the door.
For the door (which was $5.00 at ReStore) I used a rotary sander to sand all of the finish off of one side and then wood glued some lathe strips to it. After allowing them to dry, I stained the whole thing. I'm going to add some "bolts" to the strips tomorrow.
I finished applying all of the moulding on the doorway and fireplace flats and everything is stained.
Have a look...
The flats still haven't been properly aligned. That won't happen until probably the 31st, but maybe I'll do it sooner. Anyway, since they haven't been aligned, they look like they aren't going to line up and that there will be gaps (damn uneven floors). Everything will line up in the end.
So, if you look to the right of the fireplace you will see a hole in the wall with some lathe strips visible. When the wall is finished, this hole will have a light shining behind it, causing nice volumetric lighting due to the fog creeping out of the fireplace. I will probably stick some plastic ferns or ivy in between the lathe strips, like the house is getting overgrown with weeds. The wallpaper around the hole will be peeling back as well. I plan on making a few more holes in the walls like this.
The doorway and fireplace flats look darker than the others, hopefully because I stained them a day later than the others. I am hoping that they will lighten up. I'm not expecting it though. Oh well. This is a haunted house. It's not supposed to look perfect.
You'll notice the green light in the upper right of the image. This chandelier will have a low-wattage light in there, probably colored, hooked up to a flicker circuit. I might not go with green, though. I'm going to wait until the wallpaper is finished to start on the lighting.
The door is not in its frame since I am sanding and staining it. I started sanding it by hand but that sucks 31 flavors of ass, so I am borrowing a rotary sander from a friend tomorrow to finish the job. But since the door is missing you can see the hallway flats in position. I'm going to move them about a foot backward because right now they are only about three feet from the wall flats for the living room, and since the wall flats have legs that stick out two feet, that leaves only one foot of walking space.
Didn't get to spend a lot of time working on the Haunt today, but I did manage to get the wood stained on all of the 2' X 7' flats.
Please pardon the mess in the garage. Not only is this a working garage, but it's also my Haunt workshop, and the storage place for most of my Haunt gear (some of it is still in the attic), and it's also the final location of the Haunt.
Fortunately, I don't have to be careful not to get the stain on the other parts of the flats, since they will just be covered in wallpaper anyway. I also don't have to worry about this looking that good, since haunted Houses rarely have nice looking wainscoting. In fact, I'm worried that it will look too nice. I'm just going to have to wait to see it in the proper lighting before trying to distress them.
So, tomorrow I plan on finishing the moulding on the fireplace and doorway flats and staining them. I also want to start on the wallpaper. My wife brought home a bunch of paper from work, but it feels almost like wax paper, so I probably won't use that. I saw that the local big-box store (which is actually a local company, which makes me feel like less of a tool by shopping there) sells 50' rolls of brown shipping paper for $3.99. I may pick that up to try out. I am also going to see if I can locate rolls of butcher paper to use. I'm going to need approximately 100 sq. ft. of paper to cover the flats.
I didn't get as much time as I wanted in order to get the moulding done, but it's almost there. It will definitely be finished tomorrow. I did the base and crown moulding on all of the flats except the doorway and fireplace flats. Those two have their crown moulding but not the base moulding. The reason is because I have a limited quantity of moulding to use and I wanted to make sure I had enough to go around the other flats before I ran it around the fireplace and doorway. As it turns out, I won't have enough to go around both of them, so I'll probably just go around the fireplace and do something else for the doorway.
One of the reasons I didn't have as much time as normal today is because I drove down to the Portland ReStore. I usually go to the one in Forest Grove, but I wanted to visit the one in downtown Portland because I had a hunch that they would have a bigger selection, and boy was I right.
In case you aren't familiar with ReStore, it is a series of shops run by Habitat For Humanity that sells mostly used, but some new, building materials. For someone like me, who's throwing together a Haunted House, ReStore is perfect. For example, check out the following pictures...
This is an example of what you can come away with from ReStore. The items above (from left to right) are a bundle of approximately fifty 8' chair railing sticks, a nice thick 8' board about 8" wide and 1" thick, and a bundle of nine 7.5' base moulding sticks.
The same chair railings at Lowes cost about $3.00 each. I got the entire bundle for $10.00. I don't know how much a board like the one above would go for at Lowes, but I'm guess at least $5.00. I got it for $0.50 (fifty cents). The base moulding sticks would probably go for $3.00 - $5.00 each. I got the bundle for $5.00.
The chair railing is what I used for the wainscoting in the photos from my previous posts. The board was cut up and turned into the fireplace mantel, along with a section of 1" X 3" and some of the chair railing. The base moulding was applied to the flats, but I'm not posting a picture of them yet until they are all finished. Look for updated photos tomorrow.
So, in closing, if you are looking for cheap building materials, see if there is a ReStore near you and check there first. They actually sometimes sell tools there as well. Also, my daughter has been able to talk them down in price, based simply on her cuteness. She got a huge box (probably at least 10 lbs.) of assorted nails for $2.00.
Made some good progress today.
I finished the paneling on all but the doorway flat. I have the feeling that the doorway will be the last thing to finish, so I'm going to focus on getting it finished tomorrow. I should have all of the flats ready to treat tomorrow. The wainscoting and fireplace surround (including the mantel) will be stained a dark walnut stain, or something like that. The rest will be covered in "wallpaper". I put that in quotes because I may or may not actually use paper. The options I have are to buy some wallpaper (not really an option, but I'm listing it here anyway), print out wallpaper patterns on my printer at work (I'd probably need to do 100 of them, so I'm definitely not printing them at home), apply butcher paper and paint it to look like creepy wallpaper (probably the best option), and my wifes idea of just painting directly on the panels and only applying paper where the wallpaper is going to be peeling off.
I'm not really that crazy about the last idea, but that may be the way I go.
In the meantime, here are some photos of what my Haunt looks like as of tonight. The panels aren't properly aligned with each other yet so they look like they don't line up, but they will eventually.
I worked on the fireplace flat today. I didn't get much time, but I managed to attach the wood paneling that will surround the fireplace. I also quickly threw together the mantel and mounted it above the fireplace. It needs to be sanded and cleaned up in a few spots, but I really wanted to make some progress on this particular flat.
Here are some pictures.
I also got a chance to go to a haunted house today. We went down to the "so lame that it's cool" theme park called The Enchanted Forest, just south of Salem Oregon. We used to go there when I was a kid all the time and now I take my kids there every few years simply for nostalgic reasons, even though my wife hates that place.
They have a haunted house attraction there that isn't half bad. I mean, it really isn't that scary, but I came away from it with some new ideas regarding lighting and wall treatments. I'm going to try distressing my walls more than I was originally planning because the walls in the haunted house today weren't that beat up at all and I kept thinking that they would look better if there were holes or something in the walls. I did like their use of lighting at times. My daughter was terrified through the whole experience, and it was basically because they had a lot of dark corners that your imagination filled with creatures that really weren't there. I liked that.
Well, tomorrow I'm going to try to finish applying the wood and moulding on the flats and get them ready to be treated (stain and wallpaper).
Didn't get much done today, due to an insane number of kids birthday parties that I had to attend with my kids.
I did manage to get some of the wainscoting applied to the fireplace flat, but nothing worth taking a picture of.
I was asked why my Pepper's Ghost from two years ago didn't work. Well, from what I can remember, we didn't test it out until right before we opened the Haunt. I mean we did, but we didn't. We thought it worked, and it did, but our actor wasn't really cooperating. In fact, I remember testing it out and not seeing him in the plexiglass. I peeked around the corner and he was sitting on the ground wearing a mask and playing games on his phone. He obviously wasn't into it. Strangely enough, when we set him up as The Somnambulist, he worked out great. That role was supposed to go to my flakey brother, but he never showed up. I still guilt trip him about it.
So, basically, it didn't work because we didn't test it out enough. I think we had the trick-or-treaters too close to the glass as well, which meant that you really had to be standing in the right spot in order for it to work at all. If I do it again I'm going to make the glass much further away and make sure that the actor isn't playing Tetris.
This is my first entry, but I have been working on the Haunt for several weeks so here is what I have done so far.
At first I bounced back and forth between the ideas of just making some sort of display in our front room window or making it in the garage. It was just going to be some sort of scene that the trick-or-treaters could walk past on their way up to the front door to get their candy.
I had decided on making a mad scientists lab in the garage. The benefits to doing this in the garage rather than the front room are that I won't feel the need to tear the whole thing down immediately after Halloween (my youngest daughters birthday is November 2nd, and I don't think my wife would appreciate having all of my Haunt garbage in the way when company comes over for the birthday party) plus I already have a system of beams in place to hang things on in the garage. This system of beams is so simple in its design that it's ingenious, if I do say so myself. They are simply 2 X 2 beams attached to chains that allow them to hang underneath the garage door when it is open, but not interfere with opening or closing the garage door at all. This means that I can set the whole thing up in my garage with the doors closed and when it's time to start the Haunt I simply open the garage doors and you're good to go.
I'll spare you the details other than to say that I found a really good place to get surplus electronic equipment for making mad scientist gear. I bought some pretty cool stuff there. Unfortunately I'm not going to use it this year as I changed the theme of my Haunt. I realized that I was going to have to do a lot of acting in this, which I hate, and that even with my acting, this wasn't going to be that scary. I was basically going to be putting on a show to entertain the kids. That's not what I wanted to do.
Then I toyed with the idea of not doing a Haunt this year. That lasted about a night. The next morning I awoke with renewed vigor and a full bladder. I had a great idea to improve the Haunt and actually make it kinda scary. I decided to change my theme from "Mad Scientists Lab" to "Haunted House". I know that's kind of a vague term, but I don't know any more specific title to give it. What I decided was that I would make the lab into a haunted living room that the trick-or-treaters would actually walk through to the door in the back wall where I would be waiting with the candy.
I'll go into more detail on each prop as I implement them. In the meantime, here is a basic outline of the living room.
The big opening is the open garage door. The kids will walk through there, past the fireplace to the left and up to the door in back. I will be waiting in the "hallway" with the candy. When they knock on the door, I greet them (in character) and send them fleeing. It sounds pretty basic, but with the yard display, the sound and the lighting, and the overall atmosphere, this should kick some serious tush.
This year I wanted to do things right. The last haunted house I did had black plastic walls. This may work for some, but not for me. Not this time. For this Haunt I am using theater set construction techniques to create relatively cheap and easy to store walls.
Each wall section (with two exceptions) is 2 feet wide by 7 feet tall. The width of 2 feet will allow me to store these in the attic, giving me room to store as many as I would ever need to make quite the extensive haunted walk-through.
Now, keep in mind as you look at the plans below that I made these plans (with the exception of the fireplace unit) when I was still planning on making a mad scientists lab. That is why the horizontal beam in the middle of the flats is about 6" too high to support the wainscoting that I now plan to put on the walls, but it's not a problem.
Here are the basic plans. The first is the 2' X 7' section, of which I will make nine. After that is the door section followed by the fireplace section, of which I will make one each. These last two units will have to be stored in the garage throughout the year, but that shouldn't be a problem. The rest will hide safely in the attic.
These wall panels, called "flats", will each be supported by a single leg attached with removable pin hinges, which will allow for the removal of the entire leg for easier storage. The measurements shown in the diagrams above need some special explanations. The boards that I am using are 1" X 3"s. The nine 2' X 7' flats consist of the 1" X 3"s laying so that the depth of the flat is only 3/4" (1" X 3"s are actually 3/4" X 2.5"). The doorway and fireplace flats have the board laying the other way so that the flats are 2.5" deep.
The boards are cut and laid into position. I then glue and nail down plywood fasteners. These are explained in more detail below.
Here is a flat with the plywood fasteners applied and nailed down (with my truck, "The Chubby Chaser" posing in the background, since she helped me so much with hauling gear and lumber around town).
After allowing them to dry for a sufficient time, I attach the leg.
The doorway flat.
The fireplace flat.
The flats will be attached to each other when finished with metal plates (I forget what they are called, but I'll find out and update this with that information soon). I won't be attaching them until I am completely done with the flats.
Covering the flats...
The flats will be decorated as follows:
Five will have wainscoting on the bottom 3 feet with wallpaper on the upper 4 feet.
Four will have wallpaper over the entire flat.
The doorway and fireplace flats will have wainscoting on the bottom 3 feet with wallpaper on the upper 4 feet.
The five with wainscoting, along with the doorway and fireplace flats, will make up the living room. The four with just wallpaper will be in the hallway.
Here, I have glued down the wainscoting. There are no nails involved here, just good old wood glue, clamps and weights (since clamps wouldn't reach far enough into the flat to hold down the chair-railing.
After the wainscoting has dried.
Next I cut the masonite paneling in 2' X 7' sheets and glued and weighted them down.
After the paneling has dried.
Well, that's where I am now. You're all caught up. I did a few other projects, such as creating flicker power cables, but I'll go into that later.
So you can see what my end vision is of all of this, let me briefly explain a few things.
All of the flats will have baseboard and crown moulding applied.
The fireplace will have a back that will be open in the top allowing a fog machine (properly cooled) to pump out low creeping fog and there will be a red flickering light in there as well.
There will (of course) be a special new version of Trent's Halloween Sound Machine filling the air.
There will be a few other tricks up my sleeve that I haven't planned out yet, but that I will control from behind the wall, all the while watching through a portrait with the eyes cut out.