Sunday, December 31, 2006

Paper-mache magic

Scott Stoll of Michigan can do some amazing things with paper-mache. Check out his five huge skeleton creatures, each measuring over nine feet tall! Using more than 125 pounds of newspaper and 90 pounds of flour, Scott individually paper-mached each of the skulls, hands and ribs. Everything was then attached to a support frame designed to withstand 50 mph winds.

For those of you who would like to find out more details about Scott's creations, the following comes straight from the horse's mouth...

WATERPROOFING AND DURABILITY- "The props were painted with a waterproofmasonry paint, the kind you use to seal basement walls. The plan was then to apply a poly seal over that, but we ran out of time this year and werefortunate that it did not rain during the days the display was up. I stillhave several papier mache props from 1992, and everything I have built overthe last 5 years is still in fantastic shape. Polyurethane sealants orvarnishes work well. As for durability, the skulls are tough, each weighingclose to 5 lbs and some of the tombstones weigh close to 8 lbs. When handling the props, you would swear they were made from wood, they are thatsolid."

ANCHORING - "The skeleton pieces were attached (with bungee cords for ease ofsetup and teardown) to a support structure made of 2x4's. The 2x4 was thenattached to a 6 ft metal fence post sunk into the ground. The tombstoneswere placed on metal rods via a looped cable tie on the back. Everythingwas secure and nothing was disturbed by wind. I forgot to mention that theskulls rested on a very large spring that was attached to the top of thesupport structure, allowing the heads to nod and bobble in the wind, Think9 foot high bobbleheads and you get the idea. The hands and arms wereattached to a piece of 1x3 that hung from a hook. A counter balance on theopposite end of the hand allowed the arms to freely sway in all directions.Very cool in the breeze."

PAPIER MACHE IN GENERAL- "Numerous papier mache techniques were used tocreate the display. The most versatile technique which was used on thetombstones, skulls, hands and ribcages was papier mache clay. PM Clay is made by tearing newspaper into smalls squares, boiling the paper for severalhours until it starts to fall apart, whisking or mixing the paper until itshreds to the consistency of oatmeal, drying the pulp on large screens, thenfinally putting the dry pulp in a blender to form a light paper "fluff."The "fluff" is then mixed with papier mache paste and a binding agent toform a clay that works well for filling large pieces. The paper was groundfairly coarse for the tombstones creating the stone feeling.There are lots of papier mache paste recipes available on the internetranging from the simple to the complex, each has its own special attributes.My favorite is simple: flour + water = paste. Some of the recipes includeadding linseed oil, chalk, sawdust, white glue, cornstarch, bleach, dishdetergent, drywall joint compound, etc. I used a few different recipes andhave my favorite concoctions.The best method for learning papier mache is to simply do it. Start aproject and see where it goes. This year I used sketches as the startingpoint for the Demon Reapers and kept working them until I got the desiredresult. Another great thing about papier mache is that it is constantly re-workable, if you don't like the result you can keep modifying it untilyou get what you want. Cut away pieces, add pieces, sand, drill, the pieceisn't finished until you decide it is (or run out of time).Overall I was very happy with the end result. As usual I learned a millionthings I would do different next time. The biggest challenge was time. We created everything in six weeks which of course meant we ran out of time.I'm least happy with the paint jobs, that was the last stage and had plannedon using an airbrush outside, but the weather the day we were to paint was horrible so I resorted to painting them by hand with a sponge. The pieces will be repainted before they are displayed again."

To see more images of Scott's display, click here.
and here

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Take your photos at dawn or dusk

That was the #1 tip given to me by Dave Gugel, creator of the fantastic display you see on the left. Most people make the mistake of photographing their displays during the day (when it's difficult to capture any sort of spooky "mood") or when it's already dark out (which causes obvious lighting problems and often leads to the implementation of the dreaded "camera flash"). At dawn and dusk, there's just enough light out to take your pictures easily without a flash, yet not so much light that haunted displays lose those wonderful dark shadows. Plus, being able to capture some stormy clouds in the distance is sure to add dimension and character to any photo.

To see more of Dave's display, click here.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Terror Syndicate

I sure do wish I lived closer to Pittsburgh, PA (how often does anyone say that?) because the folks at Terror Syndicate have created one of the most elaborate home haunts in the country. Filling a large portion of their backyard and garage, this massive display gets bigger and better every year with new layouts, props and figures to scare friends and neighbors brave enough to take the tour.

Be sure to check out how much their haunt has evolved since 1997. Now imagine how much bigger and better it will be in another 10 years. Kind of makes you wish you lived closer to Pittsburgh too, doesn't it?

Link -->

Monster paintings by Amy Hill

From the Roq La Rue gallery website:

"Amy Hill paints with a notoriously difficult Dutch Renaissance technique, using formality in the execution and opting for non-conventionality in her subject matter. In her newest series, Amy has painted a series of classic movie monsters as businessmen in suits. Earthy, luminous portraits are painted in tones perfect for the discriminating boardroom, as repulsive monsters are lovingly painted and renamed with 'normal' societially accepted names. Funny, yet thought provoking, the initial assumption of 'businessmen as monsters' begins to expand as the viewer considers what the artist might actually be implying."

Link -->

This is how a Halloween photo should look

There are so many horrible photos of Halloween displays out there. The shots are usually blurry, or too dark, or poorly composed. If you try hunting online for high-quality photos of yard haunts, you'll likely have to dig through hundreds of shots before you come up with just a couple that are well-conceived and artistically shot.

Here's one of the good ones...

In fact, this is one of my favorite photos to come out of the 2006 Halloween season. It was taken by a very talented Oklahoma-based photographer and features the yard of a really nice guy who goes by "Slimy" on

Zombie killing game

This zombie-killing flash animation game is based on Herbert West: Re-Animator, a series of short stories by the horror fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft.

Link -->

Decorating with bones

If you ever find yourself in the Czech Republic, be sure to swing by the town of Sedlec and "Czech out" the Sedlec Ossuary. (According to Wikipedia, "an ossuary is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains.")

This particular ossuary is decorated with the skeletal remains of 40,000 people. There is a chandelier, a large coat of arms and garlands hanging from the ceiling - all comprised of bones!
The official site can be found here -->
And a "fan site" containing lots of great photography is here -->
A similar crypt in Rome displays the skeletal remains of 4000 Capuchin friars.
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (or "Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins") -->

A "yard haunt" without the yard

Necrobones does a great job of proving that a giant expanse of lush, rolling lawn isn't required to create an amazing yard haunt. His "yard" appears to consist only of a front stoop and a ten foot driveway. With nary of blade of grass in site, he dresses up his graveyard with Spanish moss and artificial leaves glued to a piece of plywood.

Giant Inflatable Haunted House

This just might be the coolest haunted house in the world. Measuring 150 feet long x 70 feet wide x 30 feet tall, visitors enter this inflatable haunted house / maze through a wound in the fallen giant's head. Where can I get one?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Skull & Crossbones in high fashion

I love skulls! Not only do they hold our brains in place but pictures of them look great on a t-shirt. Over the past year, the prevalense of skulls (and other anatomical graphics) on clothing has skyrocketed! What could once be found only in the stomping grounds of punk rockers now appears regularly in more mainstream and conservative fashion emporiums.

Check out this article from Sleek Magazine for information on how these graphics are making their way onto today's top runways.

Recreating "The Haunted Mansion"

James Lopez is a former Disney animator who creates a Haunted Mansion-inspired yard haunt each year. He has personally sculpted replicas of the famous hatbox ghost and staring statues that look every bit as good as the real thing.

But that's not all...

While his Halloween display may only be up for a few short weeks a year, he proves his love for the Haunted Mansion 24/7, 365 with a home office done up like the Mansion itself. He has stenciled the famous demon wallpaper on his walls, put cobwebs on the chandelier, and even built full-scale props based solely on unused "Haunted Mansion" concept art.

Check out more of his amazing display at

Davis Graveyard

Talk about going all out...
The folks at Davis Graveyard do an amazing display that seems to grow by leaps and bounds each year. One of their many additions this year was a giant cathedral facade measuring approx. 25 feet tall! Illuminated on the 2nd floor of the facade are 4 "stained glass" windows featuring skulls and the grim reaper. (The round stained glass windows measure 3 feet in diamater. The more rectangular windows are approx. 2 feet by 4 feet in size.)

Check out their sites to learn more about this terrific display--> and

Pumpkinrot is king!

Well, it seems appropriate that a new blog devoted to "the best of the Halloween-themed best" should begin with Pumpkinrot.

This master of the yard haunt is considered "a god" by many hardcore Halloween enthusiasts for his homemade, ultra-realistic paper-mache corpses and high-quality photography.
Check out more of his stuff at

Welcome foolish mortals

Welcome to my blog! As a Halloween enthusiast, I'm always on the lookout for inspiring images of yard haunts and links to high-quality props.

Unfortunately, most Halloween-themed websites become a virtual dumpingground for anything and everything haunt-related. They force you to dig through hundreds of poorly photographed displays and cheaply constructed props just to find that one diamond in the rough.

This is site promises to be different.

I have no desire to publish links to every Halloween-themed site on the world-wide web. I will only publish images that I find personally arresting, how to's that I find inspiring, and links to sites that are worth your time.

You're a busy person. You deserve the best. Let me sort through all of the junk for you.

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