Friday, September 9, 2011

Universal Studious Halloween Horror Nights Here We Come!

Pandemic is going to Universal Studios Hollywood for there Halloween Horror Nights. WOO HOO. This will be my first time going to Universals "Horror Nights" and to California for that matter. Now, let me tell you, I am SO looking forward to both. Hollywood California is the movie capital of the world and Universal Studios is said to have the best Halloween Haunted Attractions around. I have been to Universal Studios in Orlando Florida a couple times already and I loved it each time. Now I will get the chance to see the difference between the two parks, if there is any.
If you follow my blog, you already know I'm a huge Disney fan, but coming in a close second is definitely Universal Studios. Me being a year round Halloween nut and Horror Movie fanatic, Universal Studios is a great place to get a Halloween fix. Most of the rides and attractions their are based on Horror and Sci Fyi movies. You have The Mummy, Twister, Jaws, Terminator, Beatlejucie, E.T, The Simpsons (scariest ride there.) MIB, Jurassic Park, The Poseidon Adventure, Harry Potter... just to name a few and that’s all year round.
Now come the end of September all the way to the beginning of November, Universal unleashes it's Halloween Horror Nights and from what I have seen on the Internet and heard from fellow haunters, it's awesome. I will make sure to take lots of pictures and I will try to video what I can, but like most haunts "NO VIDEO TAPPING ALOUD". (That sucks, right?)
Well, until then I will try to focus on Pandemic Cemetery and get my ass moving on my haunt. This trip is going to take 5 days out of my build time but its well worth it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Monster Mania 2011

Nichole And I went to Monster Mania, in Cherry Hill, over the weekend. Some people may not know this but, not only am I a Halloween nut but I'm a true Horror Movie fan. This would be our second year going to this show and I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of stars signing autographs and the expo section was a good size with plenty of Horror movie memorabilia, videos, posters, figures, original photographs and some specialty items. I picked up 3 movie posters... The Human Centipede, Pet Cemetery, and House. I also got the Necca "Mohawk" from the movie Gremlins and the Necca "Ghost Face" from the movie Scream. When I go to these horror shows I always get at least 1 autograph and this time I got it from Ernie Hudson from The Ghost Busters and Nichole got one from Eddie Furlong from Terminator 2. Both were very nice and very personable and was a real pleasure to meet.

Other guest stars at the show were:

Carey Elwes (Saw, Twister, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Robin Hood Men In Tights, Princess Bride)

Sam Trammell (“Sam Merlotte” on True Blood)

The Crow Reunion – Tony Todd, Michael Masse, Laurence Mason, Rochelle Davis, and Ernie Hudson

The Walking Dead Reunion – Keisha Tillis (“Morgan’s Wife”), Adrain Turner (Morgan’s Son, “Duane”), Addy Miller (“Little Zombie Girl”), Andrew Rothenberg (“Jim”)

Casper Van Dien (Star Ship Troopers, Sleepy Hollow, Dracula 3000)

Lance Henriksen (Alien, Pumpkinhead)

Ghost Busters Reunion – Billy Bryan, Tony Cecere, Ernie Hudson, William Atherton

Tonny Todd (Candyman, Final Destination, Hatchet, Night of The Living Dead remake)

Ted Raimi (Evil Dead, Wishmaster)

Tony Cecere (“Ghostface” Scream 1 & 2)

Bob Elmore (“Leatherface” Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 original)

Joe Turkel (The Shining, Bladerunner)

Kristina Klebe (“Lynda” Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake)

Flash Gordon vs Buck Rogers Reunion – Melody Anderson, Sam Jones, Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Thom Christopher

Nick Mennell (“Bob” Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake)

Chris Sarandon (“Voice” of Jack Skellington)

William Ragsdale (“Charlie” Fright Night original)

Danielle Harris (Halloween, Hatchet, Blood Night, Stake Land)

Lloyd Kaufman (producer, writer, director of Toxic Avenger)

Michael McCleary (Joyride)

Eddie Furlong (Terminator 2, Pet Semetary 2, Night of The Demons remake)

Glen Hetrick (Syfy’s Facebook, fx make-up Buffy & Angel)

Paula Shaw (“Mrs. Vorhees” Freddy vs Jason)

Jeff Zornow (Godzilla comics & Halloween comics)

Scott Jackson (Megadeth comics)

Roxsy Tyler (horror hostess)

Steve Gonsalves & Dave Tango (Ghost Hunters)

Tom Detrik (Twelve Monkeys, Snake Eyes)

Nathan Baesel (“Leslie” Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon)

Richard J Walters (“The Miner” My Bloody Valentine 3D)

Boyd Banks (Land of The Dead, Jason X, Dawn of The Dead)

Alex Vincent (Child’s Play)

Rob Dimension (Late Night Horror Hotel)

                                                       Nichole with Eddie Furlong

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ideas from The Haunted Mansion...

If you're a haunter in anyway then you know all about Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion. This is my number one haunted attraction that I have ever been to see. You can tell as soon as you walk up to the king of haunted houses that Walt Disney himself was a true home haunter. Disney and his imagineers gave this attraction everything it needed to make a fantastic haunted house. From the big effects, like the ball room scene with the dancing ghosts, to the little details like hoof prints stamped in the concrete from the ghost horse and carriage out in front. Even though I have been on this ride more than 50 times, I still see something new every single time I go.

Now I could write pages on The Haunted Mansion, from when Walt Disney first thought of the attraction, to this year's Hitch Hiking Ghost upgrade. But for this blog I wanted to just focus on the "stretching room" and give my fellow haunters some ideas on how you can bring these same effects to your own haunt.

First a little back history on the stretching room: It was first designed for the Disneyland Haunted Mansion as a elevator system to bring the guest down one story to where the attraction started. It would have not been "Disney like" to use stairs. When the ride was built in Disney World, Disney Imagineers wanted to keep the same effect as to hold true with the original attraction. But unlike the original, the Disney World stretching room is not an elevator, it's just a transfer room from one cue line to the next.

There are many many effects going on inside this one room. Sound, lighting, hidden panels, a dead body and of course the room stretching are all there to set the mood for the main show. When you walk in, your ask to step towards the "dead" center of the room. The wall slides closed with the illusion of having "no windows and no doors". The space is confining, making the claustrophobic feel a little uneasy. Then lights flash out with the sound of thunder and the show begins.... So let's move to our home haunt. If your haunt consist of a walk through, then adding these effects are easy. You could build a small room that fits maybe 4 or 5 people, like a 4 ft by 4ft space. Have two doors, one to get in and one on the other side to get out. But make the doors blend in with the walls so when there shut, no one knows where to go. Have only a single dim light that flashes randomly like a flicking light bulb up in the ceiling. Anyone left in there for more than 20 secs will start to freak out. But don't leave them in for too long or it could quickly turn into boredom.

Back to the Haunted Mansion. After the lights start to flash and flicker, The Ghost Host starts his story. As he talks his voice jumps around the room so you have no idea where it's coming from.... This is a great idea for any type of haunt. All you need is 4 small speakers, a prop controller with sound like the Boo Box 4, speaker wire, and a sound track. Set the speakers up in different locations and at different heights around your haunt. Split the sound output on the Boo Box to the 4 relay outputs, then run to run speakers. The controller will act like a switch, turning on and off the speakers so it seems as the voice is jumping around your haunt. The more speakers and relay outputs you use the better the effect.

As the Ghost Host talks, you start to notice the room is getting taller or as the name implies stretches right before your eyes. The portraits also stretch and show the whole story, so to speak.... Now this effect for a home haunt might be a little over the top. The mechanics alone to raise a roof is out of the reach of a lot of haunters. But the portrait idea could work. Think of a "drop panel" type set-up but without the fast loud drop. Build a drop panel with the panel lower so to cover half of a portrait. The portrait should have a normal looking feature on top and something weird, funny or scary on the bottom. Use a pneumatic piston to raise and lower the panel slowly to expose the lower half of the portrait. It's like one of those changing portrait ideas, but not. You could do this in a long hallway with a couple portraits or in a room with a single one. It's a good way to make people take a second look and wonder if the picture stretching or is it there imagination.

After the room is fully stretched and the ghost host brings to your attention that there is no way out "as there are no windows and no doors". All the lights go out with a clash of thunder, you look up to see the master swinging from his neck in the attic above..... This is a great, simple effect. The ceiling in the stretching room is made of cloth. When light is shined from below, you see the cloth and what's painted on it. In this case its the ceiling of the room with wood work and moldings. When the light goes off, another light shines from the back side making the cloth almost invisible showing what's on the other side. This is the type of effect could be used in a hundred different ways. You could make a whole tomb out of it, paint the outside like a stone wall mausoleum. When you shut off the outside lights and turn on the inside ones, your guest can see what scary things you have inside like Zombies, Mummies, or Ghosts.

As you can see, effects that are used in multimillion dollar attractions can easily be put in your haunt with, as Figment says, a little imagination.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lets make Halloween a real "Holiday".

I was reading a post on Halloween Forum the other day on how the the Spirit Halloween store wanted to change Halloween Day to the Saturday before. As in, say Halloween falls on a Monday, we would celebrate it on Saturday the 29th. Well, as i don't really agree with changing the date of Halloween just for convenience sake, (there is a historical reason for Oct 31st) this did get me thinking. We need more then one day to celebrate. The other big holidays get two days, Christmas has Christmas Eve, New Years has New Years Eve and everyone knows the night before Thanksgiving is the best night to go out drinking. Oh and I almost forgot, the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, another day for Christmas. Where is Halloween Eve?

 Now of course to have a true Halloween Eve, Halloween day would have to become a federal holiday which would give a mandatory day off from work and school. There should be no argument here, who wouldn't want another day off. But this isn't about just being lazy and getting another day off, there is good reason for the two day holiday.

Just think of the possibilities, we could have our Halloween Party’s on Halloween Eve, then go Trick Or Treating and visit the Home Haunts on Halloween day. Or if you have a lot of Home Haunts in your area, that are only up for Halloween, you now have two nights to see them all. If you run a Home Haunt like I do, a second day could really come in handy. Halloween Eve could be the "kid friendly" haunt and Halloween Night could be the no holds bar, scare the shit out of people haunt for the teenagers and adults. And now that we have the whole day on Halloween to Haunt our town, a new day time haunt could be set up for the day trick or treaters.The options are endless.

What happens when mother nature doesn’t want to cooperator? A second day might be the haunts savior as, like I said,  a lot of Home Haunters only run there haunt one day. Now you could have at least one back up day if it rains. It really sucks to work for months on a haunt only to be washed out. 

Kids, now having the day off from school, would be able to trick or treating earlier and have more time to hit more houses to get a crap load more candy. And for the parents who usually spend a ton of money on costumes for there kids and themselves every year, now they can be worn for more then one night. Put that Mike Myers mask and gray coveralls on again and get your moneys worth. Or go the other way and wear two totally different costumes. Halloween Eve could be the Slutty Vampire costume and Halloween Day could be Little Red Riding Hood. This is the only way get the most out of Halloween.

Now I know this will conflict with mischief night, but if you need to toilet paper the neighbors house and put Vaseline in car door handles, we could always move mischief night to the night before Halloween Eve. We get three days for Halloween that way. We can do whatever we want to do when it comes to "our" holiday, and nobody can stop us. With more and more families getting into the Halloween spirit,  and Halloween growing exponentially every year. More traditions have been made, needing more time is needed to do them. Let the Home Haunters, Yard Haunters, Halloween fanatics, enthusiast or all around Halloween lovers band together and bring a true Halloween and Halloween Eve to life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When Failure Is The Only Option.

About 8 years ago I thought of building a new animated prop for my Halloween Party / Haunt. It was going to be your typical "Creature In A Crate" prop. I saw it on a website somewhere but not wanting to spend the $1500.00 price tag, I figured I would just build it myself. Now you have to remember, this was before You-Tube videos were around and the website only had a picture and a short description. So this was all trial and error, as most builds are, but lets just say I had a shit load of error. The build went like this, I needed it to be lite, so I could store it in my attic. It also couldn't be to big that it wouldn't fit through a door jamb. I started with ¼ inch Hardy Board for the shell of the crate, this is that brown backer board normally used as cabinet backing which is light weight and cheap to get. (This was my first mistake, great for cabinet backing, sucks for Halloween props). I made the box and screwed 1 x 2 rough sawn wood to go around the edges and in a criss cross pattern on the top and sides to give that “wooden crate look”. I put a hinged door in the front so I could get access to the mechanics inside. The door had a window with bars made from ¾ electrical conduit. I then made a small pallet, out of the same 1 x 2s I used for the edges, that was about 3 inches bigger then the crate on all four sides to fit under it. I ran heavy chain from the top four corners, using screw in I-bolts, to the bottom of the pallet, leaving some slack for the crate to bang around. This was to give the appearance that the monster inside was so crazy only chains could keep it tied down. But as I think about it now, it's ridiculous in real life, have you ever seen an animal shipped with chains holding the box down.( I guess it just looked cool), Anyway, I sprayed the whole thing with black, gray, and red spray paint to give it a old burnt dirty look. It did look nice and if I were smart I would have just stopped there and made it a static prop. (oh the money I would have saved) But I wanted it to shake, jump and rattle like a monster was inside.

I had an old 120v motor out of a floor standing belt sander that I wanted to use for the shacking. I made a a 6 diameter alum plate with a hole drilled 2 inches off center. I cut a slot into the bottom of the crate and had the alum plate stick through it. The idea was, when the motor spun the plate around, it would hit the top of the pallet and lift the whole crate up and bang it around violently, like a big cam. (This would be another mistake. You know the kind a horse power you need to lift a wooden box with the weight of motor and chains attached? Well neither did I and I still don't. But I bet a lot more then ¾ horse) The motor was hooked up to a Terror By Design prop controller and a dimmer switch to adjust the speed. OK, now for the moment of truth. I plugged in all in and hit the little red button on the controller and BAM. The plate spun around hitting the top of the pallet and STOPPED DEAD. The motor wasn't strong enough to lift the crate. Well after some brain storming I thought I would just lift the motor so that the plate doesn’t hit the pallet and will just vibrate the crate violently. I did that and hooked it all up, hit the red button and holly shit did this crate shack, jump, vibrate, and just go nuts. It looked great. But just as I was admiring my new creation, I saw the top start to come lose from the sides, and then one of the eye bolts ( that was holding the chains down) ripped out of the wood. With out that one chain, it moved off to the side of the pallet ripping the other 3 chains out making the crate totally flip on its side. The motor, now hanging upside down, rips out the wood and acts like a jackhammer and blows the rest of the crate apart. It stopped only after the motor ripped its own cord from its back. All this happened within 15 seconds. Almost all the screws ripped out the Hardy board and 1 x 2s, the wiring was a big tangled mess and all that was left, was a pile of scrap wood. I stared at it for about a minute, then walked out of my workshop and did not come back to clean up the destroyed prop till the next weekend. (No, that picture is not the prop. But thats almost what it looked like.)

So what did we learn here?

Sometimes cheap isn't always the best way to go.

If I would have used ½ plywood or ½ solid wood planks for the crate box is would have stayed together. Try to stay away from Hardy Board, Particle Board, MDF, OSB or anything like that. Solid wood, plywood or metal only.

I should have put inside corner bracing to keep it from racking. Anywhere you can put bracing is a good idea for any animated prop. Blocks of wood, angle alum, steal brackets are all good.

Should have used wood screws or even better, deck screws instead of drywall screws. They may cost more but there heads won't pop off under a load.

Instead of the screw in I-bolts for the chains, I should have used bolt through I-Bolts with a nut and oversized washer.

I should have used through bolts to mount the motor instead of screws. Just like the screw in I-bolts, there is alot less of a chance of pull through.

I could have skipped the motor all together and used a pneumatic piston to pop the crate around. A linear movement is a lot easier to control then a spinning movement. And in would have looked much more real.

And the biggest thing I should have done was to test it before I finished it. That would have saved me the most time and money. Always test your mechanism before you build. Be it a 4-bar lifter, a scissor reacher or a simple pop up, make sure it works. That way you can make changes before your to deep into it.

Good luck on your build.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Find the time to do other Fall things.

Sometimes being a Home Haunter you miss out on a lot of the Fall season. Of course, as with all haunters and Halloween lovers, Fall is my favorite time of the year. But I get so focused on that one day or one week when my haunt is up and running, I miss out on what Fall has to offer. Yes, I know, you never seem to have enough time to finish that last corpse or get that garbage can to pop open ONLY when someone walks by it (f**king motion sensors) but you still need to stop and have some fun. So as I write this in the beginning of summer and I'm getting ready to hit the beach, I'm going to make a Fun Fall Things-To-Do list. And why not, we plan our haunts out months or even a year in advance, why not set some goals to get out of the basement or garage and into the clean crisp Fall air.

1) Carve a pumpkin. This should be an easy one, and every year I say to Nichole "We got to get pumpkins to carve." and every year we get those pumpkins but never find time to carve them. So this year we will get the "perfect" pumpkin and stab the shit out of it with a non child safe kitchen knife till it looks something like a jack-o-lantern.

2) Take a drive to see the Autumn colors. Load up the family, in my case that's Nichole and my dog Max, and take a drive to the closes wooded area. Now, if you live in a city or surrounded by palm trees, you might have to drive a little further. But let me tell you, it is well worth it. No other time a year can you see how beautiful mother nature can be.

3) Go on a hay ride. Hey rides are great. Slowly moving down that dirt path on our way to the pumpkin patch, sitting on wet bails of hey,(why are they always wet) is the perfect way to help you forget that your pneumatic piston just blew through your coffins lid right after you just finished all the detail work.

4) Go to a farm. Now maybe this should be first on the list because you can get your pumpkins to carve, see autumn colors on the way there, and get to ride on a hay ride. But I like to go to different places for different things. I know this great farm just for pumpkins and little Halloween shit. Then I go to a different place for the best pumpkin ice cream here in NJ. Then another place for their hay ride and yet another place for a corn maze.

5) Do a corn maze. Corn mazes can be a lot of fun. Try to find one that only takes about a ½ hour to get through. Any longer and it starts to get boring and any shorter makes you think you paid to much. Also, some mazes give prizes if you find different objects throughout the maze. Prizes always make it extra fun, even if your only winning a pencil eraser.

6) Eat pumpkin everything. Pumpkin Donuts, Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Ice Cream, Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Coffee, Pumpkin Cookies....The great part about this step is you can do this as your working on your haunt. Theirs nothing like sipping on a pumpkin coffee, and eating pumpkin donuts while gluing your fingers together with Right Stuff Triple Expanding Foam.

7) Go to every Party City, Halloween Express, Spirit Halloween or any other Halloween store around your town. Do I even need to explain this one?

8) Go to a big Amusement Park Halloween Night. Every Amusement park does something for Halloween and most are very good at it. Nichole and I always try to make it to Great Adventures Fright Fest each year. The big parks always cost a lot but to be surrounded by Halloween and horror, like "big money haunts" can do, it's worth it. Everyone knows Universal Studios Horror Nights and how big there displays are. Then of course you got Disney's Not So Scary Halloween, which is just great all around. With hundreds of parks around you should be able to hit at least one.

9) Go to your local Pro Haunts. Another no brainier for a haunter, but sometimes in the time crunch to get things done, we can't get to a pro haunt. When I'm burnt out and don't feel like unclogging another fog machine, going to a pro haunt is a good re-energizer. We know most pro haunt owners started out as home haunters, so to see there haunts in action gives me the drive to keep pushing on.

10) Drive around and see other home haunts. Home Haunters have a special bond, so its easy to approach a fellow haunter and talk about there haunt. Don't go there comparing whose haunt is better or whose Bucky skeleton looks more dead. (Even though you know yours would rock theirs) Show them some love, they've been working just as hard as you. Home Haunters come up with some of the greatest ways to make props on the cheap. Spreading that knowledge is great way to incorporate new ideas into your own haunt and give someone an idea for theirs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Am I Weird?

Some people just don't get why Home Haunters do what they do for the great All Hallows Eve. Every haunter knows that look you get from the haters out there when that first tombstone goes up or you put more then 2 pumpkins in your front yard. These same people can stare at a house with 100,000 Christmas Lights, and a freaky ass Santa waving for hours, but can't bare the sight of a house with a coffin on the front lawn and a couple body parts here and there. I was told by a neighbor on the first day of my set-up, "I guess someone likes to celebrate DEATH" and as I turned and looked at her face of pure disgust, I said with a smile... "I love it". Then I went back to hanging a dead kicking girl from my tree. It's those kind of people I feel sorry for. To not be able to let go and enjoy Halloween should be a sin. It's not a celebration of death, it's a celebration of life. You never feel more alive then when you are about to shit yourself from a good scare. When you get scared, you go through so many emotions. Take a simple "pop up" scare for instance. Your walking around a gloomy cemetery, checking out the tombstones and skeletons, the rickety fence that tells you to keep out. The lights are flashing and the sound of foot steps and chains are coming from a distance. But just as you go to have a closer look at the twitching rat in a rat trap, a skull pops out from behind a tombstone. You jump back, your heart is racing and scream out in fear. Then as the skull slowly resets to scare someone else. You realize what it was and that it is not real. Your heart slows down and your breathing returns to normal. You begin to laugh and look around to see who else got scared. They are laughing right with you or maybe laughing at you. And then a slight feeling of embarrassment sets in, as your a grown man who just screamed like a little girl  from a Party City foam skull, popping up behind a Styrofoam tombstone. You check to see if you peed yourself and move on. Now if that's celebrating "death", then send me to hell now because that seems funny as shit. I don't do an over the top display for Halloween to worship the devil. I do it for the reaction I get out of people. That scream from a 5 year old kid, to the hand shake from the 50 year old dad who says "this is awesome". That's why I do it, that's why we all do it. (Well.... maybe we also do it because we want the best haunted house around.)  Keep on Haunting guys and girls. We love Halloween and we are not scared to show it....(But is that only because were Weird?)