June 7-9 was the annual Rocky Mountain Haunters Gathering. This year we signed up to make several new animated props, as well as some fun, crafty art projects.
Mason Barton led a class in how to make his “Nibbler” art project. Mason provided the Nibbler kits for $10 each and my boys and I had a great time being creative and unique with each of our Nibblers. Hover over each picture for a description.
Joe Marquez and Karen Christensen led a prop build to make an animated prop of what they called the Twerking Ghoul. I prefer to call it the Crouching Ghoul. The kits cost $120. I was unable to take many pictures since I was busy building the prop, but I stole some from some of the other Haunters that were there.
Blaine Young led a prop build to make an animated Monster-In-a-Box. The kit cost about $100. He did all of the welding and put together the mechanism. We were expecting to have to put the mechanism together, but he did all of the work. The mechanism will be installed inside a box or inside our casket to make it look like something is trying to get out.
This year we added a Haunted Halloween Maze to our family’s Graveyard Haunt. I have shared instructions on how we built our Maze here. Because we spent so much time building the maze, fixing our graveyard fence, and also making my Ghostbuster Halloween costume we didn’t get all of our props and decorations out for Halloween. However, our Haunt was still a great success! We hosted a Halloween Open House Party on the 28th for our friends and family who usually cannot come to our home on Halloween to see our new maze and we had a visit from the Ghostbusters of Salt Lake. We had so many Trick-or-Treaters come this year that I didn’t get any pictures or video on Halloween Night. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!!!
For the past three Halloweens my oldest son, Benjamin, has wanted to and tried very hard to scare Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween night. I didn’t want to start producing a full-on Halloween Haunted House, but I wanted a way for him to have his wish. In searching online about how to make a maze I found instructions on how to build modular maze panels. Paul Nelson is a composer and has information on his website about his music, however, he also has complete instructions on how to build a large modular maze with detailed instructions on how to put it together. My purpose in providing the information below is not to copy Paul’s instructions, but to show how I used his plans to make our own smaller maze that fit our yard and needs, and to also preserve the plans in case he stops hosting the plans in the future. For full instructions please visit Paul’s Modular Maze Panels website.
Paul’s full-size maze is 32.75 feet squared (14 panel segments by 14 panel segments), or larger. The area of my front yard where we planned to set our maze up was not that large, plus the cost of building the full maze would be over $1,500. My budget was $400, so I needed to come up with a design that would fit my budget and my yard. I settled on an 8 panel segment by 8 panel segment maze. That would be 18.75 feet squared and would fit in my yard nicely. Paul’s maze designs require 43 3-segment panels, 38 2-segment panels, and 14 1-segment panels. That’s 95 panels with 219 total segments. My smaller design required me to make 10 3-segment panels, 17 2-segment panels, and 13 1-segment panels. That’s 40 panels with 77 total segments.
What is a Segment?
If you look at your maze from above it is made up of many squares. Each side of the square where a wall or panel is in place is a segment. As you can see below, this is my concept design for the final design that we used. In this picture you can see how I divided the maze into 3-panel, 2-panel, and 1-panel segments. Although the final maze has some differences from this drawing, this is what we based our panel building off of.
Paul’s instructions include the dimensions for these segmented panels.
I started by calculating how much I needed of the following materials: 2x4s, 3/8″ plywood sheets, 6-mil black plastic rolls, screws, eye screws, wood glue, staple gun staples, rope, and tent stakes. For my maze I needed at least 47x 104.625x2x4s, 1 sheet of 3/8″ plywood, 3x 10’x100′ rools of 6-mil black plastic, 3 lbs of drywall screws, 250x #8 eye screws, 1x 18oz Gorilla Wood Glue, at least 4,500 staple gun staples, at least 150′ clothesline or rope, 10 to 20 tent stakes. I spent about $500 for all of the supplies. Paul has an itemized list of the supplies to build his full-size mazes on his website.
The first step in starting to build your modular maze panels is to rip the 2x4s lengthwise into four equal strips using a sharp blade on a table saw. Paul says to cut them to 0.875″. That is about 25/32″ on a tape measurer or on your table saw. It took my wife and I about 5 hours to rip all 50 of the 2x4s that we had. Our table saw kept tripping our breaker, so we had to keep resetting it. I also had bought a brand new 60-tooth blade, which I think it would have cut faster with a 40-tooth blade. When we were done we had about 200 struts.
Next, we cut these wood struts into the correct dimensions for the different parts of the panels. We needed 80 cut to 81″ with a 15 degree angle on the bottom for the feet to “grip” the ground/grass. For the horizontal struts we needed 26 pieces cut to 24″ long for the single segment panels, 34 pieces cut to 52″ long for the two segment panels, and 20 pieces cut to 80″ long for the three segment panels. The inside vertical pieces are all 72″ long and we needed 37 of them cut. We also cut the 3/8″ plywood into over 234 5.5″x5.5″ triangle gussets. Again, Paul has instructions for the full-size modular maze panels on his website.
The next step is to measure and mark lines where the eye screws will be inserted. On the outer 81″ long struts measure and mark at 15″ and 66″ from the bottom and mark a perpendicular line across all of the struts. I used my garage door as a stop at the end to keep all of the pieces of wood together and straight. I used a 4 foot level to draw the lines. My two boys helped me A LOT to get these measured and marked. The vertical center pieces for the 2-segment and 3-segment panels need to be marked at 10.5″ from each end. Make sure that on the 81″ struts that you mark the outside (long end) of the wood, not the shorter angled side.
Next I drilled pilot holes for the eye screws. I moved pretty quickly through the struts trying my best to hit the center of the strut. They weren’t perfect, but they all worked just fine. I enlisted the help of my two youngest kids to help me screw the eye screws into the wood.
Next place the outer struts (81″ long ones) on their faces with the angled feet facing inward two at a time. You will want the angled end facing inward, so place a bunch of them together and mark at 3″ and 78″ to mark where the horizontal struts will attach. I used my garage door as the stop at the end. Mark a line on the wide face across all of the pairs of struts.
Now you are ready to assemble your panels. I laid out one of each size panel to get an idea of the sizes and what was needed. It also gave my kids a visual look at what the panels would look like when assembled.
We worked as a team to assemble the panels. We first did all of the single segment panels, then the two segment panels, then the three segment panels. My younger son arranged the wood struts, my daughter applied glue to the triangle gussets, and my oldest son placed the gussets on the joints, while I followed with a t-square to make sure the joints were square and then put the drywall screws in.
It took about 5 hours to assemble all of the panels.
The last step in building your modular maze panels is to wrap the frames that you made with some kind of a covering. You can use plastic, burlap, fabric, canvas, wood, etc. Paul recommended 6-mil black plastic and I can understand why. I priced out using burlap and it was still way more expensive than using the plastic. Be sure to use 6-mil plastic or thicker or you may have lots of wear, even from your first use with visitors going through your maze. Paul says to buy the 20 foot wide by 100 foot long rolls of the plastic. I opted to spend a little bit more and use the 10 foot wide by 100 feet long rolls. The reason was that it was easier for me and my kids to manage the 10 foot roll.
Unroll about 160 inches at a time and cut with a straight edge at about 152.5 inches. You will end up with about 8 sections of plastic from each roll. Unwrap the sections of plastic to make it be 10 feet by 152.5″. We started with the 3-segment panels. Line up eye screws at the end of the straight side of 152.5″ side of the plastic with the bottom of your panel sticking out about 10 inches. Fold the long end over the top and align the plastic with the bottom rail of your frame. Staple along that edge of the side so that the plastic overlaps the eye screws slightly. This will hide the eye screws when the maze is assembled. We stapled about every 6 inches using the staple gun itself as our measurement. After stapling that first side, staple the bottom rail of the frame making sure to pull it tight and keeping it straight. Then pull the top tight and staple across the top, then the other side of the frame. Cut some slits in the top of the plastic (see Paul’s diagram of cutting the plastic) and lift the panel and fold the plastic down on the other side. Staple the straight side, then the bottom, then the top, then the remaining side. Cut the excess plastic off with sharp scissors making sure to leave a small amount of plastic overlapping the eye screws. The remaining plastic is enough to do a single segment panel. There will only be 6-7 inches of wasted plastic per section of plastic that you cut.
With the two segment panels we laid two panels on the plastic and did both at the same time, cutting the plastic down the middle once we had three sides of the frame stapled on both of the panels. Then finished them separately. It took us about 10 hours to staple the plastic to all of the frames.
In all it took us about 20 hours to build our modular maze panels.
It took us about 3 hours to set our maze up for the first time. It was just me with my three kids, so with more adults your first time could be faster. The Maze was a huge success on both our Open House Party and on Halloween Night. We had so many Trick-or-Treaters come and were so busy that I didn’t take any pictures or video the entire night. Good luck with building your Modular Maze.
For Halloween this year I am dressing as a Ghostbuster. The khaki flight suit, the grey elbow pads, the belt with fobs, gadgets, and gizmos, black gloves, etc. are all part of the uniform. But what really makes a Ghostbuster a Ghostbuster is the Proton Pack. Now, I didn’t have $800 to $1,000 to spend on a full-size proton pack kit, so what were my options? Spirit Halloween released an 80%ish scale version of a Proton Pack this year. The shape and detail are actually pretty good considering it is an inexpensive ($70ish) toy version of the “real” thing.
With a little more money and a little bit of time the Spirit Halloween Proton Pack can be made to pass as a convincing proton pack. Here is what I did to mine:
First, I updated the lighting in the pack to have the correct rotating red lights on the cyclotron and the chasing blue lights on the power cell. I added red lighting gels and a GBfans.com lighting kit. I soldered the new lighting into the existing battery pack and left the original lights and sound effects in place.
Second, I removed the old decals with the heat from a hair dryer and masked off anything that should not be painted black. I cut a MDF motherboard for the backpack to attach to and to add some weight to the pack (it is very light). I hot glued some wood blocks inside the pack for the motherboard to be screwed to. I even added a Dixie cup holder V-hook to replace the cylinder knob to attach the wand to the pack. I used hot glue to add weld patterns to several areas to make it look like the originals.
Next, I painted everything with a Matte Black spray paint. I wasn’t too careful and there are some drips, but this is a Halloween prop, so it didn’t need to be perfect. In hindsight I would have waited to install the lighting effects until after painting it.
I then removed all of the masking tape and attached an Alice pack frame to the motherboard using black zip ties.
My Spirit Halloween Ghostbuster Proton Pack was now ready to add the finishing touches. I bought an upgrade kit from a member of GBfans.com on eBay for most of the cosmetic upgrades. The yellow tubing for the ion arm, the brass ion arm, the 80% scale cyclotron ribbon cable and cable clamp, various screws, the red and green tubing for the thrower wand, the white circles for the N-filter, and the black split loom over the green cable. All of these parts can be purchased separately, but it was convenient to buy them all from one source. This is what the upgrades look like installed without any other modifications.
The last step was painting the pack to look weathered and used and to apply the decals. I went with a heavily weathered look because the form of the Spirit Halloween Proton Pack was so sharp and rigid. I used Testors model paint: silver, gold, black, orange, and red, for weathering and for the buttons and lights.
I then applied all of the new decals including many that were not included on the Spirit Halloween Proton Pack originally. It took several hours to cut out and apply the decals. The decals can be downloaded from the GBfans.com website. I printed mine at between 80% and 83% of the original size. I added black paint to weather and dirty up the decals.
I wrapped the hand grips on the thrower with black electrical tape. I added a piece of gray foam pipe insulation with black zip ties to the Alice frame.
I couldn’t be more happy with how this turned out. I had planned on using a small iPod Touch Nano and a Bluetooth speaker attached to the motherboard to add all of the correct sounds, but ran out of time. Maybe in the future I will add those.
PS A friend of mine 3D printed a LifeGard II prop for me to wear on my belt.
One of the problems that I needed to find a solution to with our graveyard fence was that the 2’x2′ plywood bases caused the lawn underneath to die each year. I petitioned my friends in the Rocky Mountain Haunters group for help in solving this problem. Their answers ranged from fertilizing before setting them up or after I take them down, to moving them around every few days to keep them from damaging the grass underneath. The best solution was to use PVC pipe underneath the columns to keep them an inch or so off the ground, so the only damage would be small lines in the grass instead of a 2 foot by 2 foot square. I removed the plywood bases and screwed 1 inch PVC pipe on the bottoms. It works great!
Strong winds blew down our Halloween graveyard fence on October 20th and caused damage to the fence columns, finials, and busted the second skeleton sentinel for the second year in a row. I knew that I needed to find a solution to keep them upright in the strong winds we get here in Spanish Fork. The bottoms of my columns are solid wood. Again, my friends in the Rocky Mountain Haunters group helped solve this problem. I cut a square out of the solid block of wood on the bottom and drove T-posts into the ground through the center of each column. The fence is now secure from the winds.