Category Archives: Props

Halloween Props

Halloween 2021 – The Incomplete Halloween?

Halloween 2019 marked the end of the tradition of my kids scaring trick-or-treaters and hosting the haunted maze. My kids are all teenagers now and they just wanted to have their friends over for a Halloween party. So, I sold the maze, the graveyard fence, and all of our largest animatronic and static props. Anything that wouldn’t fit through the attic storage access door had to go. There was a lot that I did not complete this year that would have made this Halloween “epic.”

The Complete

Not everything was incomplete this year. Benjamin spent a lot of time, with some help from mom and dad, making his own costume this year. He wanted a 13th century inspired wraith-knight costume. I found a knight helmet in the classified ads that worked out well as a base for him to work with. Ben and I added red, pulsating LEDs inside and he painted it and really did an amazing job on it. Heidi helped him by sewing the tabard and putting the crest that he created on it. I helped him make the tabard look worn by sanding away layers of fabric and using spray paint to make it look dirty, sweaty, and worn. He made his own long sword out of wood and it turned out amazing as well.

Annie did her own face paint this year for school and for Halloween night and she did an excellent job. Tyler dressed up in the pirate costume that I wore when he was 1 year old. They’re all growing up so fast. Heidi dressed up as a Beanie Baby with the other 3rd grade teachers at her school. She was a giraffe, but I won’t share a picture here to embarrass her.

The kids had their friends over for a Halloween party. They had Beetlejuice playing in the theater room, they played Jackbox Games Party Pack 8, and pigged out on pizza, soda, candy, and other junk food.

Ben, Tyler, and I went to Glen Ray’s Corn Maze’s Field of Fright haunted maze on October 22nd to see my friend, Jared, and the rest of The Ghostbusters of SLC. This was the first year that I did not help the owner’s of the corn maze plan and set up their haunted maze. There was a 10-15 minute period while we were waiting in line where there was a natural fog effect as the temperature dropped and the moisture and heat in the soil caused a really cool atmosphere. Tyler was acting scared at first as we entered the maze and was clinging to me, but he started making it a game to give a funny name to all of the haunters that were trying to scare him and he ended up having fun.

Annie, Tyler, and Ben all went with our local church youth group to the maze on October 27th as well.

The Incomplete

I have been researching, budgeting for, and building out a holiday light show for several years now. I want our Christmas display to be as cool as, or better than, our Halloween display. I installed permanent holiday lights/pixels on my home last year between Halloween and Christmas. Maybe I’ll do a separate post about how I accomplished that once I have my light show complete.

The idea is that I can still “haunt” the neighborhood and dazzle the trick-or-treaters and parents, but without me and my kids having to haunt the graveyard or maze and keep unruly ToTs in line.

So, I wanted to do a light show using my singing pumpkins video projections as the stars and have the lights on the house and RGB flood lights on the tombstones synchronized to the songs. But I was thinking the singing pumpkins needed to be BIG. Like GIANT.

Last year we got some large pieces of styrofoam from one of the other Rocky Mountain Haunters. We glued the foam pieces together using Great Stuff expanding foam and started the process of shaping them into giant pumpkins. Despite starting this project in September 2020 I ran out of time and motivation to complete them. One of my childhood best friends passed away unexpectedly and I was asked to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. That was a real blow to my motivation. We also traveled out-of-state for our niece’s wedding. I also wasn’t sure what I was going to carve them with, or hard coat them with, so they were put into storage in the basement.

Fast-forward to this year and we continued carving and shaping the pumpkins until I was satisfied with the results. We used metal curry combs made for brushing horses and some rough 60-80 grit sand paper for the rough carving. Then I used a 120 grit sand paper to smooth out the surface. Hollywood Haunter on and Kara Walker Designs on YouTube had some tutorials that helped me figure out what to use to carve them.

We had three very cool looking giant pumpkins, but how was I going to hard-coat them for durability? From years past you may know that we have used DAP Stucco Patch to coat all of our tombstones and the fence columns with great success. The “problem” with the stucco patch product is that it has sand in it and makes a rough, stone-like texture. That’s perfect for tombstones, but I wanted the pumpkins to be smooth.

So, I experimented with another DAP product called Platinum Patch. The ingredients suggested it was made from the same materials as the stucco patch, but did not have the sand in it. The online reviews and description said it dries “rock hard.” I thought it would be perfect. So, we covered the pumpkins in a thick layer of DAP Platinum Patch and waited for them to dry completely. We waited and waited and waited. It took several days until I felt comfortable with sanding them smooth. After sanding them smooth I noticed that the platinum patch product doesn’t dry as hard as the stucco patch product. There was way too much flexibility and give for me to feel like the pumpkins would be durable enough to withstand being moved around year to year.

So, I got enough stucco patch that fit within the rest of my Halloween budget and we started coating the pumpkins with it. We did not have enough to finish the pumpkins, and there was so much time wasted waiting in between layers of the different patches we used, so they are now sitting in storage, half covered in stucco patch, incomplete, waiting for next year.

In addition to the giant pumpkins being incomplete, I didn’t end up doing a light show for Halloween this year. I could have. In fact, I had a few sequences created in xLights and I stayed up until 2am on Friday, October 29th, running in and out of my house looking at the sequences on my house lights. But I ended up deciding to table the Halloween light show for this year. I’m still learning xLights and wasn’t sure how to set up the sequences to loop automatically the whole night. So, we had a simple display this year with gravestones with static lighting and a “plasma” lighting effect of green, orange, and purple on the roof pixels. Below is a sample video of one of the xLights sequences that I had ready.

Ray Parker, Jr. – Ghostbusters xLights sequence.
It is best to watch it in HD on a large, bright screen. Even then, YouTube’s compression of the video makes it so the colors are washed out on the pixels. There really are greens, purples, reds, oranges, etc. being used, but you just can’t see them in the YouTube video.

Rocky Mountain Haunters Gathering 2018 – Nibblers, Crouching Ghoul, Monster-In-a-Box

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.

Nibblers

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.

Crouching Ghoul

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.

Crouching Ghoul Instructions Sheet (PDF)

Monster-In-a-Box (MIB)

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.
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How to Upgrade a Spirit Halloween Ghostbusters Proton Pack

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.

Spirit Halloween Proton Pack right out of the box.
Spirit Halloween Proton Pack right out of the box.

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.

GBfans.com lighting kit.
GBfans.com lighting kit.

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.

Motherboard and masking tape.
Motherboard and masking tape.

Motherboard, wood blocks inside, and masking tape.
Motherboard, wood blocks inside, and masking tape.

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 see gray plastic and I want to paint it black.
I see gray plastic and I want to paint it black.

I then removed all of the masking tape and attached an Alice pack frame to the motherboard using black zip ties.

Alice pack frame.
Alice pack frame.

Remove masking tape.
Remove masking tape.

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.

Proton Pack Cosmetic Upgrade Kit
Proton Pack Cosmetic Upgrade Kit

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.

My finished prop.
My finished prop.

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.

Fixing and Improving our Halloween Graveyard Fence

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.

Halloween 2016

2016 was a great year for prop building at The Never Moor.

This year we focused on adding more tombstones to our graveyard since our new home’s yard is three times the size of our old yard. We added about 20 new tombstones and props to our haunt. My kids really helped me A LOT (you’ll see in the video). Our costume theme for this year were characters from the Harry Potter books/movies.

Thank you to Jason Hogan, another member of the Rocky Mountain Haunters, for giving us 14 tombstone blanks. We covered and sealed the foam blanks with Stucco Patch, then painted with gray exterior primer, and then flat black and white exterior paint. My wife cut vinyl epitaphs with her Silhouette that turned out amazing.

Halloween 2016

Building Tombstones

Pumpkin PATCH and the Boo Brothers – Singing Pumpkin Animations

I won a Free singing pumpkin animation today on Facebook! I chose “Dead Man’s Party” to add to the other 8 animations that we have for our Pumpkin PATCH and the Boo Brothers singing pumpkin concert.

Since the Halloween of 2013 we have included these singing pumpkins in our graveyard haunt. I often get asked if I animated them. I am not the animator, but John Nielson who manages the Halloween Fun and Christmas Magic Facebook page IS the talented animator behind the Disneyesque Singing Pumpkins that I use. He also has Singing Snowman animations and animations that you can project onto a wall, your garage door, or other flat surfaces. Check out his website and his Facebook page to find out how you can add your own singing pumpkin concert to your Halloween haunt.

Cloaked Flying Crank Ghost (FCG)

Here is our Cloaked Flying Crank Ghost (FCG) for this year’s haunt (2013).

Download the instructions for building the mechanism and marionette from the Rocky Mountain Haunters website at http://www.rockymountainhaunters.com/images/FCG%20PARTS%20LIST.pdf

For the head movement, modify the rear eye hooks so there are two side-by-side rather than just the one in the middle. You will see where to attach the strings to the top of the head and back/bottom of the neck by watching the video.

My 8 year old son helped me build this project in our spare time. We started it in June and finished it just in time for Halloween. We had a great time building it together.

↓ Here is an instructional video showing some of the steps we took to get our Cloaked Flying Crank Ghost (FCG) to have the movement that we achieved. ↓

Creepy, Dancing, Paper Mache Ghosts

I wanted to add two new characters to our haunt this year. A male and female ghost dancing in the graveyard. Kind of a tribute to the dancing ghosts in the Disney Haunted Mansion, but that look more like the Hitch-hiking Ghosts. I sculpted the faces with paper mache clay over the course of several nights. The girl’s face went through several different versions until I felt like she “went” with the guy.