Archive for Halloween Props
So after several months of procrastination, I have finally gotten myself moving on a project that has been in the back of my head since Halloween 2009. The original plan was to create an Obelisk Tombstone from Dow foamboard that would double as a fog chiller. The idea was simple; apply the concept of a cat litter bucket vortex chiller into a hollow Obelisk. This would eliminate 2 of the issues facing the use of a cat litter bucket chiller; A. hiding the chiler, and B. insulating the chiller.
At the onset of the project, I decided to make a few changes to the overall design. Rather than going with a tall, thin obelisk, I decided to do a Celtic Cross atop a block base. This would allow a shorter, broader base that would provide more stability, and a larger chiller area. This would also give me more opportunity for the detailed tombstone carvings that I enjoy.
After a $40 trip to Lowes for foam, I set my plans in motion. The base/chiller proved to be very simple to build, and took only a few hours. The cross, which proved to be only slightly more difficult, came next. Since the cross was made of two layers, I was able to embed a 1″x1/4″ strip of hardwood down the center for added support. That should prevent the cross from breaking off in any wind. The finished structure stands just over 6′ tall (29″ base, 45″ cross), with the inner dimensions of the chiller being 22″x14″x14″.
Once the structure was finished, I started detailing the cross which took roughly 5 hours to complete. That’s not including the time spent creating the knot-work templates. And now, the hard part awaits. I have just begun carving the knot-work border on the front of the base which, based on what I’ve accomplished in the first 4 hours, I expect will take about 15 hours to complete. Wish me luck, as my eyes and my back are already killing me.
After several weeks of on and off work, I’m happy to report that My Gravedigger prop is finally complete. With this being my first attempt at Latex/Cotton corpsing on this scale, I am very happy with the outcome.
The skull used for this prop was a Lindberg Pirate Skull model which was purchased from My Atomic. The Structure was built entirely from scrap wood, newspaper, duct tape, wire coat hangers, and a few pieces of CPVC. It was then covered with a layer of duct tape, 3 layers of newspaper mache and 2 layers of paper towel mache. The final layers of skin were made from cotton balls unrolled and coated with Liquid Latex, and hand painted with hobby acrylics. The eyes are made from wooden craft balls (see our Projects pages for a How-To). The jeans were an old pair of mine that no longer fit. Special thanks to my friend Tracy Carpenter for the donation of the boots, and to her husband Al for wearing them out so well.
So without further ado, here are the photos.
Free time for working on my props has been in short supply as of late. Every day life seems to take precidence over decorating for a holiday thats still more than a third of a year off. Nonetheless, with the past two days off, I’ve been able to find some time to dedicate to working on the Gravedigger.
Since the last update, I’ve added a few new things, the first of which was the addition of a tongue. The more I looked at the face of the prop, the more I felt like something was missing. I set out to fix that post haste, since I still had access to the mouth from under the jaw. Like many other home haunters, I tend to keep some of the oddest crap “just in case”. This time, it was a large lump of Great Stuff that had been shaved off of the top of my PVC Candles. I carved a block to fit inside of the bottom jaw, and then carved the tounge from it. A layer of Liquid Latex, a sheet of toilet paper, another layer of latex, and a quick coat of paint were all that were needed thereafter. I was very pleased with the outcome of the tongue, and I’ll very likely use the same process again in the future.
Another new addition is the right ear. I do plan to add hair, but likely not nearly enough to hide an ear (or the absence of one). Since the right side of his head is much more intact than the left, I figured I’d better try to add an ear to make things look right. The ear was comprised entirely of latex and cotton. It’s not the best looking ear, but then he’s not the best looking guy either.
Other than the above, the rest has just been working my way down the arms and torso with the latex and cotton. Still lots more to do, but it’s getting there.
Well, its been a while now since my last update, and other projects seem to keep popping up (like my “Periscope for the Dead” prop), all getting in the way of my progress on this one. Here is a quick look at the current state of my gravedigger. The face/head is now covered with the latex/cotton. I’ll be adding some more latex to the scalp when I add the hair, and hopefully that will dull down some of the texture on the top and back of the head. I’ll also be doing a lot more painting to hopefully add more contrast between the exposed skull and the fleshy parts. I may also try to add a bit of a “peeled back flesh” look to some of the edges between the flesh and the bone.
So, as is typical of me, I allowed my mind to wander off of one project and on to another. Giving myself an unintentional break from my Gravedigger prop, I decided to start work on a new prop that had popped into my head a few days ago. A ground-breaking arm, holding up an eyeball as if to use it as a periscope for the dead.
This turned out to be an extremely simple prop to make, and required very little thought. A few bones from a Bag o’ Bones that I had purchased last year for my gaol prisoner skeleton, a 4″ drywall screw, some hot glue, a few small scraps of wire coat-hanger and some latex & cotton were all that was needed for this one. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget the eyeball.
I may do a bit more painting, but otherwise, this one’s pretty much finished. Though I haven’t decided if I want this one in the graveyard, or popping up from the Witch’s Cauldron.
Ive now made it to the point in this project where I’ve chosen to stray from my comfort zone. The Gravedigger is all constructed, with several coats of paper mache applied and a coat of exterior Latex Paint added to seal up the mache. Now it’s time to play with the liquid Latex and Cotton. For the record, I am sceptical of doing this, as I am not completely confident that this will look as good as I hope it will. Nonetheless, I feel I must give it a shot. I have used the Liquid Latex once before as can be seen here, but this time it will be on a much larger scale.
The Gravedigger is now the biggest halloween project undertaking I have made to date. Not so by overall size (my past scarecrows took that category) but definately by the work involved. So far, I’m pleased with the progress and have high hopes for the final outcome. Here is one last look at the gravedigger before I start with the latex & cotton. One coat of light brown Exterior Latex, with a dry brushing of dark brown. The bright white areas, which will be toned down with a brown wash, are where I plan to have exposed bone, though some of the white will be covered up with latex as well.
Another new direction that I have chosen to take with this proect is the addition of the eyes. The eyes, inspired by Haunters Hangout’s “Easy Eyes“, were created with 1″ wooden balls purchased at Michaels – The Arts & Crafts Store. The balls were painted with white and red acrylic hobby paint, then Haunters Hangout’s printable Irises were added. Gloss Modge Podge was used to give the eyes a “wet” look. Once in place, the eyeballs were held in place with a paper mache clay made from Scott’s TP, water, Elmers Glue-all, and a few drops of red acrylic hobby paint. Once dry, a pale light yellow was drybrushed on and then sealed with the Gloss Modge Podge.
Well that’s enough babbling from me. Latex and cotton process starts today!
So its been a few weeks since I posted the last update on my Gravedigger prop. I had grabbed a photo after the Paper Mache process was finished, but never got around to making a post on it. So here we have the Gravedigger with the final layer of Mache, paper towels, rumpled to a raisin like appearance.. The next step is a coat of exterior latex paint.
About 3 weeks after photo in the previous post, and with all of his accessories removed; I am now nearing the completion of the first layer of Paper Towel Mache. For some strange reason, this guy is starting to remind me of a really hungry dude in Long Johns. Ive made good progress on this prop, so I dont see why I wouldn’t have time for plenty additional projects before this coming Halloween.
For anyone curious, The Skull used on the Gravedigger is the Lindburg Pirate Skull model. I had purchased several of these this winter from www.myatomic.com for about $15 each.
The Spine was made from two thin strips of 1/8″ plywood separated by small 1/2″ thick blocks of wood. This allowed me to form the spine into a more natural shape without adding too much weight.
The ribcage, arms and pelvis were made from tightly rolled newspaper bound with duct tape. Each arm also features 2 sections of 1/2″ CPVC with heavy gauge wire coat hangers to help support the position of the arms.
The fingers are “hand-me-downs” (no pun intended) from a prop that I had built back in the late 1980′s. Each finger bone was hand-carved from scrap pine with a hole drilled down the center, and joined by a section of wire coat hanger. Each completed finger is then mounted to a 3/4″ PVC “T”.
There were a few minor additions made to the skeletal structure since the last photo, mostly just detailing of the elbows and knees. Once that was finished, it was time to move on to adding some skin to the bones. For those wondering, the photo to the left was taken a few weeks before the photo above.
First, A base layer of duct tape was added to the entire structure. The duct tape allows me to dictate how sunken in the flesh will be around the ribcage, and also provides a solid base for the paper mache. This project has used a total of one and a half rolls of duct tape (geesh, that’s a lot!).
Once the duct tape was in place, Several layers of newspaper (mache) were added until the skin felt fairly solid. If I had to guess, I would say I completed about 3 layers of newspaper, but I didn’t really keep track as well as I had planned. This was followed by the current layer of paper towels as seen in the top photo.
Over the past few weeks, my focus has been divided over several tasks, which is pretty normal for me. I often tend to take on far too many different tasks at one time. Squeezed within the yard work, starting up the vegetable garden, a few different home improvement projects, and overhauling my 75 gallon reef aquarium, I managed to find some time to get started on my latest Halloween project.
The plan is for a head to toe, corpsed gravedigger character. With a spade slung over shoulder, and lantern in hand, the Gravedigger will overlook the Cemetery, ready to render aid to the emerging groundbreaker corpses.
This update is about 3 weeks behind schedule, so progress is a bit farther than seen here, but we’ll add the new photos in a future update.
The corpsing process, at the onset, will mimic past groundbreakers. The accessories and clothing will be removed and the entire skeletal structure will be covered in several layers of newspaper mache, followed by a few layers of paper towel mache. A final layer of rippled paper towel mache will be added to give the “raisin” look, but that is where the similarities between He and my previous groundbreakers ends. In efforts to better waterproof the prop, a layer of exterior latex paint will be added, then liquid latex and cotton will be used for the fleshy detailing.
The Gravedigger will also feature several areas of exposed bone, a feature well received on last years “Rotten Robbie” groundbreaker prop. The left side of the head, left arm, several ribs on both sides and fingers on both hands will be stripped of flesh.
I’m getting excited just writing about it… Time to head to the basement and get to work.
Last year, I struggled with finding the right lighting for the graveyard display of our family’s Halloween home haunt. Nothing really seemed to fit my needs properly. I finally settled on a pair of red landscaping flood lights on ground spikes. The look was okay from afar, but up close it proved to be a pretty big distraction. The lenses were so bright that they, from any angle besides straight on, instantly became the focal point of the whole display. Since this portion of my home haunt was designed to be viewed from both the front and one side, this proved to be a pretty big problem.
There were a few other documented issues with my lighting choice as well. The lights, which are designed to be stuck in the ground and angled up toward their targets, needed to be angled so that the bulb was nearly touching the ground. This left the hot bulb too close to the blanket of maple leaves that my children and I hauled over from my neighbor’s yard. It also would have left the light below the fog, had I been able to run my fog machine, causing the light to illuminate the fog instead of the props. My only solution to that was to mount the lights to the Cemetery Fence, which only increased the distraction factor. In the end, high winds and torrential rains left the first Halloween in our new home as quite the dissappointment, so the lighting was of little consequence.
Our 2010 Halloween season however, was not a complete disaster. The issues I encountered with the our haunt illuminated several factors that I had not thought of prior, and provided fuel to seek out better solutions. Early this year I came across a post for LED Spotlights written by Jason at Haunt The Yard. Jason, in a interesting string of events, discovered a means to create a low cost DIY light that is perfect for illuminating props. At a cost of about $3.00 each, these are a great off season project that can be made with very little experience. I plan to cover the build process of these spotlights here in our projects section, but I highly recommend you have a visit to Haunt The Yard and give the creator his just deserts.