Category Archives: Miscellaneous

From the shadows

I strongly believe that effective lighting is a key element in any haunt. I have seen well designed and highly detailed haunts ruined by poor lighting. Likewise, I have seen tiny home haunts create grand displays simply by putting a little bit of thought into their lighting.

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Here, 6 red LED spotlights were used to up-light the cornstalks from just inside of the outermost row. This not only gave the cornfield an eerie glow, but also cast larger than life shadows on the otherwise plain blue siding. A pair of green “Fire & Ice” lights were placed behind the cornfield for added effect. In addition to the great shadowing, this lighting left an actor occupied area in the foreground completely void of light and left our actor as a mere silhouette. This kept our visitors guessing if he was real, or just a prop.

And so it begins

Vacation officially starts for me in about 2 hours. With that comes the beginnings of the set-up process. This year, I’ve been met with a few hiccups that left me feeling further and further behind. Now is the time to hit the ground running, play catch-up and get things all back on track. There have been a few prop plans that have been removed from the to-do list for lack of time, but I still feel this will be our best year yet. I cant wait to see how it all pans out, and I’ll try to post updates along the way.

Mother Nature is a cruel mistress

As haunters, we are often faced with the adversities of the weather on some level or another. Poor weather keeps Trick-or-Treaters at bay. Decor is often the victim of rain, wind, sleet and snow. This time of year is known for a wide range of weather conditions that many of us are forced to contend with. It is said that Mother nature is a cruel and unforgiving mistress. While I as well have endured my share of weather woes, this has never been so evident as it was this morning.

On what was an otherwise beautiful morning, we were blessed with unexpected winds. While most of the time, these winds were no more than a stiff breeze, they were accompanied by these occasional, angry little bursts. I didn’t realize the winds had even started until we heard and dull “thump” from outside. Kristy quickly inquired as to the source of the noise, and then just as quickly realized. “Don’t tell me that was the…” she exclaimed, and before she could finish I was already at the window to confirm. “Yep, the gates blew over” was all I could say.

The gravity of the event didn’t really hit me at first. Even as i stood before the shattered wreckage of what was once my beautiful archway, the disbelief held fast. I’m not exactly sure why, but that sinking feeling of defeat just never struck me. Perhaps it was the fact that I never really look at the situation for what had happened to the piece, but rather I viewed it for I could do to remedy the damage. Another one of life’s little challenges. I guess I’ve always tried to view life’s challenges as an opportunity to grow.

When it feels as though life has knocked you down, you have two choices. You can lay there, accept defeat and wallow in your sorrows, or you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and accept the challenge that lays before you. You might just find that you have what it takes to overcome, to endure or succeed. You might find that things were never really as bad as they might have appeared. Or you might find, when the door to the path in front of you was closed and you felt alone and in the dark, that all you needed to do was to look around to see that a whole exciting new path lay before you. And even if you find that, no matter how hard you’ve tried, you simply cannot overcome your given challenge, don’t view it as a failure, but see it for what you have gained, for what you have learned and how you have grown.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
~ Thomas A. Edison

NYcap Haunters group

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This is a call out to any and all haunters, home and pro alike, in the New York State Capital region and outlying areas. We have established a group for local haunters to interact and communicate with one another. This group was created with the intent to bring together like-minded people of all different skill levels and interests so that we can all share with, and learn from one another. We’ve hosted a few events, and plan to host a few different types of social gatherings (meet-n-greets, drink-n-thinks and make-n-takes) and group trips.

This is a relatively new group, established in early 2015. While the group does not yet have a website, we do have a social media page on Facebook. This is a private Facebook group, so if you are interested in joining, visit us at NYcap Haunters on Facebook and and submit a request to join us.

Award Winning

It is with great pride that I get to announce that we took 2nd place in the 2015 Halloween FX Prop Building Contest with our Cemetery Archway.

It was a contest entry that almost didn’t happen. If it’s not evident from the lack of Vlogs and Posts, much of this summer was spent maximizing the time spent with my Daughter. Frequent trips to the Six Flags Theme Park, Lake George and other such destinations occupied much of the time that would have otherwise been spent building props. I’m not sorry for that, as it was a fantastic summer filled with a lot of fun, but it left me far behind on the project I had hoped to be able to enter into the contest. As Savannah’s Summer Vacation came to a close, crunch time began. With a lot of luck (and maybe a little bit of skill) the Archway project came together with amazing speed. As the deadline closed in, the stone pillar bases were still far from complete. The snide chuckle and condescending “Good Luck!” of a fellow entrant echoed in my mind and drove me to completion. With great focus and effort, I was able to finish off the bases and assemble the finished prop with about an hour of daylight left. Photos were taken and the entry made.

While I was confident in my accomplishment, the contest entries left no room for expectations. I was sitting in a pool of some of the most talented haunters in the community, and they were all bringing their “A Game”. In the end, The Davis Graveyard claimed the win with a beautifully crafted Tombstone Statue they called the “Kiss of Death”. It was a win most righteously deserved.

Getting back to it

Hey everyone, if there are any of you reading this, I’m back. It’s been a long and rough off season this year. My intent to keep up with posts throughout the off season quickly became overshadowed by a number of life’s little tasks and road bumps, and the site has been left unchanged since the beginning of the year. With Halloween now just less that 2 months from now, and having done virtually nothing in the way of building new props, I have found myself re-evaluating my plans for new additions and changes for this year.

The year started out with my focus directed towards the restructuring of my Reef Aquarium, which had suffered a few problems in the preceding months. The efforts would ultimately be all for naught, as the aquarium was dismantled and sold off later in the summer.

The spring followed with the loss of my Grandmother, my last remaining grandparent, which was followed immediately thereafter by my wife’s surgery and recovery. All of this virtually extinguished my Halloween spirit and my drive to work on new projects. I began to focus more on my garden, which was a good outlet for my stress and frustrations, and the 28 Pumpkin plants kept the last of my Halloween spirit from fading like the flame of a spent candle. That until the Squash Borers struck. Needless to say, I’d seen enough misfortune for this year. It was time to get things turned around.

As it turns out, a Vacation was the perfect remedy. Earlier plans for a day trip out to Salem, MA were altered to include 2 extra days, and a campsite that overlooks Waikiki Beach on Winter Island. On August 23rd, we packed up all the crap, the kids, and a good family friend and hit the road. I’ll go into more detail later, but let’s just say that this trip was just what the Dr ordered. I am ready to get Halloween underway and not even Hurricane Irene could bring me down.

Halloween ’02

This morning, My son had dug out my old laptop and left it out to charge so he could mess around with it. Curious, I started the old buzzard up and to my surprize, the desktop wallpaper was a photo of my daughter’s first Halloween. As I ventured through the documents therein, I came upon a few more photos. I couldn’t help but share a few of them here.

The fate of the Jacks

Every year, more than a few people ask me what we do with all of the pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns after the Halloween display has been taken down. It used to be as simple as placing the discarded jack-o-lanterns at the curb. The village Dept of Transportation would come by several times throughout the fall vacuuming the leaves from the curb, and would gladly smash and suck up any jack carcasses they might come upon. Fifty one pumpkins, that’s a lot to waste. We have since changed our thinking and now we try to use as much of the pumpkin as possible.

When cleaning out the pumpkins for carving, we keep many of the seeds for eating. After being removed, the fiberous strands, or “brains” as they are often referred to, and seeds are handed over to my wife for separation and preparation. She prepares a few different flavors, which are then served at our Halloween Party

Since we grow our own, I pick out the two best looking pumpkins, and the seeds from those are cleaned, dried, and saved for next year’s planting. The fiberous strands, or “brains” as they are often referred to, and any remaining seeds are then spread out in the, now empty, garden. The seeds provide food for the local wildlife (squirrels and birds) while the rest of the waste provides nutrients to the soil.

As I mentioned, we grow our own pumpkins. About 1/3 of our nearly 550 sq foot garden is reserved for the pumpkins. We, as a suppliment to our gardening, also compost our organic wastes. The straw, corn stalks, and yes, all of the Jacks will eventually make their way into the compost bin. A fitting end, as they will help provide the nutrients to feed next years crop.

While they will all make the journey eventually, not all of the Jacks will go right into the compost bin. Only half of them have made it there thus far. The remaining stand poised atop the last of the straw bales, awaiting the opportunity to be photographed at the peak of their collapse. Last year I came upon another site that shared photos of their decomposing jack-o-lanterns. It was a great concept, and I plan to try my hand at it as well. Stay tuned for the “Rotting Jacks”

Gazette Article 10-26-10

BARRY SLOAN/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Stephen Austin carves a pumpkin as he decorates his Scotia home for Halloween Monday.

SCOTIA

Scotia native exhibits his Halloween spirit in big way

BY MICHAEL GOOT Gazette Reporter
Reach Gazette reporter Michael Goot at 395-3105 or mgoot@dailygazette.net.

Stephen Austin wishes every day could be Halloween.
The Scotia native tricks out his house on James Street with a fullscale display including skeletons and tombstones, pumpkins and witches.
“Halloween is our Christmas,” said his wife, Lauri.
Because Halloween falls close to Austin’s Oct. 28 birthday, it has always been a big event for him.
“It’s like a giant celebration of my birthday,” said Austin, who is turning 40 this year.
Austin has been decorating for Halloween since he was a child when he used to help his mother. “I just kind of took it over. It got bigger and bigger,” he said.
Austin says he has always had artistic talent but pursued a career in public safety. He works as a Scotia-Glenville dispatcher. “I’d rather do it for fun instead of a job. It’s not fun if you have to do it.”
To work on his project, Austin takes off the week before Halloween.

BARRY SLOAN/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Austin shows off his Halloween decorations on the front lawn of his home.

Most of the display is handcrafted. The dozen or so “tombstones” in the front yard are carved from foam insulation boards. He uses an utility knife to etch in epitaphs on the graves.
“Every one of the older stones is named after a character in a book I read,” he said.
For the more recent headstones, he just makes up a name that seems to fit the time period listed on the stone.
The skeletons are made out of papier-mâché — newspaper, paper towels and “a whole lot of Elmer’s glue.” The one holding a shovel in the center of the front yard is made from latex and cotton.
Austin said the most difficult part about his project is taking breaks. When he gets going, he does not want to stop.
“The hardest thing to do is my housework.”
He starts working Nov. 1 on the next year’s Halloween display, although he really gears up in the beginning of October. Austin gets some help from his three children, Savannah, 8, Bryce, 13, and Cody, 16.
“My daughter spent the entire day [Sunday] helping me with the pumpkins,” he said.
He is carving 50 pumpkins, about a dozen of which the family grew themselves. “We’re hoping for more next year,” Lauri said.
Cody made the bookshelf that sits in the enclosed front porch. The bookshelf contains jars with handwritten labels of various “potions.”
Bryce also helped with some of the papier-mâché.
“Halloween is a family event,” Lauri Austin said.
She added that it is a shame that more people don’t do their own decorations. She said Halloween has gotten too commercialized.
“There’s too much kitschy stuff you can buy,” she said.
Austin has a website at www. thehauntingrounds.com, where he puts videos about how to make some of these creations for people who want to do it.
The couple did buy an animatronic witch that will sit in the window and “stir” her cauldron. There will also be scary music playing from an Ohio-based band called Nox Arcana.
Because he is worried about the display being vandalized, Austin brings in a lot of the decorations at night until Halloween when it will all be illuminated.
“We have a lot of kids in the village who get a little crazy,” he said.
When the couple lived in an apartment on Fifth Street, some thieves stole a bunch of items from his display in the mid-1990s. That prompted him to suspend his display for a few years. When his parents bought a house in Glenville, Austin moved to the house where we was raised. He has been doing his most recent display for about three years.
The family enjoys watching the reaction from the kids that come up to the house. It’s usually “wow,” Lauri Austin said.
The two will be dressed in costumes — Lauri as a witch and Steve in a scary mask. He said he usually hangs out in the front yard while his wife gives out the candy. He does not want to scare anyone too much.
Austin said he tries to add more to the display and make it better every year. The display defi nitely attracts attention, Austin said.
“A lot of people do the rubbernecking as they’re going by,” he said.