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It’s Snowing!

Just thought I would share that with everyone. Right now, Snowflakes the size of Potato Chips are falling in my back yard, and fallen leaves are quickly being covered by a thin blanket of fresh white snow. Hold on to your Long-Johns, here comes winter in the great northeast.


So here we are, Halloween now five days in the past, and I find myself buried in chaos. I had planned to have everything done before returning to work yesterday, but it just didnt happen that way. With so many things to do, I’ve gotten myself to the point where I just don’t want to do any of them. Post-Haunt depression I suppose.

As I sit here gazing at the mountain of Halloween decor, all still awaiting its off-season resting place, I know I can take solace in the fact that I am making some progress in settling the post-holiday ado. For those who may not have noticed yet, I’ve added several photos from our 2010 haunt to the Photo Gallery. There will be more added, but perhaps not until I’ve taken care of some of the other tasks that lie in wait.

In parting, I would like to share with you my favorite photo from this years Haunt. This is one from the Witch House, a new addition to our haunt this year.

Gazette Article 10-26-10

Stephen Austin carves a pumpkin as he decorates his Scotia home for Halloween Monday.


Scotia native exhibits his Halloween spirit in big way

BY MICHAEL GOOT Gazette Reporter
Reach Gazette reporter Michael Goot at 395-3105 or

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.

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., 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.

Hitchin’ a ride

The other day, I was chatting with a few of the officers after work (for those of you who don’t know, I work in the Communications div for our local Police dept) and the suggestion came up that I should have one of my Skeletons riding shotgun in my personal vehicle. My sister had recently sent me a photo from a local Walmart of a similar scene, and I had thought to myself at the time, “how cool is that”. Since I have a spare Bucky hanging around waiting to be corpsed, I figured why not. The next afternoon, I strapped him in, gave him some eyeballs and a hat, and set off for work.

The stunt was well received by the guys, and we all had a few good laughs about it, but for me, that just wasn’t enough. In efforts to catch the reactions of passersby while driving, I decided to leave him strapped in for a while. That was a week ago.

My kids all love the idea, and graciously take a back seat for “Bubba”, a name he earned from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. hat that he dons. They love checking the reactions of people on the street as we drive by.

The best part of this story came when I returned to work yesterday after a 3 day weekend. I was informed of a call to the Police dept, received a few days prior, from a concerned citizen. The caller was reporting a black 4 door sedan with a human skeleton riding in the passenger seat.

Looks like Bubba will have to spend a few more weeks in the car. 🙂

2010 Pumpkin Garden

Our 2010 pumpkin garden
Our 2010 pumpkin garden

I have, for several years now, tried to grow pumpkins in my vegetable gardens. Until last year, success had not visited my patch. Small gardens of too few plants, under-watering, and a lack of knowledge the likely culprits in much of my failures. Last year, my success was limited to 4 grapefruit sized (or slightly larger) pie pumpkins that, due to a late planting, never turned orange. Incomplete pumpkins, but pumpkins nonetheless.

This year, I decided to do things a bit differently. I remembered from several years back that some of my best pumpkin plants had emerged from the remains of an un-carved pumpkin left to rot over the winter. Those plants grew at an amazing rate and, had they been allowed to keep growing, they would have likely fostered my first successful pumpkins. Sadly, the pumpkin that was left to rot over the winter, was left in my mother’s flower garden. I did transplant a few of those plants, but they failed me thereafter. my assumption, both then and now, is that the meat and guts from the pumpkin fed the plants. So this year, I put that theory to the test. I saved all of the remains from the 15 pumpkins that we carved last Halloween. Shortly after Halloween, I tilled the meat into the soil, spread the guts and seeds around in a 4′ x 8′ section in my garden, covered it all with straw, and just let them be. Winter came and went, and in the spring several dozen plants emerged.

If you look closely, you can see one of the pumpkins up against the chain-link fence near the top.

This year, I’ve also learned that the way I’ve been watering my pumpkins in past years has been all wrong. Allowing the leaves to get wet during watering encourages this type of leaf mold that these plants are very susceptible to. With that in mind, I wet out and bought a soaker hose, which seems to be working out quite well.

It is now nearing the end of June, and I have my first pumpkins on the vines. 2 so far, each about the size of a baseball, with several more female flowers about ready to open. While this is by no means indicative of success, it is a promising start.

Plans are now in the works to increase our gardens real estate. My wife and I have decided to expand our garden by several hundred square feet. In fact, we will be increasing the size of our garden by nearly 200%, from the current 182 sq feet to a total of 544 sq feet. Now I’ll have room for more pumpkins, and maybe a small crop of corn. SWEET!

With that said, I wish all of you home pumpkin growers great success!

One of our first pumpkins for 2010
One of our first pumpkins for the 2010 growing season.

Corpse Eyes

with and without eyes
One of my '09 Groundbreakers with and without eyeballs.

Ive decided that, despite my previous position on the subject, I am becomming more receptive the look of eyeballs in corpses. I used to think that, for the sake of realism, eyeballs had no place in a well rotted corpse. As a corpse begins to rot, eyeballs would be one of the first thing to go; so why put them in a ground-breaker, right? Well, maybe not.

Throughout my life, I have always been a bit OCD, and quite the perfectionist when it comes to my art. I was the kid who was never good at cartoons and caricatures, but could make a pencil portrait look like a black and white photograph. Creating surreal works posed a problem, not because I couldnt do it, but rather that my brain kept telling me that it just didnt look “right”.  

In recent years, I have slowly allowed more of the surreal to creep its way into my work, and as I do, I realize that I really enjoy it. I am beginning to accept the fact that realism is not always the best option; that “unreal” can be so much more expressive. This holds especially true in the area of Halloween props. Fine details and realism are often lost to the dimly lit atmospheres that we create, and more often than not, our guests are not permitted to get close enough to the props to appreciate the detail. It is the exaggerated details that often fetch that “creep factor” that we, as home haunters, seek to achieve.

Different eye positions can alter the mood or attitude of your prop
So, back to the topic here. Do we add eyeballs to our corpses? I say sure, if the situation is right. Sometimes an eyeball or two can give something to your corpse that it might otherwise be lacking. And sometimes they can lend themselves to the atmosphere you are trying to create. Simple positioning of the eyeballs can have a drastic impact on the mood or attitude portrayed by your prop, which in turn can help set or enhance the atmosphere of your haunt.

Macabre Discovery

It was decided, very soon after moving into our new home last year, that the 1970’s paneling in our dining room/den would be among the first things that we would remove. Last week, My wife decided that I had spent entirely enough time toying with Halloween props for the coming year, and that it was time to make good on the promise to remove the dark brown paneled walls and make way for some brighter colors. As expected, the paneling had been glued down so the drywall behind it was also in need of replacement, so down came the drywall as well.

mouse skeleton
The fully intact skeleton of a common field mouse.

It was about halfway down the wall between the Den and the Kitchen, above a cutout in the wall between the two rooms where I made a somewhat rare discovery. As I tore down the drywall, there stood before me, a complete and fully intact skeleton of a mouse. There was very little flesh remaining, probably only enough to keep the skeleton assembled in the creatures final pose. While it’s not uncommon to come across skeletal remains of mice, especially up here in the great northeast, this is the first time I have ever come across one still assembled.

While my love for the dark and often gruesome images of Halloween might suggest otherwise, I am not ill of heart. I hope that this poor creature met its end in peace. That being said, how cool would a replication of a skeletal mouse (or rat) be sitting atop a tombstone in a cemetery full of ground-breaking corpses. Hmmm, Ideas they are a-brewin’.