Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I started this blog a little late in the game for this year's celebration, but I'm planning on keeping at it throughout the year, so by Halloween 2008 this will hopefully be a pretty wide-ranging resource. In the meantime, my friend "Tgtotu" does have some pretty good DYI Halloween links on his site as well as some ghost tour stories:

Oh Yeah, One more thing.
Don't let all that candy give you too bad a stomach ache tonight.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


So you're going to a pirate themed party and you just don't feel like being one of the 30 some odd Jack Sparrows in the room. When faced with a similar problem I decided to become the favorite accessory of every pirate and piratess. ess. After all, how can you be a real pirate without a parrot on your shoulder? And Jimmy Buffet fans take note: this would probably make a swell parrothead get up for you too.

My skills at the time were pretty basic, so the materials are too:

  • a green baseball cap
  • 2 styrofoam balls (1 1/2" - 2" dia)
  • 1 bag of green feathers
  • 1 bag of assorted feathers
  • yellow crafter's foam
  • green red and yellow felt
As you can see, the construction is pretty basic too. I cut the upper half of the beak out of the yellow craft foam with a split down the middle on the front so I could create the curve. I wrapped the foam sides underneath the hat brim and stapled and hot glued it in place. I then cut a piece of red felt to go behind the eyes to make him a little less monochromatic.

The styrofoam balls were wired in place and I carefully drew the eyeballs in with a sharpie pen. I actually used construction paper circles to figure out the best placement for the pupils; I learned from a Jim Henson interview that if you make them ever so slightly crossed then it looks like they are focused on something and that can be the key to making your creation come alive.

After that it was a matter of layering and gluing the feathers in place. I added longer yellow feathers on the sides as pseudo eyebrows.

The body was just a series of simple tubes made in felt and stuffed with feathers glued to the wings. The lower beak was made similarly to the upper and then attached to the hat with elastic while the body hung around my neck like a necktie.

A black turtleneck and a see-through hood and I was ready to sit atop friends' shoulders for the perfect piratey photo opportunity.

Friday, October 19, 2007


When we choose to do a themed party it's often the decorations that are the most fun. When you want to do a theme as simple as "Monsters" obviously you need to make your place look like a goo old fashioned Mad Scientist Lab. The Van Der Graff generator and giant computer banks may be a challenge, but often the look can be pulled off with a few well-placed props.

My friend Bobbi came up with a good quick a inexpensive
set of props that also looked really cool. There's a whole series of "grow" toys. You know, the kind that "GROWS UP TO 600 TIMES ITS ORIGINAL SIZE!"

Bobbi just stuck a few of these in mason jars filled with water , and then set a small light behind each group of jars. Artfully arranged on shelves and tables these "specimen" jars are nice and creepy. If you wanted to go a step further, you could label the jars, but we decided they looked quite nice without.
It pays to have a pathologist for a friend.

Monday, October 15, 2007


When we decided we were going to have a medieval party a couple of years ago, we knew what we needed to go in the backyard. Yes, a dragon. Pretty danged ambitious, I know, but definitely worth the look on guests' faces when we were done.

Read on and learn how to build your own Halloween Dragon Prop.

We wanted a big dragon, not some wimpy little dog-sized thing, but something big enough to eat you. We reasoned that to be able to eat a full grown adult the head alone would have to be about 6ft long and almost four foot tall! That was insane, and we were on a budget.

We decided that our dragon would be sleeping in the darkest corner of the yard, that way, we could make an impressive head, and make arms that would fade off into the shadows. The body would be more suggested than actually built, and if the head looked good enough, no one would notice.

It started with the sculpey maquette that you see at right. That gave us the general idea of the shape of the head, since that would be our main focus. We stopped by our local hardware store and picked up our main supplies:

  • A few 8ft lengths of 3/4in PVC pipe
  • Various elbow and T-joints
  • A PVC pipe cutter (inexpensive and indispensable)
  • A roll of chicken wire fencing
  • A roll of light gauge wire
  • Grey landscaping cloth
  • A couple of cans of spray paint
From there we went to the fabric store and picked up some other necessities:
  • Quilter's batting
  • Upholstery foam
  • Crafter's 1/8 thick foam
  • A 12in green beach ball
Next post I'll show how how we started putting it all together.


First it began with the framework. Using the pipecutter and various joints , we built a simple skeleton. We screwed a cross piece in the front to keep a cosistant spacing. You can use a purple PVC glue, but everything was tight enough that we didn't bother.

Next we began to sculpt the chicken wire around the frame using small pieces of wire to tie it to the frame an itself (gloves are very important with this step).

As we formed the chicken wire, our maquette became a handy reference. We left holes where the eyes and nostrils would be. You can see that we also added additional cross pieces for the cheekbones. Not only does this help define the jaw better, but it gives us more structure for the eye socket. Since we weren't creating an open mouth, we rolled the chicken wire at the bottom to suggest a division and give a place to anchor the teeth.

From there we added the batting. This we decided was the musculature. It allowed us to add more definition to the brows, nostrils eye sockets and cheeks. It also helped our creation to finally start looking like something.

Next post the work continues in our friends' backyard.


The landscaping cloth skin was the next part of our dragon project. Tacking it down in different spots with a needle and thread helped control how closely it stayed to the "muscle" layer of batting and gave us some great character wrinkles. You can see the beginnings of one of his hands beside the head. These were hollow rolls of chicken wire wrapped with batting and landscaping cloth with twine wrapped around to define the knuckles. The claws were sheets of craft foam, loosely wrapped in a cone shape and set into the hole left at the end of one tube. The tube fingers were wired to a larger "palm" piece of chicken wire.

Once both hands were built, spray paint was judiciously applied. We decided that the gray of the landscaping fabric was not a bad base color, so we wouldn't have to soak it, but we wanted a little color to it. Rust color spray primer was cheap and coated well. As you can see in the picture to the right, the rust was used almost as highlights and a can of black gave us the shadows.

This next picture is a little blurry, but you can see some of the other details that we added. The horns and teeth were cut from the upholstery foam, a wire was stuck in the center to control the curve, and we whit
tled away at the edges to give them a better shape. We spray painted some shadowing and wired them to the head.
We propped the back of the head up with cinder blocks so that he was looking down at you. Since the dragon would mostly be viewed a night, we elected to tie fabric to posts to suggest a shoulder and arms. You can also see some of the other props -- singed armor, bones and treasure -- starting to accumulate around his base. That glint of silver in his nostril is part of the dryer vent piping we added and connected to a fog machine. We cut the green plastic ball in half and mounted them with clip lamps (with low wattage bulbs) to the inside of the eye sockets.

When the trick-or-treaters arrived, the yard was somewhat dimmer than this last picture. I stood behind to operate the smoke coming out of his nostrils while others greeted guests and showed them to the candy bowl... which lay right beside his nasty teeth.

Our beloved dragon has since become part of a local non-profit's yearly Haunted Forest

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Halloween is my favorite holiday. There. I said it. Keep your fat elves, keep your spring rabbits, keep your loud flashbangs, it's Halloween all the way for me. I think the same can be said for a number of my friends.

Over the past few years my friends and I have thrown some pretty successful Halloween parties and impressed quite a few trick-or-treaters. My intention with this blog is to share a few of the more creative ideas we've come up with over the years and hopefully spark new ideas for anyone who happens to trip over this page.

We're not huge blood and guts fans. All that gore just starts looking the same after awhile. What we enjoy about Halloween is the chance to become anything for at least one night. To change the world and make people believe that Dragons, Mad scientists, Pirates and Monsters exist, if only for one evening.
Happy Hauntings!