Monday, September 29, 2008

Food for Mad Scientists

Gross and edible... the jello brain. We tried different colors and presentations. The blue brain was lit from a tube/stand below the glass plate. The pool underneath the brain is a nice effect, but is indeed slightly melted jello... beware the hot light bulb! A bit of milk added to the liquid of the jello mix gives the brain more opaqueness.

The year we planned the Mad Scientist Lab, we went looking for this jello mold, and found it at a local toy shop. I've seen them online as well.

We found additional edible body parts by poking around at various discount stores. Bags of foil wrapped chocolate eyes, ears, etc. filled a small plastic cauldron.

Canning jars, glass beakers and stainless steel trays make nice serving pieces. And a liberal sprinkling of rubber rats around the food didn't seem to scare off snackers! American Science and Surplus has been a favorite and affordable prop supplier for years for lab equipment and more. Their collection of odds and ends is inspiring!

Influences: Mike Mignola

When figuring out how to decorate your place for a Hallows Eve soiree it's good to get some inspiration. By now most of you reading should have at least heard of the character Hellboy from his last two movies if not the comic books that he originally sprang from. Here's some Homemade Halloween homework:
If you've never read a Hellboy graphic novel find one and do it. If you have read one before then re-read it. His mastery of lighting is incredible. His simplicity of shape truly is genius in it's subtlety and lends itself well to decorating. He can make a simple silhouette of a crow into one of the most disconcerting sights just by the way it's contrasting eye stares at you.
The picture to the right is one of my favorites from his story "The Wolves of Saint August". Check out more of his stuff at or just head to your local comics shop or discerning book store.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


So the stones are spooky and everyone's impressed by the mausoleum, but... there's a graveyard down the street. Where's the scare? Any Halloween set can be improved by denizens. You can get pretty elaborate, but simple can be effective as well.
Our dragon was more impressive with a victim at his claws. A bag of skeleton bones from the local box store and a child's role playing Knight set with a shield, helmet and sword (with some spray paint "charred " effects) and it was done.
The Mummy was made by creating a basic skeleton out of rolled up catalogs that had been accumulating (how's that for recycling?). They were tied together with plastic shopping bags and then the entire thing was wrapped in gauze bought down at the pharmacy. If you find a cotton gauze, then it's possible to "distress" it with a tea bath. The smallish skull that we used happened to glow in the dark, so we elected to keep our mummy a stark white to show up best in the dim light.
The Pirate and the Ghoul were both constructed using the same method. Two pieces of 2x4 were screwed together in a simple cross shape with the horizontal board acting as the shoulders and the vertical board extending far enough to hold up the head. Next we straitened out two sections on coat hanger wire long enough to go the length of the arms with a little extra for the hands. Taking a pair of needle-nosed pliers we then twisted one end of each "arm" into as tight as circle as possible perpendicular to the rest of the wire. This is how we screwed the wire into either end of the 2x4. This way the arms are somewhat positionable. For the Ghoul we just draped a store-bought costume from the year before over the structure. Plastic bags filled out the head, arms and hands. The pirate was just made out of old costume parts and a skull mounted on a dowel.

The Witch in the rocking chair is similar to the Ghoul and Pirate, in that it is mostly a store-bought costume mounted on a 2x4 frame. In this case however there is a base on the seat and additional 2x4 legs extending downward. She has been a mainstay at our parties, creeping guests out enough so that they would avaoid her and enter through the backdoor. If you want to steer guests and trick-or-treaters towards your backyard display, an imposing figure like this blocking the front entrance can quite effective.