Guest post: Making the case for Halloween
OK, if you’ve read my blog at all this week, you know my feelings about Halloween.
Not a huge fan.
Alas, on Halloween night, a person I follow on Twitter, Mike, had a live webcam of his house. He had it all decked out. I watched for a bit as unsuspecting trick-or-treaters came on the porch and the scene came to life. There were screeches and screams and surprised people, that’s for sure.
Mike, you see, is the complete opposite of me when it comes to Halloween. A fellow photographer and geocacher, I’ve known Mike in the online world for a bit and thought it would be fun for him to share his Halloween ideas and things with the readers.
I’m always up for the opposite view point, after all.
So enjoy below as Mike’s words, videos and photos take you through his Halloween adventure in Waco, Texas.
Call me crazy if you must, but I am a Halloween nut!
Some say it’s really only for little kids go the other way and use it as another excuse to get drunk. These days, most costumes for the female are of the “sexy” variety; admittedly troubling when applied to the pre-pubescent girls to whom they are offered as well.
That’s not the Halloween I’m talking about, anyway. My Halloween is full of mummies, zombies, vampires, and other assorted ghouls. This is my Halloween.
First, let’s start with a little background.
I am a child of Star Wars; I was almost 10 years old when Episode 4 was released. I became obsessed with how it was made, which expanded to how all movies were made. My friends and I started making short films. Our first was a Star Wars ripoff that my dad shot for us on his video camera tethered to a giant video deck. We needed more control of our product so we started shooting Super 8 for our next films. Horror movies are the easiest to shoot. You don’t need dialog and they were just plain fun. Dressing up as monsters became our fun time.
I don’t remember the exact year we built our first haunted house. It was 1979 or 1980-ish. I know it was in the back portion of my grandmother’s house and we just had her and my friends parents come through.
The next year, we moved to the garage. We just used stuff we had around the house as props.
We cleaned out the garage for our second year in there. We used some of the same props but did a better job of separating the garage into rooms using polyurethane sheeting. I remember that we got in trouble for bringing several yards of dirt in for a graveyard room.
We were told not to but who listens to adults, right?
We put signs up for this one and actually got quite a few people through. Somehow, even though I was the most introverted of the bunch, I ended up playing the guide every year.
In 1982 or 1983, we set out to build what would be our final, and hopefully best, haunted house. That summer, we went door-to-door collecting newspapers from the neighbors and sold them to a recycling place for money so we could buy props and plenty of polyurethane.
Sadly, no photos exist of the full exterior of our opus but it was huge!
We built it in my grandmother’s back yard. Her lot was more than 100-feet wide and the entire structure was another 25- or 30-feet deep. We hung lines up to hold the poly walls, put a roof on some rooms, incorporated our clubhouse as part of the set design, and even built a deck with grating to hide someone underneath.
It was quite an undertaking for a handful of high school kids. We gave tours all weekend and it was quite the hit.
We all got busy with school and quit making our own haunted houses, though no Halloween passed without us visiting others. My best friend and I both started taking film classes at college and continued making short movies with horror and fantasy-type films. After graduating, we went into film production together, working on a handful of low-budget films while paying the bills with commercials and industrial shoots.
Eventually, business dried up and I left for a “real” job but still get out to the set when a film is being made. I still love the art of film making even if it is a direct-to-DVD zombie movie. Check out Risen on the Internet Movie Database to see what I am talking about.
Now, I have kids — two boys aged 9 and 11. I have been getting back into decorating “for them.”
The process starts a week or so before Halloween. I have a pair of eyes on plastic cling that I hang in our dormer windows and light from behind. It makes the house look alive. One or two days before Halloween, I wrap my front porch with black duvetyne (a twill fabric) to create a “room” for most of my props and to keep it dark.
I’ve expanded my display over the last five years and really kind of settled on a graveyard theme last year. I bring in dirt to cover the concrete and the boys help me set up and design their own little areas as well.
Most of the work, however, doesn’t happen until the day of Halloween. The moving pieces get placed, cobwebs are hung, bulbs replaced, and fog machines are filled. I tried for several years to capture reactions as people came to the door but never got the hang of it until 2010 when I decided to hide a webcam in the display and stream it out using Ustream.
This year, I managed to hide the camera in the eye of a jack-o-lantern and streamed it live once again. This is how obsessed I am: I left for a while to take the boys out and let my wife rest. While out, I was watching the stream of my house on my iPhone. I loved hearing the screams when the folks would set the mummy off then make the other one behind them move.
Here it is, the day after Halloween, and I have spent the better part of the day tearing it all down and getting the yard back to normal. I still have boxes to pack and tubs to get in the attic. I also have to check out the sales at the seasonal Halloween stores. I always need one more prop.
Why do I do it? Is all the trouble worth it?
I do it because I enjoy doing it. I do it because I like scaring people in a safe way. It’s worth it when a kid tells me I have the best house in the neighborhood or when two teenage boys won’t even step to my door because they are afraid of what might jump out (Spoiler: Nothing ever does).
It’s all in good fun and it’s all over until next year.
The photos are great, but they don’t do it justice. Here are some YouTube videos Mike made walking people through what they saw.
Highlights from this year’s live stream of people coming to the door…
To see more from Mike…
- Follow him on Twitter
- Check out his Flickr stream
- His Halloween sets on Flickr
- His old Halloween photos on Flickr
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook by clicking the button on the right side of the page!