Garage of Evil!!

A wonderful friend of ours visits our haunt every year. This past Halloween she described our display as "decaying decadence" which made me smile because that is exactly the feel we are striving to achieve. Our props possess a ruined-victorian aesthetic which contributes to the spooky/ghostly theme. In fact, we utilize no blood, no gore, and nothing like a traditional pop-up type scare; yet our guests consistently refer to our display as 'scary'! We do enjoy the benefits of a particularly startling thunder & lightning setup which should be counted as a traditionally scary effect, but in general we prefer the etherial appeal of subtle ambient sounds, slowly moving shadows and ghostly apparitions. Don't get me wrong, I love(!) gore and horror and I am the first to celebrate a good shriek-inducing startle. But after working at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights for some years (which is essentially all blood & gore) I felt that I needed a change of pace in our own home haunt. So I am entirely pleased that our subtle, victorian haunt is capable of evoking a sense of the scary in our guests.


But now I find myself with a minor conundrum for 2012... I am simply short on new ideas!


Staying within the "decaying decadence" of a ghostly, victorian display, what would YOU as fellow haunters hope to experience if you were guests visiting a haunt of this nature?




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I can respect your style of the subtle scare.  My (5 minutes of thinking) idea is to add in those subtle elements that cause a disturbance without the viewer understanding why.  The whole "something isn't quite right" thing.  It would be great if I could be more specific, but the best I can offer is to focus on what unsettles you and incorporate it.  You have the aged and decayed in play so far.  Maybe an out of place bit of youth...the corrupted doll, toy, baby stuff could be the direction to look into.


I am going for the creepy shock, but minimal gore thing this year.  I would love to try my hand at an old setting like you are doing.  Maybe in a few more years.

It's funny that you mention "corrupted doll, toy, ..." because we have been hoping to find an old doll that we can 'possess' and add to our haunted rocking chair prop. The doll must look convincingly like a victorian era antique without actually being so rare or valuable (or expensive!) that we can't justify turning her into a haunt prop. I would like to add a prop-1 controlled servo to her head allowing her to turn and look at the guests with subtly-glowing red eyes as they approach...

We are fortunate to live in an old (circa 1860) farmhouse that lends itself quite well to our victorian style of haunting. Most of the other homes in our part of Hollywood are either entirely modern, or sixties era stucco shoe boxes, or spanish/mediterranean/mission style bungalows. But to find an aging farmhouse like ours is indeed rare and contributes a great deal to the overall mood of our haunt. By simply adding a few architectural details to the house and changing out our modern wood blinds for decaying victorian window dressings we are able to create a convincing backdrop for the rest of our Halloween display. The fact that the house was rumored to be haunted long(!) before we lived here helps too. :)

I was thinking of doing a haunted hallway with some odd statuary that would switch places with some other decoration so when guests walked back thru they would recognize that something happened. A pivoting wall/secret passage would work for what I'm planning- don't know if that would work in your situation.

Jeffrey, do you have a talking statue/bust? I'm thinking of the hallowed haunting grounds, of course. Maybe a combination of their seance head and the face of corruption, somewhat like Disney's grim grinning ghosts effect, but with the bust talking instead of singing. Maybe it could introduce your visitors to your haunt.... I'm working on one for my yard haunt in Northern California. Got the projector, I'm using my iPhone to record and now I just gotta work out how to make iTunes repeat the sequence.

I would love to see a video (or a map of the layout) of your haunt. I've seen photos of many of your props, but have trouble envisioning how it's all laid out and working together. And, since I'm so far away, it's unlikely that I'll ever make it down to see your amazing props!

Hiya Mae! Unfortunately we do not have any video of our haunt. I'm always too busy to do it (and not very good with a camera!) and I simply forget to ask anyone else in advance. I am hoping to have someone more skilled with a camera than I come take some video and stills this year. We do not have a talking bust, but that is exactly the sort of thing I should add to the list for 2014! I never could quite figure out where the HHG projector was located in relation to their bust. It wasn't rear projected, and yet there was no obvious location in front. I assume it was set at an angle to the bust with significant keystone correction, but that is just a guess. Anyway, thanks for the kind words! I will post our inevitable/eventual haunt video here. What other new projects do you have planned for this season???

Hey, Jeffrey! I am not as technically proficient as you are - frankly, prop-1 controller talk causes my eyes to glaze over! So, I use toys / other things to build upon. Last year, I made an interactive, sitting ghost that converses with the tots (well, I talk with the tots through the ghost). I used a Loud Mouth Leo to which I attached a Michelle Obama mask painted white with a lace veil to make her a ghost bride. The Loud Mouth Leo causes "Michelle" to move her head from side to side and moves her lips while I speak using cell phones. With some red LEDs behind her eyes to give her a slightly creepy look, she fascinated the children, who had to interact with her to get the candy in her lap. This year, I want to work out a wireless mic system, so that I could be anywhere in the yard and talk with the tots, and not have to deal with a cell phone.

I am going to attempt a take on the wandering spirit using a tekky toy animated flying ghost. I'll be experimenting with exactly how much clothing and mask the mechanism can handle. I truly admire your adeptness with counterbalanced, motorized pulley systems - if you ever do a tutorial on that, I would LOVE it!

In another homage to the HHG, I am going to do a skeleton playing a flute. Since I play the flute, I'm right now working on composing the music the skeleton will be playing. Since I have 3 kids, we have lots of iPods and MP3 players that make these effects easy to record and playback. At some point in the future, I'll need to get a controller system for all the lights, sounds and movements.

Lastly, besides easy things like a hallowindow projection on my garage, the FCG, a laser vortex and some flying candles attached with black threads to counterbalanced sticks (like a mobile), I'm working on adding sounds like crickets, owls and a thunder and lightning effect. If I don't stop searching the web for new ideas, I'm sure I'll be adding a few more things to the list to be done by the Fall. I have to feed my affliction for Halooween privately - my family just doesn't get it! So, it's so nice to connect with you and other people who share my enthusiasm - imagine my pleasure seeing that you're doing Halloween posts at this time of year!

I have a great cricket track I could share with you if you want. We actually recorded a particularly noisy cricket that we caught in our kitchen one evening, selected the best 'chirp' and mapped it out onto a midi-keyboard. I simply 'played' various notes/frequencies of the same chirp and looped the results. Whenever we play our cricket audio, the local cricket population goes crazy responding to it!

*No crickets were harmed in the making if this audio track*

I, too, have a toy ghost that travels back and forth on a small rope/line. If you are using the same mechanism, you will find the results surprisingly good so long as you keep the weight to an acceptable level.

I'm hoping to better document our Wandering Spirit counterbalance this spring. If I do, I will be sure to share that here! I play the Bassoon. Somehow I doubt that would work nearly as well as the flute... (tee-hee) I hope you will share pics of your projects as we move ever closer to the haunting season!

I would love to have your cricket soundtrack. Great idea to record your very own, live cricket! I wouldn't have a clue how to do the modifications you did to its chirp. I'll send you an email to your aol account. Thank you so much!!!!

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