Bringing Graveyards Home – How to Photograph a Cemetery

Nothing seems to evoke the spirit of Halloween quite like a graveyard in the fall, especially in New England.

The New England fall season is crisp with chilly air in the mornings, and a hard, penetrating light which makes the brightly colored leaves of the trees blaze across the landscape. These blazing trees, slowly losing their leaves to fall’s inevitable march towards winter, often stand guard behind the wrought iron fences and stone walls of the graveyards.

These silent sentries, amongst the markers of the dead, offer up endless possibilities to create unique photographs. Pictures of graveyards and individual headstones can add additional spice to your Halloween décor!

Spooky, Ancient Graveyards of New England

The older towns and cities of the Untied States (especially the seemingly ancient villages of New England), have a wealth of graveyards. The oldest of these burial grounds have tall and narrow headstones made from slate. Upon these slate markers are carved images which are both thrilling and spooky. Weeping willows, urns, skulls, hourglasses, and Death himself are engraved into the stone. Words, names, and dates – all in English hundreds of years old – speak of the long dead beneath the earth. Epitaphs of dire warnings and bitter assertions have their place as well, as does quoted scripture, all of them portraying the afterlife in a cold light.

graveyard-alevi-kalmistuGrave markers from the Victorian and Edwardian periods are of a different style, but they are no less impressive. Angels and lions carved from marble; granite obelisks and orbs; mausoleums and chapels, all of these – and the earlier stones as well – can be turned into inexpensive and mood setting art.

Tips For Taking Great Pictures of Cemeteries

With the ready availability of disposable cameras, digital cameras, and cell phones equipped with cameras, there is a wide array of ways by which to capture these various headstones. The fact that many computers come with standard photograph editing programs is also extremely helpful for the preparation of the photos as well as easy upon the wallet. Whether a photograph is scanned into the system, or uploaded, editing can be done quite easily. Standard stock photograph paper is also available at fair prices, making the printing of the pictures fairly simple as well.

Here’s some tips on taking great photographs of gravestones to print out and frame:

  • Choose either an early morning or late evening for your photoshoot. Unless the day is severely overcast, the bright sun will often wash out the colors of a scene, leaving it flat. In the early morning or late evening, the sun’s rays are angled such that it will give your scenes a soft light and soft shadows, perfect for those eerie cemetery scenes. Remember, when shooting, lighting is all that matters.
  • Use a tripod. No matter how steady your hand, there is no way you can give your images that crystal clarity that a tripod gives.
  • Have a foreground, a middle, and a background. If shooting an entire graveyard, make sure there is something in the foreground, like a tree, a grave marker, grass, etc. Then, think of what’s in the middle – the graveyard, of course. Finally, the background – trees in the distance, a pale dawn sky, etc. This will all give your landscape shot a satisfying, professional depth.
  • Emphasize either the sky or the ground. Don’t place the horizon in the middle. This makes your photo boring, because both the sky and ground are competing for your attention. Decide which section of the landscape to focus on.
  • Watch the Weather Channel – for fog, of course! There’s nothing more beautiful than fog in a graveyard. Get up early in the morning (really early, before the sun rises) to get that perfect shot of fog at dawn. Fog happens when the dew point and the temperature are near equal.
  • For close-up shots of tombstones, think of interesting angles. Instead of shooting right in front, try shooting from below or above for an interesting effect.
  • Also for close-up shots, if you have a professional camera, use the smallest aperture – this will bring your foreground into sharp focus, and make your background blurry. If you want everything in focus (for instance, for a general landscape shot), go for a higher aperture setting.

Framing Your Spooky Masterpiece

Frames for your various photographs can be picked up at discount stores, second hand shops, and fleamarkets quite readily. The pictures don’t need to be permanently placed into the frames, of course, leaving the frames available for other holidays and needs as they arise.

Once the graveyard photographs are framed, the pictures can be placed on a variety of surfaces, and even used as backgrounds for stationary displays of Halloween villages and dollhouses decorated for Halloween.

Happy shooting!

highgate_cemetery-1

The Most Popular Retro Halloween Costumes (2004-2008)

Some people choose Halloween costumes that are classics and have been around forever and will continue to stand the test of time.

Other people choose a trendy Halloween costume related to current events, politics, or popular characters of that year. (And this is a matter of taste. We’ve done it ALL and loved every one!)

But nothing dictates Halloween costumes more than which blockbuster movies were released that year! Here is a list of the most popular Halloween costumes of the past five years.

2004 – The year 2004 was all about Spiderman, with 2.15 million children dressing as their favorite superhero that year. Not just for the boys, Spiderman was also the top men’s costume of 2004. The Spiderman trend was due to the release of the movie Spiderman 2 that year. Little girls went with the classics that year with princesses and witches being the top costume picks. The most popular women’s costume for 2004 was Paris Hilton.

2005 – 2005 was the year of Star Wars thanks to the movie Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith being released that year. The most popular costume for men and boys was Darth Vader or Chewbacca, for women and girls it was Princess Leia or Princess Amidala. Little girls that year also took to the classics with fairies and Barbie being close behind the Star Wars costumes. For little boys in 2005 Superman was the second most popular.

2006 – In 2006, because of the release of Pirates of the Caribbean 2, the  most popular costumes were pirates. For men and boys the top costume was Captain Jack Sparrow which was just ahead of Superman and Darth Vader. For women it was also a pirate costume that was the most popular, followed by Marie Antoinette-style 18th century “Elizabeth Swan” gowns. Little girls once again stuck with the classic fairies and princesses that year.

2007 – This was the year that Spiderman 3 was released, making the black Spiderman costume the most popular for boys and men. Captain Jack Sparrow was also still a popular choice for both as well as Shrek. For women that year many chose a sexy police officer or villain themed costume. Little girls in 2007 chose Princess Fiona as the most popular costume choice followed by fairies and princesses once again.

2008 – This was Iron Man’s year as it was the most popular Halloween costume for men and boys, followed by the Dark Knight. For boys, Harry Potter was also a popular costume in 2008. For men, due to it being an election year, political costumes were hot. Woman this year were dressing as classic witches and cats. For girls in 2008, Hannah Montana was the costume to have followed by the ever popular princess and fairy.

This post was contributed by Kelly Rockey, who writes about Halloween costumes over at StarCostumes.com.

A Halloween Picnic – In a Graveyard!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Halloween holiday is the preparation for the holiday itself. Driving around neighborhoods to observe and appreciate decorations is one way to get in the Halloween mood, while another is to visit various cemeteries, graveyards, and burial grounds.

Older communities have a wealth of final resting places for the dead, and at least one with appropriate Halloween ambiance can be found. When a cemetery has been chosen for further examination, the cemetery itself can make a wonderful family outing!

Picnicking in a Cemetery – Getting Prepared

When picnicking in a cemetery in preparation for Halloween, a visit to the local library can enhance the overall experience. Parents with or without their children can borrow age appropriate ghost stories, or, for those who are a little more ambitious, they can dig a little into local history. Nearly every community has at least one ghost story or unexplainable incident, and such tales take on added power within the confines of a cemetery.

Thus, equipped for the mental aspect of a picnic with the dead, preparations for the physical aspect need to be made. One must always be mindful of the weather, and children should be dressed appropriately. If a child wishes to wear his or her Halloween costume, extra clothing should be brought along just in case the child changes his or her mind halfway through the picnic, and decides that wearing the costume wasn’t as much fun as anticipated.

A blanket should be brought as well as a trash-bag. The blanket is a wonderful item to both sit on and to keep track of the various picnicking pieces. The trash-bag ensures that nothing is left behind to dirty or defile the cemetery’s sanctity.

graveyard-chompie_100_1513

At the Cemetery

On a pleasant fall day in October, then, a small lunch can be packed and loaded into the car (or carried if the chosen cemetery is close enough). Once at the cemetery it is best to park the car near where you wish to explore, and walk through the cemetery itself.

So long as you and your children are respectful of the cemetery’s permanent residents, it is quite alright to avoid the cemetery’s roads and to walk amongst the headstones. Walking thus allows everyone to see who rests beneath the stones, and to keep their eyes open for a pleasant spot for the picnic.

Eating, drinking, and spending time as a family is a wonderful thing, especially during Halloween, which can make the picnic even more enjoyable. Picnicking in a cemetery, along with telling passing strange tales of the community, can help set the mood for a holiday which goes by entirely too quickly!

Let us know your thoughts, stories and experiences in a cemetery near Halloween. Please comment below!

Need a Spooky Halloween Set? It’s All About the Lighting!

Credit: homebnc.com

Pull up a chair and listen up, whippersnappers…Grampa’s goinig to tell you all a little story.

It’s like this. Today’s Halloween haunters have no idea how hard we had it way back when, before special lights made just for Halloween, strobe lights, and fog machines were part of the scene. Why…I remember when I had to travel to Sleepy Hollow uphill both ways on a swayback horse in 3 feet of snow just to get one SweeTarts!

No, really, Halloween was fun in the “good old days” too. Perhaps more so, because to create a really scary haunt, you had to be able to extract as much as you could out of what you had. And with that, you needed to spark your visitors’ imaginations and touch on their creepiest fears.

That’s still true today (ya little whippersnappers). So what’s the best way to create a scary scene? Simple – lighting.

 

Setting the Stage: Create a Story

lighting-shadowFirst, whippersnappers, you gotta have a STORY.

Not a theme. Themes are for parties. A story draws in the viewers like a play or movie draws in the audience. It must be a simple story that can be told in just a few sentences. This is called a “treatment” in the movie world.

The story must have the element of letting the viewers use their imagination. The scariest things are what you don’t see, or just barely see, or see only for a flash. You’re just not sure if you saw anything, right?

For example, here’s a tried and true good one:

A guy (or gal) comes home after work on Halloween eve, in no good mood, tired, his wrinkled white shirt unbuttoned at the top, tie pulled slightly loose, perhaps nerdy glasses (not that there’s anything wrong with that) with tape holding them together. As he walks in the door carrying his briefcase, a dark figure comes up behind him and puts a knife to his throat. He drops the brief case, eyes wide.

Tonight” says the stranger in a raspy voice, “you are going to lure the trick or treaters into your home. I will take care of the rest. But, just in case you decide to run, I’m going to chain your leg to the banister on the porch.

Run, kids! Credit: Youtube, KENFL74

The front door is wide open and you can easily see inside the house. When the trick or treaters come up to the porch … and remember, they can see in the house…it’s dark, but they can just make out a shadow of a man in the background, in the house, swaying back and forth. But they’re not sure…

Without moving his mouth much, his eyes looking to the side, he says quietly, through his teeth, “Take a piece of candy and get out of here. NOW! Please, just take the candy and pretend I’m not talking to you. Don’t look in the house. DON’T LOOK IN THE HOUSE! PLEASE. GET YOUR CANDY AND LEAVE. NOW!

Inside the Stage: The Backdrop

Credit: digitaltrends.com

Okay. So you’ve created the story scene above. Now ask yourself: How would it look when the trick-or-treaters look in the house (and of course they’re going to look, the guy told them not to!).

First rule of lighting a set: Always start with the background. The background frames the foreground, and gives it depth. It’s night. The color for night is blue. Not ultra-violet. But blue. Dark blue cellophane from a dollar store wrapped over the light, but not touching the bulb. Most craft stores will carry colored cellophane.

If going with cellophone, you can also buy special heat-resistant cellophane. They’re called “gels, available at Amazon, theatrical stores or cinema supply houses (usually in bigger cities).

Don’t let the cellophane touch the bulb, by the way. Try to use just the lights you have, but NO, I repeat, NO overhead lights (like the ceiling lights). Try to get the lights as low as possible. Low = scary.

Lighting Fixtures

A good light fixture to use is a simple reflecting work light with a clamp on it. It’s an easy choice because most people have at least one of these in the shop or garage, and you can put it just about anywhere.

You should use a light bulb that is rated at about 100 watts or better. WARNING: The more watts, the hotter the bulb, so be careful!

lighting-fixture lighting-gel

We have homemade wooden boxes that sit on the floor that are about forty gazillion years old with sockets in them and have two sides open. We use these for Christmas, too. Point the open sides toward the wall. Bing botta boom, you have scary stage lights!

lights-box

The Background: Casting the Shadow of “the Bad Guy”

You’ll need one light that makes the shadow of the bad guy. This needs to be white or red. I don’t really like red because it’s overused, and may not create the effect well.

Put the bad guy off to the side where the trick or treaters can’t see him, but put the light low to cast a big shadow where they can see that – and it’s the shadow that creates the scare. The shop light is good for this.

Put aluminum foil around the lamp, open on one side so that the light is focused just on the guy. There’s another product that is heavy duty foil called cinefoil, also made by Rosco. It’s usually heavy aluminum foil that is painted black on one side. It’s really nice because it works easier than flimsy regular aluminum foil, and doesn’t collapse when you look at it wrong.

lighting-scene

When I set this up for real, I decided that just the backlight was good enough. And, I used a strong floodlight in the shop light fixture so the light was more directed. I experimented with several poses to get the right effect. Here’s how they looked:

Here’s without a hat, the light is set about three feet off the floor, clamped to a chair:

lighting-shadow

Here’s with me squatting, wearing a hat:

lighting-shadow-hat

Here’s with the light set about a foot off the ground. It was so low that my body blocked the light… time for a diet!

lighting-shadow-improper

I ultimately decided to stand with the hat and set the light about three feet off the floor:

lighting-shadow-final

 

Another thing to use to control the light levels is adimmer that can turn the light down to the amount that creates the effect you want. The last time I looked at these at the hardware store, there were three basic dimmers: Low wattage dimmers (about 300 watts = three 100 watt light bulbs) with a knob you turn, higher wattage dimmers (about 600 watts), and digital dimmers.

lighting-switch2 lighting-switch1

I don’t think the digital dimmers can handle as much current, but I haven’t looked into what’s out there to find out. If you’re just using regular light bulbs or flood lights, you won’t need anything more than what I’ve just described. You can mount them to a board (usually one dimmer per light) and wire them into an extension cord that then goes on to you lights.

I’ve included a crude wiring diagram to get you started. It wouldn’t hurt one bit to get a professional to do this if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself:

lighting-wiring

For the Real Professional: Dimmer Pack Control Boards!

If you go to an electrical supply house, you can get a rheostat, which is a really big “dimmer” that can take up to a couple thousand watts, but you’re now starting to teeter on the edge of the professional “gaffer”. Of course, you can buy control boards like those that are used for shows and in theaters, but, of course, these are pricey, too. It all depends on your budget.

Usually, you have what is called a “dimmer pack”, and then a control board to go with it. The dimmer pack will have several “channels”, and each channel controls one light. Less expensive dimmer packs have enough dimmers for 8 lights (8 channels), or down further to 4 channels).

You don’t need more than this, but for real control, you can get programmable control boards that will turn the lights up and down as needed, and some even coordinate these with music and/or videos and will drive motors to move the lights. A lot of music bands have these. A relatively good and inexpensive brand is the KLS Electronics USA, Inc. line of PAR cans, dimmers, and control boards.

One more thing about the background (and the foreground as well). Light usually has an origin. If you place a light, try to make it look like it’s coming from a reasonable source, like a window, or a lamp. If you place a light on a wall, try to imagine that it is coming from a source that the viewer can’t see, but assumes is there.

That’s it for the background. Of course, nowadays people want to use fog machines and strobes, but try to do this without that stuff, because less is better … and scarier ’cause it feels more real. Would an actual monster come carrying a fog machine? Exactly.

Lighting Effects: The Foreground

Now for the foreground. This is where the action is, and the focus is to light the “action”, to draw attention to it. You don’t want to overlight the foreground, just the characters from your story. For our example story, the light on the porch is easy: a plain light with foil mask around it, with a slit cut to point from the ground up toward the guy’s face.

The light on the porch is easy: a plain light on the ground with foil mask around it, with a slit cut to point from the ground up toward the guy’s face. Of course, light the walk way, too, so no one trips.

If you live in an apartment or condo where there is no porch, then make a “stage” in the hallway and use the box lights like above as “footlights” like they have on old stages. If you don’t have time or the shop to make wooden boxes, then make cardboard box foot lights. Just don’t set them on fire!

To light the outside of your house, the principle is the same: Blue lights set low and pointed up makes for very scary stuff!

lighting-scene2

Here’s how it turned out:

lighting-scary

A Real-Life Haunt

My son made a variation of the above story and stage which was very effective: He lit the background like above, except he used candles, too, and he used his fog machine.

In my son’s story, the bad guy is dressed in black with a black cape, a black stocking over his head, a black fedora hat on, and he is standing in front doorway, backlit instead of from the front. The candy bowl was sitting on a bar stool on the porch.

When the kids came up, without saying anything, he simply pointed at the candy bowl, but when he moved his arm to point, he revealed a bloody knife in his belt. We literally had a riot when a crowd of teeny boppers jeered him with shouts of “We’re not afraid of you!”… and you know what that means 🙂 We had to close the scene down early. Sometimes you can be too good!

Happy Haunting!

How to Survive Halloween With Your Pets

Halloween can be a frightening experience for your dog or other pets. From the constant ding of the doorbell, to the many people out and about, and all the little hands that inevitably reach for him, there are many things aside from ghouls and goblins that can frighten your pup. Compound that fear with the reality that some dogs are skittish or anxiety-ridden, and well Halloween is right up there with fireworks and thunderstorm.

Instead of dreading the day, use the challenges. With the proper training you can have a very festive Halloween – complete with matching costumes for you and your pup!

Ding-Dong, Trick or Treat!

A dog wouldn’t be a dog if he didn’t bark when the doorbell rings. But on Halloween when your doorbell rings 50 times, well… it’s not so cute any more. This is the ideal time for a little in home dog training:

Get your dog to sit calmly while you open the door and tend to your trick or treaters.

pumpkin-and-dogOnce the doorbell rings, before answering it, make sure your dog is in a sit and stay position. As you open the door, keep your eye on your pup to make sure he doesn’t get up. If you are not sure about your dog’s reaction put him on a long leash. Your dog should be in your vision but not directly in front of the door. Chances are that the first few times will not be successful but your dog will get the picture. And when he does, click or reward him with treats or praise!

If your dog is confident and doing well, you can allow the trick or treaters to offer your dog some of his favorite snacks. Keep a few handy by the candy dish and when some willing children come to your door, give them a treat, parents permitting. Let them calmly put their hand out and allow your pooch to approach them to take it.

Tips to Help Your Nervous Dog on Halloween Night

If your dog is easily frightened of new people, then he might just be especially frightened of new people with masks on too. Matter of fact, your dog might also be afraid of yard decorations that stick out of the lawn and make noise!

  • It’s important to not force your dog into confronting his fears. If he’s afraid and hiding let him. You must remain calm and in a steady voice reassure him and talk to him as if nothing is wrong. The more even and calm you are the better chance you have at calming your dog down.
  • A trick .. so to speak that can help is to put a tee shirt on him. It mind sound silly but you will be amaze at how it can calm your dog down. You can use this on thunder and lighting nights as well.
  • Take your dog’s mind off the noise and what else is going on out there. This is the perfect time for some in home dog training. Practice sit, stay or lay down with a lot of treats. Even if your dog knows all the commands by heart, practicing something familar is comforting. Go for tasty treats like pieces of ham, sausage or hot dog. If your dog is playful combine the training with some play time.
  • Anxious and skittish dogs really calm down with classical music, massage or energy work. Simple dog massage techniques, touch or energy work can help nervous dogs relaxed and calm down.

A short note about candy … they are a no no for dogs.

It goes without saying that candy should not be given to a dog – ever, but just to reinforce the message, candy is terrible for dogs and chocolate can be fatal. Please keep kids treat out of their reach!

Catherine Potin is the editor of HappyDogConnections.com and offers free online dog training tips and resources from various experts so you too can understand and train your pooch better. From basic dog training to solving behavior issues, you will find solutions to get better result and create a deeper bond with you dog.

Scary Scars and Wrinkles Made with Collodion

 

Guest contributor David Lay always makes us laugh…and sometimes, scream. Here’s an EASY and fun tutorial on creating your own faux scars.

 

Okay, moms and dads, push the children from the room and close the door. We’ve gotta talk. Done? Good. It’s about scarring the kids. Not scaring the kids, though that would be fun, but scarring the kids. Not for life, mind you, but just for Halloween.

I think I have a pretty good idea how you’ve been doing it up ‘til now: You’ve been going to the corner store and buying that cheap Halloween makeup to try to make your kids scary.

But this year it’s time to graduate, inexpensively, to the big time, like the professionals use: In one word, collodion.

Collodion has been around a long time for theater and movies. It comes from the Greek word meaning “glue.” It is a material called pyroxylin that is dissolved in ether and alcohol, and was originally used in the early 1800’s as a primitive band-aid.

When exposed to air, the ether and alcohol evaporates off, leaving the material that was dissolved to harden and shrink – which is why we want to use it to make scars. It temporarily shrinks and wrinkles the skin, making it look eerily like scar tissue.

A Word of Caution – VERY FLAMMABLE

CAUTION: Remember, this stuff is for professionals, and there is a reason: Collodion is extremely flammable. And PLEASE, PLEASE don’t let children use this stuff themselves. Make sure you use adequate ventilation. Don’t use it near the eyes, and don’t get it in the eyes.

Where to Buy Collodion

You’re going to have to buy some somewhere – try Amazon. DO NOT buy the “flexable collodion”, as it does not shrink when it dries. You want “rigid collodion,” which is the theatrical stuff.

How to Create Your Custom Scar

  1. What Type of Scar?

    First, decide what kind of scar you’re going to have. A few choices are:

    • short scars
    • long scars
    • pockmarks
    • wrinkles
  2. Prepare the Area

    Prepare the skin area by washing it with soap that has no oils or lanolins. This stuff works even when the skin is oily, but better if it is not. Make sure the skin is dry before application.

    collodion-before-scarTo make the scar even more gory, “draw” the scar with red, or purple ink first, and then lay the collodion down over it. The ink will show through.

  3. Apply the Collodion

    I use a small paint brush, but you can use cotton swabs or, if you are making a large area wrinkled or scarred, you can just pour it on. Use a larger brush, and you get a larger area (this is how they make people look old in the movies or on stage), or keep re-applying it to the same swath with a small brush to make a nasty scar.

    You can make “pock” marks by dabbing in one spot. The more layers you lay down, the deeper the scar.

collodion and brush collodion-first-application
ANOTHER CAUTION: This stuff, as it dries, pulls the skin in tight, and that is why it looks so much like a scar. However, that also means it can be uncomfortable after a while. Little kids may not like having this on their skin, so be aware of this.

collodion-scar collodion-scar-2

Removing the Scar

The instructions on the bottle say to peal it off, but from my experience that can be a bit painful. Better to use fingernail polish remover. Again, needless to say but I’m going to say it anyway, make sure there is adequate ventilation and don’t get this stuff in your eye!

Okay. Order it. Use it. Scare people. Or just make people feel sorry for you and put money in your tin can. Simple.

Happy Haunting!

Make Any Creepy Creature Come To Life with Glowing Eyes!

Credit: Rusty Nail Workshop

Once again, guest contributor Carolyn Miller gives us an eerie, tech-based treat. Read on to make this cool prop for your own haunt.

It’s Halloween! Would you like to spice things up? Make things a little scary? Make your neighbors wonder “What is that creepy thing”?

With just a quick touch of glowing red LED eyes, your hum-drum Halloween decorations instantly turn into the scary, creepy, evil things that go bump in the night.

The glowing eyes trick is easy to install, and so affordable; it won’t be your pocket book screaming in terror on Halloween!

This trick is very simple, but first you need the parts. You will need:

  • A 9 Volt Battery
  • (2) red LED assemblies
  • (optional) a simple on/off switch
  • Any small wire lying around the house. Where can you find these items? You can find these at your local electronics store. In this example, the materials were all found at Radio Shack. You can visit the local store, or order online.

Skull with Glowing EyesAll you simple need to do is drill a hole through the object you wish put the LED eyes into. Then insert the LED assembly into the hole. There is a nut that will help fasten the LED assembly body to the surface of the hole.

Once you do that, you will need to wire the LED’s positive (red wires) together, and the negative (black wires together). This will create a parallel circuit. Connect the Red wires to the + side of the 9 volt battery, use glue or solder to keep it in place.

The black wires will attach to one side of the switch in a terminal or prong, use glue or solder to keep it in place. Take any extra spare wire and glue or solder it to the other side of the switch’s prong or terminal. Finally, attach the extra wire to the – side of the 9 volt battery by glue or solder.

Once you complete the circuit, you can turn on your evil eyes anytime with the toggle switch. The LED light have a long extended life and drains very little battery power, so feel free to leave on your scary eyes as long as you wish. Boo!

Motion-sensor Rustling Leaves For Your Halloween Haunt

Build a spooky effect with this cool tutorial from guest contributor Carolyn Miller. Thanks for the chills, Carolyn!

It’s Halloween, and your big bright-orange pumpkin bucket is full of delicious candy. You decide to hit that one last house on the left in hopes of finding something really good. As you walk up to the porch, you feel something is not right; it’s just too quiet here.

Then fear takes hold as you start hearing the rustling of leaves nearby. You turn around – nobody is there!

Rustling leaves in a still, overcast Halloween evening are an iconic chill-inducer. How can you make leaves rustle and move at your own haunt without you being there? If you love tinkering with electronics components, the trick is quite simple.

In this article I will show you how. You’re guaranteed to scare the pants off people without terrorizing your bank account. Ready? Let’s get haunting!

What You’ll Need

Before we can begin to frighten unsuspecting folks on Halloween, you will need to pick up a few things. Check out your local Radio Shack or click the  orange links.

(Note: always purchase from a locale that allows you to return items in case you don’t quite have the right fit – that’s why we love Amazon!):

A Passive Infrared Sensor (PIR) 01-pir
(4)  6mm Mini Vibration Motor for Phones, PDA’s and Pagers 02-mini-vibration
Enclosed 3 “AA” Battery Holder 03-battery-holder
Any 5 Volt Coil Relay 04-coil-relay
1 K Resistor 05-1k-resistor
NPN Transistor (2N2222) 06-2n2222a_met
1N4001 Diode 07-1N4001-diode
  • You will also need a soldering iron and any protective equipment for your surfaces.

Get Your Soldering Gear Fired Up!

To begin this project, you will solder the red (+5V) wire from the battery holder to the pin that represents +V on the PIR. This will be your 4.5V intake to the sensor.

leaves-rustling-diagramThe black wire of the battery holder will be soldered to the Pin that represents ground – or GND. This will power the sensor once turned on. The pin that says “Signal” is your output signal that says an object is there! This signal turns on when an object is close.

Next, run a wire from the signal to the transistor. The transistor will have 3 prongs on it. One will be wired for your input or the “Signal”. The other prong will be sent to ground or connected to the black wire on the battery holder. The final wire off the transistor will go to “Coil” side of your relay. The other half of the relay side coil will finally be wired back to the GND or Black wire of your battery box.

The drawing shows the basic hook up to make the IR sensor stand alone. When choosing the vibration motors, you must find out what power source is required. Most vibration motors will require about 1.2V, so depending on how many motors you have hooked up, will determine what battery or batteries you will need.

Setting Up Your “Rustling Leaves” Effect

Autumn-leavesOnce everything is connected up, you should be able to turn the power on and the IR motion sensor will detect your movement up close to it. If you want to aim the sensor or cover just one area you can place it in the bottom of a tin can.

Drill a hole in the bottom of the can, run the wires through and use double sided tape to secure the PIR sensor at the bottom of the can. Now you can aim any direction and the sensor won’t trip off from any side motions.

When placing the noise-making vibration motors, it’s best to keep these hidden so they do not get stepped on or damaged. When building this concept, the motors were placed within a group of leaves just off of the porch. The tin can and PIR sensor was hidden away inside the mailbox.

When unsuspecting trick-or-treaters came to the front porch, the sensor picked up the motion right at the stairway. A pile of leaves would begin to shake just off the porch, giving both kids and parents a sudden fright!

 

 

Play Dough Pumpkins That Taste Fantastic!

Looks like play dough? Check. Smells like candy? Check. Great for Halloween? Check. Tastes great? Yummy! Edible play dough is such a great thing. Kids can play with it and eat all they want (because there is no sugar, and they will get their fill quickly). The recipe is quick and adjustable, and even better it can be used with ‘butters’ other than peanut butter!

Playdough Ingredients

Making home-made play dough is simple:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 cups powdered milk
  • Optional: Food coloring gel paste (various colors – decrease the honey proportionately when substituting coloring gel.)

Mix these all up until the texture is workable. It takes about 10 minutes total. Plan ahead what you would like to make, and separate into small clumps. Mix the food coloring gel as desired to each clump – orange for pumpkins, green for pumpkin vines and leaves, etc.

home made playdoughIn the pictures below, you can see we made these fun, spooky pumpkins. The kids helped out, and it took about an hour or so. The recipe is easy to double or decrease as needed. We followed the recipe and learned a few things:

  • It makes A LOT.
  • If you want to use gel food coloring like we did, decrease the honey proportionately. We put the gel in after it was mixed up and the pumpkins were all droopy.
  • If you chose to work with something besides peanut butter, start with smaller amounts of powdered milk. We used Nutella for one batch and found that using equal parts was just too much powdered milk. We ended up putting some honey in so that it was a useable mixture.

playdough-03 playdough-04

Since the kids were done for the day and mom had a mess to clean up we wrapped the ‘play dough’ in a cling wrap and set it aside. When we decided to use it again, we rolled it out between sheets of wax paper and used cookie cutters.

playdough-cookies playdough-storage

We used milk chocolate on the peanut butter version and white chocolate on the Nutella batch. A little bit of chocolate seems to go a long way with this play dough. If you use too much, the flavor of the peanut butter gets lost. With the white chocolate and Nutella it didn’t do much at all except to muddy the hazelnut flavor further. But since kids don’t really care about that its not a big deal. The “cookies” turned out pretty good, though. They could be a very nice gift for a neighbor or co-worker during the haunting season!

Play dough pumpkins!
Play dough pumpkins!

Mesmerizing Spider Webs for Your Haunted House

 

Many thanks to guest contributor Ruth Randall for this spellbinding tutorial.

Sure, anybody can make paper snowflakes – but how about paper cobwebs for your Halloween decor? Just don’t stare too long at your creations – you may find yourself hypnotized and under the spell of trick-or-treaters out to empty that treat bucket!

Here’s how to cut out your own Halloween cobwebs for a spooky – and magical – night.

You Will Need:

  • 8-1/2 inch paper (or whatever size you have available) – black, gray, silver, deep purple or deep blue
  • Safety scissors for kids
  • Small plastic spiders (from a craft or dollar store)

For this project we created one web out of white paper so readers can  better see the diagrams in this article For your haunt, we suggest using gray or black paper, as white tends to look very snowflake-like no matter what you do to it!

Another option is the muddy purple vellum that was rescued from the scrap booking pile, shown below. This cool paper has met its glorious Halloween destiny!

Paper cobwebs

Instructions:

Using a regular 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper in one of the color choices suggested above:

  1. Take your piece of paper and fold in half.
  2. Fold in half again.
  3. There will be a center point on your paper where it has been folded (unfold to find it, then fold again). Have that point facing you, and put your thumb over it. Take the right corner and fold over. One small point will stick out.
  4. Take the left corner and fold over the right. You’ll have something of an arrowhead-look.
  5. Cut the top off so it looks like an arrowhead pointing at you.
  6. Cut a spike so it looks like the third image below. This will be the outer webbing.
In half diagonally
In half diagonally
In thirds
In thirds
In half again
In half again

7. Begin making curved cuts that echo the curve of the spike.

8. Cut the bottom point how you would like. I cut a tiny “v”.

Paper Cobwebs - cutting the spider web Finished paper spider web

 

 

 

Just as with a winter snowflake there are bound to be some surprises when you unfold your cobweb. The finished cobweb above is the white version – it still looks like a snowflake, but with a bad attitude. (We like that!)

Iron the cobwebs if you wish them to be more flat; they will come out rather crumpled. If you do iron them put another piece of paper or cloth over them so that the iron does not tear through the cutwork.

Being unhappy with the snowflake-like cobweb lead me to a search through old scrapbook papers, which revealed some muddy purple vellum. Perfect! It had just the right effect in making a spooky/creepy spider’s web. Attach the spider with some glue, and you’re done!

Muddy purple vellum gives this a more silky, spider web look!
Muddy purple vellum gives this a more silky, spider web look!

Vellum papers will offer the most compelling medium for this project, but I found this medium was a little more difficult than regular paper to fold and cut. Luckily, there are many colors of copy paper you can choose from.

White paper versus muddy vellum
White paper versus muddy vellum

There are a lot of ways to use these fun cobwebs:

  • They make great doilies for a Halloween buffet.
  • Tape them together (very carefully) for a table cloth or curtains.
  • Coasters. Cut smaller cobwebs (start with a 5” square) and use paper mache to attach them to cardboard coasters. You could make more permanent type coasters by using the same technique to attach them to thin balsa wood and then cover with a sealer.
  • Spread a few up around a candle for a centerpiece.

That’s it – so easy, so quick, so inexpensive…and so spooky!

Pop Out this Imaginative Halloween Costume!

 

Thanks to Halloween Alliance guest contributor Kate Baldwin for this cute and imaginative tutorial!

momtastic.com
momtastic.com

Looking for that perfect Halloween costume? Feeling crafty? Then have I got a tutorial for you!

The secret to the perfect child’s costume is to create an outfit that is engaging, somewhat humorous, and stands out from the usual fare.

Creating this cute popcorn costume ensures you will proudly strut your stuff on All Hallow’s Eve, earning compliments and rave reviews from just about every reveler you might meet. My daughter won a large costume contest in this getup and so can you! Here’s how to make your own.

The Popcorn Costume: Materials and Directions

The Popcorn Costume is suitable for a child or adult and can be made quite easily in a single afternoon. Allow extra time for the paint and glue to dry. No sewing is needed and the cost is minimal. What could be more perfect?

The project is also fun for parents to complete with a child, provided everyone saves enough popcorn for the costume!

In terms of materials needed, the list is short. You’ll need:

  • a large cardboard box (for example, a moving box)
  • red and white tempera paint
  • a glue gun
  • a headband or cap you don’t mind donating to the costume cause
  • lots of popcorn!

Here’s how I made my award-winning Popcorn Box costume:

  1. Cut out the bottom (or top, depending on your perspective!) of a cardboard box. This becomes the place where your legs will emerge.
  2.  On the opposite side, cut out a large-enough hole to accommodate your head. Be sure to leave room to allow for easy entry and removal.
  3. With the box on the wearer, mark the places on the box from which the arms would comfortable emerge. Cut out circular holes there. Try on the box, of course, to make sure it fits comfortably.
  4. Now comes the fun part! The box is going to be vertically striped red and white, like an old-fashioned box of popcorn. I measured it off using a ruler, allowing 2” for each stripe, and I marked the lines lightly in pencil directly on the box. Paint the stripes on, alternating red and white. Allow the paint to dry.
  5. While the box is drying, using the bottom you cut out of the box, cut out two cloud-shaped ovals. Mine were 18” x 9” but you can alter the size depending on the size of the wearer and your own taste. Paint these signs totally red.
  6. When dry, paint “Fresh POPCORN” on each oval using white paint (one is for the front of the costume and the other for the back so you look as good going as you did coming). I did the word “fresh” in cursive writing and the word “popcorn” in a fun, topsy-turvy looking print. Allow to dry. So far, so good, right? The best is yet to come…
  7. The final step is the most fun. Using a glue gun, glue the “Fresh POPCORN” signs to the front and back of the box. Next, continuing with the glue, attach real popcorn to the top of the box around the hole for the head, cascading down the box as you envision an enticing, overflowing box of popcorn would look.

Inevitably, some popcorn will break off when handling the costume, so be generous with your popcorn. I piled it on thickly, gluing popcorn on top of popcorn for a textured look. Of course, if some of the popcorn happens to “land” in your mouth, all the better!

Finally, glue popcorn all over the top of the cap or headband, and you’re all set, ready for festivities of the ghoulish kind!

popcorn-costume

Cool Halloween Games for Kids

Halloween is a time for giggles and guffaws. A time for kids and former kids to join together in fun appreciation of the autumnal season. With this in mind, here are some easy games for kids both young and old alike.

Word Search

Universally regarded as one of the most fun puzzles around, word search puzzles are now easy to create on your own. There are a number of educational sites like http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com that allow you to input your words and the site generates a word search puzzle for you. Or grab a Halloween word search book for ideas.

Use a little clip art on your page for added festive fun. There are also sites with ready-made word search puzzles in various themes and for different holidays.

Pumpkin Carving Contest

amazing cat pumpkinFor the older set who safely can use knives, a pumpkin carving contest is a natural. If you have many entrants, break up the awards into different categories, such as Funniest, Most Scary, and Most Unique.

Prizes can be simple items such as loaves of homemade pumpkin bread! Here’s my favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe:

*

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3-1/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15 oz. can pumpkin

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients in order, mixing well after each addition, especially the flour.
  • Divide the batter into two 9×5” loaf pans.
  • Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for approximately 1-1/2 hours. Check doneness with a toothpick.
  • Serve warm, cold, with powdered sugar, ice cream, or just plain. DELICIOUS and (obviously) rich!

Scary Pass-Around

One of my favorite memories from Girl Scouts was a spooky game in which all participants sit on the floor with a large blanket, each person tucking their crossed legs under the blanket and holding the blanket down on their laps with hands. The leader, with all story items under the blanket, starts out with dramatic voice and gestures with a story such as this:

One time, not so long ago, on a stormy, dark Halloween night, two children decided to go along a rarely used path near their home. They did it as a dare to one another and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Neither willing to admit fear, the two proceeded down the path, filled with bushes and spider webs…

(pass fake spider webs under the blanket, person to person, then pass a hairy fake spider)

The two went deeper and deeper in, until it was sheer and total darkness.

(turn off the lights in the room)

Very, very slowly – so slowly that the children weren’t sure they were even hearing anything – a sound started to emerge…

(play a recording you’ve made of “whoooooooo…. Whooooooo” along with rustling leaves)

By now, the children had come to the conclusion that they were too far in and that they’d best turn back. Still refusing to admit that they were scared, the two started walking faster… and faster… and faster still.

BAM!!!!! The children tripped. Feeling around on the ground, both children felt a strange object before them.

(more playing of the scary sound)

What could it be? At the top of the figure on the ground before them, they felt something soft, cool, mushy….

(pass around two peeled grapes, the “eyes)

(Talking faster and more breathlessly)… Oh my heavens! They felt just like EYEBALLS! Ewwwww. Surely it was their imagination. Feeling around further, something even slimier was felt…

(pass around cold, boiled spaghetti, the “guts” of the monster)

YUCK! Could it be? Is it? GUTS?!?!? Oh no! The kids wanted to run but then their hands felt something even worse. Could it be brains????????????

(pass around a handful of cold, squishy gelatin)

Turning now, the kids began to run, run, and run. Back through the bushes, through the spider webs….

(pass more spider webs around, this time even more than before)

RUN, KIDS, RUN! They could hear footsteps behind them!

(pat the floor in rhythmic fashion under the blanket)

They must HURRY! Back they go… until —– finally……. (major, scary pause)…. They reach the comfort of home. Phew!

(pass around a teddy bear)

This activity never fails to create a fun, albeit a loud, time! Happy Halloween!