All posts by Screaming Scarecrow Studios

We, the lurking lunatics of Screaming Scarecrow Studios, enjoy all things Halloween. Our mission is to share some of the tips, tricks & techniques that we have used in our home haunts and to also share any other insights that we have gained from our experiences in the world of home haunting.

The Body Part Toss Game

 

Thanks, Screaming Scarecrow Studios, for this gristly and very valuable contribution!

Why do most haunters haunt? Because we have tons of fun doing it!

From building spooky props to putting together creepy Halloween costumes to scaring the pants off trick-or-treaters and rewarding them with candy, we just plain love it. Most Halloween haunters find all aspects of home haunting fun!

With that in mind, and in an effort to provide our Halloween guests with more gruesome entertainment, the lurking lunatics at Screaming Scarecrow Studios have put together the following simple game.

Our Body Part Toss Game, or BPTG, was relatively cheap and simple to build and it should last a good number of years.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • plywood (see below)
  • supporting wood, if desired (see below)
  • nails
  • plastic body parts (buy these BEFORE shaping and cutting your holes so you know how large to make them)
  • jigsaw
  • red paint
  • white paint
  • old clothing
  • expanding foam

SOMETHING TO TOSS BODY PARTS AT:

Start out with a 4’ x 8’ sheet of plywood. Plywood may cost a bit more (look for deals),  but it will accept paint better and last longer in the outdoor elements.

We chose cheap, quarter inch thick, spruce plywood (rough not finished). This made the finished product light and portable.

Quarter inch plywood may occasionally be a bit flimsy, so we screwed a 2” x 2” wood frame to the back of the plywood. This not only gave the BPTG rigidity it also gave us a good solid piece of wood to screw a stand to if one was to be used.

OUTLINE YOUR VICTIM:

For this, we simply laid the plywood down on the ground and then positioned a willing victim on it. We then traced the basic sprawled body shape with a pencil.

Once this shape was traced, we cut out the holes for the parts to be tossed into during the game. We made the holes vary a bit in size and shape in order to provide different levels of challenge.

After the holes were cut and all the rough edges sanded down, we painted the plywood white. If you want your reds to pop out under any lighting, you need to put them on white! It’s an amazing (and gruesome) effect.

Once the white paint dried we created body shapes such as chest, arms and legs using stucco wire. We like using stucco wire because it makes for a stronger wire frame form.

After the wire body shapes were created we attached them to the plywood in their proper spots. We used nails for this because the portion of the nails that were sticking out the back of the quarter inch plywood could be bent over flat so they would not be sticking out dangerously.

NOTE: At our haunt, for added insurance that nobody gets poked by any protruding nails, we have an actor dressed up with a fake chainsaw retrieving the tossed body parts for our guests.

DRESSED TO DIE FOR:

After the wire body shapes were all attached to the plywood it was time to dress our victim.

In order to do this we cut the back out of an old used shirt and pair of pants that we had lying around. Next, we cut straight up the back of the legs and the arms of the pants and shirt.

With the clothing opened up in this manner we are able to wrap wire frame with the clothing, stapling the clothing to the plywood along the edges as we went.

DETAILING THE GAME:

Finally we added all the gory details, such as blood on the clothes, blood splatter on the plywood and of course, the steaming pile of entrails!

For the red paint we used high-gloss red spray paint. Painting the clothes and the areas around the holes was easy; we just used as much as we thought looked impressively splattered (see the image for reference).

Creating the blood splatter and drips was a bit tricky with spray paint. We used an ordinary stick and while the game was leaning upright and while holding the stick above the game, we sprayed the paint onto the stick (holding the nozzle close to the stick), letting the excess paint run off the stick. They ran downward. The effect was perfect.

For the final touch, we used expanding foam to make the entrails. After reinforcing the waist with extra stucco wire, we put a small chicken wire basket inside the pants so that there would be something for the expanding foam to sit on. Then we sprayed. Caution: as the name says, this expands. Use just a little, then add on.

Just some extra words of caution here: ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURE’S DIRECTIONS when using expanding foam products.

We always wear protective gear when using this stuff, especially eye safety goggles. This stuff is so sticky the only way you can clean it up is with acetone when it’s wet and a sander when its dry. You DO NOT want to get this in your eyes. We’ll say it again: be careful!

HALLOWEEN FUN WITH YOUR BPTG:

Time to play the game! Assign points depending upon how far away the hole is, whether the correct body part goes into the correct hole, and how irregularly shaped or difficult the hole is.

Thanks for reading and Happy Haunting!

 

Scaring Up Supplies on the Cheap

13 tips to take some of the bite out of the cost of home haunting from the lurking lunatics at ScreamingScarecrowStudios

garage sale halloweenYou know you are in danger of being labeled a Halloween fiend when you find yourself daydreaming about spending any lottery winnings on a Hollywood-grade, year round haunted attraction! But if you’re just poor working stiffs like us, who haven’t yet won the lottery, you know there is never enough cash in the coffin to fund the annual dark obsession. For this reason we thought we’d share how we get some of the materials used in our home haunt and Halloween props.

Halloween – not just for October 31st

Tip #1 – Post-Halloween Sales

We hate to state the obvious, but the best way to be able to scare up cheap haunting supplies is to be thinking about Halloween all year round – starting with November 1st. If you don’t already know, most stores put what is left of their Halloween stock on sale the day after Halloween, sometimes up to 75% or more off! We often take the day off and go to our favorite Halloween store early before it opens so we’re first in line for all the glorious mad grabbing of discounted horror.

Tip #2 – Costume Remainders

As much fun as it is to make haunt props from monster mud, for your next creature consider scooping up a Halloween costume while you’re taking advantage of the November 1st sales. When you buy a costume for a mere pittance of what it was a week earlier you don’t feel bad about using it on a monster prop. Costumes often give your creatures of the night a more authentic look and feel. Also not using monster mud allows you to disassemble a store the prop more easily.

Tip #3 – Stock Up on Fake Spider Webs

Never pay full price for fake spider webs. This is one item that is almost always deeply discounted. One year we paid only 25cents a bag, so for a cool 10 bucks we had ourselves 40 bags of webbing! As an added bonus. when taking down the used webs at the end of the season, don’t throw them out – just ball it all up into a good head-sized mass because it actually makes great stuffing material for a Halloween mask.

Tip #4 – Costume Makeup Sales

Never pay full price for costume makeup. This is another item that is almost always deeply discounted. You’ll always need Halloween face makeup for some costume or another but you could even use the makeup as greasy pastel crayons to draw horror scenes on cardboard backdrops in the haunt. Also it is face makeup – the kids can use it all year round for face painting!

Wood – it doesn’t just grow on trees in the haunted forest

Tip #5 – Lumber Sales

Thinking about your haunt plans and projects during the year allows you to watch and wait for basic building materials such as lumber and plywood to come on sale at the local lumber yards. For bigger projects, wait to get the full size wood on sale, but for smaller projects it’s good to know somebody in the construction industry. You can ask them to bring you left over job scraps. We have one guy who brings us all sorts of useable scrap wood.

Tip #6 – Pallet Manufacturers

Another place we get wood is the local pallet manufacturers and businesses that receive items shipped in crates. Often they have this pallet wood or crate wood piled up in designated areas waiting for people to come and haul it away for them.

Tip #7 – Old, Reclaimed Wood

Then there’s old weathered wood, which is perfect for coffins and crosses. We help friends & family when they are tearing down a garage or shed. Especially if the building is old and the wood is weathered and beat up. Nothing makes more authentic cemetery crosses and coffins then old wood – sure there are lots of techniques for distressing and aging wood but they don’t come close to the real thing.

Black is our favorite color, until they come out with something darker

Tips #8 – Grey is the New Black

Although we love black, one of the most common colors in our haunt is grey. If everything was black too much light would be needed to properly light up our haunted scenes. So it’s a good thing that most paints mix together to make a blah looking icky color to which we add some black paint to make various greys. Paint is expensive, so like the wood it’s good if you know someone in the painting business that can bring you left over paint from jobsites. Another place to get free or cheap paint is garage sales. Most people have old paint in their basement or garage but don’t think to put it out, so we just ask if they have any old paint they’d like to get rid of?

Tip #9 – Discounted Paint

Another way to get cheap paint is the local hardware store. Sometimes you can buy discounted paint when people return paint because of the wrong color. Once again it does not matter what color the paint is because it usually all gets mixed together into grey.

Tip #10 – Packaging Tarp

On the subject of black – we construct our Halloween haunt in our driveway and side yard using 2 X 4 wood framing. Once the framework is setup, we skin it with tarps that we get from the local lumber yards. These are the tarps that wood manufactures cover and ship their lumber with. Often these tarps have a black side making them perfect for Halloween. Plus the lumber yards just puts them in the garbage anyway. We’re actually keeping the landfills cleaner!

Garage sales Goblins and Thrift store Trolls

Tip #11 – Garage Sales

Of course you already know that lots of great things can be found at garage sales and thrift stores but whenever we go throughout the year we always keep an eye out for a few things that we like to use in our haunt. One of those things is bolts of cheap fabric – of course anything black or grey but we also look hard for blood red satin sheets because they make perfect liners for coffins. We also snap up any cheaply priced white sheer curtains because they are perfect for flying crank ghosts and static ghost alike.

Tip #12 – Pool Noodles

Something we haven’t found that often at either garage sales or thrift stores is water noodles. New, they are not super expensive but they also are not cheap either. So we snap them up when we find them and ask anybody we know with a pool to let us have them when they are done with them. Why water noodles? Because we’ve found they are great for giving form and shape to a creature’s arm or leg. If you just stuff an arm or leg with stuffing it often looks too stuffed and unrealistic – a water noodle that has been shaped into a limb often lets the clothes hang correctly giving more realistic appearance.

Tip #13 – Mannequins, Old Paintings, Storage Trunks

Being number 13 we thought we’d squeeze in 3 more things we love to find while out second hand shopping. First, for obvious reasons, mannequins! When we come across a reasonably priced used mannequin we definitely grab it. Put on those discounted costumes and makeup the face anyway you like because you’ve got plenty of discounted face makeup and you have an instant character! Second is old portrait paintings. These can be turned into creepy eyes-following-you-around-the-room or blood-leaking-from-the-neck props. Thirdly, a find we never past up, is the old dusty beat-up storage trunk. In low light, these old trunks just naturally add more creep factor to most haunted houses. Plus they can be used to make Monster-in-a-box props or a variation of the Trash-Can-Trauma props. Both are classic scare tactics in the home haunter’s bag of tricks and treats!

Hopefully, somewhere in these 13 tips, you’ve found something to help you scare up supplies for your Halloween home haunt. Thanks for reading and Happy Haunting!

You probably have a Halloween-dozen of your own favorite tips. If you’d like to share some of them, please add your comments.

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Need A Hand? Creating Awesome Monster Hands for Your Halloween Prop

 

The following super-fun tutorial was contributed by the illustrious (and very crafty) Screaming Scarecrow of Screaming Scarecrow Studios. Enjoy!

NOTE: We are including our professional haunt armature instructions, but you do NOT need to use tools or pipe for this prop. See below for two easy versions.

*

One thing all home haunters can use, as the Halloween Season draws near, is a few extra pairs of hands.

And we mean that in more ways than one!

Luckily, you can craft creepy monster hands for much less than finished full props you’ll find in Halloween novelty locales.

Here’s how to make your own alternative store bought prop hands (though these will certainly do in a pinch – buy inexpensive ones and creep them up yourself using our cool painting method below).

 

You Will Need:

  • Witch Fingers (see below)
  • Kitchen gloves: non-Latex if you are Latex-sensitive (see below)
  • Expanding foam (see below for link)
  • Sturdy wire (to bend and pose the hands when finished)
  • Craft/utility knife or scissors
  • Black magic marker
  • Spray paint or airbrush kit and paints appropriate for latex or vinyl

FOR THE PROFESSIONAL HAUNT VERSION You Will Also Need:

  • 1.5-inch white PVC pipe
  • drill
  • safety goggles

Latex Gloves and Witch Fingers

Here’s how we create a cool variety of monster hands to amp the scare factor of our seasonal haunt.

We start with a few pairs of cheap latex gloves – the regular kind used for common household chores. (NOTE: If you suspect a latex allergy, choose latex-free gloves. This is critical…latex allergy is no joke and can land you in the hospital. Please be aware!)

The next must have item for this Halloween project are cheap plastic “witch’s fingers,” which are readily available every autumn and come in different colors and styles.

The first thing we do is turn the glove inside-out.

This makes it look less like a household chore glove and more like a hand. It is also the better side for painting later.

Next we carefully cut a small piece off the tip of each glove finger. We find that a sharp craft/utility knife works better than scissors.

Do not cut the holes too big or the plastic witch’s fingers will just fall out the ends when sliding them into the fingers of the glove. It is better if the witch’s fingers are stretching the holes in the gloves as they are pushed though.

The Wrist Bone’s Connected to the Monster-Arm Bone…

NOTE: For the non-armature version, skip to Fleshing Things Out, below.

Now we are going to use some ½ inch white PVC pipe to make an arm bone and then use some wire hold the hand to the bone.

The arm bone doesn’t need to be very long, usually around 10 to 12 inches. It should begin in the middle of the hand and only stick out of the wrist opening of the glove a few inches. This is how the finished hands can be connected to the monster.

Once the arm bone is cut to size we carefully drill a hole through both ends of the pipe about an inch in from the end.

One side will be used now, with the wire, to attach the hand to the bone, while the other side will be used later to hang the hand during the finishing process.

Always using protective eye and hand wear, we cut a piece of wire. When put through the hole in the pipe bone, it can be bent on either side so as to go into the thumb and any other finger of the hand. These will connect to the plastic witch’s fingers. This is what will keep the hand attached to the bone while it is later filled with foam.

NOTE: Once the foam sets, it’s the foam that holds everything together.

Attaching the plastic witch’s fingers to the wire is a bit tricky; we simply drill or poke a hole in the finger and slide the wire through. Then we bend the wire into a hook and then slide the finger back up into the hook of the bent wire.   

Fleshing Things Out

Once we’ve prepared a few sets of hands like this we are ready to hang the hands up and fill them with foam. We like to run a long wire through the holes in the arm bones that we drilled early and hang the hands side by side when we fill them with foam.

We use expanding foam (the kind used for insulation and to fill cracks) to fill the hands out and give them their form. IMPORTANT: Perform this part of the project outside, as the fumes can be an issue.

Just some extra words of caution here: ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURE’S DIRECTIONS when using these products. We always wear protective gear when using this stuff, especially eye safety goggles. We DO NOT want you to get this in your eyes.

It is also a good idea to wear old clothes and gloves.

We start by placing the nozzle of the foam can down into the fingertips and squeeze a bit of foam into each finger – let that expand for a bit while moving on to the fingers of the next pair of hands.

Next we fill then hand cavity of each hand with foam and then after that too has had a chance to expand a bit we then fill in the wrist and arm portion.

Try not to over-fill the gloves; if you will, you’ll wind up with “puffy” hands. This is a bit of a learning curve; you’ll get a feel for it. If you see things growing a bit out of control, cut the glove on one side to relieve some of the expanding foam.

This is all messy and the fumes are terrible, we won’t lie. It’s a good idea to always work with foam outside.

Because the expanding foam is inside a latex glove, which isn’t porous, it takes quite awhile to cure. Allow your “hand” to sit two to three days for the foam to cure properly.

After the foam has cured, we take our pile of hands and paint them.

Painting Your Hands (and We Don’t Mean Nailpolish!)

Painting is the truly creative part of this project. Here’s our method:

First we draw some detail lines on the hands with a black marker (or any color that is going to work with the finished prop). 

Then we spray paint them the color(s) we need. We may use an alternate color for shadowing, or add red drips or splotches. Get creative!

As you can see, we are not artists by any stretch. Just remember our mantra at Screaming Scarecrow Studios: “Everything looks good in low light!“ You’ll be absolutely amazed at how creepy and frightening these little babies look on Halloween night.

Variations

There are lots of variations you can do with this technique to come up with different types of hands.

For instance, we sometimes rub a little of the expanding foam on the outside of the hands before painting, because when it expands and cures the texture looks like warts, veins and wrinkles.

Another variation which can kick these hands up a notch is using wire on all the fingers, which allow us to pose them before they are filled up with foam. The following photos below show an example of this kind of hand. We also pushed the plastic witch’s fingers a little farther so the prop hand would have longer fingers.

One interesting thing we noticed while creating these kind of hands for our halloween props, is that as the expanding foam inside the glove cures the foam sometimes shrinks into itself. This can result in wrinkles or deformation – there is no way that we know to control this phenomenon. Sometime it works in your favor and sometimes it may not. For this set of hands they wrinkled perfectly!

Even though you may not always have enough pair of hands helping you put together (and especially tearing down) your home haunt, we hope you’ll nevermore be short handed when it comes to monster hands for your Halloween props. Thanks for reading, and happy haunting!

  

 

The Ten Minute Tombstone

 

Image credit: DIY Network

Editor’s Note: From first tracing to spray-painting, this project should take about 10 minutes. Beginners may want to go more slowly. For fast, party-ready results, do just the basics. If you’d like to add creative touches, allow more time. Enjoy and stay spooky, friends!

Ready to scare up some inexpensive, fast and totally terrifying fun? This is the BEST tombstone tutorial we’ve come across and our most popular DIY here at Halloween Alliance. It’s so easy, it’s scary! Read on for the scoop.

1. Gather Your Building Materials

  • Styrofoam sheeting. Because we’re going with a simple, classic design in this tutorial, we are going to use a high-density Styrofoam sheet for the body and join it to a lumber wood base.
  • Small ground stakes.
  • Small push-pins, any type.
  • A pencil.
  • A craft knife or if you prefer, a saw suitable for cutting styrofoam.
  • Lettering stencils, if desired.
  • Latex spray paint: one black can, one white can and one gray can.
  • Materials and tools for an optional base if desired. (This step is NOT required. If you’d like to try it, the tutorial is at the end of this article.)

Let’s get started!

Step 2: Drawing the Stone’s Outline

Not everyone is blessed with DaVinci-esque art talent. This is why I always like to use geometric shapes. (Don’t worry, starting with the basics, you’ll wind up with something super-scary and ultra realistic!)

  • Google “tombstones” or “tombstone shapes” and be as simple or complex as you’d like – it’s up to you.
  • Draw your shape on a piece of large paper, such as butcher block. You can use straight edges, rulers, or curved items to draw around if you’d like to make sure you’re being perfectly geometric. Use any pencil.
  • Using a push-pin, poke holes periodically around the shape of your stone. This will show you where to cut in Step 4.

Step 3: Etching Your “Epitaph”

This part is easy and very creative – have fun with it! Start off simple until you get the hang of working with styrofoam. (For quick “ten minute” results, etch the name and/or a brief epitaph only. Once you get started, you’ll want to be more creative; additional touches will take more time. Enjoy!)

  • Use your imagination and come up with a great saying for your stone.
  • Use stencils or a steady hand to write/draw the words and images on your butcher block paper.
  • Add any decorations you’d like, using stencils or grabbing household items to circle around with your pencil.
  • Now use your push-pin to poke tiny holes to form the shapes and letters.
  • Remove the paper and cut your shapes and letters deeper and wider with your cutting tool. Go slowly! Take your time with this step.
  • TIP: Don’t create decorations too close to the edges of your tombstone. You may loose parts of them when cutting the styrofoam.

Step 4: Cutting Out the Tombstone Shape

IMPORTANT! This article assumes you have the skills, knowledge and previous experience needed to be able to safely operate and use any of the tools which may be required to complete this project. If you don’t – just buy a tombstone! We’re serious about this.

  • Lay the paper back onto your styrofoam sheet. Tack it down if you’d like with pins.
  • CAREFULLY cut around the shape of your tombstone. Keep your steadying (non-cutting) hand well away from the cutting tool and don’t cut toward that hand.
  • Alternately, you can use any sharp knife or a small keyhole wood saw.
  • “Touch-up trim” as necessary. An old carpenter’s rule is “measure once, cut twice.” Go slowly and you’ll be much happier with the results!

NOTE: Want to attach a wooden base to your tombstone? We’ve included one at the end of the article. However, for the quick-and-dirty for a basic, read-to-scare tombstone, read on. (The images include an attached wooden base.)

Step 5: Painting the Tombstone

The choices for decorating your tombstone are only limited by your imagination and your budget. For the sake of the Ten Minute Tombstone, we’ll keep the finish simple – something appropriate for mid- to back-row placement.

For this project we’ll paint the entire tombstone with flat gray latex paint. (Note: It needs to be latex because oil based paints will dissolve or eat into the Styrofoam.) If you have a latex allergy, DO NOT use this method. Use an alternative method instead.

  • Once the gray coat of paint is dry (or once your choice of finish is ready), use black and then white spray paint to add some highlighting.
  • Spray in spurts so it isn’t too “perfect.”
  • Use a LIGHT touch so you don’t get one flat color; the effect is meant to be mottled.

Tip: Practice first on the back side of the tombstone or on scrap styrofoam.

It’s really hard to go wrong with this, as the tombstone is meant to look weathered and imperfect.

Step 6: Attaching Your Stakes

Push two or three stakes into the bottom of your tombstone so you can secure it into the ground later.

Go slowly so you don’t poke through the bottom of the stone. Grip the stakes by the side if you’re using a staple style, so you don’t cut your hands during this step.

You’re Done!

Add touches such as graveyard moss or a faux crow for an additional scare factor. Or simply place your gorgeous and grim new creation in the ground as is. Happy Halloween!

BONUS: Attaching a Wood Base (Optional)

This is an ADVANCED technique. If you’re not familiar working with the tools described below, ask a friend to help.

Depending on how thick the Styrofoam body is, you can use a combination of 2X6 and 2 X4 lumber or 2X8 and 2X6 lumber.

In this example we’re using two inch hi-density Styrofoam, so we will need to cut two pieces of 2X6 the same as the measurement across the front of the tombstone’s body. In our case, it’s about 17.5 inches.

Then measure the depth of the two pieces of 2X6 plus the body – this will be the measurement of the next two 2X6 cuts. In this case, about 5.25 inches.

Once they are cut, place all the cut pieces of 2X6 around the Styrofoam and screw them together by using 2 ½ inch screws – I like to use three per joint.

Once this is complete, measure across the width of the 2X6’s. This measurement will be the amount we need to cut the 2X4. In this case, it’s approximately 20.5 inches.

Cut two pieces at this length and line them up in the same manner as we did for the 2X6.

Next measure the depth of the two pieces of 2X4 plus the body – this will be the measurement of the next two 2X4 cuts. In this case approx 8.5 inches.


Image of nail compared to the depth of the 2×6 plus the body

The next step is important because it helps ensure the tombstone body and base will ultimately stay together.

Hammer three 6-inch nails through the 2X6, the Styrofoam body and the other 2X6. (Always use safety-goggles when hammering.) Do this from the front as some of the 6-inch nails will stick out the back. To handle this we’ll place one of the longer cut 2X4’s under the bottom 2X6 so the excess nail can go into the 2X4. Be sure that 2X4 is lined up correctly with the 2X6.

Once the nailing is done, place the remaining three cut pieces of 2X4’s around the Tombstone body with its attached 2X6 base. Screw these pieces together using 2 1/2 inch screws – three per joint.

Now for a little added reinforcement. We’ll go ahead and add a few extra screws which will further hold the 2X4’s to the 2X6’s for a nice solid base.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Halloween!