Tag Archives: haunted house

Visit These Totally Haunted Halloween Destinations

With Halloween only a few weeks away, it’s a great time to take a few days off and go on a thrilling adventure. Here are some of the spookiest travel destinations you can visit for a good scare:

Credit: Don Hollycross Photography

Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, VA)

This living history museum in Virginia is a popular tourist destination that thousands of holidaymakers and history buffs visit each year.

Here, dedicated actors live and portray daily life as it was during the Colonial period and the American Revolutionary War. And if you doubt the rumors of hauntings at this popular vacation spot, going on a tour with https://colonialghosts.com/ may quickly change your mind.

Credit: history.org

Colonial Ghosts, one of the most popular Williamsburg ghosts tours in the country, says it provides a uniquely authentic experience. Every night, licensed and knowledgeable tour guides lead visitors through the historic streets and buildings of Colonial Williamsburg, sharing intriguing facts and stories about the area. You can learn a lot from these tours—you will also be scared silly.

Colonial Williamsburg played a key role in the American Revolutionary War, and has seen its fair share of battle, tragedy and violence. It’s no wonder that reports of hauntings, ghost sightings and paranormal activity in the area abound. Every story told on the Colonial Ghosts tours is backed by thorough research and credible eyewitness accounts, adding to the spook factor of the tour—ghost stories are so much more terrifying when they’re based on fact.

Credit: wikipedia.org

Eastern State Penitentiary (Philadelphia, PA)

This imposing prison in Philadelphia was once one of the most famous and expensive in the world.

Within its castle-like walls, prisoners were subjected to grueling forms of punishment, including solitary confinement.

Inmates were made to eat, sleep, live and work alone, and had to wear hoods over their heads while being escorted by guards from one part of the prison to another.

Credit: atlasobscura.com

This extreme way of living caused many inmates to mentally break down, and numerous prisoners died during their stay at the penitentiary. To this day, the ghosts of these inmates are said to haunt the prison (now a historic site,) with multiple sightings and frightening experiences being reported.

If you want to get the full spooky treatment when you visit, the prison conducts its own Halloween tour called Terror Behind the Walls, guaranteed to send chills up and down your spine.

Dauphine Orleans Hotel (New Orleans, LA)

Credit: dauphineorleans.com

This beautiful boutique hotel is located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and features quaint buildings that date all the way back to the 19th century.

Considered one of the Big Easy’s finest and most luxurious hotels, what makes it so spooky? Local residents and return visitors will tell you: the hotel is considered to be one of the most haunted sites in the city.

Credit: dauphineorleans.com

Guests and employees of the hotel alike have reported numerous sightings and eerie, unexplainable happenings such as footsteps in the night, bar glasses randomly falling off and shattering, and indistinguishable voices.

The ghost of a man dressed in a dark Confederate uniform has regularly been seen pacing the front courtyard, while the spirit of a young, forlorn bride-to-be whose fiance was killed before their wedding is said to haunt the place in her wedding dress.

Fright Kingdom (Nashua, NH)

Credit: frightkingdom.com

Located in a tiny town in New Hampshire, Fright Kingdom is an unexpectedly effective 65,000-square-foot Halloween attraction.

This uber-creepy destination is one of the most elaborate haunted houses in America, with convincing actors and impressive special effects.

Credit: frightkingdom.com

Attractions include Grim, an almost pitch-black labyrinth where the darkness heightens the terror, Bloodmare Mansion and Psycho Circus.

Fright Kingdom is open from September 28 to November 3 from 7am to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 7am to 10pm on Sundays.

Lizzie Borden House (Fall River, MA)

Credit: awesomelocations.blogspot.com

The story of Lizzie Borden is one of the most grisly American unsolved mysteries. In 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered in their home with an ax.

Lizzie, Andrew’s daughter, was the main suspect in the case. She was eventually acquitted of the murders, but to this day, the case remains unsolved.

Today, Lizzie Borden’s house operates as a bed and breakfast for curious and adventurous tourists.

It is said that almost everyone who spends a night in the B&B experiences some kind of paranormal activity, from hearing voices in the night, objects being mysteriously moved from one room to another, to the covers being ripped right off you while you sleep. A stay at the Lizzie Borden house is definitely not an experience for the faint of heart.

These are just some of the spookiest places you can visit in America. Plan your trip now and enjoy a chilling, thrilling Halloween weekend you’ll likely never forget.

Looking for Some New Digs? Dracula’s Castle is on the Market

Image: dailymail.co.uk
Image: dailymail.co.uk

 

With home prices on an upswing, it’s downright frightening for wannabe buyers right now in the world of real estate.

But things just got even scarier with the announcement that the infamous Bran Castle – the legendary digs associated with the late Prince Vlad Dracul – is up for sale.

As most horror (and history) fanatics know, Dracul was the inspiration for Brahm Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, which spawned movies, books and a pop culture image of the sexy slayer we all know and fear.

The creepy count lived in, appropriately enough, a tall, forbidding structure much like Romania’s Bran Castle.

The imposing structure – “Casteul Bran” in its native tongue – was built in the 12th century on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia and was probably unknown to later author Stoker, but according to history, it may have at least loose associations with Vlad III (Vald the Impaler, or Vlad Dracul). The actual castle that captured Stoker’s imagination was similar to Bran Castle, and both were located in the territory then known as Transylvania.

The actual locale where Vlad rested his halberd is now in ruins, but Bran Castle stands as the iconic chilling home for all things vampirish…and now, it’s for sale.

Got Leu?

The sprawling Bran Castle is owned by descendants of the Romanian royal family, but they’re now looking to unload it onto a likely buyer (can’t you just imagine hands rubbing together over a hulking, creepy smile? Sorry for any offense to the Habsburgs, who haven’t shown any real-life bloody tendencies…that we know of).

The asking price is a modest $66 million (about 216,000,000 Romanian leu), but it might be flown off with at a steal, according to realtors, who estimate the final selling price could be as little as $13 million.

But don’t lose your head over the price tag. Look what you’re getting – 57 rooms on 22 acres atop a majestic cliff that just screams location, location, location (at least we THINK those are the screams we hear).

And if you’re short on funds, the royal family won’t necessarily bleed you dry. “If someone comes in with a reasonable offer,” realtor Mark Meyer told the British periodical Telegraph, “…we will seriously entertain the idea.”

Stake Your Claim

Sadly, for most of us, the idea of such a purchase is downright flighty (imagine the commute to your current job?). But you can still dream…or is that a nightmare in the making?

Either way, feast your…er, eyes on these fun and freaky photos of this historic locale.

It looks even spookier at night, meaning you and your loved ones will be sure to throw some killer parties with this pensive purchase. Image: dailymail.co.uk
It looks even spookier at night, meaning you and your loved ones will be sure to throw some killer parties with this pensive purchase. Image: dailymail.co.uk
Looking to stretch your legs? Castle Braun has 57 spacious rooms...and plenty of places to hide the bodies.
Looking to stretch your legs? Castle Braun has 57 spacious rooms…and plenty of places to hide the bodies.

 

Even the good guys look spooky at this creepy castle. Shown here: Romanian priest Petru Darascu.
Even the good guys look spooky at this creepy castle. Shown here: Romanian priest Petru Darascu, frozen in time in eerie effigy.

 

Come inside and warm up. You're looking a little pale. Image: dailymail.co.uk
Come inside and warm up. You’re looking a little pale. Image: dailymail.co.uk
Make this your resting place...just not a final one. Image: dailymail.co.uk
Make this your resting place…just not a final one. Image: dailymail.co.uk

 

So you say you like a cozy courtyard? You won't be disappointed. Image: all-that-is-interesting.com
So you say you like a cozy courtyard? You won’t be disappointed. Image: all-that-is-interesting.com

 

The locale is huge, sprawling, and elaborate - everything a castle-buyer could want. Image: dailymail.co.uk
The locale is huge, sprawling, and elaborate – everything a castle-buyer could want. Image: dailymail.co.uk

 

Location, location, location: the castle is nestled in amazing greenery. Image: rolandia.eu
Location, location, location: the castle is nestled in amazing greenery. Image: rolandia.eu

 

The 13 Most Haunted Hotels in America

 

Haunted hotels entered the public imagination in a big way with the spectrally occupied Overlook in The Shining. But creepy stories of spooky stay-overs have always been the subject of speculation – and some reportedly haunted stays still exist today.

Here’s Halloween Alliance’s list of the 13 spookiest hotels in America. Pack your bags and stay a while…if you dare.

#1: The Bourbon Orleans Hotel

Unearthly dancers are said to waltz through the Bourbon Orleans ballroom.
Unearthly dancers are said to waltz through the Bourbon Orleans ballroom.

Nestled in the iconic French Quarter of New Orleans, the Bourbon Orleans is the site of the original Orleans Ballroom, built in 1817. Among those reportedly at unrest at the Bourbon Orleans: a Confederate soldier for whom the war will never really be over (seen on the 3rd and 6th floors), children and nuns who were victims of a yellow fever epidemic when the hotel was an orphanage, and mysterious dancers who disappear as quickly as they appear, ruffling the draperies as they waltz from one world into the next.

#2: The Omni Homestead Resort

Despite its idyllic appearance, the Homestead is said to be anything but restful (or at rest).
Despite its idyllic appearance, the Homestead is said to be anything but restful (or at rest).

According to guests, the Hot Springs, VA-located Omni Homestead Resort is anything but restful. Though the entire building is said to experience ghostly disturbances, the 14th floor receives the most reports of paranormal activity. Originally erected as a much smaller facility in 1776, the resort is said to have a bloody history, including a bride left at the altar who committed suicide in one of the rooms. More recently, the hotel has experienced violence that visitors swear was spurned by the unrest in the building: two hotel supervisors were shot by an employee in the hotel’s kitchen in 2009.

#3: The Onaledge Inn

Harassed male visitors claim some of the Onaledge's guests have reserved a postmortem stay at the haunted locale.
Harassed male visitors claim an aggressive elderly woman has booked a post-mortem stay at the Onaledge.

Built as the Red Craggs Inn in 1844, this Manitou Springs, CO bed-and-breakfast is said to have a number of unearthly “regulars,” including a “blue boy” who plays near the pond and, perhaps more dangerously, an unidentified elderly female who attempts to shove at male visitors. The location was rebuilt as the Onaledge Inn in the early 20th century, but these spooky guests, visitors say, refuse to leave.

#4: The Stanley Hotel

stanley hotel ghost
The spooky Stanley Hotel has a dangerous history and is said to host at least one ghost (see image above).

That’s right: it’s the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining in 1980. And it’s not just King who felt something eerie in the famous locale. According to hotel employees, the Estes Park, CO structure, built by Stanley Steamer magnate Freeland O. Stanley in the early 1900s, things go bump in the night, and not just in Room 217. The place has been plagued by a gas leak, a mystery explosion, power outages and, according to records, has resulted in injuries, including two broken ankles by one of the employees.  Among its spookier stories: beds are found by chambermaids already made up (and not by the guests), and honeymooners report being physically separated on the marriage bed by a spectral presence. And according to hauntedplacesinamerica.com, an eerie image (shown in the pic, right) has been captured – temporarily, anyway – on camera.

Continue the Haunted Tour ->

 

Haunt Your House With These EASY Hacks

 

Over and over again I hear from rueful friends, “I just don’t have the time to decorate my house for Halloween…and besides, I don’t want to spend a lot of money.”

My answer? Both the time AND money you spend on decorating your house for the scariest day of the year are up to you – and neither has to be a frightening prospect.

Through the years, I’ve haunted my own house in every possible way, from dollar-store die cut black cats to a full-on front yard cemetery, fog machines, zombies and more.

I’ve gathered my go-to Halloween preparation tactics, the ones I use year on year because they’re so easy, yet they’re guaranteed to bring a smile (and a spooky chill!) to admirers of all ages.

Choose the ones that work for you, and remember: it’s your own creativity that’s puts the “spooky” in Halloween. Whether you’re the autumn harvest type or you adore a great Freddy or Jason flick, show your love of Halloween this year with freaky flair!

What’s That Peeking From Your Windows?

Windows offer perhaps the best opportunity to show off your dark side as they’re above the level of the ground and therefore usually very visible to passersby.

No house is truly haunted unless it has creeped-up windows, so try these ideas:

 

  • Attach cobwebs across the windows and dangle a plastic spider from each. Or buy or make an oversize creepy crawly and have it cover one entire window. You can even bundle an old doll in gauze or cheesecloth and dangle it from the web as a spider “victim.”
  • Buy “creepy cloth” in black or white (or rip into some old sheets with scissors or an old nail file – it’s great therapy!). Hang it on either side of each front window of your house for a tattered-curtain look.
  • Hang horrifying styrofoam heads in front of or from windows and eaves. Drape these in billowy white cheesecloth.
  • Cut spooky shapes out of black construction paper; tape to the inside of any window, facing out. Then tape yellow tissue or other transparent paper behind the entire scene. On Halloween night, turn the light on in that room. The lighting behind the tissue paper will make your window scene glow eerily.

Raise the Undead

I find the use of skeletons an integral part of any Halloween decoration scheme.

Look for inexpensive jointed plastic skellies; don’t worry if they’re a little banged up – that only adds to the charm. Or have fun with super-cheap cardboard cutout skeletons. Try these ideas:

  • Wire one posable skeleton to your roof with one arm dangling down (always be careful and use a spotter when climbing a ladder or crawling around on your rooftop). Wire a second skeleton with one arm vertical, as if he’s reaching for help up.
  • Halloween skeletons hanging from a treeHang skeletons from your trees.
  • Set up either a posable or non-posable but dimensional (plastic or rubber) skeleton at the top of your front steps for visibility and dress him up. Give him a saucy pirate getup (eye patch, hat, sword), put two together in unholy matrimony with wedding clothes (check your local consignment shop for deals) or even set him up with an empty can of beer, an ashtray and that 1970s TV you’re always saying you’re going to throw away. The possibilities are endless, and in my experience, the funnier and more outlandish, the better the response from trick-or-treaters (and their jealous moms and dads who didn’t think of it first!).
  • Dance a row of inexpensive cardboard skeleton decorations across the front of your house. Be sure to use tape that’s weatherproof but can be removed later without harming the siding.

 

Credit: partycity.com

Create a Creepy Cemetery

  • Foam tombstones can often be had at a steal. Or consider making your own. Check out this tombstone tutorial.
  • Use plastic animals for a super-creepy effect. Have them gnaw on discarded body parts.
  • Make use of old, broken Halloween decorations by scattering plastic bones and skulls around the area, making the scary site look freshly picked by someone (or something).
  • Make liberal use of fake spiderwebbing across and between your tombstones for a haunting touch.

Get Ghoulish

Halloween ghoul ghost prop

Ghouls are easy to make, and the more tattered the better (or look here for some great choices at prices that won’t come back to haunt you).

Set up something wicked on your front porch by sitting a groundbreaker-type ghoul in a patio chair and adding pants (stuff these with newspapers or old clothing if you’d like) and shoes. Or drape cheesecloth over an old Halloween mask, prop on a broomstick stuck into the ground and voila – the Angel of Death is ready to greet partygoers with an evil grin.

Get Your Autumn On

Last of all, don’t forget to take a little of the outside indoors and to drape mementos of the soon-to-be-gone season along your decorations. Make liberal use of leafy faux vines, inexpensive knick-knacks and seasonal baskets or even toys and dolls to bring a delicious, crisp chill to your home, both inside and out.

 

Two-Way Mirrors: A Haunted House Must-Have

 

You’ve seen them in haunted houses – eerie mirrors that seem to be haunted with some terrifying, ghostly presence. Just how do they do that?

As they say in show biz, it’s all done with mirrors! Also known as a a transparent mirror, a two-way mirror is a piece of glass that’s been treated so that one person can see out, but a person on the other side can’t see in. It’s a traditional trick for haunted houses everywhere.

Placed between a darkened room a lighted room, a two-way mirror allows a person in the darkened room to see through the glass, but the individual in the lighted room sees only his or her own reflection – eerie!

You may know of this type of mirror from crime shows. And yes, they’re actually used for that purpose. Here, though, we’ll show you how the mirror becomes transparent to produce ghostly images that are PERFECT for your haunt.

Read on to make a spooky two-way mirror of your own

But First…Here’s How You’ll Use It

If you’ve ever gone through Disney’s Haunted Mansion and been amazed by the hitchhiking ghosts that seem to sit beside your reflection, you’ve seen a two-way mirror at its fullest spooky potential.

You can create a similar effect in our own haunted houses without too much effort. The mirror does most of the work for you!

haunted-mirrorJust set your mirror into a false wall in your haunted house and place something spooky behind it. Then find a way to click on the lights at just the right moment for the maximum scare effect.

Depending on the size of your mirror and what you have available, you can hide a person in a costume, an animatronic or just a scary portrait behind your mirror.

Your victim will walk down the hall and at first see only hisreflection. Then, when the time comes, light up your ghostly apparition and let the mirror do its work. Your “victim” will suddenly see what is behind the mirror. Eek!

We find that strobe lights work well for lighting up your apparition – some of them can be set to timers, and others have foot controls. For smaller mirrors, a flashlight under your chin is the simplest and most effective method for getting that traditional scary face.

Let’s Get Started

It’s fairly easy to buy a haunted mirror online, and it’s not too expensive. If you don’t have much time on your hands before Halloween, go ahead and go that route. But if you’re feeling creative, here’s how to craft your own totally awesome two-way haunted mirror.

You will need:

If you plan on putting a person behind your mirror, you should choose a larger-sized picture frame. You may want to use a poster frame, but the thicker the frame, the better.

If you can find a large antique-looking frame (try a second-hand shop or check around at garage sales), that would be ideal. A neat idea is to paint your frame black or crack the paint to make it look distressed. Just don’t damage the frame so much that you can’t get the glass back in!

After removing the glass from your frame, you will apply the privacy film to one side. Follow the directions in the package to apply the film to your glass. See our video below for a tutorial. It’s easier to attach the film to a loose piece of glass than a window because there’s no measuring involved. Just lay your glass on top of the film and cut around the edges.

Make sure you cut the film so that you have an extra inch on all sides. Next, you may want to ask a friend for help, as it’s easy to crease the film or get it stuck to itself when you work alone. Apply the film and squeegee it as flat as possible, removing any bubbles. When you trim the excess film off the edges, it doesn’t have to be perfect, as the edges will be hidden beneath the frame. You may want to hold the squeegee on the edge of the glass when you pull the excess away, as it tends to stick and pull up what you’ve already squeegeed down.

After you’ve trimmed and dried the film, place the glass back into the fame with the film facing forward.

Installing your Haunted Mirror

False walls are the key to a great haunted house. Monsters can hide behind them and spooky hands can reach out from them to grab (and terrify) haunt visitors.

To hang your mirror, you will need to cut a hole in one of your false walls. The hole should be smaller than the outside of your frame, but larger than the visible glass so you can hide the seam of the wall behind the frame.

Your guests should not be able to tell there is anything strange about the wall. It’s such a great effect!

Ghostly images

If you want to get really advanced (or just don’t want to sit around behind a wall for hours) you can put a TV or computer screen behind a small mirror and loop a spooky video on it. You can make your own video if you like – It should be black most of the time to allow for the appearance of a normal mirror. Then create bright, ghostly images that emerge from the blackness. Do this by simply moving into a beam of light (flashlight under the chin works) and make a scary face! You don’t have to limit yourself to just faces – get creative, you can put anything behind your mirror!

After your get your video up on the screen, you will want to turn the contrast way down because even when the screen is black it can emit a glow that will alert your guests that something’s up. You may also need to cover the sides of your screen with black cloth or paper (paint it black if you have an old spare) and make sure all lights on the knobs and power button are hidden and won’t glow through. Then push the screen up behind the mirror and let it work its magic!

Scary “Blair Witch” Icons Made from Sticks

 

The following contribution is from the spooky Screaming Scarecrow Studios. Thanks as always, fellas – stay scary!

When building your Halloween setup, we recommend keeping the traditional, but bring in a bite of the new – “new” if you lived in the 1700s, that is!

A movie that I suspect most of the scare fans here have seen is the The Blair Witch Project. It’s based on a legend that reportedly occurred in the 18th century.

A major factor in the movie that generates fear and suspense is the inclusion of “stick figures,” which hang from trees around the hikers’ tent. They are, presumably, the icons of murdered children, some even dressed in scraps made from the children’s clothing. (Did somebody say “nightmares”?)

To capture the terror the hikers felt when first viewingg the stick figures, try this: as trick-or-treaters approach your front door, make the kiddies walk through a maze of these icons. Hang them from tree limbs or from the tunnel or walk-through.

Ready? Let’s get scary! Here’s the project.

Your Own Blair Witch Project

  • To start, you’ll need are a 6-8 inch square cloth (we like to use cut and “distressed” burlap material for the effect, but any cloth with a little “blood” will do; distress the edges by pulling at them).
  • You’ll need a material to make lashings (such as dried vines or some twine), or use hot gun glue if you are “knot” challenged (see what we did there?).
  • Finally, you’ll need two sticks. One can be forked, but you can also lash two straight sticks together for this effect. “Straight” is a relative term here; a little crooked makes it scarier, we think. Collect branches from your own yard or buy craft natural sticks.

01-blair-witch-sticks

First, you are going to lash or tack the sticks parallel to each other, the straight stick about one to two inches down from the top of the forked stick. To learn about tying a lashing, visit http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/skills/b-p/wb/lashings.

Start the lashing with a clove hitch and then cross the “arms” stick perpendicular to the “body” and tie the lashing.

02-blair-witch-sticks 03-blair-witch-sticks

Size the burlap: Set one corner at the fork, and measure the diagonal along the arm.

04-blair-witch-sticks 05-blair-witch-sticks

Once that is done, take the cloth and fold it diagonally from corner to corner. Repeat so the cloth is folded into quarters.

Using scissors, snip the apex of the triangle you’ve formed to make a small hole in the cloth, big enough to slip the “head” of the stick figure through, and unfold the cloth.

06-blair-witch-sticks

Cut a slit toward one of the corners for the front of the “dress”.

07-blair-witch-sticks

Now you’re ready to slip the cloth over the head of the stick. You’ll want to adjust the cloth so that the apex of the triangular cloth touches the split in the forked stick. Tack this down by tying it with the root material or string, or simply tack it with hot gun glue.

08-blair-witch-sticks 09-blair-witch-sticks

Now all you have to do is make a noose to hang the figure, and find an appropriate tree to hang it from!

10-blair-witch-sticks

You can make all kinds of versions of the stick figure. If you want to make the exact copy of the Blair Witch icon, you’ll need four straight sticks:

Two to make and “X”, one to tie to two tips of the “X”, and one to make the “head”.

Tie the “X” a little above center to give the “legs” a longer length.

Tie the “head” to the cross piece and to the intercept of the “X”. These don’t have any cloth, and you have to do a lot more tying.

11-blair-witch-sticks

Be creative and Happy Haunting!

Interview with Lew Lehrman – Painter of the Dark

 

We recently had a chat with Lewis Lehrman, professional watercolor artist, teacher, author and Halloween painter who showcases his work on  a dedicated Facebook page.

Mr. Lehrman has created an incredibly rewarding niche for himself, working one-on-one to recreate clients’ memories.

From these recollections or entirely from the client’s and artist’s imagination, Lew creates a custom spooky painting, complete with a haunting backdrop, pets, hidden ghosts, people and decor. So cool!

His trademarked self-moniker is “Painter of Dark”, and that is exactly what this awesomely dark artist is! We were honored to have Lew for an interview here at Halloween Alliance. Here’s what he had to say.

HA: Your first commissioned work was to paint a Halloween scene as your client recalled it as a child. This looks to be a recurring theme in your work. Does your inspiration come from your own memories? 

Lew: From as early as I can remember, I have always been an artist. Even before my kindergarten and first-grade years, when a very special teacher, Mrs. Levy, encouraged my art, I found approval, and my parents were supportive, and my interest grew as the years went by.

When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher took a group of her students to visit her sister, who was a watercolorist and whose home and studio were located high overlooking New York City’s Central Park. I watched, entranced, as she created a sailboat on blue water on a blank piece of paper. I was hooked!

A year later, in 1944, I was 11 years old, and my parents entrusted me to a Pullman car porter aboard The Wolverine Limited, en route to Battle Creek, Michigan where I was to meet my aunt and uncle. I spent a month at the farmhouse where they were staying while my uncle was enrolled in a special training program.

It was pretty special, but what really stays with me to this day, and directly answers your question, was that night in the Pullman berth, where I spent the night staring out of the window, watching the lights in farm house windows as they glided past in the indigo darkness. There was something in those lonely windows that touched me deeply, and I have never forgotten that night. I can still picture it clearly.

Tilted Angel by Lew LehrmanIt was years before I was able to devote any serious time to watercolor. Oh, maybe I did three or four paintings a year… high school, then college, then a couple of years in the army, then establishing a business, then a family. By the late 1950’s I had begun a freelance art business, and grew it into a substantial business over the years until 1984, when my wife and I decided upon pursuing a new life (another long story for another day) in which I could become a full-time professional artist.

Through all those tumultuous years, I had always nibbled around the edges of art. And night scenes, some of which were Halloween scenes, were a recurrent theme.

By the late 80’s, I was on my way to becoming a serious watercolorist. We had moved in ’84 to the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, buying and rehabbing a 200 year old Colonial, and turning our barn into a dream studio and gallery. My art began selling well, and when color Xeroxing came in, I made a few prints of a Halloween painting (which I had borrowed back from its purchaser, a friend).

I sold a few prints at the Gallery, where Halloween paintings were always popular, but when we decided to sell our Mass. home and move to Arizona, where we’d been wintering, those unsold prints came with me.

Then one day I decided to see if I could sell them on eBay. Each time I listed one, it received a load of bids, and the price shot way up. I knew I was on to something, and so The Haunted Studio was born.

But to anwer your question, which I realize I’ve completely bypassed:

Honestly, though I did enjoy the spectator aspects of Halloween, it was never a big participatory holiday when I was a kid. That was left to the rowdier element of my contemporaries, but it just wasn’t me, nor the kids I ran with. Occasional trick-or-treating with friends, or doing spooky stuff to other kids who came to our house, but nothing more. I don’t think my mother approved.

HA: How does the surrounding environment affect your paintings? Now that you reside in Scottsdale, how does this affect your work?

Lew: We discovered Scottsdale in 1987, when (my wife) Lola and I decided to get away for a month from another long, cold, snowy Massachusetts winter. Arizona was our choice. We fell in love with the light, the weather, the arts community, and everything else here. We “snow-birded” for six years, and moved here full-time in 1993.

Though cacti rarely show up in my spooky paintings, I did create a very spooky stand of sahuaros as landscaping for a commission from a fan west of Phoenix. But you’re correct: the great majority of my work shows a strong eastern influence.

HA: Have you always been interested in Halloween? Have you seen a change in Halloween from your childhood to today?

Lew: For people who love Halloween, their interest withstands time, as they’re usually based on a tradition of celebrating this holiday that goes back at least a generation, sometimes two or more.

As one of my fans told me, “It’s the only holiday that’s pure fun! You don’t have to buy gifts. You get to dress up in a crazy costume and go out and scare people! You go to fun parties with friends! And there’s all that candy!”

HA: That perfectly describes Halloween! Also, each of your paintings have a backstory, which really brings them to life. Do you think of a story first, and paint the scene, or is there another “kernel” that inspires you? A single scene, an emotion, a mood, a dream?

Lew: Sometimes there’s a story I want to tell, but more often, the painting tells me all I need to know. It’s strange. I may start with an inspiration because I’ve seen a spooky photo, or maybe a painting or a photo with peculiar lighting I’ve encountered in a museum or gallery. It could be a poem, or a photo and story a fan has sent me.

Or I might select a picture of an old Victorian, or a castle, or some other resource from our travels, and start painting it to see what develops. Or maybe just to express a mood, like “The Last Witness” or “Phantoms.”

It can begin with a kind of crazy “What if?” For example: What if there were a haunted tree house to frighten the kids? Or – What if all the movie monsters we feared as kids assembled for a reunion?

“What’s going on here?” Is a question that’s always in my mind as I work on a painting, so it’s not always under my control. Sometimes, in a way, the painting paints me.

HA: “The painting paints me” – I like that. What painting techniques do you use to create the “Gothic feel” in your works?

The Enduring Mysteries Of The McPike MansionLew: I use one of two painting techniques, each of them a different approach to watercolor.

Traditional watercolor, for me, is a very intellectual and controlled medium. I plan, and execute, each painting in a very specific way that has been used by American and European watercolorists for centuries.

Then there is an Oriental-based approach I learned from a master of the technique a dozen years ago, and which is much more emotionally satisfying. It requires a risky entrusting of what emerges to the vagaries of water on paper.

It’s very exciting, with an element of happenstance that appeals to me. I don’t usually know how the painting will look until I’m finished, though I’m never disappointed. And I love the look.

HA: How do you create a work of art for a client? When listening to clients describe what they would like to see in a painting, what cues and techniques do you practice to render what is in their imagination?

Lew: Most commissions begin with a fairly detailed email, or a package in the mail, describing what makes my client emotional about Halloweens of his/her own childhood, or of his or her experience with their own children’s Halloweens. Or of their own love of decorating the lawn and having great, fun parties.

Sometimes it has nothing to do with memories of a specific Halloween at all. They just want to see their home as a spooky, haunted, maybe ramshackle wreck at some time in the future. Some people are quite specific. Some have no idea. When that happens, I help them with suggestions

Other than Halloween, each commission seems to tap into deep feelings for the occult, or personal memories, or a personal vision they’d like to see brought to life. It’s my task to bring out their wishes, desires, and images, and express them in paint. I love providing a treasured heirloom – and making new Halloween memories for my fans through art.

*