After a few days of planning, several shopping trips, several days of preparing, and 5-6 hours of installation, my Halloween decorations for 2009 were ready to go.
Before I get into the details, here’s a video tour of what it looked like this year:
It was another successful year of entertaining the neighborhood. We had around 60 trick-or-treaters plus their parents for a likely total of close to 100 people stopping by. For the past few years, our decorations have been almost exclusively Haunted Mansion-themed and this year I decided to stray from that, opting for something a little spookier.
Reactions to the scarier decorations were great. Many kids loved all of it, stopping and staring at each scene -- some even taking pictures. Other kids were apprehensive about approaching but still enjoyed it. And then there were a few who were too scared to even walk up the driveway, but we made sure that all kids received candy, even if we had to walk down the driveway to give it to them.
Here’s a photo tour with more information about each scene (you can click on each image to enlarge it in a new window):
The front door scene was the highlight of the “event.” Michelle and I watched out the front door windows and waited for visitors to show up. As trick-or-treaters walked up the driveway and approached the doorway, they would hear the sounds of crawling and hissing bugs:
After the voice says “stick around for a while,” a loud whooshing noise plays at which point I would release the spider web-wrapped corpse, causing it to drop down from being half-folded above. Over the course of the night, the dropping body caused at least 20 scares, some in large groups. From inside the door, I heard plenty of screams and laughter. After that, we’d open the door and hand out candy to the often-stunned audience.
To achieve the front door scene, I used X10 lighting controls and a program called Indigo. The green light above the door, a black light, and a strobe light were all hooked up via X10 devices and switches (I have lots of X10- and Insteon-controlled lights throughout my house).
An audio cable ran from a computer in my office outside the front door and to a hidden set of speakers and a subwoofer. The scene set up in Indigo first dimmed down the green light then, using AppleScript, played the audio file. At the appropriate time, Indigo would turn on the strobe light and blacklight and I would release the hanging body. The corpse was hung using fishing wire, run through a loop in the ceiling. I would simply unhook it from inside the house and let go just at the right moment. After the trick-or-treaters left, I would pull the body back up and fasten the fishing line, waiting for the next visitor.
Every year, Michelle and I each carve a pumpkin. This year, I carved the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters and Michelle carved Zero the ghost dog from The Nightmare Before Christmas. These pumpkins were displayed by our front door, as they always are.
My favorite enhancement to this year’s decorations is the much-improved graveyard scene. Over the past few years, this scene has moved around to different sides of the house, but I think it has found its permanent home in this location on the right side.
The tombstones are placed in actual grass and dirt in front of the house, but the pumpkins, bones, fencing, busts, and other decorations are sitting on fake grass to extend the area.
All of the pumpkins in the graveyard pumpkin patch are artificial, but when hooked up to a sound-triggered lighting box, they all eerily flicker together. Here’s the audio that was playing in the graveyard:
I downloaded most of this year’s sound effects from various web sites, but I recorded a few of my own voices for the graveyard. Can you guess which ones? ;)
While the weather for Halloween was extraordinarily hot this year (upper 80s), the wind was still for once, so the fog machine hidden within the graveyard was able to create a wonderful effect.
I added a blue flood light across the tombstones this year which really enhanced the ambience of the area. In the past, I tried using individual spotlights for each grave marker but was never happy with the way that looked. The blue light really enhanced the spookiness.
Just another fun shot of the graveyard / pumpkin patch.
Last year, I constructed a “screen” onto which I rear-projected a video Disney’s Cadaver Dans singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” This year, I replaced the video with some creepy silhouettes I purchased at Party City. Behind the screen were a red strobe light and a regular lamp hooked up to the lightning/thunder effect that also illuminated the outside of the house. The screen spanned our open garage and this audio was blasting on large speakers from within:
While this scene looked okay, and visitors seemed to enjoy it, I wasn’t thrilled with how it turned out. A brighter strobe light was needed for a better effect.
Finally, in front of the garage was the only Haunted Mansion-related scene for this year. Our inflatable organ with ballroom dancers is always a hit. We purchased it from Sam’s Club last year. Of course, I played the Haunted Mansion ballroom music behind it:
Here’s a glimpse at what Halloween 2009 looks like right now after taking everything down last night. This is only a small portion of what was outside. We’ll be putting this stuff away later today.
Halloween has come and gone once again, but now I’m looking forward to Christmas!Tweet