UNBOXING: A Cat Skull Celebration

Doktor Leech celebrates his birthday Dailynightmare-style with the gift of a cat skull from The Skull Store (http://www.skullstore.ca/). Check it out to learn a bit about the legal status and import laws about skulls as well as gaining appreciation for all skeletons, including yours.

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UNBOXING: Menton3 Painting Commission

Doktor Leech gleefully unboxes a painting he commissioned from Menton Matthews III a.k.a. Menton3 and suggests that perhaps what others are calling “Dark Art” might better be called the art of Dark Interiority. He also likens this movement to the older genres of allegory and even religious art.

Menton and David Stoupakis had a sold-out show at New York’s Last Rites Gallery in 2015 called “The Kindly Ones.” All of the pieces dealt with the Fates, figures figures of divine retribution and justice that the ancient Greeks feared so greatly they referred to them as “The Kindly Ones” rather than risk evoking them by using their name. Though the Doktor missed that show, he was able to commission a painting from Menton which he unboxes in this video.

Menton along with Faith Betinis and Michael Knight, are opening Ars Memoria Tattoo Shop and Gallery in Chicago — Grand opening May 6th, 2016 — which utterly delights the Doktor, since he hopes that means he won’t have to trek to New York or California to see world class art that reflects the shadowy recesses of the human heart.

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UNBOXING: Menton3 PRINTS – First batch

Doktor Leech opens three signed art prints from Menton3 and once again does NOT remove a finger with his Happy Knife. This VLOG was filmed in mid-December before the Doktor figured out lighting, editing and how to, um, talk without, um, pausing so much, ah, between words. He still kicks ass, though.

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GenCon2015 – the Doktor’s Haul from the Dealer Room

Tickets for GenCon 2016 went on sale recently, so the Doktor looks back on his haul from the GenCon 2015 Dealer Room, including:

masks from Lisa Sell

Fez-o-Rama

Twilight Creations

Gloom the card game expansion packs

Shindig Machine

— and an angry yellow elder god from Cthulhu Wars

Who knew Con-shopping could be so much fun?

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UNBOXING: Carved Bear Skull

On the Pagan holiday, Imbolc, the Doktor is once again opening a special package, and he can hardly contain his excitement.

Watch as the Doktor opens this one-of-a-kind hand carved bear skull (yes, a real bear skull!) and shows off the fine craftsmanship of Rachel Lee. How can you get your hands on such a treasure? Follow the Doktor’s tips for discovering the best bone art worth owning.

Follow Rachel Lee’s Instagram on @Rachleeroth.

Doktor Leech is on Instagram @grimgnome13.

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Getting ahead in the human head rental business

512px-Red_Cross_Parcel

News broke on January 30, 2016 that a Grosse Point Park couple who run a biological supply company which rents of body parts for training purposes were charged with fraud. The charges filed claim that their business failed to disclose to the leasees of heads and other body parts that the specimens sometimes came from bodies with infectious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis B.

Our local online newspaper Mlive took the click-bait road with a headline that read “Michigan couple charged with renting out disease-infested human heads.” That headline has inspired nearly 5000 shares on social media so far.

It’s worth noting however that the couple involved, Arthur Rathburn and Elizabeth Rathburn, ran a completely legitimate medical business. International Biological Inc. is a legal business which supplies medical and dental training programs with human heads and other body parts. The couple legally procured donated human bodies, dismembered them, and provided them to medical and dental professionals for a rental fee. It does appear that the couple sometimes obtained disease-infected bodies at discounted prices. The issue was not that heads were rented, but that the company failed to notify the renters of such body parts that some were infected with diseases and that they made false statements about body parts in their possession.

As in all businesses, not being honest about the sources, condition or safety of one’s products– be they heads, cars, food, or children’s toys– is fraud. This business deserves the American standard assumption of “innocent until proven guilty” just as much as any other– even if their business is rental heads.

More details can be found here at Crain’s Detroit Business.

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UNBOXING: Mummified Piglets

“You’ve got mail” doesn’t get much weirder than this!

In this clip, the Doktor is excited about unboxing some highly unusual porcine pretties. What is the deal with this package? Why does he want them? And what will he do with them?

Tune into this unboxing video to learn about the strange phenomena of mummified piglets, get the answers to these questions, and grow in your knowledge of our version of Midwest Weird.

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Nightmare #374: Cut to the end

16532-illustration-of-a-pair-of-scissors-pv

(USA, 50’s) This nightmare was a strange one, sort of anti-climactic and almost boring, after the bang-up start. It began with a cut and ended with… I don’t know what.

I was in a strange apartment with a bunch of friends– dream friends, not real ones — but we were all there together. I think we all lived there together.

In my dream, everyone was dying.

All of our throats were cut, and all of our blood had poured out on the floor. Everyone’s neck had a big gash in it.

We were all so sad. And we felt tired. After all my blood had drained out, I felt so so tired. I was sure I was going to lie down and die any minute.

But I didn’t.

That was the weird part: shouldn’t we all be dead already?

But we weren’t. We were dying, but slowly, or at least not right away. So it seemed like we might as well do the laundry… and clean up the apartment a bit… and talk to each other. We just kept going because it seemed like a good idea, that is, to keep moving and keep doing things, even when we didn’t know when it might all end.

After I woke up, I was haunted by that knowledge: we ARE all dying. We don’t know when. Do something already.

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Our Review Policy

Here at the Dailynightmare, we review movies, books, performances, artworks, and events. We take a look at and evaluate jewelry, food products, clothing, crafts, art openings, and film festivals. We take our analysis further still and report on retreats, crowd funding campaigns, software and apps, weird date nights, and conventions.

You might wonder– are they just doing this for the perks? Can their good opinion be courted with gifts and freebies?

Fear not, Dear Reader! Watch this clip for a thorough understanding of our review policy!

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Nightmare #373 – Turning Teeth

Smile pic

(North America, 20’s) Recently, my dentist informed me that I have been grinding my teeth in my sleep. Her suggestion was to have a bite splint made that I could wear in the night to protect my teeth. In my family, I have always had the best teeth; no cavities, no stains, and I always get good comments from my dentist each visit. But now I was being told that by grinding my teeth, I am slowly causing serious irreplaceable damage that could open me up to cavities and bed news in the future. In an effort to be a compliant patient, I have been doing my diligence and wearing my mouth guard every night, even though it is slightly uncomfortable and I’m not used to it yet. The other night, while wearing this stupid plastic contraption I had the following dream.

I was out of town at a professional development conference with a group of women I had vague friendships with, but no one I could pick out really. One morning when I woke up in my hotel room I noticed that my teeth were hurting much more than normal, but I thought, “I slept with my mouth guard in, and isn’t that supposed to help?”

When I went to the washroom to look in the mirror and take out my mouth guard, I was horrified to discover that my mouth guard had been adjusted so tightly that in the night ALL of my teeth had been pressed inward! Every one of my teeth had been flipped nearly on its side as the roots pressed out of my gums and the tops of my molars touched against my tongue in the most unusual manner. 

The pain in my mouth was unbearable, and the distortion of my teeth made me unable to speak in any coherent manner. I was scared to tell the women I was with what had happened, and so instead I tried to find ways to push my teeth back into their appropriate positions. I used my finger to feel along the inside rim of my mouth, and I began sobbing.

And as I contemplated what this would mean, that I now had the most corrupted teeth in my family, I got so anxious and upset that I woke myself up.

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Nightmare #372: Nightmare at the Mall

(Midwesterner, 50s)

By Kolkatan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kolkatan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I am walking through an unfamiliar shopping mall. Very upscale, wondering why I am even here. This is not where I would ever shop. Glistening displays wherever one looks, immaculately dressed people carrying bags of goods. Expensive leather shoes clicking on beautifully shining floors.

Suddenly, the shoppers are scattering, like oil poured into a too hot pan. Moving from the center walkways toward the walls. Grabbing each other, running in huddled groups.

They have heard the announcement before I comprehend. A man’s voice, loud and booming, “There is a shooter in the mall. He has already shot a mom and her one-year-old daughter. Move to safety. Move to safety”.

How would they know so quickly that the child is one, I ask myself. What stupid things a person thinks of when faced with danger. And where is safety ?

I look up to see he is walking toward me. I say he because I assume it’s a man from size and stature. But I cannot see his face. It is covered as is the rest of his body. Layers and layers of clothes cover every inch of him.

He is holding a rifle strapped from shoulder to hip. He steps back into a stance, one black booted foot in front of the other, raises the gun and aims directly at me.

Boom!

The crowd is screaming in the distance, but the sound I hear the loudest is the bullet tearing into my skin, the crunch of my bones breaking. I know I am hit on my right side, as I fall face first, to the ground.

“Play dead, play dead” I tell myself, as I hear his footsteps coming closer. I feel his heavy boot kick my foot, looking for signs of life.

I am left alone lying there, breathing in air with the smallest of movements. The pain is searing through my right side with every tiny breath. When I finally lift my head, I am in the safety of my own bed, flannel pillowcase warming my cheek. I remind myself it was just a nightmare as I reach to touch my right hip. My side is painful. It is hurting. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a bullet hole.

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Fire Dancing at Theatre Bizarre 2015

Is there anything quite as magical as fire? That smell, the flare of color, the flash of heat?

Fire, fire, everywhere at Theatre Bizarre, that wonderful annual masquerade at the Masonic Theatre, Detroit Michigan. The Doktor captured just a few of the fire performances that seemed to pop up wherever we turned.

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Nightmare #371 – Improving Memory

surgery-688380_640(Canada, 20’s) When I was younger I had a collection of operations to correct a birth defect and resulting life complications with my kidneys. One of the weird blessings about surgery is that once your IV is set up in pre-op, you are doped up on a collection of drugs that basically take away your consciousness of the situation around you. You are moved around, and somehow finagled to the operating table where they really put you under withanesthetic. Then, you wake up in recovery with a new scar and new pain meds, but with no memory of the past seven hours of your hospital stay.

In a recent dream, for some reason my memory was improving. I have been teased in the past for my inability to remember certain details of stories, or not realizing I am telling a story to a friend who was a part of the story itself. This dream was great in that sense, because I was remembering everything! I could tell you what color shirt my best friend had been wearing on the fourth day of high school; I could remember the recipe to my mother’s famous foods without needing to look things up; I was remembering everything and I loved it!

At least in the beginning.

As my memories began coming back, so did the memories I didn’t want, namely those of being in the hospital as a child. I began to remember being taken away from my parents in pre-op, wheeled down unfamiliar halls and taken in to stark white operating rooms, things I had previously been too drugged up for to comprehend. But that wasn’t it. These memories became increasingly upsetting as I began to remember times when I was actually no longer conscious, when I would have been sedated under heavy anesthetic. I started to ‘remember’ lying on the operating table under bright florescent lights, as the doctors began using a scaple to cut open my stomach. I ‘remembered’ watching them remove my kidney, how they talked about their vacation plans while I lay motionless with monitors hooked up to every part of me. I hated these memories. As more and more upsetting memories came flooding back to me about being in the hospital, I began experiencing the pain that those event would have caused. The scars on my stomach and side began burning, and I woke up with my heart racing. I looked around my room, felt across my stomach, realized I had only been dreaming, and was for the first time grateful for my inconsistent memory.

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What’s in the Box? UNBOXING — Scan-a-rama Figurine from Theatre Bizarre

Doktor Leech is joined by Elsa L. to unbox their 3-D portrait from Theatre Bizarre made by the Great Fredini / Scan-a-rama.

Read about last year’s figurine: http://dailynightmare.com/2015/10/14/…

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Nightmare #370: Skin Issues

Electric face mask: wikimedia

Electric face mask: wikimedia

(Michigan, 30’s)

I don’t remember all the details of this nightmare, but I remember enough of what happened to my skin and what I felt to be totally creeped out.

Something terrible but vague had happened to me – – I’d been attacked or in an accident – – and I woke up to discover that I had had a face transplant. I suppose it was better than no face at all, but it was just horrible. I felt like I was wearing a mask all the time, like I was looking out from behind a layer. There was that sensation of an edge of fabric around my eyes, like my field of vision was narrowed, because the skin didn’t fit smoothly.

When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself at all. My face had been replaced with what only somewhat resembled a face. It was like I had been erased. Only my eyes looked familiar.

My new face didn’t fit very well. There were scars, and this is really odd seam-like scar all the way around my face in a big circle.

Finally, my face hurt. It ached all the time. And I knew I was supposed to be grateful, grateful to be alive, grateful to have any face at all. But it was just awful.

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DailyNightmare PODCAST Kathe Koja Interview

Kathe Koja (photo credit Rick Lieder)

Kathe Koja (photo credit Rick Lieder)

Recently I had the opportunity to sip a hot chocolate in a bustling (and noisy!) coffee shop with one of my favorite writers. Kathe Koja should be familiar to any fan of DailyNightmare. If not, you have a treat waiting when you discover her work.

Her first novel, The Cipher, is regularly cited as one of the greatest horror novels of all time. She followed up that striking debut with a series of novels that are literate, visceral and dark, works that are hard to pigeonhole with the label horror.

She has also written several award winning young adult novels, including The Cipher, Buddha Boy, Headlong, The Blue Mirror, Kissing the Bee, and Straydog.

Kathe is the director of Nerve, a Detroit based theatre company that specializes in immersive theatrical experiences. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing — or should I say, participating — in a couple of these performances and I’ve reviewed them here, here and here on the website.

Kathe is a native Detroit resident, not one of those young hipsters who’ve only recently discovered the D.

Kathe along with her husband, the artist Rick Lieder, will be guests of honor at the World Fantasy Convention in November.

But we sat down to discuss a trilogy of books she’s just completed that follow the exploits of Istvan and Rupert, life-long partners, business partners, sexual partners, quite literally partners in crime of various sorts, two grand gentlemen of theatre. We pick up their tale first in Under the Poppy: a novel and continue it in The Mercury Waltz“. And now, with the third book of the Trilogy, Bastard’s Paradise will be appearing on Roadswell Editions later this year, we discussed the series and her work as creator of worlds.

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Have You Got a Cricket in the Cellar?

cricketsmall

About this time every year, a cricket or two makes its home in our cellar. Sometimes, when I am on my way to the Tinker Room, or off to wash clothes, I’ll hear the last snippet of song from our winter inhabitant, cut short like a song from the shower when the singer realizes someone else could hear.

This year, however, our insect troubadour has been more less self-conscious. While I created our costumes and masks for Theatre Bizarre, I was serenaded almost constantly. I think the cricket was curious about what brought me downstairs, what made me stay there for so many hours. Was I a refugee from the garden as well?

My cricket came out of hiding long enough for me to snap this blurry photo. We can tell the face of our friends apart. Some of us can identify specific dogs and cats that we’ve known and loved. I wonder if I could grow to recognize this particular cricket? Or is the difference between its lifespan and mine too great for me to pick out its specific, personal features?

For more about bugs, check out our Kickstarter campaign for “Quick Shivers about Bugs.”

For a different perspective on these black insect fiddlers, check out “Battle Cricket” on DailyNightmare: http://dailynightmare.com/2013/09/17/bug-du-jour-battle-cricket/

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Best Halloween Playlist: Songs about Ghosts!

Thirteen songs are enough to anchor a good Halloween party playlist. Not all of these are on your iPod, I’ll bet either. If your friends are like mine, their creativity shines brighter when they have a set theme to work on. The theme of this party could be “Ghost Town” and folks could dress up like ghosts or Wild West characters.

1) (The Obvious) Ghostbusters (From “Ghostbusters”) by Ray Parker Jr (or should I say Huey Lewis… a lawsuit alleged that the melody is highly reminiscent of “I Need a New Drug” but frankly the bass line of BOTH songs sounds like “Pop Muzik” by M) If you can get the video to “I’m in Love with the Other Woman” see if you can project that somewhere because it features a haunted house. This track is so obvious that is has to go somewhere. Succumb.

2) (Ghost) Riders In The Sky by, heck hasn’t EVERY authentic country western group recorded a version of this classic? – If I had to pick one, I think The Highwaymen did a serviceable rendition. Consider using several different versions of this track on the playlist, as a refrain. The Cowboy Cultural Society, an internet radio station, often plays a half hour of “G.R.I.T.S.” with different versions.

3) My Wife and My Dead Wife” by Robyn Hitchcock off Fegmania. This is a subtle alternative/folks ballad about domestic troubles caused when a husband is torn between his current wife and his dead ex. Told with Hitchcock’s typical irony yet with heart of genuine emotion. A nicely sing-able chorus too.

4) Ghost Of A Texas Ladies Man by Concrete Blonde. A little more raucous alternative rock tune by the band that brought you “Joey.”

5) Johnson’s Love (LP Version) – Dwight Yoakam. Straight ahead country. Mournful tale of a love that lasts longer than life.

6) Haunted House Blues— Bessie Smith. Do you really need a reason to put Bessie Smith on a playlist? She carved out a gutsy place for the female voice within blues of the early 20th century. A fun surprise from 1924.

7) The Ghost In You (Album Version) – The Psychadelic Furs. Moody, haunting love song that makes you want to mousse up your hair and wear tight 80’s style pants. Does she love you? Is she dead? Who knows, but it’s all sadness and doom. The Counting Crows do a just-as-sad acoustic cover version of The Ghost In You

8) The Ghost Of You— My Chemical Romance. A sad song to be sure, especially with the repeated line “Never coming home.” Since music and music videos have become fused in our culture and in our minds, it’s hard to hear the song without thinking of scenes of soldiers getting one last dance at the USO before they head off to the trenches of WWII.

9) Wuthering Heights— Kate Bush. Like a bit of literature mixed in with your art pop music? Kate Bush delivers a lovely concoction in this emotional song which went on to become her biggest selling single. Sung from the point of view of Catherine, who pleads outside Heathcliff’s room “I’m so cold. Let me into your window.” The lyrics take on a sinister twist if one considers the events of the novel; she may well be a ghost, inviting Heathcliff to join her in death.

10) Walking With A Ghost (Album Version)–Tegan and Sara. A good song to dance to while trying to exorcise the ghost of a ex-boyfriend or the nightmare you had last evening. Covered by the White Stripes too.

11) Spirit In The Sky — Norman Greenbaum. The tune combines psychedelic rock and gospel music with its distorted electric guitars, loud drums, tambourines and hand-clapping background singers to produce a feel-good song about meeting up with the Spirit in the afterlife.

12) My Life As A Ghost— Tanya Donelly. A sweet and sad song from the ghost’s point of view. She’s happy as she follows him around but seemingly has no impact on him.

13) Walking In Memphis (Remastered)— Marc Cohn. Anthematic 1991 hit from singer-songwriter Marc Cohn. The guy in the lyrics follows the ghost of Elvis to the gates of Graceland and later rock outs with a gospel band.

Songs about ghosts are always appropriate but are especially welcome at Halloween!

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How to Haunt Your Home, Part VI: Senses and Assessments

Zed's Hat

By Michael Cieslak

Considering everything we have covered so far, I can hear you ask “Zed, what else can we possibly have to cover?”

Well, voices in my head, allow me to first thank you for the lead-in. While sight may be our primary way of interacting with our environment, it is not the only one. You should not be at all surprised to discover that there are ways to incorporate other senses into your haunt as well, which is what we will be focusing on in our final installment.

We briefly touched on the often underutilized (perhaps with good reason) sense of smell when we talked about fog machines and fog juice additives, but what about the other senses? A trip through any haunted attraction will reveal that touch can be used to good advantage, for example via curtains to be pushed through, dangling things from above to brush against you, and even the cool touch of air and mist. This may not be practical for the smaller home haunts, especially when dealing with young trick-or-treaters, but there have been a number of mist-producing props that have appeared in brick and mortar stores over the past few years.

Sound Effects — A much easier sense to work with, however, and one which can easily control emotions, is sound. There is a very good reason that horror films have soundtracks. Music can be used to set a mood, to build tension, or to enhance a scare (whether a real one or a fake jump scare). This holds true for home haunts as well. The trick is matching the music to the mood of your haunt. Your death metal collection may be what pops into your mind when you think Halloween, but it might clash with a traditional Gothic theme. For this, think of chamber music, pipe organs, and the like.

One thing I would shy away from would be the Halloween themed party music compilations. If you spend any time in a brick and mortar Halloween store you will know what I mean. Your shopping experience will be done to the beat of “Thriller,” “Somebody’s Watching Me,” and the theme from Ghostbusters. These songs are fine to play if you are hosting a party, but they will do nothing to enhance the SQ of your haunt. There is just nothing scary about Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kickers singing “The Monster Mash.”

When I have music playing at my haunt, it is almost always Midnight Syndicate. Their CDs are available online and from many Halloween retailers. Each of their albums has a different theme, so it is easy to pick the one to match the props you have set up. My personal favorites are Born of the Night, Realm of Shadows, and Gates of Delirium. Unfortunately, these are older albums and are no longer being produced, but it still may be possible to find copies, if you know where to look. Many of the best tracks from these albums are compiled on Out of the Darkness.

Some of the material by Midnight Syndicate contains sound effects woven into the musical tracks. There are also plenty of CDs available which feature spooky sounds, as well as collections on-line. There are even apps to generate different sounds. I am a big fan of appropriate sound effects. Once again, it comes down to matching the sounds to the theme of your haunt. Fifteen minutes of zombies shuffling and moaning for brains may be creepy, but if your haunt is free of the walking dead it just doesn’t fit.

I recommend making custom tracks of sound effects. Put them on an MP3 player hooked up to a set of small speakers (again, placed somewhere safe from the elements, interference, and theft) with enough blank space in between to make sure they are not always going off. Remember, your visitors will think these sounds are great, but you are the one that has to listen to them all night long.

If you are interested in making your own sound effects, I recommend Audacity, or a similar software. Audacity is a free but powerful little program which has a lot of audio manipulation tools built in. For a few years I had a werewolf pen as part of my haunt. The first year I did nothing to augment the wire-form props. The second year I added sound: I recorded my dog’s play growls while we played tug-of-war, then dropped the pitch, increased the reverb, and tweaked a couple other things. That year people swore that the werewolves were moving; in actuality, they were decidedly stationary.

I noted above that you have to remember that you will have to deal with whatever sounds you put in your haunt, so it is important to gauge your own tolerance with them. You are the one who will be around the haunt most often, and you don’t want to be scaring yourself or driving yourself crazy for the duration. You will also have to deal with the lights, the fog, and everything else. This is the primary reason I do not use strobe lights; they give me headaches. Pro-tip: make sure that you are not down-wind of your own fog machines.

Which brings us to the question of how active you plan on being in your home haunt. If you are setting up a large maze that people will be walking through, you may have to recruit some people to help populate it. How do you doll them up?

There are two answers here, which can be combined to various degrees: make-up and masks. Each has its good and bad points. Masks can restrict motion, limit vision, and can be unbearably warm, even on the coldest of nights. Make-up overcomes many of these problems, but lacks permanence and can cause allergic reactions.

Uncle Zed’s recommendation is to figure out how much running around you are planning on doing and go from there. This is not to say that you can’t run around while wearing a mask, just be sure you are familiar with the surroundings. Generally speaking, there is an inverse relation between the amount of moving you plan on doing and the visual limitations you will want to impose upon yourself. The plus side of some masks is that they do offer a little protection if you should happen to, I don’t know, run into a tree branch.

Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.

There is a third option which falls somewhere in the middle — latex and foam appliances. These can be purchased just about anywhere (or even made at home). They cover all or part of the face and body and are usually applied with spirit glue or liquid latex. Common appliances include demon horns, wound kits, ‘vampire brows,’ and zombie faces. These have the advantage of being less restrictive and less hot than over the head masks. Most are designed to be colored using make-up. Unfortunately, the adhesive does have a tendency to dissolve if you are sweating a lot.

Pro Tip — If you create a large maze or haunt which people are moving through, be mindful of the path that the visitors will take. Never have an actor (or a moving prop for that matter) between them and the way out of a particular area. You do not want to stop people from moving through by creating a barrier. Actors should be placed in such a way that they provide good scares while moving the visitors through the attraction. Remember to “scare forward” or to use P.T. Barnum’s method, move them “to the Egress.”

Some Notes About Masks, Appliances, and Make-up — As noted a numerous times above, make sure that whatever you use to disguise yourself limits your vision as little as possible. Be sure to read the safety notes which arrive with any new make-up or adhesive. Be extra careful around heat sources, especially open flames. Always perform a skin test with any make-up or adhesive to make sure that you do not have an allergy to it. This should be performed every year, as latex allergies can develop over time. Avoid getting any material in your eyes or mouth. If you are wearing a mask that covers your entire head, plan on taking breaks to allow yourself to cool off. Even on the coldest Halloween nights, I have taken off masks and poured out sweat. Stay hydrated (and I’m talking about water or sports drinks, not just booze!).

There are a number of companies which make great Halloween appliances and make-up. Just about anything from Ben Nye, Mehron, Woochie, Graftoban, and Don Post will work great and be easy to find. Sweat guard liquid and setting powder are your friends, stock up. Fake blood comes in everything from a pourable liquid to spray pumps to pre-clotted ooze. You can also make your own using caro syrup and food coloring. There are a multitude of different recipes available on-line, but the best include some blue coloring in addition to the red.

Pro Tip — One place you can skimp is on brushes and sponges. You can purchase very expensive make-up brushes and clean them carefully after each use. I choose to buy cheap ones at the drug store and just pitch them.

YouTube is a great place to find make-up tutorials, as are websites devoted to Halloween. Some of the big retail websites have a section devoted to How To. If you are creating a bite, a bruise, or decayed flesh, find reference images. F/X people used to keep libraries of medical and forensics texts, now these images are available on-line. Another great way to see how professionals work with make-up and appliances is to watch the Behind the Scenes features available as bonus tracks on your favorite scary DVDs.

Unfortunately, due to an extreme phobia regarding things near my eyes, I am unable to wear costume contact lenses. Contacts can complete a character, but make sure you are purchasing them from a reputable dealer. This is not something you want to skimp on. If the retailer is not asking for a prescription from an optometrist, you should probably go elsewhere.

Another great finishing touch is a good set of fangs or teeth. I have multiple sets of fangs from Scarecrow as well as some Pro FX Veneers. The difference between the two is similar to the difference between a cap and a set of dentures. The fangs cover one or two teeth, the veneers are a full set of teeth. Both use molding pellets which take a little time to set up for the first use, but after that they will be molded to your teeth perfectly. VampFangs has a wide assortment at reasonable prices.

I have ignored the “I’m not going to dress up, I’m just going to stand there in a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt and not be scary at all” answer because I personally hate that. If you’ve gone to all of the trouble of setting up props and lights and everything else that we already discussed, don’t pull people back to the real world by being your same old boring self. This is Halloween! It is your chance to be anything you want!

But Zed, the imaginary voice I have assigned to you readers says, what about the little kids? Won’t they be too scared to come up to get candy?

In my experience, no. I used to be worried that I would give little kids nightmares (yeah, my ego is that big), but I have learned that smaller kids don’t scare easily. They are usually interested in the props, touching the skulls, picking up the bones. This kind of fear seems to be something that is learned socially. Older kids will be afraid, but will overcome their fears in order to get that sweet treat as a reward.

If you are still worried about being too scary, you can always enlist the aid of someone who will not be as done up as you are. My wife usually participates in handing out candy early on, when the young kids are out. I’ll be dressed up, but she will just have a prop which she can put aside. For example, this year will feature an alien invasion theme. I’ll look like someone who has been taken over by aliens, but she will just be holding a small alien baby. Previous years she has “banished the monster,” forcing me to the side while apprehensive trick or treaters venture up to the porch.

Worst case scenario, you end up with leftover candy.

Pro Tip — Always buy treats you wouldn’t mind eating if the costumed kids don’t show. Or at least get something you can pawn off on your coworkers without making them sick.

The Final Step — After the kids have all gone and you’ve turned out the lights, take a minute to relax. Bask in the joy of the evening. Think about the great costumes. Mentally relive the best scares. Then pull out a pad of paper and take notes on what worked and what didn’t. These will serve as reminders when you start thinking about the next haunt season. It’s never to early to start planning for next Halloween. This has been Uncle Zed with How To Haunt Your Home, signing off.

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How To Haunt Your Home, Part V: Professional FX on a Budget

Zed's Hat

By Michael Cieslak

A trip to the local Halloween store can be a little daunting. Generally speaking, I visit the Halloween stores in the area a number of times during the eight to ten weeks that they are in business before the Big Day. The first trip is always to see what new products have hit the shelves. This is purely a scouting mission; I never buy anything. I will, however, make note of any new, big ticket items I might want to purchase during the post-Halloween sales. I will stop by a couple of times during the season to see what is selling well (read: what is everyone else buying — I want to be original). On 1 November, I hit a number of stores and buy the things I had earmarked for purchase.

Now listen closely to your pal Zed; I’m going to let you in on a little secret: a lot of the props and gags that you can buy at these stores were originally created by home haunters.
That web-spinner using glue sticks? The eternal flame pot which is actually a couple pieces of cloth and a light? The jumping spider? The rocking coffin? The laser light vortex? The creepy sound machine? The lightning generator? The creeping fog? Every last one of these things was created by someone who like creepy stuff and had the time to tinker about in the garage. In other words, you can probably make a lot of the items available for purchase for a lot less, if you are willing to invest the time.
I am not putting down ready-made, for-purchase effects items. As I said, I hit these stores a number of times every year. There is something to be said for the convenience of being able to shell out a few bucks and have something ready to rock. However, knowing that you created something so scary with your own two hands is very rewarding.
With that in mind, this week we will explore some of the items commonly available for purchase but can be handcrafted by the average home haunter fairly easily.

The Fog Chiller — I’ll be the first one to say it, every good haunt needs some fog. Nothing helps create the proper at-mos-FEAR like fog creeping over the ground. The problem is, fog machines don’t create fog that creeps, instead creating fog which shoots all over and disperses. This is because the “fog” is created by heating a glycol-based fluid (fog juice) and propelling it outward via a small fan.

A homemade fog machine

A Note About Fog Juice: At its core, all fog juice is either glycol or glycerine and water in different proportions. I’ve actually made my own fog juice and it’s not that hard, if you can get the chemicals. There are numerous brands of fog juice available for purchase. Some have additives which make them heavier, thicker, or change the dispersal rates. You can even purchase fog juice with scent additives (or buy the additives themselves) to make your yard smell like a fresh corpse, a charred corpse, a chainsaw, a forest, a swampy marsh, or even a chocolate chip cookie. Most home haunters use whatever fog juice is available. For a consistently well-made product, the people I know turn to Froggy’s. To achieve the low-lying fog affect, the gas produced from heating the fog juice must be chilled before it is released from the machine. You can purchase a machine which does that for $20 – $30 above the price of a plain fogger. Or you can make one using a styrofoam container or an old cooler, some wire mesh (which you probably have lying around after using it to make your manikins), and ice. The low lying fog is created by heating the fog juice, then passing the resulting gas through a cooled area before blowing it out into the yard. There are an infinite number of designs which accomplish this. Simply search “Fog Chiller DIY” on your friendly neighborhood search engine for a plethora of videos.
Low lying fog is great for cemeteries and around the feet of your prop people, but it is not necessary in all situations. I have a burnt body prop named Ash whom I usually light from below with red and orange spots. By placing a fog machine behind him, I am able to create the illusion that he is on fire.

The Belching Smoke Prop — About two years ago I started seeing a number of smoking zombie props. They were essentially a zombie torso and head containing a tube connected to a fog machine. This idea as a whole puzzled me. I couldn’t figure out why something which was dead would be breathing, much less exhaling smoke. While it was confusing to me as a concept, I was also smug in the knowledge that I had done something similar three years prior.
This one is very easy. I used one of my wire frame bodies and a demon mask. I ran a length of flexible tubing through the body and out the mouth of the mask. I originally placed the tubing directly on the fog machine, but it didn’t quite have the oomph needed to shoot the fog all they way up. I ended up creating a sealed container much like a chiller and placing a small fan inside to propel the fog. I ended up with a fairly nice smoking demon, if I do say so myself.

A Note About Fog — You can’t really control where your fog goes. On a windy night, it may be torn away before it reaches the first tombstone. You can try to combat this by changing the angle of the fog machine or lengthening the duration of the fog bursts. However, be mindful of where your fog is ending up. I have received a stern talking-to from the local gendarme due to calls the fire department received. Apparently fog from my yard made it look like a neighboring business was on fire! Not my intention. So be conscious of your spook.
The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — So, how do you control your bouncing, spinning, fog emitting props? Once upon a time, this was a difficult question to answer. Fortunately, home haunters now have a lot of choices at their disposal. As with many of the things we have discussed, pressure pad triggers can be purchased in Halloween stores and on-line. These work like the old entrance mats in front of retail outlets. You place the pad where people can step on it. When it registers enough weight, the mechanism that it is connected to is triggered. These work well enough if you can direct your foot traffic so it will be stepped on.
An easier solution is to use a motion sensor. While these are also available from various Halloween retailers, inexpensive versions can also be found at just about any hardware store, electronics shop, and garden supply store. With a couple simple adjustments they can be hooked up to just about any prop you are using.
One thing that you may want to purchase from a Halloween store is a remote/timer for your fog machine(s). While you can also rig something up, there are controllers which are designed for the fog machine which control not only when the fog is released, but for how long. with only the flick of a switch.

The simplest projector: the jack o’ lantern

Projected Images — There are a lot of ways to project images onto various areas in your haunt. One of the more popular methods is to place an old television or computer monitor on its back and affix a piece of reflective plexiglass at a forty-five degree angle so whatever is on the screen is showing on the plexi, creating the illusion of something floating in space. You can then alter the distance between the image source and the plexiglass to control the size of the finished image. This is a great way to put moving images on windows or even on the side of a structure.
Of course, projectors have become so affordable that they are easy to pick up. There are even some which can be attached to mobile phones. The only real concern is to make sure that they are placed somewhere that they will be safe from the elements and from theft.
A Note About Projected Images — When projecting still images, there are a number of things to watch out for. One is content. It is a good idea to avoid the use of images which are too gory or explicit. Keep in mind that they will be visible to all passersby, not just those who are interested in your haunt. There is an additional concern with projections and light shows. Just like your fog, be mindful of the affected area. While it is cool to have your haunt visible from outer space, you do not want to distract traffic.

Lasers and Safety — Some light machines use small lasers to achieve the desired results. One example is a device used in conjunction with a fog machine to create a vortex in mid-air. It is important to remember that laser light can cause permanent ocular damage. Whenever you work with lasers you must make sure that no one can stand in front of them, even accidentally.
As I hope to have shown, you do not have to rely on expensive gadgets to create interesting, creepy visuals. One of the best scares that I have had at my house was achieved by placing a cheap window cling on an upper story window and placing a red light behind it. Of all of the things I had up that year, that window cling was the one which got the adults to jump off of the curb. Join us next week for our last installment of How to Haunt Your Home before the Big Event!

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