Halloween Display 2008 Video

*EDIT* YouTube deleted my video due to copyright infringement on the soundtrack. I’ll re-host it soon.

I put this video together to show some friends and family my Halloween display for 2008. This is my second year, and although I admit it is fairly modest in the world of home haunts, I’m pleased with how things turned out. It was created with Ulead Videostudio 10 which cost me about $80 a few years ago. It handles all my needs pretty well and is akin to using Apple’s iMovie. Time spent was roughly 2-3 hours just tweaking things and playing around. The original footage was taken with a Canon SD870 digital camera. You can do a lot with a basic digi-cam! I hope you enjoy it. The music is White Zombie – “Creature of the Wheel” off of Astro-Creep: 2000.

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Crafting a Gravestone

Ever since I started considering building Halloween decorations, I wanted to do a gravestone with a traditional “Death’s Head” embellishment. These things are pretty spooky and fairly prevalent in old New England cemetaries, reminding me of the Salem witch trials and Puritan ritual. Here’s how I built my interpretation out of foam, glue and Walmart paint.

Materials:

  • 2″ pink foam insulation board
  • Discount rejected spooky paint
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Scrap wood
  • 1″ Screws
  • Foam Skull from K-Mart bag of bones
  • Paper for template
  • Sharpie marker
  • Pencil
  • Steak Knife
  • Dremel with cutting tool & guard
  • Assorted paint brushes
  • Canned chili

The first step is to determine the size and shape of your stone. I was working with scrap foam so I gouged out the biggest piece I could manage – 19″x21″.

Steak Knife Saw

Steak Knife Saw

Next up is creating a template to work off of. I’m convinced this is the best way to end up with a smoothly finished result. I am very familiar with Photoshop, but there are free programs such as GIMP that you can learn and use to create something similar. Who Fonted? is my favorite source for free fonts.

Printed & Taped

Printed & Taped

I then strapped my template onto the foam and traced it with a pencil, sometimes poking through like I would when carving a pumpkin. I used a Sharpie afterward to highlight my lines.

Starting to look like something

Starting to look like something

Owning a Dremel isn’t entirely necessary for this project, but I love having one around for when I’m doing anything crafty. You could use an Xacto knife and carve it out, but I just don’t have that sort of patience anymore.

15 minutes tops and you're carved

15 minutes tops

And when you’re done you should have some sort of relief like this.

Stop here if you love pink

Stop here if you love pink

Next up, I glued the face of a foam skull between the wings on the gravestone using Gorilla Glue. This stuff is like magic. Like crazy magic. I don’t understand it. It’s like mating sea monkeys with those foam creatures that grew out of a dissolvable pill when dropped in the bathtub. It expands with a vengeance so weight is necessary. Hence, chili. You want to use the most calorie-dense canned food you can find. I still haven’t worked up the nerve to down 400 calories of beans in a sitting, so this stuff still sits in my pantry.

Yum!

Yum!

Fast forward to painting! I try to cover the whole thing with a medium gray , then I hit the highlights and crevices with black.

Paint stage 1

Paint stage 1

After that, I spray the whole thing over with light hits of gray, white and black spray paint to create shading and a stone effect. I’ll fill in the areas I really want to be black with a small paintbrush as the last step. Dry brushing and wiping paint around with a paper towel can also make it look more natural.

Getting close

Getting close

I’m still not sure of the best way to drive these things into the ground, but here’s the last solution I came up with. I cut out a piece of .5″ scrap wood, then traced it onto the back of the stone. I then cut out the area and glued the wood in with Gorilla Glue.

Gorilla Glue - Better than Duct Tape?

Gorilla Glue - Better than Duct Tape?

This allowed me to pre drill some holes and attach a stake with screws to anchor my stone into the ground.

Ready to install

Ready to install

Finally, I drove the stake into the ground, shot some screws through the pre-drilled holes, and my gravestone was on display!

Royal Paine

Royal Paine

You may think Royal Paine is a bad pun, but it actually is a real gravestone in my local cemetary. I hoped my neighbors would get a kick out of it, and I hope you enjoy building your own gravestone for your Halloween display!

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Gerald the Corpse *UPDATED* For 2008

This year I picked up a package of Spanish Moss at my local Big Lots for $1.50 and made a little enhancement on Gerald using spray glue. Not much to say. I just went nuts with the glue, grabbed a handful of moss and slapped him around until it stuck. I like this much better.

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Johnny-5 Alive!

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Ok, this looks legitimately gross

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Ready for my closeup

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Bringing Gerald the Corpse To Life

A lifelong fan of Halloween and all things spooky, naturally my first order of business when I moved into my first house was to turn the front yard into a cemetery for the entire month of October. Also, having an appreciation for the works of George A. Romero and Lucio Fulci, I knew no cemetery was complete without the living dead emerging from their graves in an attempt to consume the sweet, sweet high-fructose corn syrup saturated brains of trick-or-treaters. Thus, Gerald.

(Credit for this idea and basic method must be given to Spooky Blue. I consider them a go to resource for Halloween prop building on the internet.)

In all honesty, this project has no rules and you can mess with it until you’re satisfied. Feel free to wing it all you want because you can probably fix whatever you screw up later. These are the materials I used, most of it scrounged from the closet or purchased dirt cheap at Big Lots, Grossman’s Bargain Outlet and Ocean State Job Lot:

  • Foam Skull (Whatever quality, it’s just a basic form to work off of.)
  • Paper Towels
  • Toilet Paper
  • White Glue
  • Tap Water
  • Hot Glue
  • Wooden Dowels (Three x 48″)
  • Duct Tape
  • Newspaper
  • Fishing Line
  • Craft Wire
  • Paper Clips (Two)
  • Coat Hangers
  • Assorted Discount/Rejected Paint (I hit up Walmart’s paint aisle and discovered they keep a shelf of discounted paint, most of it returned by people who didn’t like the color. Your experience may be different, but pretty much every color I found was spook-worthy; nasty greens, greys, browns and blacks.)
  • Base (I used junk pressure treated 2x6s that I screwed together, but you don’t have to seek these out. They create a heavy base and won’t rot, so I guess I was fortunate to have them already, but use whatever you’ve got handy.)
  • Clear Sealant

Ok, I know it’s a long list, but if you look over it again you’ll realize it’s pretty much all stuff you’ve already got lying around.  What actually went in to the end product couldn’t have cost more than $15, a third of that being in the foam skull. Here’s some tools:

  • Large Bowl
  • Drill
  • Scissors
  • Wire Cutters
  • Sharpie
  • Serrated Steak Knife (Snag this when your significant other is shopping or something.)
  • Assorted Paint Brushes (Visit a discount store and you’ll find giant multi-packs for pennies. You’ll just throw them out when you’re finished anyway.)
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Munchos (Who eats these things anyway? I tried them, once, and they didn’t taste any better than those biodegradable corn-based foam packing peanuts, the ones you get from hippie eBay merchants, if you sprayed them with butter flavored Pam and then rolled them in Kosher salt. I swear Frito-Lay does their food research in a hot-boxed college dorm room. Anyway, the point is you might want some snacks. Good snacks. And booze. As Pablo Picasso once said, “A good wine reveals the person, but a great great wine reveals the artist.” Personally, I think that’s bull, mainly because I just made it up, but take from it what you will because you are now an artist. An artist of death. Munchos.)

1. This guy looks too happy to be dead. The first thing I did was to sketch a line to cut along with the steak knife (a perfect styrofoam saw) to remove the lower jaw. If you want you can just stop here, throw the skull out on your lawn and call it a night. That’s obviously what the manufacturer intended.

Jaw Line

Jaw Line

2. I then reattached the jaw with the paperclips, bent into a U shape. Position it to give the impression of a screaming skull, then cover the area with hot glue to lock it in.

Screaming Skull

Screaming Skull

3. Next up is creating the basic framework for the corpse’s body. I cut one of my wooden dowels down to roughly 36″, long enough to represent the torso and neck with enough excess to mount the skull to the top and base to the bottom. This project is technically called a “groundbreaker,” meaning it is only a partial body that will look as though it is emerging from the earth. I bent some coat hangers and affixed them with plenty of duct tape for the rib cage. You may want to consider some basic anatomy to get this right, but in the end it’s a living corpse so being a little off will only add to the effect.

Body Framework

Body Framework

4. I wrapped the coat hangers with newspaper and duct tape to flesh out the body a bit, and also added an inverted coat hanger to the back for the shoulders and scapulae. (Nice word!)

Filling Out

Filling Out

5. Finally, we can stand Gerald up. Here is where you can really start to see the whole project take shape. I drilled a hole in the base and inserted the dowel with a little glue, and I also drilled a hole into the bottom of the foam skull to glue it to the top. This doesn’t take much with a high powered drill, so go easy. Position the skull at a bit of an angle to add a little more animation to your creature.

Stand Up Gerald!

Stand Up Gerald!

6. I cut my two remaining dowels in half to create the arms. The right arm is inserted into a hole I drilled into the base at an angle which not only results in the illusion that Gerald is supporting himself on the ground, but also adds stabilization to the entire piece.The elbows were created by drilling small holes through the ends of the dowels, then looping craft wire through them and wrapping it around like crazy. I wanted the left arm to appear as though it is clawing through the air, and found it necessary to tie it back to the neck with high test fishing line to keep it stable.

Armaments

Armaments

7. Next is to papier mache the crap out of this guy. I tore up paper towels and soaked them in a mixture of white glue and water, then stuck them to the framework. The arms were fleshed out with newspaper and duct tape, and the body was stuffed with more newspaper. You’ll probably want paper towels with as little texture as possible, though in the end it didn’t matter so much with paint and Gerald showing his stuff in the dark. The paper towels can be rolled into cords to create nasty flesh effects, and toilet paper can be applied to smooth out the body or add finer wrinkles and gore. Take your time, cover everything, and wait for it to dry. (Some people use Monster Mud instead of glue and water for this step. It probably works better. I didn’t feel like doing it.)

Skinned

Skinned

8. Here’s a more detailed shot of how I fleshed the head. You can see how I carved the mouth out a bit and mushed the teeth around. Other notable components were cords of paper towel to make the brow line, eye sockets and cheek bones pop, and sheets of towel to create decaying cheeks. On the left you can see a little bit of toilet paper for some hanging flesh. Do this liberally.

Head Shot

Head Shot

9. This is my framework for the hands. I hot glued pieces of coat hanger to a piece of cardboard, all of which I bent and molded around my own hand. I affixed them to the apporpriate points on Gerald with glue and wire, then also fleshed them out with the aforementioned method.

High-Five

High-Five

10. The final step is to paint and seal your new friend. I can’t tell you what to do here, just keep covering him with paint until you’re happy with the results. If you make a “mistake,” just try again. The only tip I can offer is to fill in the recessed areas with dark paint, and dry brush over the top with whatever you’ve got to add depth and texture. I also used a rejected “gangrene” paint that I can’t ever see anyone using in their home to add a toxic, oozey effect. Over the top I unloaded a can of clear, poly sealant. Truthfully, I probably used the wrong stuff. Gerald got a little damp Halloween night and the sealant turned kind of cloudy, so make sure you have no holes and you use something better than I did, possibly multiple coats of polyurethane. (Any suggestions for next year would be appreciated, though Gerald dried out fine in the end.)

Gerald

Gerald

Riiicolaaa

Riiicolaaa

Flesh

Flesh

11. Finally, here is Gerald in all his glory (sans lighting and fog). The base is hidden with dead leaves to add to the groundbreaker effect. It’s a fairly modest display in the world of home haunts, but it’s my first effort and I plan on adding more handmade props over time which I’ll be sure to share here on DIY HARD.

Come Get Some

Come Get Some

Like I’ve suggested, this is a total MacGyver project. Scrape together all the junk you can find and let your imagination take over! There are no mistakes here, and most often they will become the best features.

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