Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Brief Essay on the Versitility of PVC Pipe.

Hello everyone.  As part of an assignment for my ENGL 4500 class this semester, I have written a short essay about the many uses of PVC pipe for home haunters.

PVC pipe has been described as "Tinker Toys for haunters". I learned first-hand just how true this statement was when I spent the better part of two months constructing all of the props for my home haunt this year. My former employer was a fence manufacturer and I was able to acquire a large amount of PVC pipe for free. Any home haunter will tell you that first, free stuff is good and second, free PVC pipe is awesome.
Because my home haunt will have a cemetery theme this year, I wanted to start out by constructing a cemetery fence that gives the appearance of wrought iron. This fence will get reused year after year so it needs to be sectional for easy storage and sturdy enough to last for many seasons. I decided to construct my fence in eight-foot sections. The horizontal "bars" are made from scrap wood; 2 x 4's for the bottom "bars" and 1 x 4's for the middle and top "bars". The vertical "bars" are made from PVC pipes that have been cut to different lengths and arranged to give the fence sections a peaked appearance. Holes have been drilled in the horizontal "bars" at six inch intervals to accommodate the PVC pipes which have been secured with screws. Each eight-foot section of cemetery fence has fifteen vertical PVC pipe "bars". The entire fence section has been painted black to give the appearance of wrought iron. Since setting up the fence in my front yard, I have had several people comment on it thinking that it was a real wrought iron fence.

I also used PVC pipe in the construction of the tombstones for my cemetery. Three-foot sections of PVC pipe were sandwiched between two 1 1/2 thick pieces of Styrofoam. The Styrofoam sheets were made into tombstones of different sizes and shapes. The lengths of PVC pipe were placed over re bar which had been pounded into the ground to anchor the tombstones and keep them from falling over.

PVC pipe doesn't have to be used only in applications that require straight forms. PVC pipe can be bent into any shape with the application of heat. I used a heat gun to soften several three foot sections of PVC pipe. The PVC pipe was then turned or rolled into a spiral shape. When the desired shape was obtained, the PVC pipe was submerged in cool water to make it rigid again. Once PVC pipe has been softened and re-cooled, it is actually stronger than it was previously. These PVC pipe spirals were attached to the stone columns of the cemetery fence and used as brackets from which lanterns were hung

A heat gun can also be used to heat and bend PVC pipe into a shape that can be used as an armature for a skeleton or corpse that can inhabit the cemetery.  Here is a shot of a corpse-in-progress.
Here are a few pictures of the cemetery as it looked on Halloween night.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jack-O-Lanterns 2011

We continued our annual pumpkin carving tradition this year.  Our kids did theirs pretty much by themselves.  We listened to the Halloween Party channel on Pandora Radio while we carved this year's Jack-O-Lanterns and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

The Yard of the Living Dead 2011

Here are some shots of The Yard of the Living Dead taken late Halloween night.

Everything looked pretty good this year.  Our display is still fairly small; but we spent a lot of time doing things the right way.  Our cemetery fence looks authentic, is strong, and can be reused year after year.  We ditched the cardboard tombstones and replaced them with styrofoam tombstones that look better and last longer.  We spent time creating a satisfying fog effect.  All in all I think we have a good foundation to build upon in the coming years.  Next year I would like to create a more integrated LED lighting system and incorporate sound as well.  I want to finish the corpses that I started this year and my wife wants to add some cemetery gates and an archway.  Lots to do and my wife has made me promise not to procrastinate on anything.  This blog will be the place where I post pictures and progress reports on preparations for The Yard of the Living Dead 2012.  Thanks to everyone who checked out my blog this year.  I promise to make next year even more entertaining.

Trick or Treat, Day of the Dead Style

My wife and I decided that we wanted to try our hand at creating some Day of the Dead make up effects for our kids' costumes this year.

You can kind of tell by the style of the teeth, that I did the make up for our two youngest kids on the left and our oldest on the right.  My wife did her own make up and the make up for our oldest daughter in the back on the right.  The kids had a great time and they got a lot of compliments on their make up.

Here are some close ups of the make up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Rib Bone's Connected to... Some Other Bone

I wanted to put a full corpse in the cemetery this year; but time was just not on my side.  I will put together a corpse torso and have it "peeking" out from behind a tombstone.  I followed the steps outlined on Christian Hanson's video "Make You Own Scratch Built Corpse" and made a ribcage this week.  In his video, Christian uses a plastic 5 gallon bucket to make his ribcage.  I am super cheap, so I just used cardboard.  I think it will do for my purposes.

Here is Emma Sue The Littlest Zombie modeling the completed ribcage.  I will add a PVC pipe spine and arms and corpse it out this weekend.  More pictures to follow.

I Decided to Give My Minion a Hand... and an Arm

My minion is busy building his first styrofoam tombstones.  He is very excited to put them in the cemetery.  One of his tombstones' epitaphs describes the fate of a man who was buried alive.  He wanted to have an arm reaching up from the grave in front of this tombstone.  I slapped together a quick newspaper hand and arm for him to use.
I found a thread on the Halloween Forum by FearingtonHouse that talks about a super cheap and fast corpsing method using only outdoor latex paint and paper towels.  I am going to give it a try tomorrow and post some pictures of the results.

Quick and Cheap Coffin Creep

I made a coffin from scrap wood for the cemetery a couple of years ago.  I have since turned it into a hiding place for my fog machine and fog chiller.  I have always thought that it was a waste not to have some kind of corpse or something inside it; but the fog machine and fog chiller occupy all of the available space.  This year, as a quickie, afterthought kind of thing I made a couple of forearms and hands.  I stuck them inside the coffin so that they were lifting the lid just enough to stick a foam skull inside the coffin resting on top of the fog chiller. 
This prop is quite cheesy; but I wanted the coffin to be more like a prop than just a housing for the fog machine and fog chiller.

Set Up Almost Complete for The Yard of the Living Dead 2011

Well, tonight was the perfect night for cemetery fog.  The air was slightly warm and there was no wind.  I was able to make some really creepy fog without any ice in the chiller.  I have just a couple more projects and finishing touches that I want to complete before our first "lights on" night on Sunday.

Man, I love creepy cemetery fog!  I only hope that the weather stays like this for the next two weekends and the big night.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Teaser Reveal

Well, the minion and I spent a few hours working in the garage today and were able to put the PVC spirals and the random wire hanger bits together to make...
...some curved brackets and hangers for our Halloween lanterns.

The curved brackets are attached toward the top of the fence columns.  There are two curved brackets on each fence column.  I also made some toppers for the fence columns today.  I think it gives the fence columns a more finished look.

Here are a couple of pictures of the lanterns as it started to get darker.  I was able to play around with my webcaster gun today too. 

Another Teaser!

Spent a few hours with my minion watching Battle: LA and Priest while we straightened out a ton of wire hangers.  We bent some and rolled some.

Hmmm.  What the heck could they be for?