The Neighborhood Sign Goes Up!

Two weeks to go, haunters! That means it's time to perform my annual duty of putting up the "official" neighborhood sign! Trick-or-Treat. October 31. 6-8 pm.

Since 2011, I have "inherited" the title of Keeper of the Sign. It was then that after years of impatiently waiting to see the official trick-or-treat announcement sign go up in our neighborhood that I decided to take matters into my own hands. There was a lull during the 2010 season and a small, handmade cardboard sign was hastily thrown up at the last minute. 

I knew that I couldn't let this continue, so I decided to create a larger, more easily readable, more Halloween inspired sign. For 2011, I hand-painted the sign above and proudly staked it into the patch of grass that leads down into our neighborhood. With this new sign, our neighborhood would continue to buck the city's trend of having trick-or-treat on the Saturday before Halloween, leading to the nightmarish confusion of each neighborhood setting up their own times. 

It's a confusion that still goes on today, and after some discussion among some of the neighborhood residents, it was decided that we would continue to celebrate trick-or-treat on Halloween night, regardless of what night it fell on. For one, I get to reuse the sign I made six years ago, and more importantly, our neighborhood will continue to carry on its long-standing tradition of Halloween night that we get to celebrate with the rest of the city.

For me, it's a win-win!

And after six years of being exposed to the October elements, the sign is still holding up fairly well. A few touch ups here and there and it should last for another couple of years, when just maybe, it might be finally time for me to retire as Keeper of the Sign and allow someone else with a passion for all things Halloween to step up and create the next sign that will carry our neighborhood tradition into the next generation!


Creation VI - "Natura Renovatur"

The cold wind howls outside the warm yurt, the shaman inside prepares the pipe. The inhale is deep. With the exhale he starts throat singing. The smoke dances between drums and bells raised by the rest of the tribe. Sweaty face sway and glazed eyes blink in rhythm with the beat.

This album is a journey of us humans moving through the ages in our universe. Trying to figure out our place within it as we forge myths and philosophies. Build megaliths and temples. Send our prayers into space and bide our time waiting for the miracle.

Recorded on old tapes for a fuzzy warmth. This album uses a lot of acoustic instruments like blockflute, chinese flute (hulusi), shruti-box, harmonica, ocarina, kazoo, bells, chimes, seeds & seedpods. Tribal drums make you feel like you are in the middle of a hypnotic ritual. Recommended for you who enjoy Ugasanie and Paleowolf and field recordings.

With a description like that, how could you NOT dive right into this one?? Amazing depth as this ritual ambient track progresses, opening up half way through with a wave of building tension, and then slowly ending with a ritual chanting blanketed by an even drone. 23 minutes of hypnotic tones, indeed.

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - "John Carpenter's Halloween"

“I clearly remember my friends and I at thirteen years old conning our parents into letting us see Halloween when it came out in 1978. We left the theater forever changed. We were damaged and scarred, with the shit genuinely scared out of us and that theme stuck firmly in our heads. John Carpenter, it’s your fault that I turned out the way I did.”
-Trent Reznor 

Last Friday, Nine Inch Nails duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross dropped their new version of the John Carpenter classic, Halloween. I've given it a few listens now and I have decided that I do like this. A lot.

I can see the viewpoint of the purists, as I'm definitely one too. But for me, it plays more as an homage to the classic. They have left just enough of the original to keep me satisfied. And I really like the way the piece transitions from the stark notes of the Carpenter original into the discordant style of Nine Inch Nails.

This one is going into the audio library and I'm really hoping to see this get a cool vinyl release in the very near future. And I wonder if this track would be considered for use in Carpenter's upcoming 2018 Halloween sequel/reboot/reimagining??

Riverview Cemetery - Brecksville, Ohio

This week's installment of Cemetery Sundays brings us to another quaint, historic Northeast Ohio cemetery. Riverview Cemetery is another old, unnamed cemetery (outside of a Google map search) in Brecksville, Ohio that is full of beautiful, ornate old tombstones dating as far back as the early 1800s. There are newer stones on the ground as well, but as always, I focused on shooting the oldest stones there.

Upon doing some research, I came across a 2014 story here that details the fight that locals are waging against the city's plan to reopen the old cemetery to new burials. Well done to them and their desire to preserve the grounds as they are.

I woke up before dawn, grabbed my camera and arrived just before sunrise to tour the quiet, peaceful and untouched grounds. Another wonderful photo shoot where I had the entire cemetery to myself.

So sit back and enjoy a tour of Riverview Cemetery...

The gravestone of Sergeant Richard Farrar, who served during the Revolutionary War.

Blade Runner 2049 and The Art of the Haunt

Last night I got a chance to briefly step away from all things Halloween when Mrs. Highbury and I went to see Blade Runner 2049. This was quite a treat because the last film I actually saw in the theater was Rogue One!

I won't go into any spoilers or even a full review, but I will say that I ABSOLUTELY loved it. As I was watching the visually gorgeous film, my brain began to think back to Halloween, and more specifically, my yard haunt display.

As the film played, I immediately noticed the attention that color played in every single shot. And because of the overarching dystopian feel of the film, it relied on bold, monotone swatches of muted earthy tones throughout. Especially during the scenes in Las Vegas. The sepia and orange was really blown out, giving it an incredibly harsh, arid feel. Does that color palette remind you of anything?

These scenes got me thinking about haunt displays in general, and how sometimes too many colors can actually work against you. And I think I'm a bit guilty of it, as well. Everything has a different spotlight color and before you know it, you actually have a Christmas display. Yuck. With all of theses colors competing for attention, the display loses a main focal point and everything becomes a jumbled mess.

This idea of color was carried out in other scenes, too.

Even with the scenes using cool colors, the palette was kept to a minimum, ensuring a dark, uneasy feel. The sparse use of highlight colors and an abundance of shadow worked incredibly well to produce a very specific feeling.

It's something that I am now going to explore more thoroughly in my haunt display. Pull back all of those competing spotlight colors and use the dark, shadow areas more prominently. I'm hoping that with less color, I may be able to actually evoke more atmosphere. This is something I hope to develop further and write more about this season.


The true effectiveness of Blade Runner 2049 was the union of two elements. The incredibly stylized, minimally-colored visuals plus an equally effective, minimal soundtrack to support them.

An effective haunt soundtrack is something that I have been exploring for some time now, as evidenced by how many music-based posts I have here. When I first began doing a yard haunt, I chose an old novelty Halloween cassette full of the standard, silly screams, moans and howls, and various rattles, clanks, jangles and skreetches.

But as my musical tastes continued to develop and evolve, I settled on the dark ambient genre to use in my display. It has an eerie, grating, uneasy feel about each track, and when it was paired with the visuals in the display, it works perfectly in the scene setting.

I really believe that the audio portion should support the visuals from behind, enhancing the look, and more importantly feel, of the display. With the old cassette, instantly recognizable sounds and vocals pulled the attention from the imagery to that sound effect. With dark ambient, you have a continuous sound effect that never jumps out and pulls the attention away. It supports and enhances the creepiness of the display and adds to the overall tension that we as haunters strive for.

The same idea was used in Blade Runner 2049. Some epic synthesizer notes combined with grading, somewhat industrial sounds and primal, tribal drum beats combine to really punch up the uneasy feeling of those beautifully colored scenes.

I have already downloaded the full soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, and while I don't plan on using it in my display, I do tend to use it as an important source of inspiration for effective use of sound and how it relates to visual display.

In specific regards to use of audio in my haunt display, I will be using Jeff Greinke's amazing dark ambient track from 1992, entitled, "The Moor." A completely creepy track on its own, but sits wonderfully behind the visuals in my cemetery display and enhances the uneasiness of the entire atmosphere. I will also add a few sparse, targeted sound effects in specific scene areas, but this track will be heard throughout the scene.

So there is my quick, personal take on the balance of sight and sound and its effect in Halloween haunt displays. Drop a comment below and let me know your take. 

If you haven't yet, I HIGHLY recommend you get out to see Blade Runner 2049, preferably in a full digital theater with a good surround-sound system, and immerse yourself in a complete feast for the eyes and ears for a couple of hours.

It's back to the standard Halloween grind for me, because as I glance at the old Halloween countdown calendar, we're down to just over 2 weeks to get it all done for the big night. I still have a few more projects to get done, along with a big announcement that I hope to share with everyone next week, as well as a slew of Halloween posts to get through! The sun is shining and the air is still warm in these parts, so it's time to get out to the garage and get some serious work done today. Everyone have a great October weekend!!

Harry Manfredini / Hot Ice - "Theme From Friday The 13th Part 3"