Happy Halloween!

The big day is finally here! Months of prepping and prop building all comes down to tonight. A glorious, dizzying whir of children, costumes, candy and screaming set to an ominous backdrop of zombies, tombstones, lights and fright.

No time for a long post today, as I've got some serious set-up to do, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Halloween! If you're here, it's probably your favorite holiday, too!

And every year, I get asked, "Where is Highbury Cemetery?" So if you're in the Akron area come visit us tonight, from 6-8 pm. Anytime after 8, and you're bound to miss it! We're located on Malvern Road in West Akron, near King School and Merriman Road. Just follow the screams...

Brown leafed vertigo
Where skeletal life is known
I remember Halloween

'Twas The Night Before Halloween...

The excitement is building! Tomorrow is the big day!! The props are all done (for the most part), I'm sitting on the couch watching my Indians try to win their first World Series since '48, I'm drinking an ice cold one, and I'm about to put in my annual Halloween Eve viewing tradition...

I even had a minute to engage in some pumpkin carving - something I haven't done in about 7 or 8 years, as I have always left that to the expertise of my mother. Well that and the fact that I have always been knee deep in setting everything else up in years past...

And while things seem to be going smoothly so far, the final weather forecast for tomorrow only helps things along! This will be the first Halloween without rain in 4 or 5 years!!


I'll still wake up nice and early for tomorrow's big set up. It all goes up tomorrow morning, finishing just in time for the neighborhood trick-or-treat, a quick video and photo session to document this year's display, and then it all gets taken down. So if you're in the area, come out early or miss it for another year!

Good luck to all my fellow haunters who are getting ready to do their thing tomorrow. Keep your traditions going, scare those kids good and most of all, don't forget to have fun! It's the reason for the season.


Prop How-To: LED Tea Light Candles

Here's a really quick and easy way to make a great accent piece for your haunt: LED tea light candles. These candles can add a great bit of lighting detail to any room scene, crypt or tombstone, and they are totally portable so you can place them anywhere!

Here's what you'll need:

- Chop Saw (or any other saw to cut through plastic PVC piping)
- LED Flicker Tea Lights (I just picked up a 24-pack at Pat Catan's for $19)
- 2" PVC pipe (as many pipes as you want to make as many candles as you want)
- Metal Cutting Wheel Blade for the Chop Saw
- 1-3/4" Bi-Metal Hole Saw Bit
- Large sheet of 1/4" Foam Core Board (can be picked up at Pat Catan's or Michael's)
- Drill
- Hot Glue Gun and a LOT of Glue Sticks
- Spray Paint

To begin, fit the Metal Cutting Wheel Blade to your Chop Saw (DO NOT use the standard wood cutting blade to cut the PVC). Once the blade is fitted, simply cut the PVC into varying lengths.

Once you have cut all the PVC pipes into varying lengths, rotate the chop saw blade to 30 degrees and cut the angles to the top of each PVC length. This will give the candle the appearance of being melted.

When all of the PVC pieces have been angled, it's time to grab the drill, the 1-3/4" Bi Metal Hole Saw Bit and the Foam Core Board. Drill out circular discs in the foam core board with the bit - you'll need one disc for each candle.

When you have all the discs cut out, simply slide them down into the candle lengths, setting them deep enough to hold the LED tea light just below the surface of the lowest end.

After all of the discs have been inserted, grab the hot glue gun and glue sticks. Start by running a bead of the hot glue around each disc. This will help support the disc when the LED tea light is dropped in. Once all of the discs have been glued, it's time to start running the heavy glue drips around the angled top of each candle. Apply liberal amounts of hot glue around each top, allowing it to dribble down the sides of the candle. Continue to apply the drip around the entire top. 

PLEASE NOTE: You only want to dribble the glue around the OUTSIDE edge of the PVC, as getting any on the inside will prevent the LED tea light from properly dropping down into the candle.

After the glue dribbles have dried, simply take the spray paint color of your choice and coat each candle. I used an antique white for all of mine because most will be set up in low light areas and will be set up in clusters of two or three. I also ended up repainting all of my old candles so that all the candles throughout my haunt will have the same classic antique white look.

When the paint has dried, you are ready to go! Drop in the LED tea lights and place your new candles anywhere you want. With these battery-operated tea lights, you don't have to worry about plugging anything in, they still have a nice flickering effect when turned on, and they will run for approximately 72 hours before the battery runs out. And it will add a creepy yet safe accent to your haunt. Simple!!

(A box of this year's candles.)


Saturday Night...

Photo courtesy of gravesandghouls.tumblr.com

No real post today, as I've been building a walk-in crypt in the front porch all day (it fits!!), and now I'm headed over to old Scrapes' house for a Halloween party and some trick-or-treating in his neighborhood.

Good luck and have fun to anyone else in Halloweenland who is doing their trick-or-treat thing tonight!!


Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - "13 Candles"

Friday night prop building jam. Crank it.

"Monster Mash Sounds of Terror!" Soundtrack

Listen to this Horror! If you dare!

This is a trip into the uncharted regions of the unnatural world of horror. A region where the supernatural takes over the minds of men. It is that place where the fiends lurk, ready to plunge their fangs deep. If you dare, turn out the lights, and play this record on your phonograph.

Gasp and scream as the victims plead in vain for mercy, or quick death. If your heart is too weak for this journey into terror, do not play this record. Your nerves will jarr to the grotesque inhumanity of man to man within. The screams you hear maybe your own after this diabolical detour into... MADNESS!

Can you stand the shock of hearing the Exorcist battle Satan? Hear the unearthly sounds of the possession of the soul! Listen if you dare! Will the burning of witches at the stake unhinge your mind? Does the screaming amongst the flames shatter your sanity! The evil blackness within this record is a journey into unbelievable... TERROR!

We're finishing off this season of Freebie Fridays with another Wade Denning/Pickwick Records novelty Halloween classic from 1974. "Monster Mash Sounds of Terror!" is a great collection of  short horror stories with incredible titles including The Werewolf Attacks, Frankenstein Returns, The Incredible Giant Crab, Victims of the Guillotine, and The Nightmare of Lost Souls. Each story is roughly two to three minutes in length, and each one is a hilarious classic. 

No real "haunted house" sound effects on this one, but the short stories and accompanying sounds more than make up for that! 19 classic stories with excellent narration and a rendition of the Halloween staple, "Monster Mash" make for a truly fun listen. I have played this record a number of times since picking it up and it is still enjoyable all the way through.



2016 Walk-In Crypt Project: Part 1

So technically, part one of my 2016 walk-in crypt project started all the way back in April, when I revealed the Blood Moon Raven stained glass window art. This stained glass window will be the center piece of the crypt, illuminated from behind. It will be the first thing you see as you walk up into the crypt (my front porch).

Since then, I had the art produced and the framework for the window completed. As of now, the completed window is still sitting in my dining room...

To say this massive project has slipped away from me would be an equally massive understatement. An inordinate chunk of time has been devoted to creating the three modular walls that will fill in the crypt.

But I'm happy to say that all three wall frames have now been built, the foam sheet facades for each have been attached, trimmed, routed and sanded, all trim pieces have been attached and the first coat of paint has been applied. We are so close, I can taste it...

On either side of the stained glass window wall will be the walls containing the interred remains of the Highbury family. Each resting in their own exposed burial cove, two horizontal coves per wall...

And while I will be putting the final touches on these pieces this weekend, I can now share the images of the inhabitants of the Highbury Crypt...

Baldric and Agnes Highbury
Patriarch of the Highbury family, interred upon the crypt's completion in 1829. Baldric died mysteriously in his manor home on the late evening of October 31st. Crude autopsy reports from the time revealed that Baldric died from an "unspecified perinatal asphyxiation." His wife Agnes was interred two years later, after an accidental drowning in a lake on the manor property. She was discovered on the morning of October 31, 1831.


Thurston and Beatrice Highbury
Younger brother to Baldric, interred after his suicide in 1835. Thurston was found dead in his room on October 31st, by hanging. His wife Beatrice was interred five years earlier after a grisly death in a carriage accident...

After Thurston's suicide, it was noted that all four members of the Highbury family met their untimely deaths upon the same day—October 31, and quickly thereafter, hushed talk of a curse began to circulate. Unfortunate ends for all members of the family, and all dying on the same day of their respective years. The "Highbury Curse" took hold and cast a dark shadow upon the family name and the cemetery that the unfortunate laid their final rest in...

When I decided upon building the crypt, I immediately knew that I wanted to have exposed bodies on either side, visible in the old-style open arched coves. I knew that I wanted the entire crypt dimly lit in a flat, cold, blue light, so I ended up getting the Pose N' Stay skeletons with red LED eyes from Home Depot. I knew the overall light would be dim, so I wanted to add highlights and a focal point to the faces of the corpses.  And glowing red eyes would work perfect for that.

I took each of the skeletons and did the tried-and-true "plastic drop cloth and a heat gun" corpsing technique to create the grisly rotten flesh of the face, neck and arms.

Next, I distressed the clothing of each by tea staining all of the garments and then sanded, stretched, ripped, cut and mangled each piece. And again, because of the low lighting, I decided to keep a bit of color in each corpse to provide a recognizable form for each cove.

And for a final accent, I decided to use purple LED pinlights inside each cove, positioned above each corpse. The pinlights will illuminate the head and chest of each corpse and should make each figure really pop out of the dark coves.


King Diamond - "Halloween"

It's not always dark ambient playing at Highbury Cemetery during prop building season...

And with only 5 days to go until King Diamond's favorite night of the year, the local weather forecast is looking pretty good. I'll remain cautiously optimistic that it won't change too much in the next week and that we'll finally have a dry Halloween night...


Highbury Cemetery T-Shirt, 2016

The 2016 Highbury Cemetery t-shirts are done! Each year, I hand screen a small run of one-color shirts in the cemetery basement and then give them away to everyone who helps out on Halloween night as a thank you gift. Every year the shirt art is based on that year's haunt logo, and this year's shirt is by far the best...

I even printed one up for the newest member of the cemetery crew, and he couldn't wait to show it off with a couple of his friends! Beast Boy approves...


And with less than one week left until the big night, it's time to check the weather forecast.

We're still hanging on, but I'm hoping those Sunday showers are long gone by the time the 31st rolls around. Fingers crossed! Only 6 more days to go...


Thriller. Sort Of.

The Burying Point Cemetery - Salem, Massachusetts

We have a very special Cemetery Sundays edition this week! Last weekend, Mrs. Highbury and I took a quick trip out to Salem, Massachusetts, and had a chance to go see The Burying Point Cemetery, oldest burying ground in the city of Salem, and Witch Trials Memorial.

Walking through this cemetery was a perplexing experience. Usually for my Cemetery Sundays trips, I get up early and quietly tour the grounds alone, taking my time to document and appreciate the ornate tombstones, sculptures and mausoleums. 

I wasn't afforded this luxury at The Burying Point Cemetery, as it is a main tourist destination in Salem, and the grounds were full of fellow tourists and photographers. I had to focus on getting shots without people in them - a difficult task with the amount of people roaming the entirety of Salem in October!

Also, I found it strange that those "touristy" elements were also encroaching upon the grounds themselves. A carnival with rides, food vendors and a haunted house were all positioned just outside the cemetery fences, contributing to a staggering amount of noise. I was surprised at how all of this really took me out of my element in regards to other cemeteries that I visit.

But I made do with what I had and focused on getting the best shots that I could...

The Witch Trials Memorial
Located next to the cemetery, The Witch Trials Memorial, erected in 1992, contains the granite bench memorials for the 20 women and men executed in the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Each bench contains the name of the victim, the date of their wrongful execution and the grisly manner in which they were executed. 19 by hanging, one by being pressed to death. The memorial's location is fitting, since trial judges and accusers are buried in the cemetery right next to it...

 Trial quotes from the convicted are carved into the stone entrance.

Bridget Bishop, the first of 20 executed for witchcraft.