Halloween Prop No. 1

They say that the devil is in the details. I realized this in looking at my props from 2009. They were good, but they weren't great. My haunt lacks that visual punch to really set it apart. So I've decided that 2010 is going to be the year of detail. I'm going to go back and update and improve all my old props that I already have. I still want to add at least one more new animated grave-popper for this year, but the focus will be to update everything that we already have and really pay special attention to the little things.

I'm sitting here enjoying my first Octoberfest beer of the season (unfortunately, it's Sam Adams, but I'm really not complaining. I'm just waiting patiently for the pumpkin ales to start coming out. And I'm looking at you, Dogfish Head!), and I'm really excited because I just finished my first prop update for the season. Prop number one is a nice update to a tombstone that I have been using for the past four years. And while is looked like an old faded tombstone, it never had an epitaph. So it was never really finished. Until today. 

Let me show you what I did:

I started with the old 2-inch thick white "popcorn" foam insulation panel that I cut the basic tombstone shape out of. I traced it and cut it out with an old butterknife. It gave me the slightly jagged edges that looked authentic. Originally, I used a rattle can of flat black spray paint, and misted it across the face and sides, using heavier, condensed sprays in areas that I wanted a crumbled look, as the paint would actually eat away the foam. This year, I went back and put a full coat of flat white acrylic ceiling paint on the entire thing to form the base color. I then went and watered down some old chocolate brown acrylic interior paint and began putting multiple coats on the front and sides, doubling up in areas that I wanted to have a streaked and weathered effect. I also bought a paper mache skull face from Michael's for $1.99. I painted this with the white to match the stone (it's in the bottom right of the photo below). I then traced the outer edge/rim of the skull onto the tombstone face.

I then used an X-ACTO blade and cut out an area where the skull would be recessed.

I used Gorilla Glue to attach the skull to the recessed area and added some spackle plaster to the outer front edge.

Next was the fun part: the epitaph. I had always wanted to pay homage to my favorite classic horror actor so I got all of his information, found a great gothic font, did the layout, 11" x 17" printouts and trimmed out the letters (remember to leave an area attached on your A's, B's, D'd, O's, P's, Q's, R's, 4's, 6's, 8's, 9's and 0's, or else you'll cut the inner area out!) to form stencils. I laid the stencils onto the tombstone face and traced the edges with a sharpie marker. With the smallest lettering, I actually just filled the letters in with the marker.

I then went back and filled in the larger letters with some flat black latex paint. Almost done!!

I really wanted to give this stone an extra zing, so I got some red LED lights from deadheadprops on Ebay. They're cheap and they're bright. And they run off of a standard 9 volt battery. I added a section of drinking straw to both lights, slightly longer than the width of the tombstone (I taped them in place with electrical tape). This would give me the rigid "tube" sections I would need so that they would hold when they were threaded into the foam stone.

I bored two small holes, slightly smaller than the diameter of the LED lights, through the foam. They held tight without any glue, so now after the season is over, I can simply pull them back out for safe storage. They light up the skull eyes perfectly! I went back and added some more watered-down brown paint around the lettering and topped it off with some spanish moss that I also got at Michaels. 

For the final product, I cast a few different colors of LED light with a multi-color LED light bulb that I also picked up on Ebay (complete with a handy wireless remote to change the colors!)


Now only 6 more tombstones to go! I got two more skull faces along with two sets of green LEDs to make two matching pieces to this one. Check back to see who gets immortalized in Highbury Cemetery next!


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