Lottsa of stuff made this year! New techniques for making heads and corpses! New goopy materials to work with! More children frightened! Halloween is just toooo much fun.
I really enjoyed handing out the treats, but they all came in about a 1-hr window, and only about 35 of them. But the wee littles are so darn cute, and often forget their lines. A few stopped at the porch door and refused to enter, despite the embaressed pleas from their parents (no parent complained that things were too scary, though). One mother kept insisting to her reticent daughter that it was all fake … and poked at the monks to prove it. I, of course, shrieked out “bad touching! bad touching” to the amusement of the father who tried manfully not to laugh at his wife’s antics. Oh, and a word of warning to anyone scaring teenage girls …. they travel in packs and shriek like bansees. Wear ear protection. But scaring them and then insisting that they say “trick or treat” (hey, they’re old enuf to know the drill) is always fun.
Real horror : a couple of days before the Big Day, my faithful old msdos-based boatanchor computer died. So I hastily resurrected another 486-based box that I had laying about and managed to get all the automated screams and shrieks up and running in time. Crisis averted … phew!
Adventures in paper mache : I played around quite a bit with paper mache this year. It’s pretty simple, and a LOT of fun. The trick is in the glue — my favorite ended up being a 50:50 mixture of cheap white glue and warm water. Forget the recipes that involve various powders to be used as thickeners, I think they are simply trying to get by with using less glue. Cheap white glue is really not expensive at all when you buy it in gallon jugs. As for the paper, I tried toilet paper, Kleenex, shop towels, and newspaper. The toilet paper and Kleenex variants are typically referred to on web sites as “snot rag mache”. Some sites want you to tear it up and put it into the glue to form a goopy moulding material (icky, goopy, and tends to stick the hands more than the target piece), or coat it with the glue and apply it in layers (my Kleenex tended to tear especially when wetted with the glue mixture). The shop towels (a blue, heavy-duty version of paper towels) has a lot of strength even when wet, and is a joy to work with. The drawbacks are a long drying time (probably because they are so absorbent) and cost (they are a premium paper towel, after all). Overall, the classic strips of newsprint worked the best. Reasonably easy to apply, and it dries to a very hard shell. Making skulls is pretty easy. Start with a form, apply a layer of thin aluminum foil, add mache, then cut off when dry. The forms I used ranged from plastic pumpkins, to cheap plastic skulls, to plastic skull that I had added features to with clay.
Corpses : The spookyblue web site (shown below) had some great ideas for making half-corpses fairly quickly. It involves using rolled up newspaper for the bones (!!), applying paper mache for the skin, applying carpet cement/latex for a corpse-like skin, then adding wood stain to “age” the corpse. I dunno what sort of carpet cement he used, but mine took ages to dry (he claims fast drying times). Even when dry to the touch, when I applied the wood stain, the stain took forever to dry . In fact, it was still pretty wet on Halloween (after several days of drying!). AND at Christmas, there were still a few not-quite-dry spots on the corpse! That implies that the underlying coat (ie. the carpet latex) wasn’t dry and kept the stain from drying properly. Oh well, live and learn.
Great sites for more information include :
Here’s the process of making one corpse :
Here’s the start of a half-corpse. The spine is a left-over piece of 3/4-inch square plywood, but the rest of the bones are rolled-up newspaper. Note the liberal use of duct tape to hold everything together. The rib cage is really more of a sketch of the real thing, but that just sort of adds to the creepiness. Crumpled up newspaper is put into the chest cavity for bulk and ease of adding skin later.
Here’s the skin added over the bones. Note the attempts to highlight the joints. The hands are just started … this is the nicest way to make hands that I’ve seen so far. Make a cardboard template of a palm, then add wires for the fingers.
Here’s the head and neck in a more finished state. Note the built-up hand.
The head and rib-cage after adding carpet latex to form a textured ‘skin’. And lovely, lovely thread-like ligaments. Alas, most of the ligaments got lost when the stain was applied. Oh yeah, this is a really messy process.
The stain is applied to give that sought-after rotting look. Note the other skull in the background. This part of the process is really, really, really messy. Note the opaque eyeballs that have been added by using hot melt glue.
Making the second corpse :
Yet another corpse. On this one I used the blue shop towels for the skin. The strips of newspaper worked better.
Gawd, ain’t he beeeeeeutiful? I especially like the melting iris of the one eye.
An assortment of heads. The one on the left is made from layering hot-melt glue on the form (a lovely result, but tedious and pricey). The next one is made from toilet paper mache, the next is another hot-melt glue, and the bottom one is made using Kleenex.
Mad Monk #1 with his new paper mache head.
Mad Monk #2. Again, this is a new paper mache head. The skull was formed using layers of hot-melt glue onto an exisiting cheap plastic skull. It has a delightful wet look.
Snaky. My favorite prop this year. It uses the large hot-melt glue head, the body is a piece of cast-off flexible pipe wrapped in duct tape, and painted with the cheapest spray paint I could find. My wife suggested that he needed fangs, so I added them using toothpicks painted white.
Here’s the scene on the porch that greeted the children. That’s mini-monk on the right. The speakers for the computer-shrieks are underneath the monk on the lh-side.
Mini-monk has a new head. My wife suggested that it looked like a wolf’s head, so we call him “Wolfie”.
Here’s how it looked from the street. I had some extra skulls, so I added some hands to make it look as if they were just emerging. The half-corpses can’t be seen too well, but they are closest to the porch. I really need to add some lighting to these things, as they fade into the darkness when night falls.
Snaky and the two half-corpses.
“That’s all till next year!”