Monday, July 25, 2016

Skull Island Reign of Kong

I used to take my son to the King Kong (Kongfrontation) attraction at Universal Studios Orlando when he was a little kid. We remember vividly the size and intensity of the King Kong animatronic and being suspended in a cable car over New York City. The attraction had us evading the roaring Kong, catching only glimpses of the monster, and hearing the thumping of his walking. Finally he captures the cable car in his huge arms, shaking it and it's screaming passengers. I don't know how many times we rode that attraction until it closed in 2002. It was one of our favorites though.

Jump ahead fourteen years and my grown son, his family and I are waiting for the opening of the new attraction, "Skull Island Reign of Kong. As luck would have it, Universal was doing random soft openings, and after a lengthy wait in the heat  a couple weeks ago we were able to ride the attraction before it's grand opening.

Skull Island Reign of Kong

I think Skull Island is one of the more fun queue lines of the attractions at Universal Orlando. There were a lot of details and of course skulls. They also have scare-actors that pop out although I didn't get to see them myself. I did hear the screams of the people in front of us and later behind us. I suspect the intensity would have been a bit much for My 6 year old Grandson anyways. He did pretty well.. until we reached the room with the flaming skulls and the Shaman. After that, he'd had enough of the queue line! He put on his brave face for the ride attraction itself though.

I took a few photos with my iPhone but it was pretty dark so the quality isn't so good.

Mountain facade in the background looks real. Gives it great depth.

Skull Island has lots of... 'er skulls

Queue line entry

The ride itself seemed a little short to us, but it was some of the best 3D I've seen. Patrons ride through Skull Kingdom in what appears to be the back of an old military truck. Tip, don't sit too close to the cab of the truck if you can help it. There are events occurring on the left and the right and it's hard to see both sides if you sit up next to the cab. The attraction ends with an up close and personal view of the King Kong animatronic. I was thinking it may have been the animatronic from the original attraction but either way, Disney has nothing on Universal when it comes to animatronics.

Creepy stuff in the queue line

Flaming skull room

Shaman animatronic


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pre-Season Happenings at Shingle Creek Manor

Though it's early in the year for any haunt related builds (for us anyway), there have been some recent Halloween oriented things happening here at the manor.

First, we are excited to say our annual video won "Best International Yard Haunt" from the Canadian Haunter's Association, which was actually quite an unexpected surprise.

Special thanks to the CHA for hosting their awards program each year and letting us "international" folks participate. Also of of course, thanks to the judges for all their work. If you've ever tried to judge peoples yard displays, it really is quite a difficult task. We hope to attend The Midwest Haunter's Convention in June to receive their cool and unique trophy.
2015 CHA "Best International Yard Haunt"

Anyone that's ever had a one on one conversation with me regarding Halloween and haunting knows my all time favorite home haunt is "The Butcher of Provincetown".

The backstory, character development, costuming and set designs of the BOP are at such a professional level that it is hard for me to fathom this is at someone's home. Each year, the owner, Brad Goodspeed, does a top notch promo video which has become one of the few staples for our own personal "Happy Halloween". We love to see what he comes up with each year to further the development of his characters and back story and these are professional promo trailers like you would expect to see of a movie preview at the theater. If your unfamiliar with "The Butcher of Provincetown", check out their annual haunt videos and promo trailers on YouTube.


As circumstances would have it, I've had several opportunities to meet and talk with Brad Godspeed over the last couple years.  This year he and his family stayed with us for a couple days while they visited Universal Studios. As if the Halloween and haunter talk weren't gift enough during their stay, Brad brought me a latex mask he sculpted and poured last season. I am such a fan, that it's like owning my own little piece of the "Butcher of Provincetown". While it's not one of the current characters it has that same BOP "look" of his main characters. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Finally,  in addition to the walk thru of the manor cemetery for the obtaining of the candy, we have committed on doing an actual walk thru haunt this year. The scope of putting a walk thru haunt together has kept this on the wish list for a few years without much hope of reality. Finally, I think we are going to be able to pull off something this year for our friends and neighbors that will be visually spectacular and unique for home haunters in our area.   Financial investment in the project has been made, so now there is little chance of backing out. Pretty sure I'll be posting, maybe vlogging (?) the task of getting this all together. More specifics to come!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Spring Landscaping Equipment

I'm probably not allowed to have a hearse.... I wonder if I can have a back hoe... you know to do landscaping and stuff...

This Cadillac hearse was from an old episode of "Monster Garage"





Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Bat Ranch" and Other Weekend Strangeness

These gateways are pretty common to ranches here in Florida, usually with the ranch name or cattle brand on the top. This giant bat is a bit out of the norm though. Saw this on my drive to Apopka, Florida this past weekend.




I really don't get it... A defunct haunted attraction entry? Is this a bat farm? Winter home for a vampire? There was no sign anywhere, just the bat.



Looking down the dirt road all I could see was a pole barn, and the small fuselage of an old airplane both slightly overgrown with vegetation. While it was probably a Halloween decoration someone never took down, I like to think it was a bat ranch! Figured it was best not to trespass to investigate to learn for sure though. I'm betting bat farmers don't take kindly to trespassers!

Ironically, this wasn't the strangest thing I saw this weekend...

Dog's water diving contest

Pig races
There was lots of fun stuff to watch at "The Old Florida Music Festival" in Apopka, Florida. Unusual stuff, but fun nonetheless. 


Saturday, January 2, 2016

...and So It Begins

Christmas is over.  2016 has arrived.

We had company for  Christmas, my wife's family came to visit. Nice to have children for the holiday. They brought me the flu to start off my new year.

My immediate thought has been this might not be a sign of good things to come for the year...

Flu be damned, between fevers, hacking, coughing and keeping the cold drug and tissue companies in business,  I managed to finish our annual Shingle Creek Manor 2015 video.

It felt like a struggle this year. Software changed and it was like learning it from scratch, couldn't find a song I wanted to use,  and once again,  kicked myself in the butt for not having enough video and photos to choose from.

Whining aside, ... it's done!

Wishing our friends and family a happy and blessed New Year!








Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dear Santa...

My first choice would be a replica snowman from the "Krampus" movie to decorate our yard, but one of these replica "Krampus" tree ornaments would be cool too! The shipping price to the U.S. is quite a bit, so I'll have just depend on Santa to bring it.

Bell Ornament from "Krampus" the movie


Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Krampus" - My Review



I was pretty excited to go see the new "Krampus" movie that opened this evening. I have been somewhat infatuated with the whole folklore of Krampus since I was a young soldier stationed in Germany. As luck would have it,  I accidentally stumbled across a Krampus festival in a small town during a weekend in the Alps.  While I have enjoyed seeing Krampus gain a bit of popularity in the U.S. among the haunt industry, I was really hopeful this movie would bring a good story-telling of the Krampus character.

Directed by Michael Dougherty, "Krampus" is not a horror movie anymore than you could consider "Gremlins" a horror movie. It is a Christmas movie but I wouldn't say you will leave the theater with that Christmas, "It's a Wonderful Life" glow either. It is the darker side of Christmas. "Oma"(Krista Stadler), the Grandmother, warns, "He is the shadow of St. Nicholas". That pretty well sums up "Krampus".

Rated PG13, "Krampus" (and his minions) is the character of ancient folklore accidentally summoned upon a modern day family and their visiting relatives for not believing in St. Nicholas.

The movie sets a comedic tone right from the start with montages of Black Friday shoppers pummeling each other to the Bing Crosby Christmas carol, "Most Wonderful Time of the Year". That same type comedy pretty much continues throughout the film with that over the top dysfunctional family type humor breaking up the suspense.

Acting was really good with David Kouchner, ("I just got my ass handed to me by a bunch of Christmas cookies") and Conchata Ferrell ("It looks like Martha Stewart threw up in here") leading the comedic relief. Adam Scott did a great job playing the serious "leader" role as the Father of Emjay Anthony, who plays his son "Max". Max is the central character who ultimately is responsible for bringing Krampus to visit on Christmas. The rest of the supporting actors were great as well.

I personally thought the digital effects and sets creating  the neighborhood street consumed by a winter blizzard were top notch. The appearance of snowmen props also were top notch but had a strange look of familiarity about them... Yes, "Pumpkinrot" friends we get to see "Snowman design by Pumpkinrot" in the closing credits! Congratulations Rot!

The only CG I felt wasn't really well done was of the gingerbread cookie characters. They were so over the top ridiculous though that they were hilarious.

The Krampus character of course was not funny, and the designers did a great job at making sure he was scary and the focus of the movie's suspense. The costuming and CG really brought the character to life. I personally didn't like the costuming of the "Elves" as much, but most of the focus was on Krampus so they didn't do anything to hinder the overall quality of the movie.

I am pretty sure Krampus won't do great at the box office just by virtue of it being a "scary" movie at Christmas, the "most wonderful time of year".  It is a good movie though, with some good suspense, some good laughs, and though the ending is somewhat predictable, a good story. It will certainly get added to my Christmas DVD collection, and I'm pretty sure the Halloween folks are going to enjoy it for what it is, an entertaining movie!





Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Requiem"

"Requiem"- our first use of a full skeleton to make a graveyard statue

Our only big prop this year was the "Requiem" statue.

It started out in my mind as a different concept for a reaper with a cloaked hood and a scythe leaning against him while he played the violin. I may still re-visit that concept next year with another character, but after getting the skeleton and violin in the right position I was pretty happy with the way it looked under the lights. To be honest, I didn't feel like the mess of using "Monster Mud" this year to make a solid cloak either.



Total investment for this guy was about $85, a pose-able skeleton from Home Depot for $40, a 3/4 size violin off Ebay for $40, and a piece of 1/2' aluminum conduit and a flange from Home Depot that was under $5. The remaining paint and materials I had from previous projects.

 

Tips for making a skeleton statue:


Skeleton spines are the part of pose-able skeletons that don't really pose. They're always straight and completely limit your options for making a skeleton position look natural. I bent a section of half inch aluminum conduit to the angle I wanted the skeleton's spine and attached the conduit to a wood base with a flange.

Attach aluminum electrical conduit to a wood base with a plumbing flange

If you like to design and build props, a good adjustable heat gun is one of the few tools that are essential, and this is one of those times. I gradually heated the spine until it was soft and mold-able but didn't actually start to melt the plastic. Then bent the spine to match the bend in the vertical conduit, and zip tied the spine to the conduit. (If this was something that would be viewed in daylight it appeared as though the conduit could actually be run up through the inside of the spine to completely conceal it, for my purpose it wasn't necessary.)


The only other heat gun use was to pose the fingers of the hands holding the violin and bow, and a bit on the neck to tilt the head.


Use a heat gun to pose parts that aren't "pose-able"

Each pose-able joint ( shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles) were positioned and hot glued in place temporarily. Then I used some left over Apoxie Sculpt to cement the joints solid and cover any gaps and screw holes. Apoxie Sculpt is a two part moldable putty that when combined dries very hard like an epoxy cement. There is probably a similar type construction material that could be used to harden the joint, but Apoxie Sculpt can be bought through Amazon for under $20 and can be frozen so the left over material keeps for a long time.
Each moving joint is secured using "Apoxy Sculpt" before it's painted
Store bought skeletons have a smooth shiny plastic surface. This was suppose to be more statue like so it was painted with grey tinted Drylok that we had left over from our tombstones. I like Drylok because it gives everything that stone-like sandy grit look and it's readily available at Home Depot.

Dry wall compound "weathered" skull after dry brushing

After the first coat of Drylok, I used drywall compound to texture certain areas I felt should look weathered. The best method I have found so for "weathering" with drywall compound is to slather on the wet drywall compound. Let the compound set until it starts to dry just a bit. Then firmly dab the areas with a damp kitchen sponge to give it the texture you want. Drylok those areas to seal the drywall compound.

DryLok-ed statue before "inking" and "dry brushing" details

The entire statue gets sponged with a watered down flat back paint using a sea sponge. Finally, the statue is finished off by dry brushing flat white to highlight the edges and textures and ultimately give it that "carved stone" look. Dry brushing with white or a very light color is critical for viewing your creations in the dark under spotlights or ambient lighting.

Hopefully these tips were useful! I think more skeleton statuary to come for our graveyard next year!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Another Visit at My Favorite Store

Picking up supplies at "Reynolds Advanced Materials" I got to see their latest concoction I thought I would share.

Body parts in a barrel of nuclear ooze!
Life-castings of arms, hands, a foot and a face made with their "Dragon Skin" product. I guess every employee had their hand in putting this together - literally! 

Don't remember the material they used for the glow-in-the-dark ooze. It is lit from underneath with a black light and a small fog machine completes the prop!




Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shingle Creek Manor 2015


Still sorting through our photos and video segments for this year, hopefully there will be enough good ones to put together a decent video - I'm not feeling optimistic.  I really do enjoy the creativity doing these videos. As soon as Halloween is put away for the year, getting the video together is number one on my list!














Saturday, November 7, 2015

Post Halloween Blog Reboot

Well, this makes perfect sense to restart your Halloween related blog AFTER Halloween is over...

Such a busy last few months, plenty to write about but no time to sit down and get my thoughts together. I have tried to catch up on the blogs I follow and make comment here and there. I have also tried to post and keep caught up on that evil time-killer "Facebook".

The latter part of the year has kept us busy coordinating and planning my son's wedding in Chimney Rock, North Carolina. Likewise it put a significant dent in any extra monies that would have otherwise gone to Halloween. Such is the story of important family events.

"The Crow Men" one of our fun static props and also a separate costume for this year's yard haunt
While we were in North Carolina, (the first week in October), signs of Fall and Halloween at every corner and store front reminded me of how much I needed to get done before Halloween and how truly far behind we were. We spent time at some markets in Bat Cave, North Carolina making it even worse. "Bat Cave", whose name just screams "Halloween", has mega road side pumpkin and apple stands, and I even saw a sign for a haunt where you could shoot zombies with paintball guns.

We stopped at a cider mill in Bat Cave to buy some fresh apple cider where we met a young woman with the most elaborate and beautiful Halloween tattoos on the sleeves of both arms. Belinda struck up a conversation with her so we could see her tattoos. We tried to tell her we were Halloween people but it seemed kind of useless. A person who has her arms and shoulders tattooed with Halloween scenes kind of takes the moniker "Halloween person" to a whole new level. We were just Halloween observers...

"Requiem" a violin playing skeleton statue on a stone column was our singular large prop for the year. 

So it will be my intention to gather our few photos and videos and try to compile our annual video as soon as I get Shingle Creek Manor put to rest. Cleaning and storing props easily takes a few days. Meantime I will post some of our few photos and document some of the season's highlights.

A very belated "Happy Halloween" to our blog friends and fellow bloggers. the remainder of November will be dedicated to catch up before the craziness of Christmas begins.




Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pumpkin Rot 10,000

Just read tonights post by Pumpkin Rot. It seems he is celebrating his 10,000th blog post...

Still my favorite I think. ( Photo property of Pumpkin Rot)
There are a handful of people in the Halloween realm that I draw inspiration and motivation from. "Rot" and his wife "Bean" are at the top of that list. I can remember my son showing me the "Pumpkin Rot" website some years ago now.  I looked at all the photos and watched the videos repeatedly, amazed by the various "scarecrows" and how they were so different from anything I had ever seen.  To that point, I had no idea people created such things for Halloween.

As a Halloween enthusiast too old to trick or treat there are still some things I look forward to during Halloween. Seeing the annual Pumpkin Rot' Halloween creations, photos and video is a major part of my season.

I always thought "The Halloween Poem By Rot" encapsulated the spirit of the home haunter. I think it's become lost over time in all his posts and wanted to re-share it as tribute to all that the anonymous "Pumpkin Rot" and "Bean" have given to the Halloween community.

Thank you Rot for all your Halloween art, videos, comics, writings, and recognition of others in the Halloween community for 10,000 blog posts!

"The Witches Ball" at Yankee Candle

At the end of August we went to our local Yankee Candle Store for the unveiling of their Halloween Collection. This year it was dubbed "The Witches Ball", no music and no witches though, just candles.

It's unintentionally become a sort of a family tradition with my son's family and us to get at The Yankee Candle Store early and wait in line to see whats new in their "Boney Bunch" candle holder collection and grab up the pieces we like before they run out of their usually limited supply. After fighting the crowds we leave and eat a late breakfast, mostly because you don't want to be around my son or I if we're hungry.
Yankee Candle Steam Punkin' Collection
This year we thought their coolest pieces were the ones only available as online exclusives. Some of the best "Boney Bunch" pieces and especially their whole Steam Punkin' Collection weren't in the stores. So while we waited for the doors to open, we went online and ordered a few of the pieces.

Yesterday we received our order in the mail. I thought the Steam Punkin' witches boot was especially cool looking. In hindsight I wished we had ordered the Large Steam Punkin' Pumpkin too. You can see their Steam Punkin' collection at their online store although most of the best pieces are already sold out.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Return to "The Holiday Store"

Belinda and I and most of the "Halloween people" we know have been visiting all the stores in our area to peruse this year's Halloween offerings. I will say most of the big corporate stores got their stuff out early, some of it good, maybe a little more that was not so good.

One of our most fun stores to visit though, we found a year or so ago and have tried to keep in touch with it's owner, Tom Campana. "The Holiday Store" is a good distance from our house, but we've found it worth the drive to escape the same poor quality props and masks that with few exceptions seem to return every year to most of the corporate retailers.

This year our friends Gene and Evelynn made the trip with us, the first stop on a planned day of horror.

The staff at The Holiday Store take great pride in how things are displayed
Still my favorite little corner of the store, the checkout area with it's display cases

During our first visit to "The Holiday Store" we weren't quite sure what we were looking for and had made the mistake of believing it was one of those temporary box stores such as the Spirit store franchises. As we departed our vehicles on this trip, it was Evelynn who remarked that the business was smaller than she thought it would be. Coincidentally this was the same conclusion I made on our first trip. "The Holiday Store" is located in one of those non-descript roadside industrial warehouse complexes that so many businesses use now to keep their overhead costs down. The 'plain building" look ends on the outside however!

A mummy stands guard at the digital effects video display

Stepping through the entrance door of "The Holiday Store" feels like Halloween...
There are no bright florescent lights, no shiny display fixtures and no shelves of inventory boxes. Everything is on display under carefully placed ambient or color LED lights. It has the feel of a Halloween "museum", an eclectic collection of Halloween goods, and Tom Campana and his staff take great pride in how things are displayed. There are Halloween props, masks and decor from floor to ceiling.

Some quality interior decor items are also at the store.

If your just looking for masks or some decorations for your front door and don't mind if your neighbors have the same ones, this is not the store for you. If your looking for unique quality items, or creating a character for your haunt that your guests likely have never seen, "The Halloween Store" is where you go. It has the largest quality collection of masks I have seen in any walk-in store this year.

Who doesn't need a standing goat character for their haunt?
Kind of a Disney feel to this mask - great quality

"The Holiday Store" does a significant amount of it's business at it's website but the nostalgic feel of going to an independent business where the staff enjoy what they do, and love Halloween, is a winner with me.  I have no doubt we'll be making another trip this season.

Little bit of something for everyone
Our friends and ourselves spent a solid hour plus looking through the items for sale at the store. Every inch of space in the retail area is used to display different props masks and Halloween curios.  It seems like the longer you are there, and the closer you look, the more little Halloween treasures you find hidden. We went there looking for a specific mask, we left with two masks, three shrunken heads and some creepy finger extensions. I don't recall what our friends Evelynn and Gene bought but I know they found the mask they wanted and left with several bags of merchandise. All in all it was a great way to start our day of horror followed by some barbecue lunch. Another post on our day of horror is forthcoming.

Still not a fan of clowns but they did have some cool looking clown masks
At the time of our visit, owner Tom Campana had just come off vacation and was still in the process of receiving new products. Most of the store's inventory is from independent U.S. manufacturers and artists. Very little that I have ever seen is the typical mass produced stuff from ( insert Asian country name here). If he doesn't have it, he usually has good connections for getting what your looking for and his prices have always been reasonable.

The Holiday Store is located at 301 Commerce Court, Winterhaven, Florida 33880.