Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea

 " Clark, that's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year..."
"That it does Edward" ("Christmas Vacation", my all time favorite Christmas movie!)

Okay, it's not the " Jelly of the Month" club but it's the next best thing!

I subscribed to three months of  Distortions Unlimited's  "Monster of the Month" back before October when they started the program and I had a little "mad money" in my pocket. Basically it's a surprise monster creation shipped to you each month from the sculptor-artists at "Distortions Unlimted".

Owners Ed and Marsha Edmunds, sculptor Jordu Schell, and and the rest of the folks that were the stars of the since cancelled " Making Monsters" Halloween TV mini-series, are some of the Halloween celebrities we've come to enjoy in the Halloween world. Even though I'm not a collector of Halloween memorabilia, curiosity got the better of me. So far I'm really pleased with the two latex masks I've received, "Blink" by Mikey Rotella and "BT-15" by Jordu Schell. Each one came with a printed card with a bio on the sculptor and a back story on the creature.

They have a gift coupon you can print if you should want to give a last minute Christmas gift membership to the club for your favorite Halloween person. I tried a subtle hint to Mrs. Claus for another 3 month membership but have to wait and see... You can check it all out at Distortion's Monster of the Month .

Photo of "Blink" and "BT-15" from "Distortions Unlimited" on Facebook

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Book Keeper

My son had taken a few day time photos so put a few together of  this year's "Book Keeper" prop. Nox Arcana music of course!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Shingle Creek Manor 2014 Video

I was too busy Halloween night, and I was tired, and it was too cold on Saturday night to get very many photos this year. With such few photos and no video I hadn't intended to try a video this year. Then I found a piece of music that I liked, and it was short, so this is what I came up with. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Halloween Haunt Calendar

11" x 17'" Halloween Haunt Calendar for 2015
Got our 2015 Halloween Haunt Calendar from Hector Turner at the Halloween Haunt Calendar website a few days back. How can you be a Halloween enthusiast and not have a calendar to countdown until Halloween?
We got our photo centered up in the month of July this coming year.
Hector Turner is a Canadian haunter and a regular poster at "Haunter's Hangout" on Facebook as well as most other forums. This is our third year purchasing his calendar and it really has been pretty handy in the workshop. Besides counting down the days until Halloween,  it also has the dates of all the major Halloween conventions in the U.S. and Canada, and the moon cycles, if your into that kind of thing. The color print and paper is high quality, plus most importantly, if you submit your haunt photo earlier in the year it gets published on one of the months.

...Okay, maybe it's not most important but it is pretty cool!

It was appropriate he used our "ARose" statue photo this year. This was her last year.
 Check out the Halloween Haunt Calendar website if your interested in purchasing one for 2015. Hector Turner will post on "Haunter's Hangout" and other Halloween sites when he starts accepting photos for the next year's calendar, I believe it's in the Spring.

H.P. Lovecraft "From Beyond" Tombstone by Hector Turner
If you don't know Hector, I would suggest you check out the Halloween portion of his website. In my opinion, the mastery of scarecrows belongs to Pumpkin Rot. Hector Turner ( and Terra Lair ) are the masters of the tombstone. You will see Hector's work often imitated by other Halloween  people and he gives you a breakdown and in some cases .pdf  files to try to duplicate his tombstones. He has some fantastic photos there to explore.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Halloween 2014 Recap

First an apology for not keeping up with my blog... October came and went fast!  The setting up of Shingle Creek Manor on the 30th and the daytime of the 31st was more physically demanding than I remember it being, although admittedly I am getting older. I also think there was some  laziness during the month. Actually, I'm sure there was. Although I was somewhat active on Facebook, the blog just plain suffered from neglect.

Shingle Creek Manor 2014
 As for Halloween, we exceeded our expectations a little for the number of trick or treaters, roughly 120 children and 50 or 60 adults. The antique double decker tour bus visited us again. It didn't park in front of our house this year though so I didn't get any photos. I think every year 25 or 30 visitors have come into our development on that tourist bus. Next year I have to find out who owns it and who the people are.

To be honest I had drawn a line in the sand of 100 visitors this year or we would be scaling back to a few Jack-O-Lanterns for 2015. With the exception of an hour or two from my son on setup day, it is literally Belinda and I building, setting up and tearing down. It is a tremendous amount of work for two people. As much as I still enjoy it, I have to evaluate whether it has value to our visitors and whether the number of them is worth the effort and money. We received so many compliments from the children and adults this year though, that if we hadn't achieved the 100 , 2015 would still see Shingle Creek Manor resume.

Belinda dressed as "Niethra", the Voodoo summoner of evil. The kids loved her! I had more than few tell me how scary the old woman in the graveyard was. Of course I had to respond with feigned ignorance of any idea who they could be talking about. "Pennies shaken in a can" such a simple but effective startle scare! Who would have thought? Idea borrowed from the Halloween Horror Night people from previous year's street characters. It sure beats "boo!"

This was also the first year for full sized candy bars instead of bags of candy. Not sure if it's better but it's less work! Like I said, there was a lot of "lazy" for the month. They seemed to go over real well with the children and even a couple of adults with a chocolate habit.

We kept everything up for a second night but it got very cold. After spending time talking with some visitors I took very few photos. I hope to compile what few we took and post them to our Shingle Creek Manor Flickr account in the next couple days. I doubt I have enough for a video this year. A little bummed about that.

"The Book Keeper"
Even though our largest and most time consuming prop was a new statue called "The Book Keeper", by far the most popular prop was a video of a moving portrait set up in a fake frame in front of the mausoleum. Enough so that more video and projection are high on our list of priorities next year for sure! We actually lost some potential trick or treaters at the entry to our sidewalk because of that thing!

We hope everyone had a great Halloween! We had a great time but always find things to improve on for next year.Will be posting a bit until about Thanksgiving when the craziness of Christmas really gets cranked up and very little between then and the New Year. Time to catch up on my blog reading!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pirate Ship Sighting

Celebration, Florida is a small Disney Corp. developed community a few minutes drive from home.

One of their unique claims to Halloween fame is a pirate ship facade that covers the front of a very large home there. Unfortunately we have never made it out there to see the ship since learning of it, but luckily Belinda was able to drive out there during a shopping expedition yesterday and snapped a few day time photos.

After seeing the photos, this is now on our "must-see" list for this Halloween! The ship is huge! Hopefully I'll be able to get some evening photos of it and a little more info for a future post.

As a coincidence, this morning I also learned that this pirate ship is one of six contestants in "The Great Halloween Fright Fight", a one hour ABC special, premiering Tuesday, October 28 at 8 PM EST

You have to love people that go to this extreme to make a great Halloween for their neighbors and community.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Batman Gets "Wounded"

We spent some time at Reynolds Advanced Materials participating in their "Let's Talk About It" classroom series this week.  The class was "Making On-Skin Wounds with Silicone Rubber" and besides learning about their "Skin Tite" product and how to apply various silicone skin wounds and deformities, we had a bunch of laughs.

Artist-Sculptor Scott Fensterer and friend Lee Barret
 Artist/Sculptor Scott Fensterer was the lead instructor whose model for the day failed to show so he selected a friend and Cosplayer, Lee Barret, to be his model for the day. Lee was just there for the class and we were told he normally plays superhero, "Batman" during Cosplay. Today he just got a couple of skin wounds... oh and one authentic looking silicone booger hanging from his nose...

Scott and 'Batman" Lee Barrett showing his wounds and a booger

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ghosting and Pancakes

We had us a "breakfast" dinner last night at the IHOP. I've been looking for the IHOP window poster ads for my favorite "Pumpkin Pancakes" since September but hadn't seen any. Neither had I seen the little plastic table stands that advertise the "Fall lineup" of pancakes, or the insert they put in the menu indicating pumpkin pancake arrival.

The only sign October had arrived at the IHOP last night was a "Create a Scary Face Pancake", sort of a "make a Jack-O-Lantern pancake" for kids.

So while I unhappily weighed my "no-pumpkin pancake" options, and wondered if I could eat a candy coated Jack-O-Lantern pancake, our waitress came to take our order. I asked the waitress why they didn't have them this year,  just knowing it was probably one of those corporate decisions to no longer carry them, thereby degrading my Halloween happiness.

To my surprise the waitress pointed out they were listed in the main menu!

So after feeling kind of stupid for not seeing them in the menu before, (Why would they be casually placed in the menu along with "other" pancakes?),  I ordered a full stack!

They arrived perfectly cooked and stacked with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. I ordered some extra whipped cream and all was right with the universe.

Following the pumpkin pancake nirvana, our annual " Ghosting" tradition was executed on my son and his family. You can Google the particulars of " Ghosting",  also called " You've been Boo'ed". Basically it involves placing a basket, cauldron, or bowl of Halloween gifts and or treats on an unsuspecting person's doorstep at night, ringing the doorbell and running like hell. There's an accompanying poem that tells them they've been "Ghosted" and instructs them on how to pay it forward to their friends or neighbors. Then you put a little paper ghost in your front window so you don't get ghosted twice.

Singing and dancing candy corn from Cracker Barrel topped this year's treat basket

Someone usually starts this in our neighborhood development although we haven't been ghosted yet this year. I think when we ghost my son it is the starting of the "ghosting" of their neighborhood. We always enjoy ghosting others and it really is a good way to help get your neighborhood or friends in the spirit.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pumpkin Rot Influence Spotted at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights 24 - Orlando...

 Countdown to Halloween - Day 8

Few years back I read a blog post by Pumpkin Rot on how he put together his lighted Witch Jars. It was amazingly simple for those of us artistically challenged, yet a very effective and creepy prop. I've seen it mimicked by numerous Halloween enthusiasts since then, myself included.  All the variations and tutorials I've seen always gave credit back to Pumpkin Rot though.

This year I found them at Halloween Horror Nights 24 - Orlando, in the " Blood Bayou" Scare Zone.

Photo courtesy of Jim McCrary
Of course Rot knew they were in the works and called it public domain but I had mixed feelings when I spotted them. On one hand it was an ode to Pumpkin Rot's creativity that it became an element to one of HHN's better scare zones. On the other hand, it seems like such a rip-off to use it in a commercial setting such as this without any kind of acknowledgement.

Universal Studios HHN24
Personally I think the concept designer should have made contact with Pumpkin Rot, or at least the written proposal that was awarded to some anonymous artist  should have given credit to him.

I guess if the man himself wasn't concerned though, I shouldn't be either. Those of us that haunt know where the Witch Jar concept came from, or at least who made it haunt-desirable!

Photo from

Maybe Universal Studios should amend their wrong doing by hiring Pumpkin Rot to design a scare house or a scare zone next year! ...Oh yeah!

Universal Studios HHN24

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Twins

Countdown to Halloween Day 7

Saw these guys in a cool Halloween vintage-type display at The Holiday Store. Don't know anything about who makes them but thought they were pretty unique decorations. They were about 24"-28" tall... I don't know maybe their suppose to be creepy but really just look like two kids in masks to me.  Their overall shelf display and lighting is what caught my eye.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Diagon Dragon

Countdown to Halloween - Day 6

I used to take my son to see Harry Potter movies as he was growing up and of course after you've seen the first 3 or 4 you have to watch them all, even though your son is grown and not around to see the final ones with you. Needless to say I'm somewhat versed in all that is Harry Potter!

My brother and his family flew down to visit and attend Halloween Horror Nights with us this year. We spent the day prior at Universal Studios Theme Park re-visiting the older attractions and the new Diagon Alley.

We had recently talked to one of the guys involved with sculpting the fire breathing dragon so I was pretty blown away when I saw the size of this thing atop Gringott's Bank. We couldn't get a fix on the timing it but pretty sure it breathes fire at random times between 10 and 20 minutes.

Hopefully after the time change I'll be able to get a dusk or night shot of this monster. I really think the Harry Potter areas at both parks makes Universal Studios a strong contender with Disney World for Halloween. Certainly a "must see" if your a Harry Potter fan.

Now, I wonder if the Home Owner's Association would allow us to have a dragon atop the house...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cool Weather Night for HHN

Countdown to Halloween Day 5

Universal Studios entry for Halloween Horror Nights 24
Rainy days finally stopped and I guess we get a little cool spell this week! If you live in Florida a high of 79 and a low of 59 for the day is as "Fall" like as it gets!

We're taking advantage of the weather by going out to Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Studios again. I've been trying to get some decent outside photos to do an amateur review of the park soon but between rainy weather and a poor camera for night shots, it's been difficult. Anyways it's too nice a night not to go out for a few scares.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Niethra" the Summoner

Belinda's 2014 character addition, Voodoo witch,"Niethra" the summoner of the dead
Countdown to Halloween - Day 4

Cheap Halloween Additions

Day 3 - Countdown to Halloween

Don't usually find many Halloween decorations at the local drugstores that I like but spotted these at our local CVS and thought they were kind of sinister looking.

I think they're made of plaster with changing color LED's and they were only $19.99 each. Belinda had some coupons so she picked up both for $25.00. Even if the lights only last one season, that's a pretty good deal!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Crow Skull Mask

Countdown to Halloween Day2

Have few friends that have built their versions of a plague doctor for their haunts with the crow skull look. I always thought it would be an easier paper mache project until I saw the detail in this mask. Now I'm not so sure I could ever get one to look this nice.

Like "The Corn Stalker", the "Crow Skull" is also made by Ghoulish Productions. Took these photos on our visit the other day to The Holiday Store to get Belinda a character mask for this year. Might have to see if one of these is left over after Halloween and pay another visit, or at the very least the photos will make excellent resource material for a character build.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day One - I'm Late As Usual

Thought I would try to keep up with the "Countdown to Halloween" - 31 days of Halloween blog posts again this year... of course I failed on the very FIRST day. If you know me, you know this isn't unusual.

Better late than never though. This year in addition to our posts relating to Shingle Creek Manor and our Halloween related activities, I thought I'd post some of the favorite masks and Halloween characters discovered during this strange journey.

"Corn Stalker" from Ghoulish Productions
Saw this mask recently during a visit to The Holiday Store . I was thinking if you have a corn maze and you don't have a few of these guys running around along with your scarecrows your just plain missing a good scare opportunity! The detail and colors were amazing, this photo doesn't actually do it justice. "Scary" corn, who would have thought?! Although admittedly I am terrified at the thought of brussel sprouts on my plate... and asparagus and beets and spinach and...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Only 154 More To Go...

With the help of a friend that has far more knowledge and experience at molding and casting than I ever expect to have, I was able to complete the molds from Belinda's sculpts for our replacement finials. With only one mold for each of the two designs I have to cast them one at a time. Six down 154 more to go... think I will hate casting and painting resin when this is complete!

Used bronze powder to cold-cast the finials as a little memento.
The upper tier of the fence will have the twisted thorny barbs and the lower tier will have the demon gargoyle heads. The twisted barbs will be left flat black with a touch of rust like the rest of the fence. The gargoyle finials get just a touch of antique bronze paint to accent the details.

Gargoyle heads painted flat black and dry-brushed with antique bronze.
Pretty sure I didn't look this old when I started this project...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Old Friends

Time to say good-bye to some old friends we met in 2009. He was kind of a funny guy but not the handsomest friend we've ever had. She was definitely not pretty and had no sense of humor about her. She scared a lot of our youngest trick or treaters away at Halloween.

Looking all classy with his "Indiana Jones" fedora on
She hung 9 feet above our porch and kids still wouldn't come all the way to the porch

Yesterday we said, " Good Bye" and they went on Craigslist. Hopefully they will find new haunters that will appreciate them. They were our first more expensive props but we only used them in 2009 and I think we may have used her in 2010 and then they went into storage. Clean up time in our Halloween storage room and they're just taking up needed room.
Halloween 2009
Doesn't he look like he could be related to "Achmed the Dead Terrorist" (Jeff Dunham)?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blackjack Creature Company

We've been blessed to meet some legitimately nice people in the haunt industry since beginning Shingle Creek Manor . Such is the case with meeting co-owner and artist-sculptor Jason Thomas of Blackjack Creature Company this past week.

We had ordered an "Undead Hugger" from Blackjack Creature Company earlier in the year at the Spooky Mayhem Convention in Orlando. Being dabblers at making molds and more recently sculpting projects for Shingle Creek Manor, we were sort of hoping we'd get an impromptu tour of the Blackjack Creature Company studio to see how it's "suppose" to be done. Of course studios aren't generally setup for visitors so I wasn't too optimistic about our chances after placing our order.

Our first look at the "Undead Hugger" at the 2013 Halloween Extreme Convention
As luck would have it, we got the call this past week that our "hugger" was done and if we would like to drive over to their studio in Lakeland, Florida, Jason would give us  the grand tour! Score!

Blackjack Creature Company is owned by Jason Thomas and friend Andrew Logan.  Its located in a modest sized building of an industrial warehouse area. The studio was packed with plaster molds and latex masks at different levels of completion. There were several work areas specific to each stage of production at floor level, with a second floor loft where most of the business end of the things take place. As you would expect of a place where horror artists work, latex curiosities and masks decorate most of the walls and shelves in the business.

Artist-Sculptor Jason Thomas and Belinda with our new "Undead Hugger"
 Jason was an excellent host showing us each work area and explaining the work currently being done for a company to finish a very large quantity of zombie paintball masks that pretty well dominated most spaces in the studio. He even gave us a peek at a new mask being made from a "fantasy story - gone wrong" type concept that hasn't been announced yet. As this was a "peek behind the curtain", so to speak, I won't divulge what the new mask was, but it goes very well with their Jack'd Rabbit mask that they currently sell.

Freelance Artist Francesca Urgo doing some detail work
 I could have spent hours talking to this guy that's been in the business of sculpting and horror for a whole bunch of years. Jason has been sculpting since he was a youngster, after being awestruck by the character in the movie "E.T.". He also does work for Universal Studios and Halloween Horror Nights and we got to talk about some of the "Face Off" celebrities, his friends, that are doing work there this year. From the perspective of the average home haunter he's living the fantasy... but after seeing the studio I can tell you there is a whole bunch of work involved in that fantasy!

Zombie paintball masks in production
They have a great attitude about the importance of home haunters to their business. If  I had a drawn concept that I wanted to turn into a mask or prop, these would be the guys I would call. Blackjack Creature Company have a deal you would be insane to refuse. If you get the chance to see them at one of the conventions, make sure you stop by and say, "hi". You can contact Blackjack Creature Company on their Facebook page or their website.

Special thanks to Jason Thomas for the impromptu tour and spending time talking with us, and of course for the new addition to Shingle Creek Manor for Halloween! He's going to make an excellent prop for our photo op this year!

"I'm not driving that fast... close your mouth"