Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Has Been Delayed ...

While I have been touting that we are "skipping christmas" this year, it may be a bit of an exaggeration. There are no Christmas decorations inside or outside here at Shingle Creek Manor, not so much as a wreath, but we're not skipping Christmas. It has however been delayed... well, at least for us.

We have always had to plan our holiday rituals around our careers which have never allowed any vacation time during this time of year, so our Christmases have been somewhat limited to whatever festivities we could squeeze into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and of course the pre christmas battling of the shopping hoards. This year though we planned way early to get away from our normal Christmas routine, visit our family on Christmas Eve and then leave the country on Christmas Day. So while everyone else is exchanging gifts and celebrating with friends and family we'll be cramped into over priced airline seats. Our arrival date to Prague on December 26th will begin our holidays this year.

While this might not seem like it should be a first choice for a Christmas getaway, by all appearances and reviews it is one of the few European destinations that continue their christmas festivities beyond the 25th. It has far less tourism than most other European destinations, plus they have lots of "old stuff" there. Not a century or two of old stuff  like here in the U.S., but that kind of old where they have to put BC or AD on the date to help distinguish how old it is. I'm all about exploring historic stuff and having lived here in Florida for so many years, if we can have some fresh fallen snow a bit while we're there, well, that would be okay too.

While it might be a bit optimistic, we hope to capture the feel of an old world kind of Christmas with a little less corporate influence and instead, concerts in centuries old churches or cathedrals, street markets of hand made goods, street performers, and savory new cultural foods and spirits.

 Of course this isn't a Christmas blog, and it would be inappropriate for two people that dedicate so much of our year toward making a Halloween experience for our neighbors not to to spend some time exploring historical sites of a more macabre nature. Several of Prague's beautiful Cemeteries and the Sedlec Ossuary (The Bone Church) are in our plans.

Seen so many photos of the Old Jewish Cemetery and read the history behind it, this is a must see in person

However you chose to celebrate Christmas, we hope you will find the joy that you seek with time for family and friends, and of course time to reflect on the true meaning of this season.  Merry Christmas from Shingle Creek Manor!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good-Bye Halloween 2013

It was a painful process to pack Halloween away for the season. Halloween storage now dominates our upstairs bonus room and part of the attic, but it is all finally cleaned and neatly put away along with some mental notes about needed repairs or changes for next year. Except for some after-season haunt contest submissions I doubt there will be many thoughts of Halloween activity between now and the New Year.

Single Creek Manor - Hooded Sorrow 2013

I will of course be trying to keep up with our fellow bloggers who routinely inspire us and of course Face Book "Halloween people" who challenge us to be better than the previous year.

After the eating of the Turkey and giving thanks for our many blessings, we are "Skipping Christmas" here at Shingle Creek Manor. This is not due to any disdain for the holiday, we enjoy the Christmas season very much... when it remains in it's appropriate place, AFTER the Thanksgiving holiday.

Actually we're not skipping it, ( I just enjoy saying that, mimicking one of my favorite Christmas movies), we're actually hoping to find and celebrate an "old world" Christmas void of the massive commercialism that seems to dominate it here. I hope our plans succeed but I'll save the specifics for a blog entry at a future date.

Celebrate your Winter holidays in whatever way you see fit and above all, be safe!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Just a "Thank You"

Noticed our video got linked and mentioned in one of Pumpkin Rot's recent blog entries. Highly unlikely your reading this blog and don't know who Pumpkin Rot is or not spent hours mulling through the photos and videos of his amazing creations on his blog and website. His was the VERY first yard haunter's site I had ever visited. I had no idea until then the amount of time and creativity people put into Halloween. Admittedly Rot is in a category all his own. His dark, organic style creations have completely redefined my vision of what a scarecrow looks like. The popularity of his site and creations has to be in no small part due to the creative eye of his photographer and wife, Bean.  If you haven't already done so, the photos of this year's "Scarecrow Catacombs" are amazing! Do any trick or treaters come to their door??

Of course it's always rewarding to get recognized by any of our fellow Haunter's or Halloween bloggers. Haunters by and large are a supportive community. This surprising recognition from Pumpkin Rot, with a kind comment from Bean was however,  ... "memorable."

Thanks Rot!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shingle Creek Manor 2013 Video

Might be able to get a submission together for the " Home Haunter's Video awards" if I include prop building photos.

Note to self, " find a friend that has a good video camera that knows how to take night shots for next year!"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween 2013 Review or "How NOT to enjoy Halloween in 2014"

First and foremost a belated "Happy Halloween" to everyone!

I'm not sure what happened for us. The week leading up to Halloween, the Florida weather was cool and breezy, we were on-time if not slightly ahead of schedule with prop building, we were enjoying ourselves with some things that have become October traditions and then... a full reversal! The weather turned hot and sticky humid, took longer for my family and I to get the props from storage out and setup so having everything running the day before Halloween didn't happen. New mausoleum facade gave me repeated headaches during setup including continual  breaking of what will be forever known as the "Columns from Hell"!

Rose Family Mausoleum covering one of the garage doors. "Columns from Hell" finally not breaking and stayed in place nicely.

On Halloween day we started early in the morning to try and finish and have some relaxation time before the Trick-or-Treaters came - didn't happen... getting things set up, errands to the store, a fog chiller not working well, and then the icing on the cake, NO SOUND. Yep, no music, no sound effects, nothing!
Ipod wouldn't sync to computer I had Halloween music on. Our only CD player breaks and won't play the lullaby music for the new Rocking Zombie Granny prop, and the only good sound effects CD we have decides that three Halloweens is the maximum number of times it wants to play.

New Rocking Zombie Granny from Distortions Unlimited
With literally minutes before the first customer of the night, my family gets it all figured out using a laptop for Granny and an Ipad connected to an Ipod stereo player with some You tube storm sounds.

So without any rest we began Halloween Night 2013.

We had about 70 trick-or- treaters and probably double that to 140 total visitors including parents, some adults walking the neighborhood, and the return of a double decker tour bus that we saw a couple years prior.  Not sure what happened that there were fewer children.

Rocking Zombie Granny prop on the porch kept some youngsters from braving it up the steps where we sat on the opposite side, but of course they got their treats. Belinda delivered some candy to the street to a few very little ones. I'm sure just looking at the yard was too scary for them much less walking down the sidewalk. Overall the children and their parents seemed to be having a great time, which is really what it's all about. We even talked to some folks that moved away but returned to the neighborhood for Halloween just to see our haunt. We felt that was probably the ultimate compliment. There were also a significant number of vehicles slowly driving by or stopping in front of the house this year which I don't remember previously.

New "Sorrow" statue we built this year was probably the only thing that didn't give us set-up problems.
The final problem of the night was the inadequate number of photos and the quality of what I did get. The ones posted here are probably the best of what I have so I'm not sure the annual Home Haunter's Video is going to be possible. I really enjoyed doing that last year too.

Despite not being our best Halloween, in the end the yard looked great, children loved it, adults were complimentary and we got to spend time and talk to lots of children, neighbors, friends and our family.

As I'm cleaning up and putting away this year's Halloween, I'm mentally compiling a list of the mistakes that made this Halloween so frustrating. Not advance checking every little item to make sure it still works seems to be the first one, especially the sound and music!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting the "Treats" Together

Much fun as it is to put the scariness of Halloween together, there have to be treats. Probably easier just to get individual large candy bars and keep count of our treaters that way, but I think the kids like those little boxes of Halloween tattoos we started giving out with the candy a couple years ago, so the bags are easier.

We did 100 bags last year and then started with candy from a bowl and figured between 120 and 130. This year we made up 120 bags. Even though we have always had an increasing number of Trick-Or-Treaters turnout each year, in the back of my head I always think, "what if no one comes?" Actually, the candy is the least expensive part of this holiday for us, but for some reason getting together the candy is when I think  about it. Maybe it's because I worry we'll eat the candy that's left over and we'll both go into diabetic coma...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Behind the Screams"

We attended the RIP Tour at Universal Studios, "Halloween Horror Nights" again this year. This is a lights on day-time tour of the set designs for each of the scare houses at HHN without dead people and monsters and such jumping out at you. Last year was our first year doing the tour and it was such a good time looking at the designs and detail that goes into creating these sets that it required a return visit.

AMC's Walking Dead House D Block!

Belinda visiting the jail cell
This year they had 8 eight houses and we got to see 6 of them in the morning and afternoon tours. "The Walking Dead" house was back with scenes from last season. The Walking Dead are also roaming throughout the park to attack you between the scare houses during regular HHN hours. We decided that Belinda is pretty much a zombie magnet during our night visit to the park... if a zombie epidemic breaks out I'm thinking shes on her own. Sorry babe!
Our guide gives us a rough demo of how the scareactor works with this zombie victim prop. He was entertaining and had good knowledge of all the behind the scenes stuff.

Everything is glued down in every scene in the houses...including body parts of course.
Most of the houses were after shows or movies, "Walking Dead", "American Werewolf in London", "Cabin in the Woods", and "Evil Dead".

Belinda and I got to pose with a couple of the "American Werewolf in London" puppets.

"The Slaughtered Lamb" pub from AWIL
Facade in front of the tent for the "La Llorona" house. Amazing detail!
Three of  the houses are creations from Universal Studios, including "Havoc", "La Llorona" and this years 3D house, "Afterlife: Death's Vegeance". We didn't get to see "Havoc" or "Afterlife", but "La Lorona", which is based on a Mexican Urban Legend, was visually spectacular!

"Resident Evil" house in one of the sound stages
The final house was based on the "Resident Evil" game. I've never played the game but the house appeared to be very detailed with specific scenes from the game. This was the exterior of the house in the game's venue called Racoon City.

Resident Evil was a huge set of building facades, streets, and alleyways.

Hated the "Cabin in the Woods" movie but this scare house could have been the actual movie set. Very well done.

If you go to Halloween Horror Nights Orlando, try to make it a point to take the "Behind the Screams" Tour. We enjoyed ourselves again, and although  it was a very long day, I'm pretty certain we'll be back again next year!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dollar Rats

Not sure very much can be done to upgrade the rats we can get every year at the Dollar Store. For a dollar you get two rat positions, one in scurry mode on all four legs or one sitting up on it's hind legs. Not that the rubber rats aren't an excellent deal for a dollar each.

Belinda wanted to add some of them to the Shingle Creek Mausoleum facade under construction but we were afraid the all black rodents would get lost in the shadows. Around the same time we were debating this dilemma, prop master, fellow haunter, and proprietor of the Haunt Calendar, Hector Turner, posted a photo on Face Book of some of the rubber rats that he had dry brushed with some brown that really made them stand out in the photo. And so we borrowed Hector's idea and added some color to our rats - What a difference!
A little white dry brushing to make the details pop

Heat gun to straighten the tail on this one
Found them a place on the mausoleum roof. Should cast a nice shadow against the light color of our house.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Started out the season "Ghosting" my son and his family!

We've enjoyed this tradition for the past few years, anonymously leaving baskets of Halloween treats and novelties at the door of neighbors, friends, and family, ringing the door bell, and running like hell. Admittedly, in some cases it has involved hiding around the corner of the house or behind a tree because I'm getting too old to be running like a mad man up and down the street.

You can Google the particulars of the tradition including the various "Ghosting" poems that explain to the unsuspecting victim what has happened and that it is their Halloween duty to repeat the process to their neighbors, friends and or family. You also get a picture of a ghost, or some variation thereof, to place in your window indicating you've been ghosted.

We did two baskets this year, one for the my son and his girlfriend and one for their four year old. Four year olds at Halloween make it all worth while. They sent us a short video clip of his excitement carrying his basket inside and sorting through it's contents, Good feelings for Halloween!

Blinking LED's and candy in a bowl always look good on a dark porch to a child

Treats differ for adults, bottle of witch's brew (Sangria) and some cheddar cheese instead of candy!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Halloween Wars - Season 3

Add to your Halloween television programming; Season 3 of  "Halloween Wars", Sunday, October 6, at 9 PM.
Photo courtesy of Food Network
 Got caught up into watching this seasonal Food Network program a couple years ago after watching a pumpkin carving competition involving master carver Ray Villafane. It was the first time I had seen Villafane's work and I was blown away by his creations. That same year Villafane competed in Season 1 of Halloween Wars which competed five teams consisting of a pumpkin carver, cake decorator, and  a candy confectioner, and challenging them to come up with various Halloween inspired masterpieces combining their individual crafts.

Although Villafane or his partner Andy Bergholtz aren't competing this year, associates of Villafane Studios, Sue Beatrice and Gabe Vinas are competing against one another on separate teams, so I'm sure there will be some exceptional pumpkin carving.  Food Network also always have some unique guest judges like Director Rob Zombie and "Goosebumps" author R.L. Stine. If you haven't watched it before, give it a watch, if you have, it's BACK!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First Monster Mud of the Season

Actually she is our only "Monster Mud" creation this year. Still working on the snake she is holding before sealing her with DryLok paint and giving the "stone" some aging. Still have to make her other resin foot this week as well ...

Anyone else running behind besides us?!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Got sidetracked from our two larger props after Belinda's visit to the Spirit Store. She took the day and made a new monster from an inexpensive rubber mask, gloves and plastic axe. Sort of an "evil executioner" to welcome the trick-or-treaters at the main entrance. Overall I think he looks pretty menacing especially under the lights.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Visiting Spirit

Paid a visit to two of our local Spirit Halloween Stores this past Labor Day. Pretty much a clown theme this year although there were some assorted zombies and "jumpy" things like the jumping spider they came out with two years ago. I'm very cautious about buying Spirit's stuff after the dismal failure of the fogger we bought from them that lasted all of about 6 hours of use over two Halloweens. Still it's alway fun to see what they've come up with, and the pop up zombie and spider we have bought from them are still going after being used for three Halloween nights.

There were about 6 or 7 carnival props counting the clowns
Liked the guy on the left if you had a circus theme he'd make a good addition
This guy was my absolute favorite!

The Grim Reaper was an "exclusive" for this year. I only saw one box at this store and no boxes of them at the other store. He has a very creepy face though. "Exclusive stuff" is limited quantity the first year and Spirit will be the only one selling them. By the second year it will most likely be available in other stores such as Target at a much reduced price.

Jumping rat was pretty cool. There was also a jumping snake and of course the older jumping spider.

This is a poor photo but I thought the "Garden Gnomes gone bad" were a pretty unique concept
This weeping angel would have been cool if it jumped forward at you. Just moved it's hands to reveal an ugly face and talked though.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Halloween Owl

This is the second year an owl has shown up at the house prior to Halloween, this time across the street above our neighbors house. I presume they want to do their part to spook up the Shingle Creek Manor but I've tried to tell them they're just too awesome to be spooky. Then again maybe they come here just for the snakes and lizards, hard to say, owls generally aren't too talkative...

Believe this guy is a Great Horned Owl
Sights like these I wish I had a nice camera with a zoom lens.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Travel Channel - Halloween Line Up (2013)

I can tell you by the number of our "Making Monsters - Coming Back for a New Season" page hits that a whole lotta people been looking for this date:

Sunday, September 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET - begins Season Three of "MAKING MONSTERS" with Ed and Marsha Edmunds, Jordu Schell and the gang!  Yes!!

Photo courtesy Travel Channel
Sept 29 will have with back-to-back episodes beginning at 8 p.m. and  moves to the regular 9:00 p.m. time slot beginning Sunday, October 20

The Travel Channel is one of the better networks for Halloween programming in my opinion. In addition to the return of "Making Monsters" this season:

Premieres Sunday, September 29 at 10:00 p.m. ET
"It's a heart-stopping spin through North America's scariest Halloween-themed coaster parks. America's beloved amusement parks by day transform into fright zones after dark, delivering the highest-octane Halloween thrills for adrenaline junkies. Whether it's high-speed launches and stomach-lurching cobra rolls, or haunted graveyards and zombie assaults, each attraction featured in this one-hour special promises you the ride of your life!" Produced by High Noon Entertainment with Travel Channel's Sean McKnight as Executive Producer.

Premieres Sunday, October 13 at 10:00 p.m. ET
"This one-hour special features the most terrifying, extreme and absolute best of what Halloween has to offer. From America's scariest, no-holds-barred haunted house in San Diego and a hair-raising coffin race in Colorado, to the ultimate custom body painting studio in Las Vegas and British Columbia's pumpkin drop celebration, each destination is more frightening and fun than the last!" Produced by High Noon Entertainment with Travel Channel's Sean McKnight as Executive Producer.

There are also some regular programming Halloween specials but the one that caught my personal interest premiers Sunday, October 20 at 8:00 p.m. ET

In this one-hour Halloween special, toy hunter and collectibles expert Jordan Hembrough is on the hunt for some of the scariest toys to sell at the Midwest's Horror Hound convention. Meanwhile, Hembrough's toy buddy Mark needs help with a special client - Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, who's looking for extremely vintage, scary toys. In between scoring Ghostbusters memorabilia in Connecticut and a 1972 Parker Brothers Ouija board in Salem, MA, Hembrough scours for the perfect and rarest monster memorabilia for Hammett. When he locates just the right item, he not only makes Hammett a very happy customer, but gains a new rock star client for himself. Produced by Sharp Entertainment with Travel Channel's Daniel A. Schwartz as Executive Producer.

Adding all these to my "Halloween TV Stuff I Wanna' Watch List" for sure!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hand Obsession

Maybe it's all the creative shows this time of year like "Making Monsters"and "Face Off", but we've really been inclined to experiment with molding and casting to solve our prop problems. Hands have always been a problem. No matter what you can find in the stores at Halloween and try to repurpose, most times it's just not the correct hand or finger position you need.

Hector our poor caretaker from last year is a classic example of hand problems, I mean really, who carries their lantern on their wrist?!
Today we experimented with casting hands and the front of a foot with a sandal using Alginate to make the mold and casting it with a hard plastic. We needed the right hand in a specific position and the front portion of a sandaled foot that peeks our from under a shroud for our new statue.

Right hand casted,  two experiments and the third one with the wrist is the one we'll use.
We were so pleased with how easy Alginate is to work with. It's pretty inexpensive, I paid about $25 for 3 lbs. which was enough to do three hands and the partial foot with some left over.You can cast either a very quick drying plastic resin or plaster in Alginate molds. We chose the plastic for it's light weight and the detail of every pore and skin crack was amazing. There are a number of places that sell Alginate, the one we used is a "Smooth-on" product I bought at Reynolds Advanced Materials. There are lots of videos on YouTube on how to use the stuff but even so the written directions are pretty clear.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Freddy" The Door Greeter - Reynolds Advanced Materials

Time to make the hands and feet for our new graveyard statue so I got to go to my new favorite art store, "Reynolds Advanced Materials". Actually I guess it's not an art store because it's all about sculpting and casting but what other art store can you be greeted by "Freddy" and assorted creature faces?!

Reynold's Advanced Materials
While  I'm there I realize that besides how patient and helpful the employees are explaining products and techniques to walk-in customers like me, they spend a lot of time helping people on the phone for their call-in or online orders. "Five stars for customer service," Reynolds Advanced Materials. The nice part is they don't even blink an eye when you tell them your building a graveyard statue... 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Just Building and Dreaming About Building

We're still whittling away at our two main props for the year. We have the PVC skeleton portion of the newest graveyard statue and the platform she sits on finished but nothing photo ready to show. The mausoleum facade has taken most of our time and money so far. it is our largest prop to date. The doors are complete. The columns are 90 percent complete. Yesterday we worked on the roof portion. Lots of trips to Home Depot! Home Depot LOVES me this time of year.

I think we're close to being on target for completion time for these two major props by the end of August. Still have to buy additional lights and DMX cables to run them all to a controller. This was one of or more expensive goals for the year. Between the lights, cables and a replacement fogger I think our budget will be depleted even if we have time to get more props done.

These days I spend too much time on Facebook's "Haunter's Hangout" looking at the props being made, people's ideas and their YouTube videos. So much inspiration in one area, it is really hard to keep focus and not let the Halloween A.D.D. take over. If we were to do that we'd have a whole bunch of inspired projects started and none completed by Halloween. Still it gets me to dreaming about doing different things. Although I still like to use Halloween Forum, Haunter's Hangout is more convenient because we use Facebook daily. There seems to be more communication between haunters there too. I have met a LOT of people there! If your on Facebook and not on Haunter's Hangout you should consider it. The people there cover information on their props and upcoming Halloween events, and it's a good place to promote your FB haunt page if you have one ( on my "to-do" list ).

Friday, August 9, 2013

Next Year I'm Taking Weapons... Or My Wife

My son and I attended our local "Yankee Candle Halloween Preview Party" this past Saturday,  noting like last year, it really isn't a Halloween preview "party", but the employees did have on Halloween aprons and one wore a mask and there was a bowl of free candy. Oh and there was a lady in a cow outfit from Chik Filet giving away coupons or samples or something. I guess that counts as a costume. No Creepy music or cobwebs or anything. I mean really, how can it be a Halloween "party" without cobwebs?!

We were of the thirty or so people waiting at the door and once inside were quickly pushed aside by "SALE!" experienced ladies who were more decisive then us. Manners have no place at a sale, our mistake. I decided that if my wife can't attend again next year I'm taking a long pointed spear to give me a slight edge. There was one guy that quickly grabbed up what he wanted and was one of the first to the sales register... must have had specific orders and training from his wife or girlfriend I figure.

The haul for the day was Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein Boney Bunch candle stick holders with required blood dripping candle sticks, a Boney Bunch dog, a metal haunted house tea light holder, and some Witches Brew and Apple Pumpkin scented tarts. Most everything sold out very quick and I noticed as of today a significant number of pieces are sold out online as well.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Halloween Hot Sauce

A few weeks back we bought and received a bottle of Grinning Skull Hot Sauce from Victor "The Undertaker" Ives, proprietor of the "Halloween Hot Sauce" Store.

This particular one is being used as a Halloween gift for a relative so I can't tell you whether it is a really good hot sauce ( though I probably couldn't tell you a good hot sauce from a bad one). There are numerous reviews on YouTube that give acclaim to it's hot saucy-ness though. What I can tell you is the packaging and attention to detail in the products presentation is top notch.

Victor has three different levels of hotness in his specialty sauces, Spider Venom - mild, Bloody Bat- medium, and Grinning Skull - hot. Each bottle's art work is very well done and they each get their own wooden coffin complete with things you might find slithering and crawling around in a coffin. From the quality of his final product and his advertising/social networking, "The Undertaker" takes a lot of pride in his product which these days is reason enough for him to get my business. Check out Halloween Hot Sauce if you need a unique gift for a friend or family member. It's a reasonably priced and a fun gift, plus after using the hot sauce it will make a cool Halloween kitchen decoration!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yankee Candle Halloween Preview 2013

We enjoyed ourselves at the Yankee Candle Halloween Preview Party last year about this time. This is when they release their Halloween candles, Boney Bunch Collection and other Halloween collections.

I happened to notice the date was fast approaching and checked their website and FB page. As of yesterday, not one mention that the preview party is on August 3, a week away.  I found a flyer on a couple of Yankee Candle Store sites and called the last remaining open store in our area to confirm. I wonder if this lackluster attention to advertising is why they have closed so many of their stores? Next to Christmas you would think this would be a big deal for them. Then again, what do I know about candle sales...

Boney Bunch collectors have managed to scan the following pages showing the new pieces for 2013. Even though it's more of an "event" than a "party",  some Halloween scented candles and a new Boney Bunch piece is a nice way to start the season. We've been burning the last of our remaining Apple Pumpkin tarts in the shop this past week so the timing for some new Halloween scents is perfect!