November 1, 2003

​​​​Our Halloween display this year was our best ever as well as a fun and relaxing evening. The atmosphere, staging, and props were much improved over prior years. The quality of the display was enhanced by using X-10 technology for remote triggering and timing. Last year we unveiled our first motorized prop — this year we introduced a pneumatic one.

I took a half day at work and enjoyed setting up the display at a leisurely pace in the afternoon. We had set up the fence a week early. Michael worked on the technical effects for a few days (weeks?) prior. The weather was unseasonably warm, but it was very pleasant one darkness fell. It was a clear night without wind. We had the most visitors ever and had about 4 major waves of treaters. The last hour there were many cars stopping by from other neighborhoods and sometimes kids would jump of cars out to get candy. Towards the end Steve joined us for some post-game chicken chili.

Some details:
The atmosphere was more ethereal this year. We used the Midnight Syndicate CD, Born of the Night as a horror movie-like soundtrack. The graveyard was lit with more blue spotlights than ever before. We built boxes to surround the lights to focus them and block them from view. The other special effect was using severed branches from our craggily-branched, dying dogwood tree as “trees” behind our props. I gathered leaves from the side yard and filled the graveyard completely. This made the tombstones look much more realistic. We also kept the grass a little long. Our fog chiller seemed to work better this year because we put the ice in the fog chiller earlier in the day. A fog distribution system with multiple channels is our goal for next year. We also added a green lit fog machine within a cauldron placed on our cemetery pillar.

We extended our fencing to surround the graveyard for aesthetics, prop protection, and to protect our visitors from being injured by the pneumatic prop. The square fence configuration improved the appearance of the graveyard. We enclosed the back with rebar and a drape of burlap. This created a good backstage area and prevented little goblins from entering the graveyard. I accented the trees and corners of the fence with cornstalks. I also liked them framing the front door.

Our pneumatic prop was a success. It was down to the wire to get it set up and properly tested. Red LED eyes glowed from behind synthetic eyeballs
affixed to the scary Dracula bodice. Michael used a hand held remote control to trigger Dracula to pop up from his crypt. He also programmed a cackle from the speakers and a spotlight to turn on when he was activated. This prop created a satisfying number of gasps, and shrieks from children and adults alike. The key was the element of surprise.

Abigail (our FCG, or “flying crank ghost”) graced our presence again from our sitting room window. Her appearances were variable this year. She would haunt for around 20 seconds and then go away for a random period of time, controlled by a ghost timer. When activated she would fly, black fluorescent lights would flicker on, and sounds of wailing were emitted from speakers on the window ledge outside. This drew more attention to her and she appealed to the youngsters more this year. “Mommy, mommy, look a ghost!” then Abigail would disappear) “I don’t see a ghost honey,” says mom. “But she was just there in that window!”

Inside the graveyard were tombstones, creatures, and animals. I stood inside the graveyard to hand out candy. Next to me was a creepy grim reaper with skeleton hands and feet carrying a flickering lantern and a scythe. There was also a mad undertaker with a shovel digging up bones. A ghoulish girl peaked from behind a tombstone. I liked the details such as the animal accents such as the vulture, black cat, owl, and of course several ravens.

This year I carved classic jack-o-lantern faces in pumpkins instead of intricate carvings. This was a return to the traditions of our youth, before all those fancy carving kits came along.

FYI: The name “jack-o-lantern” comes from the legend of an Irishman named Jack who was forced to roam the earth with only a burning coal inside a pumpkin to light his way because he had never performed a single selfless act throughout his life. Originally turnips were carved, but when the immigrants arrived in America they found pumpkins to be more plentiful.

I am a huge pumpkin fan. Cyber enjoys nibbling on pieces of pumpkin I toss her as I carve them. Surrounded by my favorite orange large light bulbs, this area of the yard glowed welcomingly.

We are pleased that we were able to entertain and provide some scares on this special night. Making fun memories for these neighborhood children and adults is what it is all about. Be sure to check out the photos of the night in the photos section of this site. There’s also a video.


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