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How To Make Tombstones

by on Oct.18, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

I’ve been wanting to make horror-themed tombstones for a long time, and working on Eerie Elegance‘s Day of the Dead display in 2015 gave me a lot of inspiration. I finally got started on my horror graveyard this year and plan to add a few tombstones every year! Here is my general overview of how I made my tombstones. While there’s many techniques I’ve yet to learn, this was my starting point. Beyond the standard crafting supplies, I used the following:

Step 1: Plan the Design

First I looked through photos for inspiration and roughly sketched out the designs I wanted, keeping the lettering and embellishments in mind. Since this was a first-time project so I keep the design simple.

Step 2: Carve the Foam

I lightly drew on the foam with a Sharpie since I find it easiest to cover with paint. I didn’t add too much pressure knowing you can leave an indented lines that won’t be covered up easily. Using a foam cutter, I cut out the basic shape, knowing I would come back and refine that edge. 

Step 3: Add Standing Support
To help keep the tombstone upright, especially in windy conditions, the foam must be reinforced with a PVC pipe inserted into the vertical length of the tombstone. I created a channel for a PVC pipe in the center with a hot cutter and hot glued the pipe in place. I then hot glued two halves of the tombstone together creating a PVC sandwich. Later, I will hammer a galvanized metal rod into the ground, and slip this PVC pipe on it to keep the tombstone standing. Some add 2 PVC pipes for more support, but it makes it incredibly difficult to hammer rods in identical corresponding spots and angles. Instead, I bury the bottom of the tombstone in bark or dirt to help keep in place.

Step 4: Lettering, Embellishment & Texture

I didn’t trust the spacing to my amateur hand-lettering skills, so I drew out my text on wax paper (a few times) then taped the paper to the foam. I used a wood-burning tool to trace the letters onto the foam right through the wax paper, removing any stuck on bits.

With the wood burning tool, I also added cracks to my tombstones and refined every straight-cut edge to make it look weather-beaten and more realistic.

For my embellishment, I placed a plastic hockey mask mounted on a ball of paper and used plaster to coat the entire thing, making sure to keep the mask details. Once dry, I hot glued it to the foam and stuck several wooden skewers through the back of the tombstone to keep the mask in place. I used lightweight spackle to the cover the front face of the foam in uneven, rough patches for more textural detail.

Step 5: Paint, Paint and More Paint

Painting took quite a few passes. The first pass was all light gray paint which I let dry completely. Then came the shading. I would first mist the tombstone with water using a spray pump, then sprayed dark umber in patches. I quickly added some dark green patches and misted the paint again. It blended and ran down the tombstone. I let it dry completely then repeated the process with some darker grey and lighter gray. I sprayed black paint in the letters and misted again to dilute the intensity. Afterwards I traced the letters with some diluted black paint. Once it was completely dry, I sprayed it with a matte sealer.

Notes:

Foam cutters and woodburning tools get very hot and can be very dangerous– third degree burn dangerous. Proceed with caution and read instructions on your tools! And work in well-ventilated space.

Regular spray paint from the hardware store melts foam. Use a water-based, solvent-free paint, like craft paints. I’m a big fan of MTN’s Water-Based spray paint. They are fully foam same, have deep, rich colors, and drys to a permanent water-resistant finish. 

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How to Make Plastic Pumpkins Come To Life

by on Oct.11, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

While I love carving real pumpkins, sometimes a cheap plastic pumpkin will do the job. Department, grocery and hardware stores all carry those orange blow-form beauties in all shapes and sizes but they can be a little lifeless. With a touch of paint and dry brushing you can easily transform a plastic pumpkin into something truly unique. Don’t worry if you are not an artist. You will get great results because there’s nothing complicated or exact about the technique. The best part is that its takes only a few minutes and you’ll have them for years to come.

You will need:

  • Plastic or foam pumpkin
  • Liquitex Basics Red Oxide (dark red), Burnt Sienna (dark orange), Burnt Umber (dark brown) paints (any craft paint will do, but I love Liquitex colors)
  • Flat, wide orange nylon brush
  • Paper towels
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Spray matte varnish or spar urethane

The one minute video below shows you the simple technique:

Dry Brushing Tips

  • You want a very light, quick touch with the brush, adding very thin layers rather than thick coats.
  • You want to see some of the original orange color shine through so blending the colors by dabbing or lightly rubbing with a paper towel is essential.
  • Work on with small sections, adding various colors at once and blend. Once paint starts to dry, it won’t blend. 
  • If brushes become wet, use a fresh, bone dry brush. I usually have a set of brushes ready to go. 
  • Use burnt umber along the ribs (vertical line segments) to really define the shape.
  • Let paint dry completely before applying varnish. The varnish will seal the paint which is important if you are using the pumpkins outside. Rain, water from the sprinklers and the sun will wear on the paint. Also, because plastic is flexible, paint might flake off if the pumpkins bump or get smashed in storage. Sealing the paint will help. 

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Explore the Winchester Mystery House at Home

by on Oct.07, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post


One of my favorite memories of San Jose, aside from living between two of its oldest cemeteries, was having the Winchester Mystery House a few blocks from our house. The immediate area is now home to two major malls (sorry, one is an open-air, upscale, urban center called Satan’s Row, I think). It’s difficult to imagine this as the orchard-filled, rural area Sarah Winchester retired to for isolation and quiet – and spiritual mysticism. 

“The Spirit House” as it’s sometimes called is a stunning marvel of Victorian architecture and madness complete with a maze of over 500 rooms (160 rooms remain), 2000 doors (some with a steep drop), and10,000 windows (some with intricate web designs) sprawling across six acres.

I’ve been there for many tours and Halloween events, but the flashlight tour in 2008 left me a gasp. I was alone in the Grand Ballroom and witnessed a door open in front of me. I didn’t think anything of it and  thought a docent would appear but they did not. I called one over and she immediately called a supervisor. The door should have been locked since there was an accounting paperwork in that closet. And during a tour of the basement I clearly saw a construction worker among the duct work and again didn’t think much about it. Later the docent told us, the ghost of a man in worker overalls is seen there frequently.

The pandemic shuttered the house for the first time since 1923 when it was opened to the public, a year after Sarah’s death. It’s struggling like so many other organizations during this chaotic time. Lucky for us, they have created an Immersive 360º Tour for $8.99 (a fraction of the cost of an in-person tour). You get a subscription to the house and get to visit this virtual tour as often as you like. 

One of my favorite elements is a 3D model of the floor plan which they call “The Dollhouse.” You get a bird’s eye view of the entire house’s interior and you can zoom into rooms for a closer look or click through a virtual walk-through. It’s a stunning and unprecedented look at the house. 

Two books I recommend about the Winchester Mystery House are the souvenir book available only at the gift shop (or their online shop) which features 40 pages of photos and the special highlights covered on the tour. The book is a little dated, presumably produced before the organization fully leaned into the ghostly lore. If they put together a book today with stunning photography embracing this darker side, it would be a best seller (please note the gorgeous photo included at the top).

If you wanted to learn more about Mrs. Winchester, who was a compelling, pioneering woman ahead of her time, read the book Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune by Mary Jo Ignoffo. This biography is a deep dive into the Winchester family, Sarah’s upbringing, the subsequent heartbreaking story, and the eventual move to the West Coast to create the mansion. Please note that fans of the ghostly business will not be pleased with this book. 

The author opens the book with the “haunted mansion” lore then quickly dismisses any further exploration of Mrs. Winchester’s proclivities to spiritualism which was rampant at the time. There’s a clear bias to distance the work from such “fanciful notions” and in doing so, the author willfully ignores much of Mrs. Winchester’s widely reported interests from her later years. 

It’s a shame. The house itself is full of beautifully bizarre architecture and structural details that communicate to people like me who love the paranormal that something unusual was definitely afoot on the property. We may never know the details of what Mrs. Winchester actually believed (until that lost secret diary is found buried in one of the walls) but I believe that she believed in something extraordinary. There in lies the mystery of the Winchester House.

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Find Chilling Short Stories in We Bleed Orange & Black

by on Oct.06, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

Autumn nights are about to get a little chiller thanks to author Jeff C. Carter. His new book, We Bleed Orange & Black, was recently released just in time for the Halloween 2020 season and it’s chockfull of “fun-sized” stories that range from family-fiendly to out right shivers-down-your-spine. There’s such a wide variety of short stories and poems, and best of all – they are all about Halloween. 
Some of my favorites include “Unsettled” about a little girl hearing the house creak around her and a final line that made me shiver. “Haunted House-1 Star” was a hilarious take on oblivious internet trolls. And in “Working the Roots of the Pumpkins” a mother teaches her daughter a family history lesson while baking a pie with deadly results. Some of the stories end with an ambiguous final sentence that seems to percolate on the mind for quite a while until the horror finally seeps in. 

I’ve keep my copy by the bed and read a couple stories, right before bedtime which lulls me in a dark, terrified sleep. Thanks for the nightmares, Jeff!


About the Author:
In addition to being a lifelong Halloween fanatic, Jeff Carter’s stories have been featured in dozens of anthologies, translated for international markets and adapted for podcasts including the Reedsy story prompt contest (winner), Transmissions from Punktown, Delta Green: Extraordinary Renditions, A Mythos Grimmly, ‘eFiction’ and ‘Nightland’ magazine and the ‘Tales to Terrify’ podcast, among others. 
His previous collection, Between the Teeth, hit #4 in sci-fi and #11 in horror short stories on the Kindle lists.


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Witches! At the Market!!

by on Oct.01, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

I’m a sucker for bookazines from the market checkout lanes & Witches: The Truth Behind the Legends & Lore delivers a gloss overview of the history, lore, pop culture imagery & even an intro to being a spellcaster. It has some gorgeous photos, infographics & illustrations and perfect for that one person who loves everything witches. At $12.99 it’s pricey and I would preferred a softcover book that could stand the test of time. 

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Witches! At the Market!!

by on Oct.01, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

I’m a sucker for bookazines from the market checkout lanes & Witches: The Truth Behind the Legends & Lore delivers a gloss overview of the history, lore, pop culture imagery & even an intro to being a spellcaster. It has some gorgeous photos, infographics & illustrations and perfect for that one person who loves everything witches. At $12.99 it’s pricey and I would preferred a softcover book that could stand the test of time. 

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The Depot Brings Halloween Home in a Big Way

by on Sep.23, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

HomeDepot.com has unearthed another fantastic line of products this year. I’ve already posted about their massive 12-foot skeleton which is quite impressive. A limited selection of products makes their way to the brick-and-mortar stores but most of the goodies are online only (but they ship to your home or local store for pick up). Here are some of my favorite items from Home Depot’s 2020 Halloween Collection include a giant jack in the box, a headless horseman, a hearse and skeleton horse, and a ground-breaking anaconda. The crouching grave digger was also has a sinister, detailed face, hair and perfect for a tombstone cemetery scene.

In the airblown category, I loved the sand snake from Beetlejuice, Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and a fuzzy orange spider with speckled eyes.

Finally in the home decor aisle I loved this rotten pumpkin that has a flame light effect inside, and a really ornate (too ornate?) snow globe with a weird, sparkly mist continually swirling inside.

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12-Foot Skeleton Wins Halloween 2020

by on Sep.21, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

Several years ago HomeDepot.com burst onto the Halloween scene with the most unusual collection of decor. And lately, they have been offering some of the largest and most awe-inspiring props I’ve ever seen. Sorry everybody else, you are a very distant second. 

This year we got the most impressive, consumer-level prop I’ve ever seen: a 12-foot Giant Skeleton. This thing is HUGE and heavy (in the box it weighs 93 lbs.). With a metal frame and plastic bone overlay, it’s quite solid and must be tied down securely with the included braided wire and supports. Added sandbags are recommended. I can already see the lawsuits from wind pushing this thing over onto windows, cars, pedestrians, etc. It will take two people to assemble this monster and there’s even an app to guide you through the process. It’s not posable, but the arms do rotate up and down. The head features animated LED eyes that blink, close, look around, and add a lot of life. 

I was able to assemble it rather quickly being no novice to the Halloween standee figures. Once I pull him apart, I will labelled each piece for more intuitive reconstruction (lower leg left, upper leg left, etc.) which makes me wonder why they didn’t do this in the first place. There’s always seems to be a disconnect between the manufacturers and the consumers, which makes me wonder why they don’t bring in home haunters for a product testing.

Design/photo by Jeremy Logan

This skeleton has become so iconic that there’s already a Facebook group with over 1300 members dedicated to it. Home haunters across the country are modifying the skeleton with new paint jobs (note how shading/highlighting with paint enhances the realism, above), flexible joints for various poses, and even an animatronic head with jaw movement (below). Folks are chatting about how to light it, where to display it, and even how to secure it from thieves. If properly weighted and tied down, I can’t imagine anyone would be able to steal it. This is a fantastic group that you should join whether or not you were lucky enough to nab a skeleton.

Sadly, this behemoth is now mostly sold out across the country, no longer available to ship online, and unlikely to be restocked (according to an online sales supervisor). It’s surprising the skeleton sold out so quickly considering the hefty $328 price tag. But the heart wants what the heart wants. In the group, there are many discussions of how far people traveled to find one, sad tales of skeletons that arrived damaged or went missing, and the opportunistic scumbags selling them on eBay for upwards of $1395. One seller lists 3 being available so they likely bought out their entire local store. The last remedy is buying the floor model but some stores has a strict policy of keeping display items through the season, even when sold out. I guess this is to punish consumers who weren’t quick enough to buy the item? So cruel.

The last item to consider about this 12-foot skeleton is where to store it after Halloween. Some group members plan on leaving it out all year long (maybe add a Santa hat for the holidays?), but the plastic parts are not sealed well and rain/snow will likely rust the inner metal frame and stand. Before assembly, I would coat every inch in several layers of spar urethane to add some protection from the elements. The box it comes in is about the size of a breakfast table which is fine is you have the storage space. Take a picture of each layer of the contents to remember how it should go back in. I have no storage, so I plan to break apart the skeleton and store bones here, frame there, head over there, and display just the torso. Make a treasure map to remember where you put everything. 

I look forward to the many photos that will be posted over the upcoming weeks. Home haunters are some of the most creative and resourceful people, and they will unleash the awe-inducing spectacle of this 12-foot skeleton in ways I can’t even imagine. 

Photo by Dawn Ford
Design/photo by Dawn Ford

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Going to Hellier and Back

by on Sep.16, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

I have been cosmically disquieted by HELLIER, a reality tv documentary following Greg and Dana Newkirk to a small town plagued with strange occurrences. The second season premiered this year and both seasons are now streaming on Amazon Prime or on the Hellier website

I am a paranormal geek but wouldn’t categorize myself as a ghost hunter. I like to visit eerie places reported to be haunted, and anytime I travel, a detour to a mysterious place somehow ends up on the itinerary. I’ve been around the world to Iceland, Ireland, Italy, China, Mexico, Canada, and all over the United States in search of something scary. I didn’t come face to face, literally, with the unexplained until I lived in San Francisco. (I wrote an article about that experience for Gayly Dreadful this past June.)

I’ve also watched a lot of the ghost hunter tv shows, read a library of spooky books, and studied the paranormal. The Hellier series however introduced me to concepts I’ve never come across, and while it’s not a terrifying show, it’s certainly disturbing. 

The premise revolves around paranormal investigator Greg Newkirk who gets a cryptic email detailing a horde of small goblins that seem to be coming out of a nearby mine to terrorize a rural Kentucky family. After some exchanges the person sending the email disappears, so Newkirk gathers a group of investigators to document the phenomena in Hellier, Kentucky. What they find is a much larger mystery.

The show explores a variety of concepts including alien cyphers, occultist methods to contact aliens, the mammoth cave system under Kentucky that could have ties to the goblins, aliens, the Mothman, the Flatwoods monster, and perhaps even Bigfoot. But it gets stranger. 

Newkirk introduces viewers to synchromysticism which is rooted in Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicities (meaningful coincidences with no causal relationship). Synchromysticism goes a step further and becomes a spiritual or metaphysical practice of recognizing deliberate patterns, and they are believed to be coming from divine or otherworldly sources. Whether these sources are God, angels, aliens or interdimensional “ultraterrestrials” is unknown. This leads some to hypothesize that UFOs may not necessarily be coming from outerspace but rather innerspace, a parallel universe that exists alongside ours. And wait until you hear about the alien abduction that could happen without you leaving the comfy chair you are sitting on right now.  

Finally, there is the concept of “high strangeness” where phenomena happen during a specific timeframe and then suddenly stop. High strangeness could also be connected to a virus-like thought infection that spreads from susceptible host to host thus furthering and possibility fueling future phenomena. The more open you are to the experience, the higher probability that you are a compatible host to carry the infection forward. For example, I’m spreading this story like gospel so I have been afflicted in some way just by watching the tv series. Is this the end goal of the phenomena?

This is all very entertaining and unsettling, and I cannot stop thinking about it. The day I finished the last episode of Hellier Season 2, I stumbled upon a story from our local tv station who reported that the Pentagon would soon be revealing some findings about UFOs. This may be the first official statement about life outside Earth and what the Pentagon calls “aerial phenomena.” Adjust your tin hats – it may be a bumpy ride.

The Hellier show has cracked open my mind like a walnut, and once these ideas get in, it’s difficult to shake them. Since the show, I have identified possible instances of my own synchronicities. I’ve seen unidentified things in the sky (I live within a mile of Moffett Field, which is said to be a repository for UFOs). I’ve noted recurring micro moments of high strangeness involving a weird pitch I can hear followed by distance voices or music. 2020 has made me a believer in the impossible. An unimaginable  global pandemic has infected nearly 30 million people, killed almost a million people, and permanently changed our way of life. Record-breaking wildfires have engulfed the Western U.S. turning skies to apocalyptic red-orange and creating smoke clouds that rain ash. Hundreds of thousands of birds are dropping dead out of the sky over White Sands, NM. And on and on. These are the most bizarre times – and then Hellier came along. 

 

Hellier investigators Dana and Greg Newkirk run The Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult and they are hosting PHENOMENACON, the first-ever online paranormal conference this weekend. There will be 40 hours of paranormal talks, movies, Q&A and music for $15. To get in, sign up for a membership on their Patreon page and that’s it. Please note: Patreon has recurring monthly charges so if you only want to attend the con and not be charged another $15 for October, make sure to cancel your membership before September 30. The program looks fascinating!

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Quick Takes: The Babysitter 2, The Owners, Sputnik, The Soul Collector

by on Sep.15, 2020, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from Wicked October | Go to Original Post

The Babysitter: Killer Queen is an insanely gory, ridiculous & highly stylized sequel that recaptures the lunacy of the first one. The returning cast of bewitching satanic cult idiots vs. the amiable nerdy kid makes it quite watchable horror but the syrupy ending needed a major rewrite.



The Owners is a well-polished U.K. home invasion horror movie with several expected twists. Outlandish performances hold the film together but after a few gory moments, it sort of stalls & takes on a mean-spirited vibe. It ends illogically & confused with a sort of whimper. 

Sputnik takes a familiar #scifi story & keeps the focus intimate. At its core it’s an exploration on the cost ambition, the search for knowledge, heroism & also a vicious alien. It’s a solid debut with a brisk pace that keeps the plot moving toward the expected conclusion. 

8: A South African Horror Story (a.k.a. The Soul Collector) has an old-school horror vibe, teeming with slow burn dread, gorgeous atmospherics, and shadowy figures. While it feels all too familiar, the setting and culture of South Africa is not. I loved the folklore and customs but so much was left unexplored and characters never fully revealed.  

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