This page includes builds that were part of our Halloween yard displays.
What graveyard would be complete without a walled-up inhabitant? Thought I'd try to reproduce the bricklayer tomb from the Haunted Mansion to add a bit more substance to the front yard display.
It's just painted foam details on a plywood backing with a skeleton arm. Because it will only be viewed from a narrow angle, it only consists of two pieces - a front and one side.
To complement the witch's area of our yard haunt, I put together an upright "magic mirror" that uses a TV as the mirror's surface. The mirror shows malevolent spirits trapped within.
Warning: kids LOVE to beat on the screen. I'll likely put a plate of acrylic between the frame and the TV next year.
The TV has a plywood surround and stand to make it look like a large (5' tall) mirror. The video is from AtmosFX.
I tried to put together a large-scale projected backdrop for the side of the house to give the illusion of a graveyard scene extending beyond the house.
A large seamless canvas formed the screen. I wasn't able to erect it as originally imagined, so the projection wasn't as large as I would have liked, but it was still neat.
I built another Pumpkinrot-inspired scarecrow to replace our Pumpkin King, which didn't survive Hurricane Florence. This one uses a poseable, plastic skeleton as the core of the body. Sprayed and wiped off paint helped to achieve a better look, and I replaced the arm bones with the legs to make longer, creepier arms. The hands I had to build from scratch using wood, sticks, and wire. Lots of added vines complete the effect. Credit for the inspiration and the specific design of the jack o' lantern head goes entirely to Pumpkinrot.
The main project for 2017 was a 6-foot tall mausoleum with a rear-projection screen in the doorway. I patterned it after one of the crypts shown in the artwork featured on the Disneyland Haunted Mansion album I had as a kid.
The facade is mostly styrofoam cut and shaped to fit. The columns were made from a cardboard concrete form (for making concrete posts, etc.) that I cut in half. Each column is topped with half of a plastic bowl. The sides and roof panels are 1/2 inch styrofoam sheets of insulating sheathing over a wood frame. The inside walls are covered with black plastic to prevent the interior lighting from any light bouncing back off the screen when the projector is running. The carboard forms for the columns were delaminating and coming apart by Halloween, so I'm planning on replacing them with foam next year.
Inspired by the Jack's scarecrow in the Nightmare Before Christmas intro and some fantastic stick and vine scarecrows I saw years ago, we made an 8-foot Pumpkin King.
My son and I constructed him out of some branch cuttings and grape and wisteria vines from our yard. We used hemp twine to tie parts together. His head was a real pumpkin. The weight created problems, as it made him exceptionally top-heavy. We had to use guylines to keep him from swinging or falling over. We are carving a large Funkin to serve as his head this year.
The base was held in place by "planting" the central vertical support in a large pot. We used several orange-coated Christmas tree lights in the pot to uplight him with a nice, creepy glow.
The only inorganic material in the structure is some heavy gauge wire in the fingers of the left hand. This is to support the metal lantern, which is also quite heavy with a large flameless candle in it.
Griffin also made a small vine & twine scarecrow.
We used a carvable foam pumpkin for the head on this one.
Graveyard and Projection Illusion
The main attraction to our 2016 display was the illuminated graveyard with ghost illusions. We plan to repeat the setup this year, but expand on it with more features.
All the headstones were the lightweight styrofoam types available everywhere. I think we picked up most of ours from Party City and dollar stores.
The lighting was from two 10 watt LED floods. These things are incredibly versatile. I think ours are Warmoon brand, but there are others that are identical and at the same price point.
It's worth noting that to make the illusion work really well, the lighting of the entire scene must be right. It looks so much better when the background scenery behind the projection screen is illuminated, but too much will overpower the projected image. It is also necessary to position lights carefully to avoid any light falling on the screen, other than from the projector.
Although only one is (barely) visible near the bottom of the photo above, we also used dozens of flickering LED tea lights as accents. Those can be obtained cheaply in quantity from eBay.
The central effect - the ghostly spirits and skeletons - was created with a hidden projector throwing a looping video sequence onto a sheet of gray tulle from behind (rear projection). The tulle was stretched between two black wood posts. You can see one of the posts and the bottom edge of the tulle in the topmost Pumpkin King photo. At night, this screen disappeared completely. Finding the right material was a process. If you're interested in what I found using various fabrics, I've detailed my findings here.
The illusion was really impressive. I couldn't stop watching it, even knowing every behind-the-scenes detail.
I projected an animated loop onto a blank headstone cutout. I cut the headstone shape from 2 1-inch foam panels then glued them together to bulk up the thickness.
The clip I used is from Spectral Illusions, one of two sites that I have used for all our Halloween projections.
"Following Eyes" Portraits
Had some spare time during a rainy day and decided to try and reproduce a couple of portraits - those of a couple of the "Sinister 11" that hang in the Doombuggy loading area in the WDW Haunted Mansion. These are designed with a simple, but effective construction that creates a convincing parallax illusion of the eyes following the viewer.
My versions are just color copies of the artwork glued to foamcore with the eyes cut out. The eyes were printed on separate copies glued to another foamcore sheet spaced 1/4" behind the first. To make the effect convincing, and to draw attention to the eyes, I taped a single, button battery-powered LED to the back of the eye layer foamcore near each pair of eyes.
In 2016, I did a window projection illusion in the back of our house for a Halloween party.
In 2017, we projected a different sequence into the large upper windows on the front.
Due to the shape of the windows, I had to reorient and composite the clips to make a vertical presentation that fits the double space. The various clips were edited into a looping video sequence. All the clips I used are from two excellent sources: AtmosFX and Spectral Illusions. I stretched light gray nylon tulle over the inside of the two windows, although for 2016's window display, dollar store white plastic tablecloths worked pretty well.