There are times when you look back and simply surprise yourself. Sunday happened to be one of those moments for me. In late September Linda and I had a long discussion about whether we could actually pull off the Annual Halloween Party this year. Project Auuunnnoold had the basement in full hurricane mode, Linda’s trip to Iowa was coming up, I had an event to train for and way too many odds and ends to get done before even considering having people over. It’s hard to give up a tradition and eventually we decided to give a try but pushed the date out later than usual to provide a few more work hours to address the reams of to-do lists. Linda’s key requirement – there had to be a working bathroom in the basement. Two weeks before show-time Auuunnnoold was wreaking havoc on me. Walls needed to be anchored, wire needed to be ran, drywall had to be hung, tile laid, grout ground in, plumbing finished and doors installed. I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have such good friends and family. With the saving assistance of Jeff, Rocket, Pez, Pakage and Vonno we managed to pull it all off. Drywall and wiring went in the week before, tile went down on Monday, grout on Tuesday, grout sealed on Wednesday, plumbing finished and a Thursday and I was literally installing the doors Friday morning. In the midst of all this I was cleaning up like a madman and dealing with the high decorations – Linda was busy decorating the rest of the house and planning out the food and drinks. After a huge event Friday night I was back cleaning up the mess from the doors only to wake up early the next morning to prep the outside for the party and attack the new tradition of “The Haunted Trail”. Oh, on Tuesday I had to dispose of a body… but more on that in an upcoming post.
So, I picked this picture as the lead image because it represented how I felt leading up to the party… and it was the lead decoration on the 2012 Haunted Trail – Yep, we got it all done but huge credit has to go to RenderBoy who came to our rescue and did a stellar job.
The alert viewers out there might have noticed an intriguing orange cord in the image above. That’s right folks, this year we stepped it up and brought the element of power to the trail. Thanks to a truckload of extension cords, RenderBoy was able to get power all the way down to Serenity (link here). If you are familiar with the property you are likely amazed at this point! Now we had a whole new avenue for decorations and RenderBoy used it to the fullest. As a special treat, I’ll take you through some of the trail. Before that, I need to mention my favorite photography quote “One bad picture is a mistake, a hundred bad pictures is a style.” 61 blurry pictures pretty much puts me in the style category so in celebration of Halloween I give you the Blair Witch style of the Haunted Trail (translated.. crappy cell phone photos – it definitely deserved better). Also note this is just a subset of the shots – you can see all the pictures up on Eddiesoft’s Photo Gallery (link here).
Hit the jump to see a sampling of the trail!
So the first thing that power lets you do is move the air blown decorations into the trail. RenderBoy wanted to put the “less scary” items at the start so the kids could turn back when they felt they needed to. A 7 foot Frankenstein can’t be that scary can it?
.. or a 7 foot pumpkin head. That was actually a good litmus test – if that was going to keep someone up all night, then the completion of the trail was going to result in a few trips to the psychiatrist.
Tsetse brought over his d0wnright creepy zombie decoration that pretty much set the stage for what the visitors were in for along the rest of the walk. More scary is I think Tsetse has this prominently displayed in his house during the off season.
I think everyone cringes at least a little bit at the sight of Chucky. It makes it that much more startling when Chucky has discarded his body.
RenderBoy actually took a Chucky mask and filled it with packing material to give the effect. Note, there were plenty of moving decorations (like the blue witch above) throughout the trail. If the skull stakes were not scary enough on their own, those plastic molded hands provided the cherry on top.
If those kept your gaze a little too long you might not properly prepare yourself for the giant ghoul lurking above you. I don’t think it really wants to simply “hug” you.
The trail flattens out and narrows part way along the trail which provided a perfect place to concentrate the scarier props. These were all amplified by the barrage of strobes and haunting sounds that covered the area. There’s something about black cats that add a menacing component to the dark – a huge pissed off black cat make it positively shuddering.
Not sure when RenderBoy obtained this jewel of a decoration. The colorful outfit on the crazed lunatic really glows in the strobes.
If you managed to escape the previous ghoul don’t think you are safe – that was just a teaser, the rest of the gang are licking their chops in anticipation of some tasty flesh.
Pumpkinhead here was waiting for you as soon as you crossed the ravine bridge. The strobes here were creating an awesome effect trumped by the iPod playing ghastly sounds in the background. It was really to late to turn back now so once the kids/adults had made it this far they were in for long haul.
Our critical reviewer ranked the first part of the trail as “scarier” than the second half. This was a sharp dagger in the chest having been the one responsible for decorating the second half. Keep in mind this critic was like 5 so next year I shall take my revenge – bring the Kleenex next year Mommy and Daddy, the kid’s gonna be producing some gushers. Maybe I’ll mod my Jason prop with some fire breath or better yet, those arms are just begging for projectiles.
With the power concentrated on the first side, I could localize all the battery operated decorations on my side. For example, the moving and screaming witch worked perfectly.
Not everything turned out exactly as I had imagined it. The ghost below has a changing color effect in the head. Thanks to a Menards sale, we were loaded with a bunch of battery operated strobes and colored flashers. Thinking this would improve the creepiness, I ended up placing one in the ground below the ghost. I am not sure if the same visual was visible in the dark, but when the flash of the camera went off it gave quite a shocking image.
I’m calling it the “Flasher Ghost” – Honestly, I did not PLAN that!
My pinnacle decoration is the spider web hanging body and I placed it in the middle of the trail with limited lighting. Unfortunately, in my haste, I put it facing away from the oncoming traffic so the sensors had trouble picking up people up. With a little luck someone might have touched it causing the eyes to light up and throwing it into convulsions. I’m still scratching my head as to what was “not” as scary on this side of the trail.
Hell, I even had witches strung up in the trees that would light up, scream and thrash about.
One even had bat wings on it that would flap up and down when it detected motion.
Our next prop was actually a surprise to me. After our party last year, my neighbor dropped a bunch of decorations off at our front door. It was quite the surprise when we opened our front door to let the dogs out and saw the skull warlock below as it was when I pulled the Halloween decorations out of storage and found it.
Did I mention there were lots of mechanic decorations on my side…. you know the kind that surprises you with devilish sounds and lifelike movement?
There is no way that kid stayed on the intended trail – I think he saw Jason and made a beeline for the safety of the house. Trust me, there will be interrogations and public shaming if I find out this reviewer is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
Alas, we have come to the end of the trail. If you made it here, you survived the haunted trail. This shot also shows the light sticks I created to help lead people through the course. They do a pretty good job, but waaaaay to sensitive to the touch. They are push triggered, but any slight bump turns them on or off – they have to be stored on a flat surface in the basement just to keep them from turning on and using up the battery.
I went ahead and took some day photos of the trail since some of the items didn’t come out well with the phone camera – catching the strobes just right or trying to push the flash further than a foot was difficult at best. Take for example the spider lair below.
Yes, folks, that is a CPR training head in the middle (hehehe) – nothing like a lifelike head to add some authenticity. RenderBoy’s stuffed legs are a staple of our Haunted Trail and each year there’s a challenge to find the perfect place for them. He actually mentioned how uncomfortable it is when he is packing the car to come over here – nothing like hauling half a body out to creep out the nosy neighbors.
One thing that doesn’t come out well in the night pictures is you are literally walking along a trail through a pretty thick woods. This not only works to confine you, but blocks out a lot of ambient like.
DID I MENTION THERE WERE CREEPY MOTION DETECTING DECORATIONS THAT GYRATE AND SCREAM ON MY SIDE OF THE TRAIL? Something must be wrong with that kid.. just saying.
Oh, almost forgot to mention that RenderBoy brought over his new fog chiller. This is quite the contraption. It takes the heated output from the fog machine on the left and then pipes it through a bunch of ice covered duct venting to cool it down before it comes out the right side of the unit. This colder fog will then hug the ground. The plan was to have a nice fog covering at the low-points of the trail.
There was a wind that night that tended to disrupt the effect, but it still provided a spooky look along the upper parts of the path. You can kind of see it in the photo below. Hopefully next year will be a little less windy – betting a casing of fog on the ground would up the haunt factor by at least a factor of 10!
So another Haunted Trail is in the books. I think everyone had a good time which makes all the effort worth it. RenderBoy called it right this year when he pre-ordained it as “Epic”. Next year we are going to step it up again and extend power down my side of the trail as well… I can’t wait.
Big thanks again to RenderBoy for his help and the use of Tsetse decorations. We started setting up 3.5 hours ahead of the party – we barely got it done before the guests started arriving. Not bad when you consider it was a major miracle that the party even happened at all, much less a fully functioning haunted trail