The Trail of Tears – The Haunted Trail 2013

Let me apologize up front for any lost sleep as a result of this post.  Feel free to bail now if you are prone to screaming or fainting at the sight of scary scenes because today’s topic is loaded with them.  Now, on the other hand, if you are a fan of Halloween as much as I am you will be quite happy!  We held our annual Halloween Party a couple of weeks back.  A staple for that event is the Haunted Trail that Paul R. and I create for the guests to enjoy .. if they dare.  Similar to last year’s trail (link here), the 2013 version was a definite labor.  On a previous post it was mentioned I ran the Screaming Pumpkin Marathon Relay (link here).  Taking two laps of that event puts me at the Half Marathon distance which closes out my race season for the year.  The details of that race can be obtained in that related post, but the key aspect of that race is that it ends at midnight which means we do not get back home until close to 1:30am.  The energy drain and the lack sleep w0uld be enough on its own, but the day after the race … or depending on how you look at it, the day the race ended, was the day of our party!  The week leading up to the day is spent making sure the house is ready to go, water is hauled to fill the well and the yard is ready for the bonfire.  This allows me to focus on building the Haunted Trail once the race is over.  To get everything done I need to start the process no later than 9am.  From 9 until 15 minutes before the party starts (5:30pm) I am pretty much on the go hauling the decorations into the woods, making sure all the danger areas are taped off, putting up the trail path lights and then crafting the trail experience.  This year Paul even came out earlier (1pm) to allow more time for setting up his decorations – pretty much tradition these days that we are finishing it off as the guests are starting to arrive.

Another tradition is each year we go bigger and bigger – last year we took the big step and added power to Paul’s side all the way down to the bridge.  Upping the game we added power to my side this year!   If this keeps up we just might have to start the day before (in the future we hope to pull if forward to get it away from the race and fit with our schedules better).  I took pictures of all the decorations along the trail both during the day and then tried to capture them again at night – used my camera phone so the pictures leave a lot to be desired .. although that might actually add to the spookiness.  Rather than overload this post with all the images, figured it would be better if I just highlighted the new elements of the trail.  Please visit the full gallery up on Smugmug to experience all the Haunted Trail has to offer (link here)  – note, they were placed in the reverse order as they appear on the Trail.   Additionally you can visit Paul’s website to see the pictures he was able to take (link here).

The pinnacle of the new decorations this year has to be the clown head.  Everyone knows by now I HATE CLOWNS.  My adage – the only good clown is a dead clown.  Turns out Halloween City must have taken this to heart because sure enough, they had a DEAD clown.  When Linda and came upon this while perusing the aisle, my eyes lit up.  There was no way we were going to pass up a decapitated clown with a meat hook through the skull.

Pretty creepy eh?  Not as terrifying as a real clown but still pretty creepy.  The next addition to the trail came from my parents.  They know of my affinity for this holiday and tend to pick up items they find that fit the bill.  Always appreciated their openness to my weird hobby.  The skull below actually glowed nicely in the night – oh, did I mention the Trail at night is nearly pitch black except for the decorations and small lights that outline the walking path?  The thick woods doesn’t let a lot of ambient light in which really enhances the experience.  You can actually see the stakes in the shot below – those have velcro on them that holds little LED nights.  I do not want anyone getting lost down there especially since it parallels a stream and this year the hedge apples were raining out of the trees – the path had to be rerouted from last year for the safety of the guests.

Hit the jump to see all the new decorations… unless you are scaaaarrrreeeedddd.

This was another gift that my parents gave me.  It was only about 4 inches tall, but it was the loudest decoration we put up.  It is motion sensored and will taunt the unsuspecting guests while the eyes blinked red and the mouth opens and closes.  This decoration ended up driving me nuts on the tear down since it didn’t have an off button – just kept screaming at me until I finally made it back up to the house and took the batteries out.

This hanging witch came from the Party Store – we were making the rounds and the Halloween City was just across the street making it convenient to catch them both.  These work really well in the woods since they are battery operated, hang nicely in the trees along the path and best of all… pack away nice and small.  The lights would flash on the witch .. think it might have made spooky sounds as well.

The skull on the right was obtained last year, the skull on the left was purchased from Menards this year – it is actually a mask but it held its shape nicely and it was on sale for only $6.  By the way, we only buy our decorations on sale – recommend not paying those full prices and instead catch them as they start marking them down for closeouts.  The best time is the week after Halloween – can load up on their clearances for next year!  These were lit up with colored strobes to provide a nice effect.

In somewhat of a travesty, the camera phone failed to capture the next decoration in all its glory.  Note to self, next year leave the phone in the pocket and use the real cameras.  At least you can see the shape of it. It stands about 6.5 feet tall and is loaded with lights underneath the white outfit.  The head, eyes and mouth all light up in different colors while it cycles through a variety of sayings… and .. wait for it .. even sings a full song – Who Can it Be Now by Men at Work only the words are changed to better fit the Halloween spirit.  The downside is it appears to be wearing a veil yet the voice is clearly male.  I guess it just adds to the overall scary experience.

Menard’s added some new groundbreakers this year and this one was calling my name.  The head actually rotates from side to side while it plays an old school horror movie jingle and taunts the guests.   I am hoping the batteries were just weak, but this dude’s motion/sound sensors were not working properly – basically had to resort to touching it while on our guided tours to get it to initiate.

Think the next hanging ghost came from Oriental Trading Company – a Halloween addicts best friend.  Probably spent $150 with them this year thanks to turning into a kid in a candy store while perusing their website.  As with the other decoration, the eyes light up red, but this one had them wrapped around the eye ball so it looked like spinning disks.  Don’t think it made any noise, but the eyes were easy to see in the darkness.

Below is another groundbreaker purchased from Oriental Trading Company.  The eyes on this one would flash in different colors.  The hands were a nice touch and had spikes in the end allowing me to stick them in the ground.  I like these elongated ones because it lets me wall off areas that might get confusing on the trail – in this case there was another trail on the other side that I didn’t want the guests to take.   Just noticed the giant hedge apple laying there – for those unfamiliar with these dangerous green balls, one unsuspecting whack on the top of the head would likely cause an unwanted nap.  Even after an hour of knocking these down (leveraging all those years pitching in Khoury League) you could still hear them thumping down off the trail path.

O.T.C came through again on the next item.  Nothing says Haunted Trail more than a bloody skull hanging by entrails.  It is actually just rubber, but it looked awesome when light was flashed on it.   My guess is this might have been the tears producing element of the Trail.  No stretch here, but this is one of the decorations that would likely go on the alternate trail next year.  Since it is just rubber was thinking of adding dripping red fluid to add to the effect – a strobe on that would hopefully produce the slaughter house rave effect in the movie Blade – sweeeet!

I picked this up a few days before the party during a Menards’ run.  It looked so sad and lonely on the shelf looking clearly disappointed no one wanted it for their home decor.  The second I picked it up that frown turned upside down.  Granted it didn’t have any lights, but the orange showed up well enough to know something was there prompting the flashlights to fully illuminate it – nothing like scaring yourself.

Yes, another purchase from O.T.C.  It was meant to sit on the ground, but oddly enough it only had one stump of an arm.  Decided I could work with it and used it as another path direction aid (as in go to the right).  The eyes were lit up in red and would slowly pulse on and off – it really needed some sound, but the price was right.  Doubt anyone caught the fact it was hanging from the tree by its neck – hehehe

I think the spider below came from Halloween City.  Paul has a nice set of spiders so figured I needed one to compete.  The nice thing about this one is the legs were made out of heavy wire allowing me to keep the spider levitated by poking the leg tips into the ground.  The skulls came from O.T. C. as well – they beige ones were just cheap paint covered foam, but the gray scull was a resin mold with a built in strobe.  That strobe didn’t throw enough light so put two standard strobes on the ground next to them which came out quite nice – I’ll probably keep adding skulls to the collection – ‘dem spideys gotta eat you know!

And of course my half of the trail begins with my new favorite decoration! (remember the pictures were organized backwards in the gallery and here).  This might have been hung a little high since some of the guests walked right by this and were surprised to see it in the pictures later.  May have to put a strobe in the tree pointed down at it to make sure our victims.. err. guests do not miss the experience.

Be sure and catch the gallery pictures from the gallery links above – they have the other decorations in the collection and more importantly have the night shots.  So, you might have guessed we did make one of the kids cry.  Kinda feel a little bad about that since we do not have to deal with getting them to go to bed (which will definitely take some extra work after a night on the trail) but secretly we consider this the best confirmation of our work hehehehe.  The grandfather followed up with us the next day to inform us that all she talked about on the way home was wanting to come back next year so no permanent damage done.  It should also be noted, that Sung’s kid Trevor picked MY side as the scariest side this year.  Last year I was shamed when he called out Paul’s half of the trail being scarier than mine and that will JUST NOT DO!  I thought of him every time I paid for another decoration this year.

Okay, time for some audience participation.  There was an incident in Halloween City this year .. umm actually make that outside of Halloween City in the parking lot.  We had finished making our purchases at the City and was headed over to the Party Store across the parking lot.  Being the nice person that I am I volunteered to run the packages out to the car so Linda could head directly over.  So I went to our white SUV Cherokee parked out a ways in the lot (far enough out to insure no dings from idiots).  It has the automatic handle unlocks as long as the VOB is with you – activated it and pulled – door didn’t open.  Thinking that was odd I pulled out the VOB and continually tried to open it from there – no luck.  Now I’m confused and again tried the auto unlocks to no avail.  Taking a gander inside something seemed slightly different – interior the same but it looked like somebody had broken in and put other people’s stuff on the dash and console.  WTF!?!  Then a flashback occurred and I took another scan of the parking lot.  OUR white SUV Cherokee was sitting one aisle away.  With some hesitant glances around and embarrassment covering the face I shuffled off to our car and put the packages in the without issue.  Figured this would be a difficult thing to admit to Linda IF it was deemed necessary to relate the story.  Guess what?  there was no need to tell Linda she.  She was closer to the store laughing her ass off at me.  Now you tell me ..  would you expect a loving wife to call out to you to politely inform you of an easily made mistake or would it be acceptable for her to watch you the ENTIRE time finding great humor at the expense of the individual who she is on tape declaring to honor and obey?  I still can’t believe it and like the event in my past will NEVER be forgotten.  For the curious, my brother Ron, his wife and I managed to walk out to my parents’ car while they continued shopping in a store – we got in the backseat, sat there for a few minutes before we individually came to the conclusion we were sitting in a vehicle that looked like my parents’, but NOT OWNED by them.  We slinked out and found the right car but we had quite the discussion on how that might have turned out – can you imagine the real owners coming out to their car to see three people they didn’t know sitting in the backseat – yikes! and as you know now, that experience has never been forgotten and it has been close to 30 years ago.

Hope you enjoyed the post – like Cub fans, just wait until next year!

3 thoughts on “The Trail of Tears – The Haunted Trail 2013”

  1. Very cool trail! I’ll have to make it next year–the problem is that it gets scarier every year.

    I still crack up after all these years thinking of us sitting in the back seat of that car for so long and the look on your face as we slowly realized we were in the wrong car. I also crack up thinking about how we dropped you off at the Physics building at the U of I when you were a student, and you walked up the stairs, opened the left door while watching a cute blonde walk out the other door, and walked right into the metal divider in the middle. I would like to say that we were concerned about you, but we were laughing too hard, frankly. And then later when we found out she said “Oh, sorry” to you afterwards. This, BTW, is why I don’t have a social blog.

    Reading your comment on Linda’s wedding vows, I thought of this comic strip from the paper today:

    Ron

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  2. Tell you what, if you come next year I’ll be sure and put in the “kiddie…” I mean “less scary” route you can take – but you are right, it does get scarier every year which is clearly our intent (already saw new stuff my partner in trail picked up and already excited).

    So you do remember that day in the store parking lot .. in the backseat of a stranger’s car. For me, a memory that ranks right up there with being woken up by a hand covering my mouth (and Linda wonders why I am such a light sleeper). The bad thing is twice since then and in fact one of those days was today, I tried to get in the wrong car. Want to guess how many of those times Linda was with me and chose NOT to tell me before I tried the door?… the answer is TWICE! She sure enjoys the laughs it brings her.

    On the U of I story.. I would like to make an official statement on that. That story is absolutely, positively, 100% certain….ummm… ummmm… TRUE. There, I admitted it. Yes, that did indeed happen to me and yes, she definitely apologized to me – I took it as “Sorry I’m so damn hot” as opposed to “Sorry you are such a dork”. I see an alarming trend here with people getting enjoyment out of my misfortunes. And whoever designed that damn Loomis building should get a stern talking to – why would you put a center post in a double swinging door. That is just asking for someone to inadvertently smack into it regardless of whatever distractions may be walking about.

    I can barely remember back that far now (hehehe) but I think Linda made some statement similar to the comic on the alter .. but somehow that didn’t make it onto the tape .. funny how those electronic gizmos mess up like that at the darndest times.

    Thanks for the comment – wow, you are on fire as of late

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  3. It was less than three weeks ago when I was struggling trying to get my key to work in my car door in a parking lot when a lady came up and told me it was her car. So it still happens to me–very embarrassing. And yes, Eilish and I revisit the story of sitting in the back seat of that car every once in a while, an epic event.

    Ron

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