The Trail of Tears 2017 – The Prep

The decorations are all put away and all of this year’s Halloween prop tutorials have been written and published on the blog.  There is just one more thing to put a bow on this year’s Trail of Tears Haunted Trail – the walk through!  Oops, to be more accurate there are just three more things to do. The trail itself has grown so big that it takes two posts to get through it even covering just the highlights.  In addition, I like to add a behind the scenes post just to give a feel for what goes into this whole ordeal.  This is that very post.  Unlike last year (link here).  We really didn’t get a lot of pictures during the prep phase – mainly due to the fact we were incredibly busy trying to get everything ready to go.  Thankfully, my brother Ron, my friends in Haunt Paul and Brad along with another good friend Sung (not a haunter, but gracious enough to help us out in our time of need) all helped get this pulled off.  My help came the weekend before to get the props put together, batteries tested and inserted, the extension cords laid out on the trail and Ron completed all the heat sensor circuits for the new decorations.  Like last year, the basement was completely full of props by the time we got everything put together.  This included all the new Posey frames that needed to be dressed!  Linda was also insisting our mess (as she referred to it as) was out of the basement.  Didn’t exactly meet her goal, but thanks to everyone’s help, we moved 90% of the trail props to our staging area in the external garage – imagine an entire stall covered from front to back, left to right with Halloween props.  The one shot I did find from the garage on build day was late in the process and most of the items were already hauled out to the trail.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

One of the tasks that was delayed way too long was finishing up the Zombies.  Brad and I had talked a long time about what to do about properly lighting theses new props.  The lights were attached to the back, but without something for those beams to bounce off of, the glowing silhouette effect wouldn’t materialize.  One Idea was to put black sheeting behind them – attached to a PVC frame so they would free stand.  Our initial tests of this concept didn’t pan out as well as expected.   Brad came up with the idea to put silver (furnace) tape behind it and fold it out so it would extend past the cutouts and reflect the light that way.  He also taped up most of the first one until we ran out – had to drop by Home Depot to pick up a few more rolls that Ron and I put on less than two hours before the guests were scheduled to arrive (cutting it way to close).

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Hit the jump to read more about how our annual haunted trail comes to be!

Now this looks like a recipe for fun!  Paul cuts up the pumpkin and brings the kerosene to light that Jack up.    Probably a good time to point out that a portion of the build time is spent putting up the caution tape.  I joke to people that like every line in the warning section of a product manual, every stretch of caution tape is there due to a close call in the past.  By now, we know the areas that might pose a threat (however small) to our guests.  Those areas are clearly marked to make sure everyone has a fun and SAFE time out in the woods.  Clearly a flaming pumpkin is one of those areas best kept a safe distance away from our guests.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

This year, I took two days off from work to focus on getting the trail ready.  Normally I take only one, but Linda threatened me with bodily harm if I wasn’t done with the trail and at the house to greet the guests when they arrived.  Having an extra day would take care of that (shoulda woulda …).  At least this year I didn’t have to build a bridge (link here).  Spent the first day mowing the upper and lower woods areas.  Trimmed everything as well – solid 6 hours of work starting at 8am.  That left me Friday to start getting what I could out on the trail.  Big thanks to Brad for coming out that afternoon and helping put decorations up – first year we have every put decorations up a whole day early.  Brad was in charge of the skeleton prep this year – he’s a natural!

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

I didn’t realize how hilarious this stage was until working up the images for this post.  Some of my skeletons have been through some tough times – Brad was able to adapt in very clever ways.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

And of course my favorite pose – A man and his best friend enjoying a night out in the woods.  Ron pointed out a very interesting flaw in all the animal skeletons I have – a flaw not seen in the standard human skeletons.  From an anatomy perspective, does anything seem odd to you with the regards to the little dog?  Hint, something shouldn’t be there.  Figure it out yet?  Ironically, the issue happens to be the part that gives it the most curb appeal – the ears.  They are cartilage, not bones and like the human skeleton, shouldn’t be visible at that stage in their decay.  Still, that is what makes it soooo cute, so glad they took liberties there.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

One of the amazing things about the trail is that it powers off a single outlet at the house.  Pull that one plug and the entire trail powers down.  Not sure how much longer we will be able to do that.  All the wiper motors and standard electric plugged items are starting to add up.  We will keep a close watch on that next year.  Here is one of the new decorations making its debut in the graveyard.  As mentioned in the tutorials (link here), this prop experienced some problems over the course of the night, but worked flawlessly for a while.
Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Another new prop for this year’s trail.  As with most of the purchased new props for this year, this one was acquired on sale as the pop up Halloween boutique stores were rolling up the carpet.  Ron was able to get this one situated in the trees.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Already covered the Free Hugs Clown prop in a previous tutorial as well (link here). The traversal from the staging are in the garage to the destination on the trail can be a rough one.  Have to traverse a steep hill, a bridge and then the bumpy trail – by the time the decs get to the spot, they sometimes look like they’ve spent the night on a bender.
Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Thanks to Ron for getting these build pictures.  By now, I’ve had very little sleep the entire week.  Still have a big smile due to seeing my vision materialize – tends to look even better when the decorations are situated in the recesses of the dark trail.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

All together now!  Once again, Brad came through with an easy solution for holding the sign.  There was a potential weight issue with the sign stake.  Brad’s idea was to just hook it to a dark pole and place the arm on it.  Can’t see the support pole thanks to it being so dark down there – worked awesome.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Hugs is up, but no time to rest – the other Posies needed to be tightened up and situated.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

This particular area and the path right in front of it were the adult areas – the decorations here tend to take on a more mature theme not really suitable for the younger more impressionable minds.  Parents are always reminded of the golden rule – they are responsible for how far they take their children down the trail – the more you go, the deeper the nightmares will be.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Here we have another new decoration for this year – the High Priest Demon (link here).  Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was all the horror books I read when I was in grade school, maybe I’m just not right – either excuse, the end product is the same.  A legless and armless corpse sacrifice to the guardians of hell is damn creepy.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Seemed logical to me that his assistant, the Druid Demon would want to keep things neat and tidy after the sacrifice.  Those poseable hands really came in handy (see what I did there – I crack myself up).

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

I was able to locate a new lantern for my grave watchman.  Linda stole my first one because she wanted to use it as a decoration inside the house.  My new one was spotted on a visit to Home Depot.  It would light up with spooky sounds, but the fact it was super light was the key selling feature.  In the back, the smoldering zombie was a new prop Ron bought for my Christmas present last year (super cool).  Once again, the Grim Reaper was guarding the entry to this ghastly area.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Two more new props for this year’s trail.  The Dancing Zombie in the background  was already covered in detail on a previous post (link here).  The horrendous sight you see in the foreground is thanks to a spur of the moment idea Brad and I had.  There was an extra Posey frame laying around just begging to be utilized.  It was a smaller version that happened to fit a small clown costume picked up post Halloween last year.  This Posey frame already had the female foam structure built into it – the first female clown to make their presence on the trail.  The associated mask was somewhat male, but it looked totally demonic when we put it on the frame – yep, this was a keeper.   The morning of the event, Ron helped me to pour foam into allowing it to look more realistic.  It kept sliding off of the foam head used in our first design.  Beginning to think Brad might be as warped as I am.  He recommended putting a bat in her hands in honor of Harley Quinn.  Somewhere in the deep recesses of insanity, the idea came that she would be striking the decapitated head from the Hugs the Clown prop like a tee ball.  Opted against that at the last moment, I’d have to face a lot my guests the next day at work hehehehe.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Next up, prepping the clown that started it all – the first attempt at a PVC Posey frame and the first time I would have to face my darkest fears on the trail.  My therapist is brimming with satisfaction when seeing how well I handled my fears with all these clownspawn.
Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

On the other hand, she didn’t realize this gave me the chance to get hands on with my fears – my what a fragile neck you have.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Holy Crap, IT’S ALLLIIIIIIVVVVVE!

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Now, you tell me – if you came into contact with this creature in the middle of the night in a dark and forbidding woods, would you need a clothing change!?!

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

How about another shot just to make sure you will never sleep again.  I hope there isn’t any typos in this post, definitely not going to go back and reread this post and relive this godawful experience.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Slowly the trail started taking shape.  This is a large open area halfway down the path.  This represents the transition from the less spooky first half of the trail to the more serious spooks on the second half.  This is also where the guests get their first exposure to the laser show that bathes all the trees with green lights.  Neither pictures or words can do that scene justice.  The easiest prop to implement (simply stake the unit in the ground) is the one that gets the buzz from our guests all night long.   Kudos to Paul for thinking that one up.

Behind the Scenes on the Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Unfortunately, that is all the pictures I was able to round up from the prep stages (again, most of these were taken by Paul and Ron during the course of the day).   Hope you enjoyed a sneak peek into all the work that goes into the relatively few hours that make up our annual Haunted Trail.  Stay tuned, the night walk through is next on the post queue.  For the record, I was STILL and hour past when the guests started arriving before the trail was ready to go.  That even included leaving the task of getting the batteries in the heat sensors and turning on the props to Ron, Paul, Brad and some early arriving guests (Amy and John).

4 thoughts on “The Trail of Tears 2017 – The Prep”

  1. Nice description of the prep work! And a nice sequence with the crimson clown. That Free Hugs guy was the most popular from what I could tell–people were taking pictures with it. (Perhaps it was not as scary as might be predicted…). The demons holding the dismembered body parts was definitely the most twisted display, speaking as someone who added a red gel over a light to cast a bloody glow over them in the dark.

    I don’t think anyone not involved with this realizes the amount of work required to create and tear down the Haunted Trail. If my phone battery hadn’t died while setting up down there I would have taken many more pics.

    About that expanding foam in the Harlequin head that I helped you with. Some of that got on my fingernails, and it was literally 3 weeks before it would come off my fingernail. I could not scrape if off no matter what I did. Amazing stuff. Scary.

    Ron

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    1. Thanks – for my first effort with Posies, the creepiness of that crimson clown is holding up to the test of time. I honestly thought Hugs would have a bigger effect on the guests – clearly selfies next to it signals a need to up the anti on the horror aspects although holding a severed head seems like it would have been enough – maybe they didn’t see that ha I did like the red cast on the demon – you did that for the zombie eating the corpse heart last year and that worked out equally well. I didn’t know you got your fingers in that stuff (although think I warned you about that). I actually got some of that on the outside of a mask I was building (leaked out an eye hole) – tried everything I could to get it of – not happening so just painted over it with some black – hard to tell small flaws like that in the dark. I can’t wait until next year – already started work on new props

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  2. Howdy Brad (a partner in haunt)! Yep, the Halloween production is already in full gear thanks to some cool Christmas gifts from Linda. My dancing zombie is getting some improvements along with the new grabber. A few tweaks to those designs should have them working flawlessly next October. Also working on some cool arduino stuff which should bring a new scarier element to the decorations – there will be tears hehehe. Thanks for stopping by!

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