A Nightmare Before Christmas

We are fast approaching the end of the year and starting to panic that I am not going to get to all the posts I need to – well, for clarity, that I need to in order to come out with decent end of year stats.  One of the big image count generators for the season is the annual Halloween Haunted Trail event.  By now it seems like the cookout was way more than 3 months ago, but when you take into account the planning, building and execution of that night takes its course over the entire year it seems a lot longer.  As tradition goes around here at Life Intrigued, I plan on giving you some background on the prep, walk you through the key elements of the trail and then a quick post on the tiring tear down.  Being that we are only a few hours away from the fat guy invading our homes, figured it was fitting to channel Tim Burton and his Nightmare Before Christmas. – Hey, where is all the woke body shaming outrage with this guy over the years?

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Thankfully we now have a large out building to stage all the decorations. Granted the basement still has its share of the decoration build spillage, but at least we have a place to temporarily store the assembled decorations before we haul them down to the trail.  As you can tell, there are a lot of elements required to get the decorations in a state where they are ready for the trek down – and yes, alcohol is essential.  At first it doesn’t seem that bad…

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Hit the jump to read about all the work that goes into setting up the Haunted Trail of Tears!

… but the closer we get to the party date, things start piling up.  Not to mention, there are still new decorations that need extensive work before their maiden reveal – the new tombstones were in various stages of completeness throughout the week – if you saw my tutorial on the tombstones (link here), you will notice that we are only a few days away and the Myra Maynes marker still doesn’t have the centerpiece skull done.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Basically the entire right set of shelves is full of tubs containing the decorations for the trail.  My friend in Haunt and his son (Brad and Ryan) came over a couple of weeks ahead of time and helped unload most of the tubs and install the required batteries.  Once batteries inserted, mechanism test and associated heat sensor tested, they were put back in tubs for easier transport to the bottom of the hill – the finished tubs and decorations were placed on the back shelving to keep them out of the way.  From there the next step was to start putting all the Posies together.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Oh, should probably point out something real quick – If you look on the table on the left side you will see a clear tub.  That was my ingenious solution to a problem I had last year where a few of the decorations didn’t get their sensor batteries added.  Every time we completed testing a sensor, we removed the 9V battery and placed it in the tub.  That way we would know exactly how many decorations we had to put sensor batteries in – if there were batteries left in the tub, then there were still items on the trail that needed attention.

It is a reunion of sorts for the Posies since they only get to see each other a couple of weeks a year.  Here they are catching up on old times – “Did you see last year when that little girl thought I was funny and wanted her picture taken next to the Free Hugs sign? – unbelievable, that girl is going to need help in the future”.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Two days before the event, I finally got the new foam skull sprayed up with rock textured paint, lit and added to the tombstone.  You can also start to tell exhaustion was setting in.  I took off of work two days this year (instead of the usual one) in recognition of how much work needed to be done to get the trail completed this year – before you ask, no, it STILL WASN’T enough time.  Thankfully, I had a lot of extra help this year with Ron (who came down from Chicago multiple times), Brad who came over multiple times, Sung and this year Andreas who all put a lot of work in as well – and of course my partner in scream Paul R. who was busy planning, building and testing his own contributions to the trail.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Just like family (below).  It is always fun to see the different Posey versions that go back several years.  The hard to see little dude all in black in the front is one of the first ones I made, the burned out guy my arm is around was a couple of years ago and the demon behind him (with the fuller chest) was last year’s model (along with Hugs the Clown on the right).

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Here’s a better shot of the Posey staging..  The mask on the Posey in the middle was new this year – Linda bought it for me for my Valentine’s Day gift (my wife gets me hehehehe).  Notice it does not have any pants.  The Clown in the Box container was put together along with the Graveyard Searcher (in the back).  Unfortunately, we ran out of time and we were not able to get that Searcher animated prop out on the trail this year – super bummed about that since it took a lot of hours to get functioning.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Notice anything missing in the shot below – other than the zombie pants of course… if you said the staged decorations you are correct – those were all hauled out to the trail by then.  By now I was really starting to feel how tired I was.  Ron and I were up past 4am putting the finishing touches on some new decorations and it was essentially my 3 days with less than 3-4 hours of sleep each.  Fortunately, this is a labor of love so still sporting a smile for Ron’s prep pictures.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

I should probably point out that Ron took these last few pictures probably in the 1-2am time-frame.  Ron was finishing up adding sensors to all the new decorations we picked up at after Halloween clearance sales along with some of the splurge additions we made this year – the dragon skeleton above was one of those high priced additions.  Ron picked me up that Gargoyle from Home Depot to use with my new Nightwings.  That thing was super cool and surprisingly heavy.  Decided around 1am that it needed a nice pedestal to sit on so whipped one up using some scrap wood I had laying around.  Add carpenter to the Haunted Trail skill requirements.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Stepping back in time a bit, here we are transporting the staged decorations down to the trail.  Some of the decorations cannot handle the bumpy travel down the big hill and need to be carried by hand – that’s my friend from work (Andreas) taking on the task of getting the Demon down – not an easy task, the new Posey’s are definitely heavy and they have to be hauled over 800ft down a large hill – add being in shape as another Haunted Trail skill requirement.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

There are few items that are not mechanical and can handle the extra jostling from the ATV.  The ATV is an essential element of the build process.  The large vehicles cannot make it over the bridge spanning a 13ft deep and 15ft gully wash stream, so the ATV allows us to get the items closer to their position on the trail. Ron was busy documenting the toll this effort puts on my body (note, this event comes right after a series of 4 half marathons in the course of about 6 weeks, so the body is already starting more fatigued than normal).  Did I mention the trail is a labor of love!?!

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

This next shot is a bit deceiving – much like shots of ski slopes, the hill is a lot steeper than it appears.  Added to the hassle this year, we put in a new well and the pipes were dug in right down the middle of our path.  Thankfully, Linda bought me a new off-road capable truck this year to replace the one I damaged building the trail the year before (damn trees!!).

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Ron wanted to capture the new beast of burden in its natural setting – even had it raised up to traverse the bumpy path.   If you are thinking about getting a new vehicle, I highly recommend the Dodge Ram Rebel – one sweet ride and perfect for any haunted trail building you might plan on doing.  Looking at these shots, I have to compliment myself on my fill in job – a backhoe put in a 1ft wide trench about 5 feet down all the way from the new well head to the house (600ft+), to help speed up the process and insure the worst part was done for the party, I ended up working the skid steer – always interesting to operate one of your company’s babies!

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Here’s Brad helping to put the decorations out on the trail.  Not only did Brad come out with his kid a week before, he even came out early on the day of the party to set up before going back to his house, picking up his wife and heading back for the party – he lives over 40 minutes away – very appreciative and you can tell he likes Halloween as much as I do. – Thanks again Brad.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

The Graveyard is starting to take shape with all the new headstones and additional props.  Brad’s specialty is staging skeletons and you will see a lot of his handy work in upcoming posts as well as a start of one in the shot below.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Should probably mention it take a number of hours to make sure the trail is safe.  This was especially important this year with all the digging that occurred from the well.  Every year we get a little better, a little safer – we do not want any of our friends or family injured while enjoying the trail (plus we live a loooong way from a hospital).  More big stuff making its way down the hill.  You can see the Gargoyle stand in the truck along with the zombie profiles that had a makeover this year.  The forms in the front form the base of the witches’ circle.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

The new Nightwings were the last things Ron and I completed at 4am.  Testing out the new stand and making sure the wings are operating correctly – all new technology and linkages in those wings that took a lot of time to figure out (worked on them since March).  Ron’s gargoyle is looking cool – me, starting to look fatigued.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

The man of the hour!  Can’t thank Ron enough for spending so much time helping me throughout the year, answering all my prop questions, advising on my wiring issues, assisting in the prop builds and the man responsible for designing and wiring up just about all the heat sensors that puts the scare in the trail.  Always a plus when you have smarter brothers!

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

More shots from the setup – you met Brad earlier, to the right is Paul who brings out his huge collection of Halloween items to add to the experience.  He is afflicted with the same Halloween disease I am and has been with me since the beginning of this whole trail thing.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

“Hey Skeli, see if you can catch this pumpkin”

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Here are few wide shots along the trail.  We have the luxury of having a very large wooded lot so the trail has plenty of room to grow.  If nothing else, you get some exercise in before grazing on all the great food everyone brings to share.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Now, the big question is whether the new helpers will volunteer next year ha!  Andreas enjoys the trail and was eager to help out this year – definitely appreciate the assist!

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

An old favorite.  For my first Posey, the Slasher Clown has stood the test of time.  I might give him some upgrades next year, but at night this dude is damn scary – but then again. ALL clowns are damn scary.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

… especially the big ones…unless you are a 5 year old girl in which case they are fun to get your pictures next to.  One of these years I will get tears… one of these years.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

The sun is dropping below the tree line and the darkness is starting to set in.  This is when Bri goes into panic mode – so much to do, so little time left before the guests arrive.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Adding to the stress is the annual pre-event promise to Linda to be done with the trail at least one hour before the guests arrive.  Honestly, this is the goal, but it never works out that way – never.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Oh no, the guests are arriving.  We recommend parents with small or easily frightened children to come early and take in the trail before it gets dark.  Once the sun goes down, it gets extremely black down there – being out in the country there is very little ambient light beyond the moon and the dark rain clouds were doing a good job of keeping that covered the entire night.  Should probably mention this is the tamer part of the trail.  The first part has all the blowups and kid friendlier items, that portion then opens up into this more open area which has a number of decorations but most noted for having a billion green lights bouncing underneath the tree canopy – words cannot properly depict how amazing that looks and one of the items we get the most compliments on – all Paul’s work.  From there, the trail slowly changes into some pretty hellish scenes.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Paul also brought his new blowup dragon he picked up last year.  Really cool, but so big he ended up putting it on top at the start of the trail.  That position also kept it out of the thorny brush that inhabits a lot of our woods.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2018 - The Prep

Well, that’s the rundown for the prep phase of the Haunted Trail.  In case you are wondering, my tub idea for the batteries did not work out as planned. We still missed decorations, many of which we got to over the course of the night, but a few didn’t get the chance to scare our visitors – still confused why that didn’t work.  Check back soon for the nighttime walk-through.

 

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