Bringing you the second of the three part Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears. Last post I took you behind the scenes to give you a feel for what it takes to prepare for the event. Putting all the props together, getting them staged out on the trails and then the creativity phase of actually placing and building up the scenes. Today we are going to focus on what we call the Day Walk. Once everything is built I like to go through and take shots of the trail before the sun goes down. It takes on an entirely different feel once darkness falls which will be shown in the final post of this series. Note, due to the dramatic change that occurs, some guests actually prefer to experience the trail during the light in order to minimize the trauma and nightmares ha!
It is hard to really express how big the trail is. I keep reminding myself to calculate how long the walk is with all the offshoot paths etc. Each year that gets forgotten ugh. Our guests are probably more interested in the elevation change as it actually sits in a valley requiring both a healthy walk down and then an admittedly difficult walk back up. Although Linda and I discuss options every year to mitigate this (elevators, ATV shuttles, tow ropes..) there doesn’t seem to a viable resolution, although the idea of elevators sounds pretty cool hehehe.
Hit the jump to see a good representation of this year’s Haunted Trail of Tears.
What you are looking at here is the downhill portion (images taken shooting up the hill). Mentioned this in the last post, but for reference, the trail is set up to get scarier as you progress. The blowups are kid friendly and make up most of the early parts – they also have the benefit of producing a lot of light that is helpful to navigate down the hill.
You will notice some of the caution tape we put up to help keep our guests safe, especially in the dark. It is a large forest and with that setting comes natural dangers – drop offs and the two streams that cross through can bite you if you are not familiar with where those are. The caution tape provides added protection to help our guests avoid those pitfalls.
The witch circle got an upgrade this year. The glass bulb covers were just too fragile to continue using on the trail. Getting them on and off the trail was a pain and a few of them already experienced some cracks. Managed to find a set of plastic globes with built in lighting that worked perfectly. A bit pricey compared to the glass globes, but having the plastic versions made it a whole lot easier to setup – they also have a controller to change the colors with a variety of display modes.
We put them on phase mode so they would slowly cycle through the different colors
Added a new animated cat this year. The eyes light up and the head moves back and forth. Funny thing about this prop, each one gets its manufacture supplied sensor replaced with our proprietary heat sensor. This is the first prop that has acted a bit strange – the sensors have an off switch on them, but it would not shut off the prop – it kept responding non-stop for the three days. The batteries lasted so not a big issue, but need to figure out what is going on with that.
No shortage of witches in our woods.
Picked this dragon skeleton up at Target this year. Thought it would be a nice addition to the dragon scene.
Now I have the dragon skull, the full dragon skeleton and the dragon hatching out of the egg – the multi-colored prop toward middle of the image. Getting my own little homage to Game of Thrones going on here.
More of the wider images of the trails. This area gets pretty dark so we added the red spotlights on the right to help illuminate the prop and more importantly give a bit more ambient light to this darker area.
Still in the tamer area so the props we picked were more subdued.
Here is a view shooting back the way we came – didn’t realize when I placed the red lights there how much it would look like fire.
This has to be the brightest blowup I have ever seen. This is from Paul’s collection and outfitted with LEDs vs the older bulbs giving a lot more pop. We specifically put this prop here to give extra light as there is a short bridge you have to cross with a step down and step back up. The one area we tell everyone to be extra cautious with, especially when it is wet out as the bridge will get quite slick.
Ron brought us his garden fencing down this year. Turned out to be a great addition to the graveyard and to the entrance to the 360 open area. Of course, we had to give it that certain Halloween touch.
I always put this shot in the Halloween posts as it is the first prop we made for our trail. Basic PVC structure that has never failed us and still looks good out in the dark.
Standing in the middle of the 360 open area. We are never able to capture the key detail in this area which are the thousands of green lights that are lasered into the tree canopy. If there is one thing we hear about the trail every year, it is these laser lights.
The open area typically has all the spider related props which dangle from the various trees.
Like the skeletons, the spiders allow us to bring out our creative side .. or should I say our creepy demonic side hehehe. Each year we add more spiders to the point now the woods are beyond a level of complete infestation.
Zooming out a bit to give a wider perspective.
Speaking of skeletons.
Just in case you didn’t make it through the previous post, this was one of my favorite scenes this year. Nothing says Halloween like a boy and his hungry dog.
A view down Paul’s primary path on the trail. He dusts his props with UV reflective paints so they really glow in the dark forest. You can see his black light floods pointed at the props on the left side of the image.
One of Paul’s new props this year was the deathly twins. Wow, was this creepy – the girls would move their heads and give some horrific comments – scary as hell even in the daytime.
Another of Paul’s props keeping tabs on all who pass.
Once past Paul’s path, there is a cross over to get back to the main path through the trail. Usually we have a flaming pumpkin at the end of this part, but the weather didn’t cooperate with us this year so we opted to leave that out – there’s another flaming pumpkin at the end of the trail so we still had that for people to enjoy.
This was the second year for Ned, my spider skeleton. Last year he broke at the very end of the night – luckily everyone had been through by then. This year he got a makeover with a much more reliable structure for the motor that spins the girl in the webbing – worked perfectly!
The Grim Reaper is another prop that has been with us from nearly the beginning. Still looks good after all these years and has become the Walmart greeter for the zombie/demon area of the trail.
We are definitely getting into the more adult section of the trail – figure demons sacrificing dismembered female bodies to the Underlord might give the younger crowd a few nightmares even during the day.
This path through the zombie/demon area can be easily bypassed by concerned parents. The way it is laid out you can simply go left or right around this section entirely and it is likely any kid would not even know it was there.
One of the zombie Posey lines having a bit of a supper before the long night.
I didn’t have enough Poseys built for all the masks we picked up during the year. Didn’t want to waste them as they were really nice full masks so sent Linda out to pick up a few extra foam heads – painted them black and stuck them on a pole to display the mask. Simply placed them out in the woods for a creepy effect.
Unfortunately, this next prop stopped working right before the event started. Getting the trek down into the woods was too hard on it and the servos came off their holders. It worked really well last year and was looking forward to seeing its random head and torso movements. It is currently in my lab getting an upgrade so it is more dependable next year.
This witch was planning to have some baby soup for dinner that night.
Another of Paul’s props – the dead Beatles – he acquired some movie quality frozen head props and knew I was no fan of the fab four. He added background music by slowing down some actual Beatles songs that fit the scene perfectly.
More heads on a stick scene – this one had an executioner theme. Panning out a bit to get a full path view.
A fuller view of the trail.
Another Posey dressed up in a ghoul costume. The running joke on this one is it looks like a ghoulish nun bringing up bad memories from my early education years.
This was the scarecrow area. That’s Paul’s prop on the right. He purposely put the head and baby in its lap and would dare guests to go touch it. What they didn’t know is the scarecrow had a mechanism that would lunge at them whenever you triggered the sensor.
Clown in a Box was back on the trail this year. I improved the animation on this prop earlier in the year to give it a more controlled rotation. Last year we had to set the speed to a dangerous level to get it to overcome the friction in the base – if the guests got too close they could be hit with the widely spinning pole/head. The new mechanism worked great this year, although the letter ‘D’ fell off the box – the other side has an ‘I’ – you can figure out what it says hehehe.
My first Posey ever was the following clown. There are several lines of the Poseys now, each one with newer features. Might upgrade this to the latest features for next year, but it still brings the frights in its original configuration.
Especially when backlit with a red flood light.
Next up is Hugz the Clown. Well over 7′ tall, this clown puts out of shape to an art. Definitely a guest favorite and probably the number one selfie point in the trail – the glowing head witches being number two.
Have I ever mentioned I am deathly afraid of clowns – a perfectly normal fear I might add.
People always ask me if I hate clowns, why do you live in an area with so many clowns in the woods?…..I respond “target practice!”.
My mother gave me this clown for the trail – she gets me ha.
Okay, now for one of the most horrifying props on the trail this year. Paul converted his Herman Munster prop from last year into Pennywise from the movie IT. The movie that clearly shows why my fear of clowns is NOT irrational.
I basically avoided this prop all night. Imagine having to go past this clown with clips from the movie playing in the background. This is why parents are clearly told they are accountable for their children’s emotional well being after the trail. I nearly went catatonic when I had to go down and turn it on for the second and third night.
Pennywise was the last prop before entering the graveyard area. You can see how well Ron’s new fence sections fit into the overall scene.
As you would expect, there were plenty of zombies patrolling this area.
You can also tell it was starting to get darker in the woods. It was still light out, but the tree canopy keeps a lot of that out, especially when the sun falls past the treeline in the valley.
We repurposed my best articulated skeleton for this year’s new featured prop. Luckily Paul had a full size skeleton I could use for my dog chasing scene.
Here is what it looks like from the other side – can see the skeleton dog a little better (and see the light past the trees)
Some of the stones I built for the graveyard – the one in the middle is for Dracula complete with the raising Nightwing behind it. The one on the right is for Alford B. Bach complete with ground grabber.
Doing a bit of backtracking now. If you choose to take the direct path (avoiding the more adult areas), there are still plenty of props to keep you entertained.
Skulls of all shapes and sizes, many of them with some form of animation when you walk by the heat sensor triggers.
The lunging witch was a big hit again this year. She was an after Halloween item picked up on clearance from Home Depot – we rarely pay full price for any commercial props. Always hit the Halloween sections after the 31st to get some great deals for next year’s trail.
Same with this backlit ghoul. The face actually looks black until the animation is triggered revealing a scary ghoul.
A pullback from the direct path to the graveyard – watch out for those wolves!
You can actually see the entrance to the clown area in the back of this shot – that is the red floodlight that was lighting up the clown Posey.
I warned you about the wolves! This was a new prop for this year. I already had the skeleton wolf towards the back of the shot two above – was at Big Lots and decided I had to have the zombie version. Linda could see I wanted it and finally just told me to go ahead and get it now instead of taking a chance that it would be gone before clearance – she gets me too hehehe.
Another longtime prop on the trail is the dancing skeleton bride. Think this is one of the first big purchased props we added. Might have to swap out the manufacturer’s trigger system for next year. It was having problems sensing as people moved past it. Likely having issues with the damp weather we were having – our proprietary sensors are much more reliable.
Ron got me this very nice metal sign last year – wait, has that damn clown been by here?!?
Once you make you way up from the valley, you can take in one of the last elements of the trail – the Headless Horseman. Back from its debut last year, this prop continues to get huge compliments from our guest. Complete with an undead horse, a Headless Posey figure and for dessert a flaming pumpkin. Due to safety reasons we like to keep an eye on this prop so it is placed up where we can see it from the house. Don’t need to be putting a damper on the event by burning down the woods or having some kid get burned. Last year some of the guests left early and didn’t get to see the flaming pumpkin. Always trying to improve, we carved out two pumpkins for each night so we could light one earlier and still have one for the late arriving guests. Kudos to Linda for carving the first two pumpkins.
Now for the premium prop for 2020. I worked on this prop off and on for a solid year and it still took a tremendous amount of help from Ron to get it to the trail in time. Most of the year was spent on the coffin and figuring out how to control the servos with Arduino. It didn’t really start to come together until two weeks before the party when Ron came down and we spent all weekend trying to get it to work. Add in some more hard work the night before the event and finally it was ready to make its debut.
I’ll have a full project post on this year’s new props, but from a quick description, the skeleton pulls the coffin lid open and then the skeleton inside pops out and waves to everyone before going back inside. The outside skeleton completes the animation by closing the coffin back up.
I was shocked as to how well this prop worked! The only feature I didn’t get done is the skeleton in the coffin was supposed to be waving a flag that announced my retirement. No worries, word traveled fast without the flag. This prop is currently in the lab getting some enhancements so it is a bit more durable for next year. There are a lot of moving elements to this prop that have to be aligned just right for it to work and I want to make some changes that will make it easier to get it staged next year.
Well, that’s the Day Walk for the 2020 version of the Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears. Keep in mind, that is just a small snapshot of the overall trail. Hope you enjoyed reading/seeing what it looked like under light – stay tuned as I hope to bring you the Night Walk post soon – might need to sleep with the lights on after that one hehehe.