Getting to crunch time. We are now officially under 8 months to Halloween and we still have LOTS to do to get ready for the 2022 Haunted Trail of Tears event (link here). Just realized I didn’t post the detail shots for that event – will get on that stat. Right now I wanted to focus on one of the props I built for last year’s haunt. Technically it is an “upgraded” of a prop that was several years old.
I had designed two Nightwings (link here) and was looking for a clever way to incorporate them into the haunt. Ron found this really cool Gargoyle at Home Depot and bought it for me to use with one of the wings. That heavy resin prop already came with wings so we just tried to cover them up. I also whipped up a stand the night before that year’s event to hold the Gargoyle and the mechanical wings. Trust me, it did look better at night.
After looking at for a couple of years, decided it was time to give it the presentation it deserved – the black plastic tablecloth covering didn’t fit the high standards we set for the trail. Bring on Project Cemetery Sentry.
Doesn’t that look a lot better!?! Thought I would walk you through the effort involved with the transformation.
Hit the jump for more details on the ’21 addition to the prop collection.
The previous stand I quickly put together that first year was made out of 2x4s I had laying around and a piece of particle board left over from building my shelves. As far as stands go, I was pretty proud of it – especially having zero plans and just building it on the fly in like 35 minutes. Plan was to keep that intact and simply add a rock/brick facade. First tool required was a drill and spade bit.
I used the same concept I developed for the Coffin prop (link here). Check that out for details on the best way to cut the insulation foam and a much deeper dive into how the foam connectors work. I used the 1/2 inch beige PVC for the fastener system and needed a spade bit just slightly wider than the PVC diameter. Once the size was determined, I then drilled a hole at every corner to hold the foam panels. The front facing panels had a hole drilled in the middle of each end. Note, the front and back holes went all the way through the 2×4, where the sides were drilled into the long end of the 2×4 and only about an inch deep. I then glued in PVC pipe so it was flush with the front and back of the 2×4 for the front panels and just matched the depth of the hole on the sides.
I then inserted my 3D printed center punch points into each hole (see the other tutorial linked above for more details on that). Foam panels were then cut to cover the wood stand. Two large panels for the front, two skinnier panels for the sides, one to cover the top and then thin boards that would go on the fronts of the horizontal supports all the way around the top and the bottom.
Each panel was then placed in their mounting position and pressed against the centering points. This put an indentation exactly in the middle of the connecting PVC, giving a perfect match where the corresponding PVC pipe had to be positioned in the foam panel itself.
Next up, I cut PVC pipes that were just long enough to go about 2/3rds into the foam – believe I was using 2″ foam panels – it is critical that the pipe does not extend out past the foam – shorter is okay. It is also best if you cover the ends of the pipe that go into the foam. I 3D printed caps (that is what the PVC glue was for), but duct tape would also work – basically keeps the foam glue from clogging up the pipe. The process for creating the holes in the foam are detailed in that other link as well.
You may have noticed I had lined out the foam panels to give it a bricked look. Took me awhile to get the dimensions the way I wanted it. The brick thickness was set by the panels that covered the side horizontal supports – so it looked like it was just one brick width overlapping. The other dimension of the brick was a bit more difficult because I wanted it to wrap smoothly around the entire stand and the thickness of the brick would be shown on the sides of the front and back panels. Once that was figured out, it was just a matter of drawing the brick outlines on the fronts of each panels.
There were a number of options considered to produce the mortar lines. Easiest would be to just heat up a metal rod and lay it along the horizontals and then take a smaller hot rod to do the up and down joints. Problem is, I didn’t know if I could really do that consistently from one bricklayer to the next – not to mention the fear of sinking one too deep. Finally went with the Dremel approach. Took a solid day getting all those cut in and my hands were killing me for days after.
Good news is it was worth the trouble – they looked great. The foam insulation comes with predefined break-off points – apparently they use this stuff for real world applications ha! Those are a potential break point, so I put foamboard glue along all those lines (front and back). That is the white marks you see in the shot below. To add more realism to the foam bricks, all the joints were hit with a heat gun to give them more irregular edges, burn off any dangles and smooth out any gouges etc. Be cautious with this step and do not let the gun get too close to the panel – there is way to much effort put into this at this point to blow it (and wear a mask).
Now to install the fasteners on the panel pieces. A hole is burned into the back of each foam panel indicated by the center punch points. Using foamboard glue, put a piece of PVC pipe into each hole (again, make sure it is flush or trim the PVC if you have to). Now for the critical point, BEFORE the glue dries, you need to attach it to the stand.
I ended up using 3D printed “popsicle” sticks and put them part way into each hole on the stand. The other part simply needed to be fit into the corresponding hole on the back of the foam board. This insured that the pipe on the foam board matched perfectly with the pipe on the stand. Wait until the foamboard glue has dried before removing the panels – you do not want the PVC to move from that spot.
Here is what it looked like with the all the boards attached.
Once all the panels were in place I cut in the cracks. Used the standard approach I’ve seen in several foam tombstone tutorials and used for all my structural foam props. Basically take one of those old pocketknives – duller the better, just insert it at a random point and start wiggling it down popping out little pieces of foam. Set your creative mind free! The reason for having it all together before doing this is to let me extend the cracks through the different panels. Once you are happy with the pattern, hit those cracks with a heat gun as well.
The boards were painted in the exact same manner as the other coffin tutorial. Hit all the mortar joints and cracks with a spray gun filled with properly diluted black acrylic paint. Come back over that with DRYLOK using a small roller. Put on multiple layers so you can keep the roller fairly dry allowing it to roll over the cracks without filling them with white sealer. The back just needs one coat to help protect it from the elements – it will never be seen.
Now that the paint work is all done, simply insert a foam couplers in each PVC pipe and push it into place. Note, I originally had ‘+’ sign shaped connectors but that left little room to really push it in without snapping one off (trust me, I broke a lot). That is when I changed to the popsicle shape which was a lot more forgiving when installing the panel and still held everything together nice and tight.
Here it is with all the painted panels attached. You can certainly add a mud wash to it if you want it to have more of an old cemetery feel. I have found it gets naturally dirtier every time we haul them out to the trail, so I do not worry about going that extra step.
… and here it is from the side. Really, really happy how it all turned out and I think it looks much more professional than our first version.
Oh, and here is the back side – not sure I showed that earlier.
Now that the stand was finished, the Gargoyle was looking quite nice on its own. Since it had wings built into the form, decided the prop didn’t need my mechanical wing. This prop had additional features we could now take advantage of – like the pass through fogger channel. Ron helped me hack one of my standard prop sensors so it would trigger a fog machine when someone went by it. Picked up fogger tubing from Spirit, attaching one end to the fogger and the other to an opening in the back of the Gargoyle.
Not the best video in the world, but this shows how the fog will come out the mouth once the sensor is triggered. It took us a few tries to get all this working as the fogger was designed to be triggered manually – that will just not do hehehe.
Here are a couple of stills from the night of the event.
The Gargoyle eyes also light up when the sensor is triggered. Originally the eyes stayed on the entire time, but since we were controlling the fogger, it was simple to add the eye circuit and sync that as well.
This is the first time I have used fog down in the cemetery area – the colder night naturally kept the fog low and slowed the dissipation giving a creepy feel to the whole scene.
My friend in haunt Paul Rybarczyk made a really nice video with some of the scenes from the night. You can see this prop in action around 4:42.
Hope you enjoyed the walk-through for one of the new signature props on the 2021 Haunted Trail of Tears. We work on props 363 days a year and we are looking forward to showing more of the new props from last year (like Freddy above) and all the new stuff we are working on for this year’s event.
5 thoughts on “Project Cemetery Sentry”