And we are back into this haunted March. In the last post I took you through the Haunted Trail of Tears 2021 prep phase and went ahead and covered the tear down while I was at it. It is time to once again to burn a hole through your browser’s image cache with the fun part of putting on this annual event – taking the run through and hitting some of the highlights and features our guests have come to expect to jump start their Halloween season. Today, the focus is on the “Day Walk” while I try to power through the work needed to get the “Night Walk” post prepped – yeoman’s work for sure.
Unfortunately, I forgot to get a shot of the Headless Horseman the first day of the two day event. Corrected this oversight the following morning, but the first pumpkin had already been through the burner ha! You will understand that more when you see the night shots.
The Headless Horseman (link here), has definitely been a guest favorite since making its debut a few years ago. He is placed up near the house instead of on the trail so we can keep an eye on the flames pouring out of the pumpkin. Last thing I need is to set the woods on fire – although that might actually be the only way to flush the rabid clowns out of there.
Hit the jump to see more from the trail!
The signature prop from 2020 (link here) is also positioned closer to the house. This isn’t due to a constant flame concern, rather the fact it was the first LiPo battery based prop and in case you do not know much about those cells, they can be a bit finicky to the point there is a very slight chance they could explode if handled/wired improperly (hmmm, guess that technically means flames as well).
The gargoyle and pumpkin act as our Walmart greeters before the guests start the descent into the valley. Also gives us an easy way to help people find the entrance – go slightly past the two orange blow ups and you will see the trail that takes you down.
Just in case it wasn’t mentioned in the prep post, our haunted trail is designed to be enjoyed by everyone – it is just a matter how far you go along the trail that sets the level of scare. Parents are strongly encouraged to manage their kid’s exposure as we take no responsibilities for any future psychiatric care.. for kids or the adults ha. All of our tamer props are positioned in the first section of the trail which leads down into the valley.
A large portion of the decor here is made up of air blown props. This allows us to put most of the heavy power consumption pieces closer to the start of the circuit and has an extra benefit of pouring extra light on the hill as they typically have larger lights embedded in them. The ghost on the far left of this shot happens to be the first prop I ever built when we started this crazy thing over 13 years ago – it has a similar twin that sits out on the road to help direct people to the place. You can start to get a feel for the descent as the trail drops off in the back of the shot.
A shot back up before the big drop.
We always welcome guests that would like to come prior to nightfall – especially those with smaller children. The woods gets very dark once the sun drops and can be rather overwhelming if not conditioned, along with just the natural sounds like coyotes howling, owls screeching, deer crashing and other things that go bump in the night. Taking the skittish through earlier helps put them at ease…but they are warned the trail takes on a whole new life when it goes black.
More of the blown ups lining the descent. Paul has a lot of very tall ones that I’m not even sure you can find anymore. Each year I try to pick up another one – if nothing else, to fill any gaps when one stops working or can’t hold air anymore (a very common problem with these decorations).
Here are two of Paul’s giant ones. Harder to tell without some form of scale, but the pumpkin head and dragon are over 12′ tall.
…and then the dragon! Hopefully the trees can deflect most of the wind down there as these props do not do well in those conditions. Typically they are nestled in between trees to help support them as we want to limit trip hazards created when we put their tie lines on.
Just past the dragon is our first set of witches. We made this based on an idea seen in a Halloween magazine. They have gone through a couple of revisions over the years with the latest being the head switch from glass chandelier globes to new plastic balls from LOFTEK with built in LEDs. A bit expensive, but definitely work a lot better than those fragile globes. They are advertised as nursery lights.
This backlit pumpkin was a new addition for 2021. Saw it while shopping at Costco and have no idea how it got into the cart hehehe.
Now we enter the dragons lair. We’ve had the larger fire breather for a while now, but the little guy on the far right was new for this year. You can read details about his transformation in a previous post (link here).
The bat-boy prop is a combination of older props. The boy is built on a very old version of the Posey frame. Had a left over kid’s costume, so we just threw it on and positioned it towards the front of the trail (the eyes fade in and out, other than that pretty tame). With the rehab of the Gargoyle Sentry (link here), we had an extra pair of mechanical moving wings. Wasn’t hard to see how that was going to play out.
Another new custom prop for the 2021 edition. This entire prop started with just the head – an item my mother picked up at a garage sale. There will be an upcoming detailed post on the making of this prop. In short, started with adding LED eyes, then found eyeballs that fit into the socket perfectly. Added a sound board to it and used Ron’s voice to record and then manipulate pirate sayings to act as a trail greeter. A few days before the event, we decided to crank out a Posey frame for it, picked up a pirate costume at Spirit and even found a bird to put on its shoulder (yes, that’s an Owl, but it worked good enough for our purposes).
Once past the foot bridge, we upped the scare factor a titch. This area is a fairly open area that acts like a hub to the rest of the trails we refer to as the Emerald Forest which will become clearer in the night pictures. This skeleton was just hanging around.
The trail has a LOT of skeletons scattered about. Each year they are arranged differently, typically in a humorous way. It is amazing how creative people can be when given the chance. The new volunteers are given the task to put up the tubs and tubs of skeletons and various bone parts. It always cracks us up when we see their creations!
Have you seen my legs!?!
Choose your friends wisely, they just might feed you to the vultures.
You may notice we also have a lot of small carved pumpkins throughout the trail. Those come courtesy of Party City – less than a buck a piece. Bought over 30 of them and then quickly carved a face in them with a Dremel. Simply add a tea light in a hole underneath and you have yourself a nice addition to your Halloween decor. They also serve as a guide feature as they help lead you through the trails. We also added rope lights on the ground this year to help direct people through the maze of trails.
You have now entered the Spider’s Nest. More than one guest has been lost to these gigantic web spinners.
“Hello there my pretties, would you like some candy?”
Once through Emerald Forest, guests begin the journey out to the haunted cemetery.
Every step along the way brings you through our large collection of hanging props amassed over the years. Like the blown ups, we add to this collection every year and we’ve had to expand the size of trails several time to accommodate the collection. Note, we rarely pay full price for a prop – quite frankly they are ridiculously priced. Instead we hit all the pop up Halloween stores the day after the official holiday and pick them up for 50% off or more. Granted, we have to wait a year to show them off, but worth it. That also gives me time to get our proprietary prop sensors installed and up the scare factor if we can.
I jokingly refer to this section as battery lane.
Paul’s rotating ghost prop made it back to the trail this year. It suffered an outage two years ago thanks to a servo failure. It took last year off, but Paul upgraded the servos and it worked great. They spin while a spooky version of Ring Around the Rosy played. Definitely a high creep factor.
Nearing the cemetery now and more skeletons just hanging about. Ron gave me those fence sections and they look fantastic on the trail especially when we need to direct people a certain way. You can see the rope lights mentioned earlier draped across two of the fence sections. Main rule “never cross a rope light” and you should have zero problems following the trail.
Unfortunately, I did not take a lot of day shots of the cemetery – hoping there are more in the night run through. Adding in this shot taken while we were still building it just to give you a feel for it.
Next we come to the clowns section, however, I took these pictures out of order so you get to see the zombie containment area first.
This is where a majority of the Posey props are positioned. Most of them happen to be zombies of one type or another owing to the section name. Our Grim Reaper has also been with us from the early days and signifies that you might want to start assessing how much you want to expose to your kids. After this point all filters come off.
The Grave Digger prop has been a bit of an issue since I first made it about 4 years ago. It was my first attempt at an animated Posey and was designed around a wiper motor. The first year it did okay, but the right arm movement (left to right) was having some issues with the independent head movement (also left to right). The left arm was supposed to raise, but that ended up being scrapped at the last minute. The next year the linkages got screwed up and the year after that I didn’t have time to get it positioned on the trail before guests started arriving so ditched it. For 2021 I completely reworked it. The wiper motor was replaced with servos and thought I had it hardened for the trail. Unfortunately, something happened to two of the three servos, so just the head moved. Big disappointment after all the work spent on it in the off season.
Good news, is I now have it all fixed up for 2022 and everything should work as originally designed. This next prop was a last minute add. I had an extra scarecrow costume laying around so grabbed an out dated Posey frame and slapped the costume on it. Now that I have time, I’ll upgrade the frame and it should look really nice for next year.
How about some baby stew (told you the filters were off).
And now for the second animated Posey that experienced some issues. Servo Man was an upgraded multi-servo prop from the previous year (link here). It experienced an early hour failure likely due to the transport down to the trail. It looks like one of the servos had their gears stripped causing it to spin freely rather than randomly turn the torso as designed. The head would still move randomly so it wasn’t a complete loss.
Like the Grave Digger, this prop has been completely reworked (again) and should have no problem scaring the night away during the 2022 event. Next up, the newest addition to the Posey line of props – Injection Freddy (link here). A play on the Covid vax craze, Freddy made its long awaited debut. If interested, the background on this prop is available in the link above – many years in the making, Freddy made quite an impression in his first night out.
Dancing Zombie was another Posey that went through a huge off season revamp including a complete rework on the frame, linkages and circuits. This is now the only prop that still uses a wiper motor as it needs quite a lot of torque to produce the zombie dance moves. A complete success on this one as it worked perfectly both nights!
Our next Posey zombie is currently in the lab going through some upgrades. Resident Evil was a static prop for the last 2 years – Linda got me that really nice mask for my birthday (she gets me!) and I built the static frame to show it off. Next year it will definitely have a sound board added and possibly some servo activity for extra animation – something to look forward to!
Two more static Poseys are up next. These two Demons Spawns have a thing for human body parts. Based on what I can tell from their grunts and growls they are performing some kind of sacrifice to their master further back in the tree line. “Has anyone seen her head?”
This next prop is an inside joke. Paul knows I absolutely hate the Beatles (I was raised on the Stones). His sister found him these movie prop heads and rightly thought he would like them for his haunts – Paul also puts on another scare event up in Wisconsin on Halloween night. Note, the speaker plays a slowed down creepy version of a Beatles song to help set the dead mood.
Time to do a quick jump back to address our clown infestation. There is an entire zone dedicated to all things clownish. They say you should confront your darkest fears and this is my attempt to do just that. Some believe I have a phobia of these white-faced creeps which is entirely untrue – that implies the fear is irrational which I say is bullshit. Pure evil to the core. Our custom made rotating Clown in a Box proves it – hell, his box has the letters DIE on it.
Hugz the Clown (link here) is next – all 6′ plus of him. I built this Posey with the specific intent of scaring the crap out of my little great niece. Don’t judge me, it is a long story. Anyway, to my shock, she absolutely loves this prop and year after year insists she get her picture taken next to it. I have told her parents several times there is something definitely wrong with her. In the meantime, I am back at the drawing board trying to come up with some other way to scare her hehehe.
For the record, I suspect Spirit stole this idea from me as it they started selling a Hugz the Clown the year after I posted my tutorial and published it to my Pinterest account.
There are plenty of other clowns on the path destined to take your soul.
This next prop was a catalyst for my other hastily made scarecrow. I was originally just going to take the head off this purchased one (along with the built in audio and lights) and put it on my Posey frame. When I saw that other costume, opted to keep this one intact.
This Evil Nun prop still gives me the creeps. They eyes fade in and out on this mask and practically follow you as you walk by. The running joke is whether it is a man or woman. Either case, it has a thing for baby girls. I need to thank a coworker for that doll. She was cleaning out her grandmother’s house when she came upon that doll complete with neon green eyes. Creeped her out so much she wanted rid of it instantly. Knowing my affinity for all things spooky she dropped it on my desk at work – score – although I think I did taunt her with it at various times the rest of that day. She really did not like it.
Next up is Ned (link here) and his little girl food supply. I think this may be one of my favorite creations. It started out as a bag of bones and now it is a decaying spider being that captures little girls in its webbing. Will be adding a new sound board to Ned for this year’s trail to add a bit more fright. As detailed in the tutorial link, the little girl rotates to give the impression she is being wrapped up.
To help keep our stuff separated, Paul has an entire path to put most of his props on. Another guest favorite is his sitting scarecrow. He will pop up and scream if someone breaks his field of motion. To help make that happen, he puts candy in the bowl. One of these years I need to install a camera there to capture the expressions of the surprised guests.
He added another cemetery this year in his area. My homemade tombstones (link here) are scaled to life size where his are a bit smaller and tend to get lost in the formal cemetery.
This year he added some “family time” themes complete with babies and little girls… demonic babies and little girls that like to play with snakes and rats, but cute and cuddly nonetheless. Note, we have to put up caution tape here to keep our guests from falling over the bank into the stream. It is only 3 or 4 feet deep this time of year, but drop to it is pretty long.
Another new prop for this year is the girl in the coffin – she has the deadest eyes of any prop I’ve ever seen and gave me a shudder every time I looked at it.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING gives me the heebie jeebies like Paul’s next prop. This Pennywise prop he made is horrifying so much to the point it is too disturbing to put with the other clowns. The head rotates randomly while clips from the It movie play from an internal speaker. Paul made it extra tall so it towers over you.
A wide shot looking back down Paul’s section of the trail.
Some of the spiders broke containment from the Emerald Forest and found themselves an unsuspecting victim.
Not only did Paul take first place on the fright meter with Penny, he also earned a second place finish with these twins. They produce shivers just looking at them, then they start saying some absolutely horrific lines which cranks up the flight instincts.
More ghouls to stop you from escaping the evil twins.
This is Paul’s latest Posey creation. The frame originally had a Herman Munster costume on it that looked absolutely real at night. Wanting to change it up a bit, he converted it into a werewolf. He hid it back off the trail just enough that you couldn’t see it until you were right in front of it making everyone jump. He does a really good job of making his characters very lifelike.
There really isn’t anything I can say about Paul’s next display that can accurately convey just how creepy it is at night. I think it made its debut the year before. What I can say is he took the concept from the Twilight Zone. Check out the Talky Tina episode with a young Telly Savalas (link here) to get the full background. Tina (in the back) raises up, turns her head left and right while saying many of the lines in that short summary clip.
Lastly, we make a statement about a certain holiday continually encroaching on our turf. We are absolutely sick of seeing Christmas stuff show up in the stores before our favorite holiday has had its day. Back off big store merchants or we are sending our Posey army your way.
Well, we’ve come to our end. Hope you enjoyed the day walk through of the Haunted Trail of Tears. There are plenty more sights and sounds along the trail, I just wanted to highlight a few so you get a feel for what it is all about.
Stay Calm and Haunt On!
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