Projects: Misc. Props & Decorations 4

Additional props and decorations...

NEW! Floor Length Candelabra

For some time now I've wanted a floor length gothic candelabra for the cemetery. Scouring eBay, Kijiji and Craigslist turned up nothing within my budget so I turned to seeing if I could make my own. As luck would have it I came across an old floor lamp one of my neighbours was throwing out. It had a heavy cast iron decorative base and fluted column. Perfect! I succeeded in removing the upper lamp parts so I was left with just the column and base and that's the way it stayed for some time.

I was now on the lookout for a ceiling candelabra that could be converted as I had seen a similar project on one of the forums but didn't like the look of any that came up as they were either too plain or too modern looking. Finally early in the Halloween season I saw in Michael's a gothic table candelabra that looked awesome. I used a 50% coupon and snatched it up. I discovered that you could unscrew the base which I did and discarded. The remaining candelabra matched up almost perfectly with the floor lamp column but there was no way to secure it. I tried drilling out a wooden dowel to fit but it left the top too loose and wobbly. In the end I loaded up the hot glue gun and totally filled the inside body of the candelabra and column and jammed the two pieces together before the glue could set up. This created a very secure bond and in effect made the two pieces into one complete assembly. I did add a circular plywood base to help anchor it and keep it from tipping over as it was now quite top-heavy.

All that was left was a coat of black spray paint followed by dry-brushing to weather and age the finish and bring out the details. Now my attention turned to the candles. I initially wanted to use wired flicker bulbs but it would be too difficult to re-wire everything so I went with the PVC candles/battery powered LED tea lights. The PVC pipe was cut to random lengths and filled top to bottom with Great Stuff foam insulation. Make sure to let the foam sit for several days to completely cure as it will continue to expand for some time. Once it was stable I used Forstner drill bits to drill out a cavity in the top for the LED tea light to fit. (Note: You can use a regular spade drill bit but that will tear at the foam more and create a bigger mess. The Forstner bits are great if you have them as they create a clean, flat bottomed hole.) The hole should be deep enough so the tea light is just flush or slightly below the top of the PVC. I also drilled out a smaller hole in the bottom to fit over the candle holder on the candelabra. Hot glue was liberally dripped around the edge of the PVC and allowed to drip down the sides - if you have a glue gun with 2 heat settings make sure it is on high as the glue will flow much easier.

Once you are happy with the glue drips spray all your candles with white or off-white spray paint, making sure to get full coverage. I then permanently glued the candles to the candelabra using No More Nails construction adhesive. A slight wash or yellow ochre paint to the candles to give them an aged appearance finished off the candelabra and it was time to light up the LED tea lights and admire. I was really pleased how this came together and it looked great in the cemetery and lent and very gothic touch to the scene.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-size image in a pop-up window.

NEW! Severed Pig's Head

Between the Pumpkinhead Scarecrow, skulls on stakes and Sam from Trick r' Treat (see below) my cornfield area at the front of the haunt facing the street is quickly becoming the scariest part of the haunt. My recent addition of a severed pig's head on a stake will do nothing to change that! This is by far the goriest prop I have done yet but since the cornfield/scarecrow area is brightly lit from the nearby streetlight I feel I can afford to up the horror aspect in this spot. It stands as a warning totem and is reminiscent of the pig's head in Lord of the Flies.

I started off with a cheap pig mask based on the one in the "SAW" movies. I ripped out the attached wig but left some threads as it looked like short hair strands on top of the pig's head. I then used Allen Hopps from Stiltbeast Studios method for cheaply foam filling a mask using Gorilla Glue. The YouTube video he's done is very informative and worked great. I'll leave it to you to watch Allan's tutorial rather than re-hashing it here. One thing that wasn't entirely clear that I had to ask about was once you apply several coats of the thinned Gorilla Glue and let it set up you're left with a hard but empty shell. What you do then is fill the cavity with any pieces of scrap foam you have on hand - white beadboard or the blue/pink construction foam it doesn't matter. Fill the cavity as much as you can and then apply more glue mixture to seal it. A wooden stake, weathered from many years in the garden, was inserted into the foam and glued in place.

Once the head was filled and cured you can apply some paint to fill in the eye sockets and further gore it up. I added PermaBlood liberally to the back of the head and eyes, letting it run. PermaBlood drys to a hard, permanent finish but remains glossy and wet looking. Pretty gross but it will be positioned back a ways in amongst the cornstalks.

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NEW! Quick Dollar Store Rat Upgrade

Here is a really quick one-night project that drastically improves the look of the cheap rubber rats that can be bought in Dollar Stores. As they come they are plain black with a drop of red paint on the eyes. The basic sculpt on them is pretty good with nice detail so without too much trouble they can quickly improved. I used regular craft paint and dry-brushed on a medium brown. Dry-brushing is where you load up the brush with paint and then brush most of it off on a scrap piece of paper towel until it's almost completely dry. Then when you brush the rat the paint only gets picked up by the high points and leaves the black in the recesses. It's like adding highlights. What it accomplishes is to bring out all the hidden detail and accentuate it. I went over the entire rat from nose to tail. Once the brown was dry I used an off-white paint to pick up just a few highlights on the nose, toes of the feet and tail and then that's it you're done. A whole pack of rats can easily be painted in a single night.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-size image in a pop-up window.

Skeleton Corpse Torso

This is a simple prop that is very similar to my full-size Skeleton Corpse. I bought an old Bucky skeleton torso at a garage sale for cheap along with a similar skull. Love those types of garage sales!! The previous owners had applied a very thick covering of latex rubber as skin but it was rotting away and I thought covered too much of the details. I started to rip and pull at the rubber to tear it away from the skeleton and expose the bones underneath. Once I had removed a fair bit and was happy with the look I dry-brushed the entire skeleton a light grey to bring out the highlights. Add in some brown and green areas and it's done.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-size image in a pop-up window.

SAM from "Trick r' Treat"

Ever since seeing the movie Trick r' Treat I've wanted to do up a life-sized SAM figure from the movie. I've never wanted to do a lot of movie characters in the haunt - there are so many Jasons, Freddies & Michael Myers out there that they loose whatever impact they might have had. Sam though is recognizable but also generic enough to fit in - he could be any creepy little kid in costume if you haven't seen the movie but a bit of an in-joke if you have. Sam is short for "Samhain" and is the vengeful spirit of Halloween known for wreaking havoc on those that do not obey its' rules...

  • Rule #1: Wear a Costume
  • Rule #2: Always Check your Candy
  • Rule #3: Never Blow Out a Jack O'Lantern
  • Rule #4: Pass Out Treats

I had a friend sew up a perfect orange onesie sleeper to fit a child's mannequin I got on Craigslist but didn't get the stitching or buttons sewn on his hood in time for last year so he had to wait until 2011 to make his appearance. For his head I again turned to Craigslist and got an old school globe. After removing the printed world map and frame I was left with the circular plastic core. It was spray painted flat black and then my dremel was used to cut a hole in the bottom to fit over the mannequin's head. In order to permanently attached the globe I simply filled it with Great Stuff expanding foam and stuck it on the mannequin trimming off any extra foam once it had finished expanding. The burlap sack was wrapped around the globe and tied in place. The stitching for the mouth was done and then the button eyes (made by cutting thin slices off a large wooden dowel and drilling the four holes) added. Some paint to weather, distress and bloody him up a bit finished him off.

I really think he's going to creep people out. I had him the living room as I was stitching his mouth and every time I'd come in the room, even knowing he was there, with the lights on and he'd still give me a start! I think because he's based on an actual child mannequin so the proportions are right and you can see the limbs under the jammies it looks far more real than a simple homemade PVC armature would. I can't wait to put him out in the yard.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-size image in a pop-up window.

Just a quick note about the cornstalks, since I've had some inquiries. For the corn I buy about 5 dozen stalks every year from a local garden centre. (Edit: for 2013 I'm up to a total of 8 dozen!) They come in bundles of 6 so I cut them apart and stake 2 at a time. I use 1/2" square wooden garden stakes about 24" long. I pound them about half way into the ground and then attach 2 stalks to it using black electrical zip ties - 2 per stake or more as needed. Pull the zip ties as hard as you can and make sure to snip off the extra as I find those a visual distraction (a pet peeve of mine). If you look hard in the photos you can see a few zip ties but they're pretty invisible at night. I space the stalks out to fill in the space and not worry about doing neat rows as in real life. Some stalks I'll add extra at the end and put them on an angle as if they are broken or falling over. A couple of small hay bales complete the look and hid the base of the scarecrow and all the wires from the pumpkins.

Grave Marker Wreath

A quick and simple improvement to a store bought prop wreath. It came with the skulls but was a little thin on the foliage so I snipped some greenery off a fake plant bought in a dollar store and attached to the wreath using hot glue. I then created a triangular stand for the wreath out of bent advertising sign wire. Simple and effective it really improved the look of a cheap prop.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-size image in a pop-up window.

Standing Zombie

After wearing my zombie costume for several years I was finally fed up with the limited vision the mask afforded so I decided to retire it and convert the costume to a static standing zombie prop. I looked at some of the more elaborate articulated armatures but felt they were more than what was needed for this prop so I went about constructing a wooden framework for the zombie. I didn't follow any plans or really plan it out in advance - I'm just winging it as I go. I would take measurements off my own limbs and then cut some wood to fit and then glued and screwed it all together. After the basic framework was done I padded the frame with some pool noodles and an old pillow or two all wrapped in duct tape. Guerilla prop making at its best!

For now I just have the armature finished but will post photos as I work up the body using chicken wire and pool noodles.

UPDATE! One thing I've realized as I'm putting all the Halloween stuff in storage is that my standing zombie is going to be a problem. The way I've built it the armature out of wood it will take up too much storage space since I can't adjust the pose once built. I found a very cool online supplier of PVC adjustable joints for armatures - Spider Hill Prop Works. I've ordered the Kit-2 which comes with all the joints and couplings needed to make a life-sized figure armature. The joints can be rotated freely in all directions and then locked in place. This way I can have him standing straight with his arms at his side for storage and then adjust him into a more dynamic pose for Halloween. Should work great! Once I receive the kit I'll post photos of my progress.