Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Best Halloween Parties Ever

In 1987 I was working in Battle Creek, Michigan for a company that produced television commercials. The job was a lot of fun and my co-workers were even more fun. For two consecutive years we had a Halloween party that was a combination of murder mystery, costume party and role-playing game.

Each guest was given a character description prior to the party and once they arrived they stayed in character and were given situations which they had to role play. The scenes were videotaped then later edited into a “movie” called “Zombie Asylum” In addition to the bad acting the movie was filled with tacky sets, cheesy props and really bad special effects. A few months after Halloween we all gathered together for the “premier” of the finished film.

Even though the film was called “Zombie Asylum” there was not a single zombie to be found anywhere in the movie. A zombie-less zombie film, go figure.

In 1989 I accepted a new job back in Midland and while I no longer worked with my friends from Battle Creek I had planned on continuing the tradition.
The first year back in Midland I wrote the treatment/screenplay for the third installment and started work on thirteen life-sized zombie puppets, finally “Zombie Asylum” would live up to its name.
Sadly the party never happened and my papier mache zombie puppets became the starting point for our yard display a few years later in 1992.

Once Upon A Time

Seventeen years ago my wife and I started what would become an annual tradition of decorating our yard with an assortment of homemade Halloween props. The tradition has continued and become somewhat of a hobby or in some people’s eyes an obsession.

Found a few more photos featuring our first display.

Love this photo.
We made a couple dozen rat skeletons out of wire and papier mache then placed them into large wooden rat traps.

Clay Work

More sifting through bins of photographs and I came across these photos of some early clay work done in the mid 90’s.

Silicone molds were made from a few of the sculpts but most of were done for practice. The clay used was Klean Klay suitable for use with RTV Silicone Rubber Molding.

Klean Klay is available from Art Chemical Products, Inc.

For more information check out their website at

Friday, January 30, 2009

Inspiration: Beetlejuice Stage and Set

On a trip to Universal Studios Orlando in 1992 I was really struck by the coolness of the stage and set for Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Review. The set was beautiful with a three-dimensional stone façade positioned in front of a two-dimensional painting of castle towers. The effect was amazing and I ended up snapping a bunch of pictures of the empty stage and set as well as the signage.

Notice the effective use of ariel perspective on the castle backdrop. Here is the definition of ariel perspective from

The perception of depth in nature can be enhanced by the appearance of atmospheric haze. Although this haze is most commonly humidity (or cloudiness), it could be rain or snow, smoke, or any other kind of vapor. Aerial perspective is the portrayal of that atmospheric haze -- one means to adding to an illusion of depth in depicting space on a flat surface. It is achieved by using less focus, along with bluer, lighter, and duller hues for the distant spaces and objects depicted in a picture.

Anyway there’s your art lesson for the day. The techniques and concepts used for this set can be applied to home haunt displays. I’m not sure if the set still exists at Universal but from what I can remember it was very well done.


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