Monday, October 31, 2005

Front Porch Magic Mirror

Once again, the "Well of Souls" or "Magic Mirror" was our Halloween surprise. You can't see the face, in this shot, but you can see the frame where the face "appeared." Our Halloween guests were able to chat with the spirit in mirror and pick up their treat. This effect (from our friends at ImaginEERIEing is a lot of fun. Last year we mounted this in the basement. this year, as you can see, we built inside our front entry way. Worked very well. Didn't get any in process photos but I'll pop a few when we take it down later this week so you can get a behind-the-scenes look.

Happy Halloween 2005

The January Family hopes you had a very happy Halloween. It was a perfectly spooky night for it. We were glad to see so many of you turn out...and as you can see by this would seem there were many spirits haunting the yard! We went through more than 700 pieces of candy. Though, I am pretty sure some of you took more than one piece!

Now, some of you wondered why we didn't do the haunted basement this year.

The reason is pretty simple: time.

With two little kids at home and other things like work, time is very tight. The basement takes me at least three weekends to build out, and it just couldn't be done this year. In addition, the haunted basement is pretty expensive. We put most of our budget into the haunted column this year. We watched many of you have fun with that, so we hope it was a fair trade-off.

Will we bring back the basement next year? Can't promise it. You may consider if you would be willing to help us work it on Halloween night! With enough help, the chances are much better that we'd attempt it.

But all this is discussion for next year. For tonight we just wish to say; Happy Halloween! Thanks for sharing this neighborhood tradition with us.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Part of the scene

This gives you a daytime look at part of the tableau we've created as our yard haunt. Here you can see the drop panel column, to right of it is the moving tombstone (from Lothars Lair)our repaired and improved gargoyle over the front door and, if you look on the screened in porch, you can just make out the FCG. Lit at night, the static and animated props work together to create an intergrated scene which serves as the backdrop for our Sweeney Family Horror radio play that our guests can listen to in their cars. Each of the props is weaved into the story as are the Sweeney famiy graves. You can't believe how many people ask us if the story is true. If you scroll down a few entries you can see what lies in wait inside the drop panel prop. This prop would not have been possible without the assistance and guidance of Bret Ross at Devious Concoctions.

Drop Panel Close-up

Here's a good look at the drop panel column in the day. The gap you see is because the pneumatics are currently turned off. When pressured, the panel raises to its ready position. Next year, we'll add an air cannon to this prop for extra scare power. In the background, you can see out gatekeeper prop holding a sign that invites people to tune in the radio play which is broadcast 24 hours a day.

Drop Panel Column Cemetery Fence

Here is a day-time view of the Sweeney Family Horror cemetery fence. The column with the drop panel is in the distance, along with our gatekeeper figure. Our yard haunt is designed to create a night-time tableau that is accompanied by a five minute story broadcast thru a low-wattage FM transmitter. Carloads of families listen to each night. On Friday, October 28th, we a steady stream of cars between 7 and 11:00. It was a lot of fun to watch so many families and friends out on such a great Fall night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stones at night

A detail of one of our tombstones. Here you can see some of the detailing that's not readily apparent from 25 feet away. The cracks and pitting really add a lot of realism to the stones. These have been incredibly durable. They are the oldest props we have. I keep thinking we'll remake them...but they do the job. The skull detail is from our friend Steve Hickman over at Terror Syndicate

The Sweeney Family Spirits Request...

We are thrilled to see so many of you enjoying the haunt together this year. That's why we do it, of course. We love seeing families together on these spooky Fall nights. A few requests for everyone's enjoyment:

Share the view! Do your best to enjoy the haunt and make sure others can, too.

Lights off! Particularly if your lights are shining into the back of another car. Plus, it's just not as creepy when your headlights part the shadows.

Stay on the sidewalks! The lawn is not safe. Besides the possibility of coming face-to face with a spirit, there are electrical cords and guy wires that are just waiting to trip you.

Be gentle with the props! It's okay to touch them lightly, but do not obstuct movement or grab them in a manner that might cause damage.

Hands away from the haunted column! 'Nuff said.

Tell your friends! We see more of our neighbors this time of year than any other, we're glad to see you at our home.

Night is best! Most of the props aren't turned on during the day. Plus the whole thing just isn't as spooky in the light of day.

If you see us say hi! You are welcome. If we come out to check on the functioning of a prop, don't be shy. We're always glad to answer questions.

See you Halloween night! More behind the scenes pics coming soon!

Column Gargoyle and the moon

Thanks to Jim Dawson for this awesome photograph of the gargoyle that tops the haunted column. Is that moon perfect or what?:

Column Open Night

Here, the column has fired, the panel has dropped and you can see the Column Dweller. This has been an outstanding prop and is a big favorite. I'm still a little worried about how it will fare in the rain, but hopefuly, all will be well....

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Column Dweller

A "Flat Back" prop who resides inside the column. I am not happy with the amount of light that hits this prop, however, that's probably something that will be addressed next year. Plus, this guy is a little creepier than most of our props so, maybe it's best you can't really get a great look at him at night. We've named him "Cuthbert." Not sure why. And, he is mentioned in the radio play if you listen closely to the end.

Column guts....

Here's a good look at the stuff that makes the column go. You can get a good peek at the cylinder here. The mess of wires are connected to the controller which fires the cylinder, the lights and the sound...Thanks again to Brent Ross at Devious Concoctions for all the help. And to Bryce Miller for giving up a Saturday to help out with the "skinning" of the columns.

Overall, the column props add a lot, we think.

Haunted Column in progress...

The new Haunted Column before Amy got her paint brush on it.

Repaired and Installed

And here is the repaired and rejunvenated Gargoyole. We changed the angle of his neck. In year's past he always peered downward so he stared at you as you passed under him. This year he looks out toward the street and I think he's more engaging that way. Note the new, larger wings as well. I think he looks better this year than when we was new.

Behind the Scenes: Gargoyle Repair

Here is the gargoyle...his arm now wrapped in the burlap that will soon be dipped into the monster mud. In addition, we changed the angle of the head this year so gargy looks right at you and we gave him new wings. All in all a successful job.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Welcome to The Sweeney Family Horror 2005

Sweeney House is up and running in 2005, We're happy you've stopped by our haunt, This year we did not get to all our projects, but we did manage to install large new columns (with an added surprise) and we repaired and restyled the Gargoyle. We also "freshened" the radio show with some new dialogue and lot of added SFX. We hope you enjoy it. In the coming days, we'll post some additional behind the scenes pics and we'll repost more of the Sweeney Family's backstory. Let us know what you think.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Slow going

Sorry that I haven't posted any pictures of the progress on props but the going has been SLOOOOOOOW. I'll update you when something significant happens.

Flying Crank Ghost

We had a request about the Flying Crank Ghost on the guestbook. The Sweeney Family Horror suggests Phantasmechanics Online. Doug Ferguson was the inventor. I have a lot of respect for Doug and therefore suggest you get your first FCG through him. Though you can also obtain an FCG or plans to build your own from ebay. Just search "Halloween Props" and page through until you find one. A caution about ebay FCGs. Some do not come with cranks. Most are of excellent quality. This time of year they are in demand so you can pay a pretty penny for the ghost alone. You can also get an excellent product from Creep Craft Products We've done business with them and were very happy with what we got.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Operation Gargoyle

He sure looks sad right now. But by Halloween the Gargoyle will be as good as new. Last year I noticed that the gargoyle was really listing to one side. When we took him down we noticed his right arm was essentially broken. After several seasons, this was to be expected. The problem was of my own making I had reinforced his wings with "Great Stuff" expandable foam. You can see the gargoyle's shoulder got the same treatment. Good idea for the shoulder. Bad idea for the wings. They because way too heavy. Add in the wet weight of a few October rains and the monster mud around the elbow gave way. I stripped the monster mud "skin" off the gargoyle's arm and you can now see the skeleton. Simple chicken wire shaped like a garyole's arm. You can see the real problem here. I didn't "fuse" the gargoyle's elbow with great stuff. So, when the weight of the wings got to be too much, the wire didn't hold. I'll fix that simply by spraying in a little foam and letting it dry before I re-mud the arm.

Not everyone fuses joints like I do with the foam. But I think the key to a long-lasting prop is giving it a good foundation. The foam is the strongest and innermost layer of support for the prop. And it helps ensure the prop is durable.

Where to put the fog...

I have a wild hair that I can make fog come out of the gargoyle's mouth. Much easier if I made him that way in the first place. Or if I hadn't filled him with expanding foam as you see here. Still, I think I can get it done. But I am wondering how to get the tube into the head. Also a little concerned about how small of diameter of tubing a normal fog machine can push fog though. So, this may or may not happen. At the very least, you have a good view of more of the skeleton of the creature.

Give the monster a hand

Here's close-up the gargoyle's current hands. They're "sculpted" expandable foam. You can imagine that I have never been happy with them. Of couse, at night from 20 feet away they are just fine. But in the picture above you'll see some new hands that I am considering utlizing as I rebuild the prop. I bought them a few years ago and haven't ever really used them. They're gloves actually. But a little foam, monster mud and paint and they could be much more refined.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New Prop

Thanks to a big assist from Brent at Devious Concoctions, SFH has a "monster" new prop to deploy! Brent is shipping me the guts for a drop panel column...this should be a very exciting prop to watch in action this season.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Early Summer Update

All right, I've determined a good list of 2005 projects. Since, as of today, we are eliminating the basement portion of the haunt, we hope these new features will make our yard haunt more enjoyable for our fans. I am fairly sure none of our fans are reading this site at the moment, however, if I am mistaken, please feel free to let us know what you think.

New Cemetery Fence with pillars (and possibly a header)
Priority: High
Difficulty: High
Expense: High

Rebuild gargoyle/add fog feature
Priority: High
Difficulty: Medium (I think)
Expense: Low

Remake of radio play
Priority: High
Difficulty: Low
Expense: Medium

New, more advanced outdoor Version of last year's "gatekeeper" effect
Priority: Medium
Difficulty: Medium to high
Expense: Medium to low

New lighted logo sign (may be replaced by cemetery header)
Priority: Medium
Difficulty: Medium
Expense: Medium to low

New "pop up" character/creature
Priority: Medium
Difficulty: High to medium
Expense: High to medium

Scary tree application
Priority: Low
Difficulty: Very Low
Expense: Low

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Dead Awaken: Early Spring Update

Spring weather is sure to arrive any day. That means another busy Summer is just a few months ahead. Summer is the time we (along with most haunters) plan and build new props for the Halloween season. This year, we're very inspired. We hope to pull off some really great new props for the front and time will, as always be the deciding factor...I am exceedingly interested in building or finishing out an animatronic prop or two for the front yard. I am still debating whether or not we should go with an all new storyline. The poll isn't much of a help since our "customers" really only visit this site during the season. The few votes we have indicate to leave it...and I suppose we should...but surely there are some new surprises we can add. And the radio play needs a good updating as well...although that's difficult because we want to keep the length managable.

Two things that ARE ON the to do list and are definite projects:

1. A new (or expanded) fence. The one we have is not one of my favorite accomplishments. Not to mention that it only goes acros the front of our lawn. We need a fence that surrounds our props. We love our customers. But last year we had damage to some of our props because folks were running wild in our front lawn. This, of course, is also a huge safety issue. I would like this fence to include pillars. And a surprise. Might need some help on that one.

2. A rebuild of the gargoyle. After several years of being lugged up to the roof our our porch, Gargy has finally begun to give out. I have an idea to improve him anyway...something I should have incorporated into the original design have not decided whether or not I will "skin" Gargy and work with his bones or just rebuild the prop entirely...I guess we'll just have to see.

Over the next few days I want to share some links with a couple of haunters that are doing some mind-blowing stuff.

Hope the Easter Ghoulie is good to you,