Monday, October 30, 2017


When it comes to photography, I'm not a total gear head but I still like to keep my finger on the pulse of the latest gadgets and goodies. One can never tell when an extra 5 or ten thou comes along to spend on lenses and other "must-haves" that are seductively marketed by a seemingly unending variety of sources, right?

With the advent of digital cameras, photography as an industry has not-surprisingly evolved to the point where there is a literally seamless conjoining of conventional image capture and technology. Terms like Wi-fi, hard disk and GPS that were at one time more than a few degrees removed from the dark room now are in a symbiotic relationship with each other.

Now, with some of these same compatible technologies you can take your idea for a do-it-yourself haunted house far beyond the days of fog machines, cardboard boxes and painted sheets. Andrew Eisele of B&H Photo tells you how.

How to Build the Haunted House of Your Dreams

By Andrew Eisele

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the air crisper, and the foliage is starting to change. I’m talking about fall and my favorite holiday—Halloween! Ghosts, ghouls, monsters, skeletons, witches, and anything that goes bump in the night. As a kid, I loved going trick-or-treating with family and friends, and some of my favorite memories were of the houses in my neighborhood who went the extra mile to create mini-haunted houses. Over the years, I’ve sought out all manner of fright fests from the tiny “mom & pop” haunted hayrides to full-blown, professional haunted attractions. When my sister asked me to help set up some spooky “scares” at her house, I jumped at the chance. I’m happy to report we scared the pants off some of the trick-or-treaters with some simple but effective tricks!! If you’ve ever wanted to set up a haunted house or just wanted to up your game on Halloween decorating, here are a few tips to help you get started.

There have been some advancements made in Halloween decorating, with AtmosFX, which offers some breathtaking digital decorations. These are video packages designed to be projected onto windows, walls, floors, ceilings, and doorways. Characters seem to hover in mid-air in your doorway, archway, or yard. There’s even a 3DFX form onto which you can project to create animated life-sized entities in the middle of a room. Titles include Ghostly Apparitions, which transform your house into a ghoulish gathering of spooky specters, and Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree, which features a trio of singing and story-telling pumpkins. The content ranges from family friendly to truly frightening. Each title is available on DVD, SD card, or for digital download.

You will need a video projector and a way to play the content. The AtmosFear FX content is available in 1080p HD resolution, so an HD projector is recommended, but not necessary. They recommend at least 1800 lumens but, depending on your application, you could use a projector with less output. For instance, if you are projecting a shadow image onto a window, a lower-output projector would be fine. However, if you are projecting a demonic poltergeist bursting through your garage door, you’ll need a brighter projector, especially if there’s any kind of ambient light.

For playback, a DVD player, computer, or tablet may be used. I would recommend using a device with a remote for any “triggered” scare scenes. Another easy solution is a media player that connects to the projector and plays files from a USB stick or SD card. Most ship with a remote control and are very small, which is great for hiding the setup in a flowerpot or other enclosure. Alternatively, you could find a projector that offers SD card or USB inputs for an all-in-one solution. For audio, you could rely on the built-in speakers or connect your home stereo. If you are projecting from a computer or tablet, you could use Bluetooth speakers for wireless deployment.

You can purchase AtmosFX projection materials or save some money by finding or building your own. For windows, you can hang a white shower curtain or tape sandwich paper directly onto the window. For a room or the yard, you can use mosquito net or any semi-transparent material from a craft store. The 3DFX form can be constructed from wood, chicken wire, and a white sheet.

Haunted House
For those who are after a more elaborate setup, there are several options depending on your budget or technical prowess. Creative use of lighting can make any “makeshift” haunt look creepy. On the cheap, you could go the way of clip lights and colored bulbs. A better option is to invest in some LED flat-panel par cans that offer a wide palette of color, mixing excellent saturation. What’s more, these lights can be used in a stand-alone mode, which offers static and built-in color changing programs, or that can be controlled by DMX, a programming language developed to control lighting equipment and related accessories. If you are new to the concept of DMX and would like to know more, check out Holiday Lighting: Intelligent Lighting and DMX on the Explora website. The American DJ DMX Operator 384 features a MIDI input, which when coupled with a wireless MIDI controller, offers a very effective way of triggering different lighting scenes from any undisclosed location.

Atmosphere effects include fog, haze, bubbles, and snow. Haze is great for adding a little ambience to a room without clouds of fog. This adds texture to the light beams for dramatic light effects. Fog machines are great for bursts of thick clouds of fog, which are quite dramatic on their own. One of my favorite “triggered” effects is the vertical fogger with LEDs. These high-output foggers produce a stream of fog several feet into the air. When coupled with the LED and some spooky decorations, they can offer an effective scare. (I had a blast with this minimal setup on my sister’s porch.) If you are looking to create a creepy graveyard scene, then you’ll want to look for low-lying fog effects or you could create your own with a standard fogger and a cooler of ice. The Chauvet Nimbus dry ice machine is excellent for creating low-lying effects. Another less expensive option is the American DJ Mister Kool, which uses regular ice instead of dry ice, and is effective at creating ground-hugging fog, perfect for tombstones and crypts. While we’re on the subject of ground effects, you can create lurid-green swamp gas with low-lying fog and a green laser that can generate a liquid sky effect.

For “next-level” haunted houses and spook spectaculars, check out VenueMagic. This software package allows you to control DMX lighting, audio, and video, as well as advanced effects such as pneumatics and robotics. There are four versions of the software (Express, Classic, DMX+AV, SC+), each adding more features and controls. All offer DMX control over lighting with more than 2,000 fixtures listed in the included library, which helps create a quick and easy setup. There are unlimited timelines, each being able to be MIDI triggered, as well as cue buttons for “quick” timeline playback. Other features include lamp effects macros, audio/editing and playback, envelope editors (for volume and lamp levels, etc.), playlists for music and timelines, and an integrated audio effects library to help get you started. The more advanced versions offer Artnet support, output to multiple audio soundcards, Serial RS232 input/output, playback scheduling, DMX input, and real-time input recording from (MIDI sliders, DMX, joystick). The Classic and DMX+AV offer the best assortment of features without breaking the bank.

For the truly advanced haunter, there are a variety of fun mechanical props you can make. Many are available in ready-made kits and include a self-contained controller, pneumatic cylinders, motors, actuators, speakers, and more. There are air blast kits, locomotive horns, shock mats, vibrating floors, air-powered noise makers, firecracker props, flame effects, and the list goes on. Skulltronix offers a singing and talking animatronic skull and skeleton that is quite popular in the haunt world. For what it’s worth, it’s a ready-made solution that’s not terribly expensive and very impressive! The company’s DMX board is also available, should you wish to build your own servo-controlled animatronics. If you decide to go this route, you can interface many of these effects with the Venuemagic software by way of a controller input and a DMX controlled digital output. These component add-ons allow you to have constant, yet changing audio and lighting backgrounds with motion-sensor controlled triggers for a more interactive experience.

That about wraps up this quick rundown of fun Halloween haunts for your trick-or-treaters, house party, or big-budget scare-tacular. Even on a shoestring budget, you can create spooky, creepy effects that will impress your friend and family. Remember to have fun and be safe. If you have any other ideas to create a spooky atmosphere for Halloween, feel free to share them in the Comments section, below.


Sunday, October 29, 2017


Despite advances in model kit manufacturing technology and assembly, the Aurora model kits still stand as the epitome of monster model making. First introduced in 1961 by Aurora Plastics Corporation, the Frankenstein kit was a smash hit for Monster Kids who discovered that with a little bit of work (and a lot of fun), they could have their own, full-color three-dimensional monster movie figure sitting on their bedroom shelf.

The Frankenstein kit became so popular that Aurora cranked them out 24 hrs. a day, even tooling a second set of molds to keep up with the orders from hobby shops around the country that couldn't keep their stock. At the height of production, Aurora was pushing out 8,000 kits a day -- that's 3 kits a minute!

Aurora was more than happy to supply Monster Kids with their most favorite hobby next to watching monster movies on TV, of course. They followed up with 12 more kits in just six years (with box art by James "Doc Savage" Bama that kids wisely kept and collected, too):

The Wolf Man

The Mummy
The Creature from the Black Lagoon
The Phantom of the Opera

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (a second box art version was produced when actor Anthony Quinn said the original image looked too much like him!)
Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde
King Kong
Salem Witch
Bride of Frankenstein

The Forgotten Prisoner of Castle-Mare (a collaboration between Aurora and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine)

Also released in 1964 was a non-monster, but all-thrilling kit called "Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors La Guillotine". This charming kit, when built up had a working blade to hack off the head of the hapless victim.

Like the rest of the kits, Aurora added a touch of marketing genius (among numerous other ideas) by supplying hobby shops with a "professionally-painted and built" sample of each figure. As seen below, included was the Dracula and La Guillotine kits. These, and the other figures are quite rare today and occasionally show up on the auction block to sell at high prices (no kidding!). Following these images is a roll call of some of the original boxes and box art from the most famous model maker in Monsterdom!

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Warren cover artist H.B Harris seems to be a bit of an enigma as I have not found anything regarding his biographical information. His artistic contributions to Warren Publications are limited to only two covers, the CREEPY 1969 YEARBOOK and EERIE #20.

Both works are done in oils with image areas of approximately 14" x 17". The EERIE cover is currently available for bid at auction.

I used to abhor the CREEPY YEARBOOK cover image of the ghoul with the weird hairdo, but I have come to appreciate the perspective and the outright hideousness of it (besides being a swipe of a still from the Mexican horror film LADRON DE CADAVERES). Anything that wasn't Gogos, Frazetta or Sanjulian was strictly for the birds. The EERIE zombie cover is pretty nice as well.

Anyone with biographical data on Mr. Harris is welcome to comment.

Friday, October 27, 2017


The Los Angeles Times' film critic, Kevin Thomas, had this to say about the latest (at the time) US Hammer Films release, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED: "The script is by no means flawless, but on the whole this is a reasonably intelligent and well-done entertainment." Paired with a re-release of the previous year's Hammer import, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, this double-feature played around my neighborhood theaters in February,1970.

Also shown is the newspaper ad copy for another Hammer offering, DR. JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE, released in the US in April, 1972.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Red-dyed almonds become manicured fingernails on these particularly eerie fingers. There are lots of variations on Halloween “finger” food, but these look as if they should be starring at a wickedly elegant tea party.


  • About 1 ⁄2 cup blanched almond slices (36 pieces) red liquid or paste coloring
  • 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature 
  • 1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon almond extract, optional 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Place the almonds in a disposable plastic container (a yogurt or sour cream cup with a lid, for example), add 8 to 10 drops of liquid coloring or a dab of paste, cover tightly, and shake vigorously. (If you don’t have a disposable plastic container, use a ziplock bag and massage well to distribute the color.) Set the almonds on a sheet of wax paper to dry.
  3. Cream the butter with the confectioners’ sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, almond extract, if using, and salt. Blend in the flour. Divide the dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and chill for 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide one of the dough halves into 18 lumps. Working quickly, roll each one between your palms to form a finger about 4 inches long. Lay it on a baking sheet and squeeze the edges lightly to dent the sides into more of a defined finger shape. Use the blade of a knife to lightly score knuckles. Press a red almond nail, pointed tip out, at the top of each finger.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until firm but not at all browned. (The best doneness test is: When you begin to smell cookie in the air, remove the baking sheet from the oven!) Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

[SOURCE: Ghoulish Goodies]

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


If you've never had the thrill of assembling a brand new monster figure model, now's your chance. From opening up the box, to cutting the sprue off the parts tree, to the gluing and painting, putting together a model is one of the essential experiences of the Monster Kid.

Now, thanks to Moebius Models, you can have that experience with your purchase of "The Grim Reaper" kit. Granted, it's not a "famous" monster, but it's the granddaddy of all of them, Death itself! Sculpted by master craftsman, Jeff Yagher, the 1:8 scale (approx. 7 3/4") plastic kit is shipping soon from shops like CULT TV MAN and MONSTERS IN MOTION.