In our Garage!
Halloween 2007 is fast approaching, and my fiance’ and I have always really enjoyed making large elaborate Halloween props and parties. Until we moved recently, we had always lived in an apartment. This is our first Halloween together that we have an entire yard to decorate and a garage to work on large projects.
Even though Halloween is almost here, we decided to take on a rather large challenge. We’re making a life-size headless horseman and rearing horse! We searched the internet before beginning this project for tips or ideas from other people who had pages about similar projects. We really didn’t find too much about making this specific thing. A few horsemen, a couple of people who made horses jumping out of trees from the Tim Burton Sleepy Hollow movie, but nothing quite what we were looking for.
This being the case, we have decided to add our on-going Halloween projects to the vast category of Halloween prop building and decorating sites on the internet! When he is done the horseman will be pointing at passing cars ready to throw a “flaming” pumpkin as his horse rears up with red glowing eyes and smoke from his nostrils.
At this point, everything is still a work in progress. We’ll keep you posted as we work on things. We’d love to hear any comments or suggestions!
The Headless Horseman and his Faithful Steed
Day 1 – Michael was really the visionary behind all of this. He started with a pile of wood and created this:
(This is the base to support the horse structure from behind, it will be hidden by bushes. The neck triangle at the top has been removed; the neck and head will need to be built outside because of the height. – Michael)
I still wasn’t convinced that this would end up as a horse. I was completely wrong and should have had more faith!
Day 2 – The next night, I was sewing and Michael was working on the horse in the garage. When I came out, my doubts were all cast aside. Even though there wasn’t much there, it most definitely looked like a horse to me.
(The wire frame is made from heavy gauge chicken fencing which was nailed to the support beam, and tied together with short lengths of stiff wire. For sturdiness I used screws rather than nails to connect the leg frames together. I tried to make the rear legs a bit bowlegged like a rearing horse would. The length measurements were calculated using a photo of an actual horse. Notice the neck support is now gone. -M)
I made a head out of chicken wire that night. It kind of looks a little fat but I want to have the neck ready before I change too much about it. It won’t look right until it’s on the body.
(It’s biiiiig. Heh heh. But it looks really good. We plan to run wires and tubing from behind the horse so smoke can come out of the nostrils from time to time and the eyes will glow red.)
Day 3 – October 2nd, we went shopping to pick up a few things we’ll need for this project. We got a thrift store shirt for the horseman, a light-up plastic Jack-O-Lantern for the Horseman to “throw” at passing cars, the ingredients to mix up some Monster Mud. (Home Depot had some nice ‘Oops Paint’ that was inexpensive. We also went to Radio Shack and got some nice red lights and a few things for a ‘tombstones which flash in time to music’ project we will explain later. Radio Shack = expensive!) This will be our first experience with Monster Mud. Hopefully, it will end up a pleasant one. To learn more about Monster Mud, click here: Terror Syndicate.
We worked for a few hours. Michael was working on the horse and I was working on the Horseman. Here is tonight’s progress.
(Lacey made the collar out of the heavy guage fencing so we can tie a cape to it later. We’re hoping to be able to make the cape move using a fan or something, but that might be too ambitious for this year. The pumpkin looks very much like the scarecrow at the beginning of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, albeit much smaller; we got it at Home Depot. I may try to rig it to flicker like a candle, or just put a flicker bulb in it although they aren’t very bright.)
(For the legs, I used lighter gauge chicken fencing which was easy to mold by hand. I used several smaller strips and worked in sections. This stuff really scrapes you up and makes your hands rough and dry. I recommend gloves and eye protection when using it, it gets caught on things easily and when it comes loose it could snap right at you. The front hooves may not be sturdy enough, but I’ll put a wire coat hanger in them if necessary. Originally I thought it’d be nice to make the hooves move, but that’s too much for this year. The burlap is simply to get an idea of the shape and to see if the horse will look smooth or if the chicken wire pattern will show through. Many people recommend burlap for Monster Mud, so ultimately I will probably use wire to tie the burlap to the frame, and use thinner material for the hooves and head. Terror Syndicate suggested we dip our fabric in latex paint instead of using Monster Mud due to the weight issue, but we haven’t decided yet.)
(The rear hooves probably won’t even be seen, but I’ll make them anyway. I wanted the horse to have big, knobby joints like in the Disney movie. I only finished one hoof tonight because I ran out of fencing. Notice the toy horses we’re using for reference as well.)
Tomorrow we’re off and hope to get plenty of work done to get these guys outside scaring people as soon as possible!
Day 4 – The Horse moves outdoors!
Today we had to move our horse out of the garage because he’s just too tall to work on indoors any longer. His head has been attached to the body and a brace has been made to set the horseman on. Today’s bit of construction was mostly done with random pieces of wood again and more and more and more chicken wire. Hopefully it will stand up to the weight of the monster mud. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. (It already tips forward easily, it will need additional weight support in the back. I also think we will need to move it to it’s final position before coating it with anything.)
(The head is just right! A little wide, perhaps, but it works. I might give him a more pronounced belly and backside; compared to horses I see while driving around, this guy looks starved!)
Here’s Michael working hard on the horse’s neck!
(Yes I have a goatee now! Just for Lace though because it’s a pain in the “back end of horse”!)
Day 5 –October 9, 2007. Michael here… For the rest of this post it will prolly be me writing, but we will switch back and forth and likely make little attempt to explain which of us is writing, so I apologize in advance. I also know prolly isn’t a word but it should be!
Sorry we didn’t post yesterday, it’s been so busy here! Have we really only been working on this thing for 5 days?!? October is almost half over! We finished the wire work and covered the body and part of the legs with burlap. I spent a huge amount of time rigging the nostrils to blow fog from a fog machine; that was neat. (HINT: If you want something to blow smoke, figure that part out first, then build the thing around the smoke rig!)
Unfortunately, since then it has been raining for two days straight and we haven’t been able to get anything more done, and I’m getting anxious. I’ve put a plastic tent around him in hopes that he’ll dry off enough to work on. We bought red and yellow colored flood lights to put behind him at Lowe’s and I can’t wait to see how they look. I was going to use our fog machine to blanket our ‘cemetary’ in fog (where the tricks and treats will be) and then use a little battery-powered computer fan to steal some of the ground fog and blow it up into the horse, but I’m not sure if it’ll work. I suspect I would need a fog machine dedicated to the horse to make the smoke from the nostrils. It’s only an experiment. OH! And how hard is it to find Fog Juice in NH?! I had to order some on the internet, because all the fog juice was recalled from Wal-Mart, and I’m very curious to know why… (update 10/22 – Wal-Mart has fog juice back in stock!)
Day 6 –October 12, 2007 – Michael again… Today I tilted the horse forward and carefully brought him back inside, propping him so he would be leaning to fit in the garage. Once he dried Lace and I covered him in a first coat of the monster mud, which was really fun. He kinda looks like chocolate mousse! But not as yummy. The burlap suffered a bit from the rain, it stretched and is baggy on the tummy. No pictures tonight, we’ll take some tomorrow after his second coat. Hopefully his eyes will be wired and working as well!
Day 7 – October 13, 2007 – Michael again- I have monster mud in my hair. In fact, it’s kind of all over me… The horse needs a wee bit more mud and more sculpting around the face. I’m happy to say it seems one tub of monster mud will be sufficient, although not particularly thick or hard. He may be a little rough around the edges, but I keep reminding myself it will be on a hill, and we can always do more for him for next year.
I had to tie the left hoof to the body because of the weight, the rear hooves were removed in order to get him in the garage at an angle. I might put them back later (they won’t be seen in the tall grass). The mouth and nose obviously need work. I know it doesn’t look like it, but from the front he looks a lot like Uncle Deadly from the Muppets!
Day 8 – 10/14 – Lace worked on the face some more while I wired the eyes. They look really nice with both attached to a 9 volt battery, though they say 12 volts. We tested the smoke effect again and it looks good. Tomorrow we will have time to bring him outside and finish him (except for painting him black) while the sun is still up! I’m very excited!
Day 9 –10/16/07 – Today I brought the horse back outside and applied final touches of monster mud. It isn’t perfect but for our purposes it’ll do. I put the horseman back up and gave him legs and boots, it might need tweaking but I think he’s more or less ready. Just need to fix the collar, paint him black, and add a cape. Them move him… The horse is surprisingly tough with only one coat of mud. I’m not sure what to do about lighting, the light fixtures I bought are el cheap-o. One fell apart just screwing the bulb in, but I secured it and it’ll be safe for outdoor use. The lighting doesn’t show the horseman well, and I’m thinking once the horse is painted black or dark brown, it might not show up. Not sure what I’m going to do, but you’ll find out soon enough! (And I need to get a picture of Lacey working on the horse up here, but she’s being difficult!)
(Yes the headless Hessian prefers to ride bareback! Maybe next year we’ll get him a saddle…)
Days 10, 11, 12 –October 17, 18, 19 – Getting home from work and it’s already dusk has made it difficult to do much. I bought some cheap $2 ‘Now’ spray paint (because latex paint cost $25 a gallon) and sprayed the horse black. It took two and a half cans to paint half the horse, then my dad surprised me and painted the other half himself using one can of $4 Krylon paint. My father’s side looks much better than mine. Lesson learned: don’t buy cheap spray paint! Today Lacey put a nice red cape on him and took a video with her cell phone:
We are now ready to put him out by the road, but it was too dark and rainy tonight to do it. Tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting, he should be out! Then when I get home from work we can do the lighting! Tonight we are working on the scarecrow and hope to have him on display tomorrow afternoon as well. (Hopefully no one steals or defaces either of them…)
The Horseman is out and he’s looking for a top to swap!
(finally got Lacey up here on this blog thingy!)
Day 13 –October 20 – Fortunately, the Headless Horseman is deathly afraid of spray paint so Lacey is safe. We’re just putting the finishing touches on him and tonight we’ll set up all of the lights around him. (Michael: Moving him was about as difficult as I anticipated, he’s wet from the rain and very heavy, it took three people. Lacey held the back down so he wouldn’t fall over, my dad and I lifted the middle. Yes, we were pulling it up, Lacey was pushing it down. The need for a better design is clear, no? We nailed a board across the support and removed it when everything was in place. I should have designed him with a way to insert a pole horizontally, like the Lost Ark in Raiders of the Aformentioned Ark, and a pole that would go up into the chest in front temporarily to push him up when moving him.)
Here is another picture from the side that isn’t the “beauty” side. We’ll post more tonight!
(Michael: I’m such a big dork. When I came home, actually seeing the horseman made me so happy! So tonight I spent a good two hours setting up the lights. A van pulled up and someone in the dark said “We’re just checking out the headless horseman!” (Thanks!) Most people drive through so fast (too fast) and prolly don’t even see it. I’m kind of disappointed in the lighting. The yellow flood light doesn’t work anymore for whatever reason, and the el-cheapo light fixtures are actually super el-cheapo. I couldn’t even remove the bulb because turning it turned the entire fixture inside, and I had to take it apart! Tomorrow Lace and I are going to finish the scarecrow and change the lighting. The horseman needs a bright spot in front and at least one more in back, prolly to backlight him as Mike suggested in the comments. I’m trying to light as much of the trees and horseman as possible without ticking off the neighbors and blinding cars. : ) He’ll only be lit from dusk till maybe ten pm at the latest.)
(“You! Ya ha ha ha!” Notice the horse’s red glowing eyes! This was the test, and it’s a timed-exposure so it’s significantly brighter than real life. I realize people will be driving by with their headlights on, but I’d like it to be a little better than this. I’m a perfectionist as is Lacey, and though it’s far from perfect, we’re happy overall and can move on to the next projects.)
10/21 – Today we finished the scarecrow and put him out, and tonight we finished lighting the horseman:
Some changes and notes: We added a fan, lying down, right under the back legs. We secured the cape to the base so it’ll flutter with the fan. The smoke machine is set on 5 second bursts every 30 seconds. I wired the eye lights to a 9 volt phone charger, and they’re much brighter than when attached to a 9 volt battery. I took an old window, added wooden stakes to the corners, and placed it over the spotlights so that even if it rains we can have them on.
I’m really happy with the way it looks. When I went down to take this picture, pitch black out and me holding only a flashlight and my camera, I got to the bottom of the driveway and there’s a man standing there! Scared the heck out of me! It was our neighbors, taking pictures of the horseman. Very nice couple, they aren’t normally scary, as far as I know… Heh.. heh… And a truck pulled over and a couple asked me about the horse. It’s great that he’s getting attention!
Our scarecrow is loosely based on the one at the beginning of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (for the body) crossed with Jack Skellington’s Pumpkin King scarecrow outfit from the beginning of The Nightmare Before Christmas (for the head.) The head is a Funkins Carvable Pumpkin purchased at Joanne’s Fabric. We used a wonderful pattern for the Pumpkin King which we found at the Zombie Pumpkins site (click here for the site. They also have a nice Headless Horseman pattern.) Inside the head, we stuck a Funkins Pumpkin Light. (The light was totally too expensive for what it is. It flickers like a real flame, but it’s very very dim. I actually kind of like the look though because it’s a cold, feable, unfriendly light inside and makes it a bit scarier. Unfortunately it must be absolutely dark and you can’t be more than a couple feet away to see it.) The body is made from PVC piping painted black and wrapped in burlap. We cut grooves in the pipe and tied twigs and sticks to it for the ‘ribcage.’ We then draped some old gauze and burlap over the arms (for those of you who went to our Mummy Party, this guaze is all that’s left of the mummy) and hot-glued it in place. We dirtied it up with leaves and stuff, and glued straw around the neck. We added long branches for hands and secured the head with hot glue so it can’t be stolen. (Riiiight.) It was really easy and looks great! The only expensive part was the Funkins stuff. Then I drilled a hole in a flashlight, soldered on an old 3.5v Nokia cell phone charger, and stuck it at the base shining up at the gauze. Nice and creepy!
10/22 Update – Today the scarecrow was lying down on the job! The aluminum pole I had put in the ground and slid the PVC pipe over had broken right at the base. I thought, that must have been some pretty tough wind to break an aluminum pole in half. While attaching the scarecrow to a new pole so it won’t spin around, two dump trucks passed by, and I found out why the pole had broken. Now, the speed limit through here is 35. I don’t expect that anyone actually goes 35, but these trucks were going much too fast. The scarecrow violently jerked backwards and if I had not been there, I’d have another broken pole. So I put a second pole behind the scarecrow and tied it to the PVC pipe so that if he gets hit with a blow like that again, the second pole will hopefully prevent him from toppling. So far, it’s worked well!
10/23 – Tonight I spent a couple hours matching up boards, and now we have the beginnings of a crooked old fence. It will serve two purposes, to be kinda spooky and run-down looking, and to prevent any trick-or-treaters who might show up from going into the driveway. We were planning to build a wrought-iron looking fence out of PVC piping and wood, you can find similar projects on the MonsterList of Halloween Projects website. (click for the list!) We opted for the wooden fence instead because of sturdiness and inexpence. The wooden fence won’t fall over if bumped into, not that a well-built PVC fence would fall over either, and wood was readily available, PVC was not.
We bought a few foam tombstones from Wal-Mart and will use dowels or rods to put them in the ground. We are going to use some old stone shingles with wooden stakes screwed to them to fill in as extra tombstones.
We have a Gemmy Ground-Fogger (also from Wal-Mart) and with only minimal testing I think it’ll be good for the cemetery. (See below for my final report on this.) There’s a compartment in the front where you put ice which chills the fog before it comes out of the machine so that it will hug the ground instead of fill the air. (If you have a regular fog machine and want to make it a ground fogger, check out the many “fog chiller” ideas on the MonsterList. I built one using a plastic cooler and directions from the list and it worked beautifully, and the ice lasted all night without needing refilling.) I’ve used both Gemmy (Wal-Mart) and American DJ fog juice and they are both good. I doubt there’s a huge difference in fog juices, but this is my experience.
Music and sound effects are easy; a portable CD player with detachable speakers. If I get really ambitious I could make a CD with music on the right speaker and sound effects on the left speaker and set them at opposite ends of the cemetery. Or to save time and headaches I could just borrow a player!
We had planned to build a small mausoleum to hide a Commodore Vic-20 or 128 for a light show project, but it’s on hold till next year. There’s only seven days left and the programming and wiring of lights is time-consuming. We want to place small lights in front of eight of the tombstones, or Christmas lights in pumpkins, or whatever, and have them ‘flash’ to a song. They would be connected to the Commodore computer’s User Port (it’s similar to a PC’s parallel port). The computer would be hidden inside the mausoleum, protected from the spectator’s view, the elements, and small fingers. I’ve already used this set up to control props, lighting, and music in the past, so the theory is sound, but the programming’s a hassle. It’d be fun to try another year, or maybe for a Christmas display!
10/26 – Oddly, indoors, the ground-fogger worked fine. Outside in the cooler air, it did not. The fog coming out went straight up, and the ice was gone in almost half an hour. It’ll need more testing, but if it doesn’t work for ground fog, there’s no easy way to adapt it to be a regular fog machine for the horse or for use with an external fog chiller. I tried it again inside and it worked fine, so I suspect any amount of air current will take the fog away. Also I think it helps if it is right on the ground, not on a crate or anything. Hopefully we can set it in one corner or our ‘cemetery’ and let the wind take it across the yard.
The fence is complete, and when we decide how to set up all the props we’ve collected over the years, we’ll post a photo!
10/31 – We decorated the fence with red, green, orange and purple christmas lights, put several hanging props on it, as well as ghosts in the trees, and pumkins, props, flowers and vines in front of the gravestones, fairly simple, but nice. The pictures make it look sparse but it was nice. I made a CD of Halloween-atmosphere sounds that come from a certain theme park, and on one of the speakers I added the Headless Horseman’s laugh from the Disney cartoon every three minutes or so. That speaker went in the bushes in front of the horseman, the other speaker went in the bushes near our cemetery. We had two tables set up with candy and props on one, a CD player for music on the other. We also had two beautiful wrought-iron candelabras we purchased from Property Control (best buy ever!) which had been used in a Disney Cruise Line show called C’est Magique (anybody know anything about this show?) We put out three torchiere floor lamps with colored lighting to light up our cemetery but later switched to brighter lights when the first Trick-or-Treaters said they couldn’t see.
The fog machine: I love Gemmy’s fog machines, the ones sold at Wal-Mart. The regular ones are inexpensive, they take a beating, and they don’t die if they run out of juice and are left on for a short while. However, the ground fogger was very disappointing. The ice needed replacing every ten minutes, and as the fog gets pushed through the ice compartment first, the inside of the fogger gets sticky and nasty very quickly. I suspect at least 50% of the juice recondensed and ended up in the bottom of the fogger, then probably on the ground, which while considered non-toxic, is actually probably not healthy for animals and plants. Next time I will just use a regular machine and direct the fog through a chiller like the one I mentioned above. The home-made chiller results in much better ground fog, lasts hours, and isn’t messy. (Directions for the home-made chiller.)
Click these 3 photos for full panoramic shots:
Well, Halloween is over, and we had fun. We started decorating the cemetery at about 1:30 in the afternoon using props and decorations we’ve collected over the years, we were pretty much done by 3:30.
Me and Lace in costume; Lacey in her American McGee’s Alice dress with a little goth added, me in my replica Haunted Mansion Host outfit: (Incidentally Lacey makes most of our costumes herself! Check out our MySpace pages, listed at the bottom, for more costumes she and our friends have made.)
Trick-or-Treating was from 5-7 pm, so just to be safe, we were out from 4-8 pm. We had treats, hot apple cider to keep us warm, and some fun Halloween tunes. Lots of people stopped to check out the horseman and take photos, and we got many compliments! It was fun to see everyone’s enthusiasm! Our neighbor came over to see our setup (this time he didn’t scare us so much!)
We had a total of 8 Trick-or-Treaters in three groups. We tried to get photos of the ToTs, but our camera died every time they came (must’ve been ghosts sucking energy from the batteries.) However my brother-in-law Kevin got some pictures, as well as my cousin Trisha with her kids:
Although we’d hoped to have more ToTs, it was a lot of fun. We kind of expected only a few since there hasn’t been much going on here during Halloween for… well, a few years. From what I understand these things only grow if you keep them up, and maybe next year we’ll do something a little bigger and advertise, or get involved with someone else’s project. Money is a big factor in building walk-throughs and hayrides, as well as insurance concerns in a sue-happy world, but we might be game. We’ve already got some unrealistic ideas we’ll share next year! (PS. We almost put a head in the horseman’s hand for November 1st, but decided it might not be as funny to other people.)
Where’re we going to store this thing? Anyone looking to buy a life-sized horse?
10/23– We have our first fanpic! Well ok it’s from my Aunt, but she’s a fan too. Two-headed scarecrow anyone?
11/1 – We made the Granite State News!
Thursday, November 1, 2007 “Beware all who pass – Creative enthusiasts of the spookiest of all holidays brought Halloween decorations to a new level this year in Tuftonboro. This headless horseman threatens to throw a “flaming” pumpkin head at all passing cars on Sodom Road from his rearing horse, with red glowing eyes and smoking nostrils.” Pic by Joshua Spaulding.
We won a contest at ZombiePumpkins.com! Click the link above, then click on “Lacey Mason” to see our award page. Be sure to check out the other winners! More on this later…
Comments, Questions, Suggestions?
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Or you can email us; fayevalentine121ataoldotcom (obviously, you will need to replace “ataoldotcom” with “@aol.com” The reason for this is so we don’t get inundated with spam emails.)
Visit Michael and Lacey’s other sites!
– Halloween 2008 – The Monster Motel opens for business!
– Our MySpace pages have photos of some of our past Halloween adventures!
– The Toy Shop – 20 Marvelous Mechanical Models That Really Work! – Twenty paper models and automata that you can decorate and print, from the original Commodore 64 program! Also a Snooper Troops SnoopMobile model can be found here!
– Paper Models – The Christmas Kit – more paper modeling with old computers! A Dickens Christmas Village, A Holiday Locomotive, creative ornaments and gift packaging, just in time for the holidays!
– Commodore 64 Logo, Computereyes, Odell Woods, and more – Some random stuff, including Commodore 64 Terrapin Logo programming software, Odell Lake and Odell Woods, Star Wars stuff, and more.