Countdown to Halloween Day 30 - The Finished "Haunt" and Family Yard

The "Home and Family" show's set front yard decor is done. You may remember I posted about the plan for it a few weeks back (click here). Although most of the prop projects had been completed throughout the month, the finished display was literally set up and dressed in just a few hours one night last week. Not only with my amazing prop crew, but I also talked some equally amazing Halloween haunter friends to come by and help - Derek of Van Oaks Cemetery, Lydia and Andy Rella of Mourning Rose Manor, and Jasper of Mr. Chicken Props. Thank you all.

And as I've mentioned in past posts, I no longer have my own home to decorate, so the day job has kept the haunt flame alive for me.

Here's the initial design sketch.


Here's the video of the big reveal on the show.


Here's are pics I took of the finished yard.

Countdown to Halloween Day 28 - Zombie Windows DIY

The Zombie Apocalypse has finally happened. What do ya do first? Board up all your exposed windows of course. Then worry if your brains are tasty.


Sorry I've been an irregular Halloween blogger this year, but here's a full blown prop "how-to" post to make up for it. This is a cheap, easy and super fast project. Perfect if your haunt needs last minute details or you want some extra decoration inside for a party this Friday night.

How fast and easy? Well... I created these Zombie windows to cover our set's french door area in little over 4 hours today.


Step 1 - Get yourself lots of black foam core board. Cut boards to cover windows atleast a 1/4" - 1/2" wider. These will be the main support and create the blacked out areas. Once done, set aside to be used later. If it takes more than one board to cover your window it's okay, you can seam them together easily (explained later).

Step 2 - Making wood planks. These are cut strips of foam core. Why cheap foam core planks? To keep light and easily hung temporarily in windows of course (you could also use thicker foam or real wood, but this worked for me on this project). Cut irregular widths and lengths. Forget the ruler, going for that old distressed look. I also cut exaggerated cartoony notches at the end of planks to help sell it.


Step 3 - Painting. Trying to pass off foam core as wood planks requires a really decent faux finish. I used a wood grain paint tool, you can find these at most paint or craft stores. If you don't have one, get one. A handy tool in any prop making arsenal.

First I painted a board with a thinned coat of grey paint (1 part water/ 3 parts paint).


Quickly, while the paint was fresh and wet, I dragged the tool across to create grain. If you've never used one, practice a bit. Varying the angle of the curve while dragging creates unique knots and other natural wood grain textures. Tip - keep a rag handy. The wood grain tool can get gunked up with paint after several passes ruining the effect. So wipe it clean often.


Second tip - Once your planks are painted, they may curl a bit, this is because the drying shrinks the paper surface of the foamcore on that side. If happens, lightly wet the back with sponge or brush and the curl will flatten out some when that dries.

Step 4 - The fun part. Once planks dry, start arranging them on the window black out boards the way you like. Once set, just hot glue in place. If you have boards that need seaming, hot glue a plank across the seam to bridge them together.


Step 5 - Details. On the black areas between planks glue on store bought skeleton arms and hands as if breaking through. If needed, cut the base of them flat to glue more securely on board. I painted all mine green for a classic cartoon zombie look and so would "pop" against the darker boards. I also lightly dusted the bottom of each arm/hand with flat black spray paint so would blend in with the black void better and help suggest emerging from shadow.


I also added Zombie eyes. These were Ping Pong balls cut in half. I painted them yellow and used a Sharpie to create pupils and a neon green paint pen for color. Quick and easy.


And for extra detail, I used a silver paint pen to dot on nail heads where planks connected.

Step 6 - Hanging it up.  On the back of the board hot glue a length of picture hanging wire. On the window attach a suction cup hook. Hang Zombie board on hook. Done!

They're ya go. My project was constrained by time and budget, but I hope all reading this will take this basic build and get inspired to make your own and improve on.

Countdown to Halloween Day 8 - Trash Can Frankenstein Monster Prop


This is a project I've had in the back of my mind for a long time - creating a fairly simple to build giant robot out of junk. Ken Wingard and I teamed up this week and made it a 7 foot tall reality. The design was inspired by using a 5 gallon paint bucket as the head, and being flat topped, it naturally lead to him becoming the Frankenstein's monster. Scaling off of that, a 32 gallon trash can made for a great torso. Once all assembled, having a clunky feel, he had to have a fun cartoony look.

Here are the initial sketches roughing out how I thought could be built (happy to say almost exactly how it was actually made).


Ken has posted a detailed step by step (including process photos) on his blog.

Wait! Before you visit his page, here's a couple of extra project details of note.

First, here's how the hands were made by recycling milk jugs...



Second, for the finished prop, I drew face details and printed on label paper. They were then simply cut out and stuck on. Here they are if you want to swipe and use for your own bucket headed monster (click on to enlarge).




Okay that's it, you can go to Ken's page now. Wait! One more thing... this is a project that can be customized to almost any other vision. Classic retro 50's B-movie robot anyone?

Countdown to Halloween Day 6 - Make a Spooky Tree

Here's the large spooky tree I designed as a DIY for the show last week. I'm pretty happy with this one, especially being something that creating as is (barring material shopping and gathering) could be made in only a day if you need something extra for your lawn now. And of course something that can be improved on and added to for more realism and character if wanted by advanced prop folk.



The basic "how-to" and video can be found at the Hallmark Channel website HERE.

Countdown to Halloween Day 4 - The Afternoon He Came Home

My prop crew chose to display my old Michael Myers mannequin Friday afternoon in a place on set that will most freak out the Universal tram tours that pass by.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my prop crew?

Countdown to Halloween Day 2 - Family and Haunting

If you're lucky like me with a great family, they always somehow get suckered into your October obsession year after year.

I'm putting the spotlight on my brother Ted because today's his birthday.

From "Trick or Treating" as kids together to making sure "Trick or Treating" will be fun for kids, he's always been by my side every Halloween.


Countdown to Halloween '14 Day One - The Master Plan!

Halloween is here and the countdown has begun!

Okay, I thought I'd start by following up on something I posted about a week or so ago and a shameless plug for the the daily TV show I work on, Home and Family on the Hallmark Channel.

We're officially going full blown yard haunt crazy. Nicknamed "Haunt and Family" it will feature a few DIY segments every week throughout the month until the lawn looks pretty close to what I doodled up here.

I'd like to say any similarities in this design to any my old haunt projects are coincidental, but I'll be honest, I'm too overworked right now and lazy to think up all fresh new project ideas.

Being able to design and supervise these projects, I hope inspires a passion for yard haunting and decorating to untapped Halloween creatives.

Hope you tune in. Here's a sneak peek of this week's featured projects...

Today, an 8 foot spooky tree DIY


Thursday, a creepy cemetery fence DIY