Halloween Broken Down


Weatherly Manor

Weatherly Manor, Our Haunt

Halloween this year was full of good news and bad news, and I’m not sure which one won out.  On the good news front, we got to set up our haunted house twice, which is our goal each year.  On the bad news front, it rained right up until Halloween morning, meaning we didn’t start setting up till mid-morning on Halloween instead of the night before like we planned.  But with the help of a few friends and family, the house went up in record time so all ended well.


We had fewer visitors this year, but the house across from us had a record showing.  We estimate that somewhere around 350 people went through our house.  That’s slightly down from last year.  The neighbors across the way had 880 counted visitors, a 20% increase over last year.  The kids found fewer houses offering candy this year, but got better candy than last year.  (I know, because I raided their haul.)



We had better scares this year.  Jim, my partner in crime, counted 2 pee-talities.  The first group in ran screaming right out the front door.  The screaming sounds of success lasted all night long, and we only made a couple of kids cry.  We even managed to scare two separate people who refused to go inside.

But now, in the post-halloween mess, Jim and I have some hard choices to make.  Do we want to go pro?  Do we want to stay yard and small?  Do we want to toss out the current facade and start fresh?  Keep using the bulky, overworked and rusting metal shelves that we climb all over, or find something new?  Do we set up that hanky tent one more time, or invest in something new and better?

Moaning Lisa

The Moaning Lisa



More importantly, will we actually start early enough to accomplish something this year instead of waiting till the last moment again?

The next year will tell the tale.  A part of me really wants to go pro, and try to build a Haunted House for Huntsville worthy of Greystone Manor in Killan, or Slaughter on Meaghan in Gadsden.  But that initial move toward a pro haunt is scary, costly and riddled with doubt.  What’s the venue?  Insurance?  Employees?  Volunteers?  So much to think about.

Part of me wants to stay yard.  But we’ve pushed “free or cheap” about as far as it can go.  Do we really want to keep zip tying cardboard together?  Do we want to spend 10-15 hours setting up for a 3 hour scare?  I’m just not sure right now.

I’m in the post Halloween blues.  And Lord knows I’ve enough elsewhere to be blue about.  So I’m probably not in the best mind frame to make ANY decision about next Halloween.  So it may be a month or two before we do anything firm.  But these are the dark thoughts running through my Halloweenie mind.

Why I love Halloween.

IMG_0030Year two of the big house was a success, but more important to me the act of Trick or Treating was a success.

It’s no secret to those of you who read my blog regularly that I love Halloween.  That I build crazy stuff to scare people on this great day, and that I perhaps go a bit overboard, building a giant, semi-portable haunted house not once, but twice every year.

This year’s house used last year’s basic construction, but the inside was completely different.  And we scared people, oh yes we did.  But it wasn’t about scaring people that makes me do Halloween.  It’s something else entirely.

It’s all about patriotism.

Now before you click away thinking I’m gonna go all right wing extreme and tell you about my hell house and if you don’t turn away from the evil ways of the left you’ll end up as a permanent exhibit in my house, think again.  This isn’t the flag waving kind of patriotism I’m talking about.  It’s much deeper and more fundamental.

It’s about community and responsibility and shared burden and shared joy.  It’s about a fundamental trust that American can and should share with their neighbors.  And by neighbors, I’m not talking about the guy next to you, but the community at large.

Think about it a minute and you’ll quickly see that there is nothing more trusting in a community than the act of trick or treating.  Here is a planned activity where you take your most prized possession, your children, and send them out into the world on the trust that the ghosts and goblins aren’t real, and that they are safe in the company of strangers.

You send your children, either on their own or from the street, to the doors of often complete strangers.  You expect that the person you do not know will open their door and give your children a small treat that is perfectly safe and mostly harmless (aside from caloric or dental damage) and will then send them away, to go to a new door of a new stranger to repeat the process over again.

And millions of American children did that this past weekend.  Went to strangers doors and got candy or pennies or something else of little worth but representing great fun for the child.

And that, dear readers, is basic American Patriotism.  The community coming together to celebrate a night of fun and foolishness, of helping each other out and being, for a brief moment, a community.

IMG_0088And now, for the dark side of Halloween.  The part I hate.  I hate “Hell Houses” that try to take the haunted out of Halloween and instead “scare” kids and parents alike into a religious belief.  I hate “Fall Festivals” designed to kill Halloween altogether.  Personally, I think Churches that plan so called “Fall Festivals” with the intention of enticing kids away from trick or treating are more than just misguided, they are pulling a great evil on us all.  They are subtly telling us that trick or treating isn’t safe, that such a wonderful act of trust, freedom and community is somehow wrong and should be stopped.  That the ghosts and goblins are real and need to be avoided instead of faced down and overcome.  I could never support a church that attempted to “replace” Halloween.

Now I’m not against parties or festivals in general.  I love our trunk or treat, which has NEVER conflicted with Halloween’s trick or treat.  I love fall festivals that are early enough to end with plenty of time to allow for trick or treating.  And I support the idea of private Halloween parties where the trick or treating is part of the fun.  But the idea that Halloween needs to be replaced is to suggest that America is not a safe place.  That the news has won and there is a child abductor on every street corner and a child molester under every street light.  And that simply isn’t true.

In fact, the chances that something bad happens to a child on Halloween is pretty low.  The scare of the 80’s with razor blades in apples and poison in candy turned out to be false, plants by parents seeking publicity and fame. Halloween is good, clean community fun punctuated with scary masks and fun costumes.  And on one street in Huntsville, Al a ghostly mansion that rises out of the mists of time to swallow children whole.  For about a minute.  Before giving them candy and sending them on their way, bragging that they weren’t scared.  And I’ll never let anyone know that the 12 year old boy that fell to the ground crying this year also wet his pants.  Really, I wont.

Help a Haunter Out!

I need your help!

IMG_0029The rain is threatening to cancel our haunted house this year, but the latest forcasts show it should be past us by the time the Trick Or Treaters start begging for their candy.  So I need some help from you if I’m to get the house set up in time.

Here’s what I need.  Four people (more is better) willing to take orders and pitch in and work quickly to set up the house.  I need you for 2.5 hours from 3:30 to 6pm on Halloween.  I promise to cut you loose at 6pm so you can make your own parties or take your kids on their annual candy begging tour.  (Or bring the kids over, the neighborhood is awesome for Trick or Treating)

The plan is for Jim and I to work all morning, rain or shine, doing the hard stuff.  We need people to throw at the haunt in the afternoon to do the easy, but time consuming, stuff.  It will involve hanging curtains, hanging plastic, lifting sheets of cardboard and other simple but vital tasks.  And in the end, you’ll get our eternal gratitude and can claim you helped build Huntsville’s best yard haunt.

So pitch in, will ya?  Help a haunter out.

Email me at totalriot13 at mac dot com and let me know you can help.  That goes straight to my phone, and I’ll respond ASAP.  The haunt is set up in south Huntsville near the Wal Mart.

Thanks in advance.

Haunted House A Success…

Once again I set up my Haunt.  Due to various things, very little of the structure changed this year.  But the effects and scares… very different.  Plus a few surprise donations by a theater friend resulted in one of the most interesting set ups we’ve ever done.

For the first time, the haunt was set up indoors at the gym at the church.  Building the haunt was an absolute practice in frustration.  Building indoors threw off all sense of proportion.  I had no idea how the final product would end up looking.


We started the build on Friday, with the pre-Halloween event on Saturday.  The first step was to put together the “Dot Room” which is the second part of the haunt.  Trying to figure out some of the things about the tent became a bit of an obsession for a while.  The tent is a regular hexagon with 6 foot sides.  I now know more about the geometry of hexagons than I ever thought I would.


With the tent up, and looking smashing and scary too – don’t you think?, we could move on to the more important parts of the build.

IMG_0019Lunch!  Yum!  Then one more quick trip:


Then we could return to building…

IMG_0021IMG_0022IMG_0023IMG_0024IMG_0025IMG_0026Things picked up once we started putting the facade on the house.  Which is cardboard and stitched together with zip ties.  So that goes up pretty quick.

IMG_0028Nearly finished!

IMG_0029There!  At this point it was just dressing it out to be as scary as possible.  Jim, my partner in halloween crime, took some pictures of the finished house, glowing in the darkness.  When I get them from him I’ll include them here.

Want to see what happens inside?  We’ll be in the neighborhood behind the south parkway Wal Mart this weekend.  Turn left on Bell Road as you go up Hobbs from the Parkway, and you can’t miss us.

So visit, if you dare.

Batman breaks my heart

Let me say right up front that I have nothing against the dark knight. I happen to be quite fond of the bat. He’s no Iron Man, but who is?

However, halloween is my holiday. I go a bit nuts over it in fact. More than a bit. My living room is currently full of creepy props and I know how to turn you basic plastic skeleton into a realistic looking corpse better than anything on CSI.

With that said, Batman has broken my heart. My wonderful five year old son has picked the bat over something more appropriate this Halloween. I tried to get him to be a zombie or a bloody pirate but he’d have none of it.

No, he has to be something heroic on the one night we are to celebrate our inner villian. To embrace the darkness within.

I suppose I should be thankful he didn’t chose a more colorful hero. Spider-man is to cherry and while Iron Man is cool he doesn’t exactly strike fear in hearts. Batman is at least as grumpy as a brain starved zombie.

Now if I can just convince my three year old daughter to be something other than a princess I might salvage this Halloween yet. Maybe she will go for a vampire princess. Her love of pink doesn’t give me much hope.

Haunted Disappointment

It was oktoberfest this weekend, a left over remnant of when german rocket gurus ran Redstone. They bring in a midway and the rides this year looked prehistoric.

Except for on ride. Called the ghosttrain. Clearly it was a darkride. A buggy took you on aquick ride through a short winding route where things jump out at you. I had to ride it.

It was beautiful outside. Freashly painted and looking suitably scary. I was sure it would be wonderful fodder for new ideas for my haunt.

I was wrong.

The fresh paint hid the truly scary thing inside. Nothing. That’s right. Nothing.

My five year old can build a better haunt than this crazy ride.

Made me cry.