MY HALLOWEEN HISTORY
Old relics from the 1980's
It all started out with a small haunted house that we took
part in at school in 6th grade (Oct '84), and a trip to
Disney World the following spring where I went on the
Haunted Mansion ride repeatedly. These two things set the
wheels in my brain in motion, and the following Halloween
I was dead-set (get it? dead? Ha!) on setting up my own
haunted house, which I would invite the trick-or-treaters
in to see.
1985 - My first haunted house came to pass, but it
was rather laughable actually. The one saving grace was the
fact that my parents had decorated the living room in sort
of an old-world style, with antique furniture, and old-style
wall-paper, crown moldings, and artificially antiqued
paintings/frames (all of which my haunted houses over the
next few years relied on as well). Just add cobweb and dim
lighting... instant spooky atmosphere.
My haunted house that year consisted of nothing but a pile
of bones in one corner illuminated by candles, an inflatable
skeleton which would sit up (pull-string), a sound-effects
tape, and an oscillating ghost (a sheet and a papier-mache head
stuck on an upright oscillating fan). I did however have one
other item on display-- A friend of the family was rather
skilled at latex-work, and had created mummies and the like.
He let me borrow one for halloween night (he often would bring
them to the Halloween parties my parents held, which was
typically on the saturday before halloween). These things
looked remarkably real... better than the ones I saw in
the smithsonian, in my opinion, believe it or not!
1986 - I took more inspiration from the Disney World
attraction than from the average haunted house that is designed
to startle you or gross you out. I wanted something to have
more special effects, something more interesting to behold,
rather than just to make you jumpy.
This was the year I turned things around, and made it much
better, and had friends helping me run it. From this point
on, I was still doing all the construction, but friends
came every year... One was the
guide, another operated the strings, and yet another would jump
out at people or move in a corner or something.
By today'st standards
(my standards anyway), it was still pretty simplistic and low-key.
However considering I was still in grade-school and had no budget,
I think it turned out well for the circumstances.
I decided there would be only two forms of lighting- Candles,
and a blacklight. Lighting had to be set up carefully so as
to not make the strings terribly visible, and not pose a fire
hazard to people wearing flammable costumes. Areas were roped
off to control viewing angles and to keep people from touching
things. And some effects were put into place.. things which
would persist for years to come. :)
This time around it was only the living room, but I had
several interesting effects:
- Haunted Swinging Chandlier
- Animated-Levitating Wand
- Jumping/Floating Bones
- Chattering Skull (jaw clacking)
- Falling Spider (dropped from the cieling)
1987-1990 - During these years, I had expanded
to fill the dining room as well, and had more effects (such
as a horizontally levitated rope, and a china cabinet
whose doors would open and close). The same basic formula
ran every year, and people throughout the neighborhood
knew of my haunted house, and many people would see it
each year. But then I graduated high school, and went off
to college, and my parents split up and moved out of the
old house, so the haunted house saw it's last run in
1990. It's a shame I don't have any pictures of it, but
I doubt any would have been taken considering I had a
"no flash-photography" rule.
Me being all vampirical.
All in all, I didn't work any real magic. The effects
were crude, though it was all pretty
remarkable considering I worked on a budget of
about $10 each year. We had a simple code-word
system so that the string-operator would know when to do
things. Everything was operated by fishing-line run
through soda-straw "pulleys" held in place with tape.
Everything had to be low-impact so I could run it without
damaging the furniture etc. Despite the simplicity, it
was a lot of fun, and everyone in the area loved it.
I helped with a haunted house in 9th grade at school (1987), but worked
mostly as an idea-guy, and then operated the elevator
to bring people down to the basement where it was being
In 10th grade I helped with another high-school-run
haunted house (different school, different people, 1988). I was
just one of the character actors in this case.
In the intervening years, I had't had a chance to do much
for halloween. The last year of my living-room haunted house
was also my senior year of high-school. In running off to
college, I normally only participated in Halloween by handing
out candy at my mother's house, or by walking the night in
costume with some friends (stalking around, so to speak). Some
of us also had one last trick-or-treating fling during this time.
After college, I had a transitional period in which I didn't
have my own place, and it was not practical to do much. Then,
in 2000, after having my own home, I would start to very gradually
revive the spirit of the holiday...
[Click for Halloween 2000]