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Old relics from the 1980's
MY HALLOWEEN HISTORY

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)

Me being all vampirical.
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.

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 held.

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.


1991-1999

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]

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