Halloween 2008 – The Monster Motel

I can’t believe Halloween 2008 is almost here! We’ve been thinking about how to top our Headless Horseman since last Halloween. Several ideas have come and gone; all of them have potential but for one reason or another have been shelved until later. This year we’ve settled on “The Monster Motel!” This may be our most involved project to date, even more than the Haunted Mansion/Gypsy Camp theme of our first party and the Mummy’s Tomb theme of our last party! (I really need to put up a page describing those two parties!)

The Monster Motel will be a free dark walk-through utilizing a little more than half of our basement. We both love the idea of a walk-through/maze, and we want to do something that would appeal to both kids and parents. We aren’t interested in building a gory, scary haunted house, so this will be slightly silly and kooky. The word “dark” refers to using blacklight and flourescent paint to create a glowing environment. We plan to make half the house in blacklight. We even considered buying some Chroma-Depth 3-D glasses to hand out, but we don’t have enough time this year to design a painting scheme. Chroma-Depth involves painting objects in such a way that certain colors appear to ‘float’ in front of others.

Last year we only had six ToTs (Trick or Treaters) so this year we plan to ‘advertise’ with a hotel sign flashing “Vacancy” at the end of our driveway, and hopefully we can scare up more visitors this time! The Headless Horseman was a big hit last year, and he might be back. He was left outside all winter and although he looks structurally fine, he needs some touch-up and reinforcement before he can be moved. We’re not really concerned, it was more an experiment to see how Monster Mud holds up to the elements. The mud turned brittle and flaky, but an additional coat of mud and paint should suffice for our purposes.

We have several ‘pet’ concepts we always hope to include in our haunts, but which of them will make it this year is still up for grabs. I’m still hoping to find a practical way to incorporate computer control using a Commodore computer or even a PC, but so far anything we come up with is easier to do in other ways. We’d also really like to set up a haunt cam to broadcast our ToTs live over the internet.  Other ideas we’ve found on other people’s sites that we’d we like to use include a bottomless pit, a talking magic mirror, a spinning vortex light, and a Pepper’s Ghost effect (like the dancing ghosts in Disney’s Haunted Mansion.) I would love to use Pepper’s Ghost to have a transforming werewolf, and I have this odd idea of using it to create an effect of a painting of storm-tossed ship which sprays water and mist, sort of like in the movie High Spirits but less messy. Another idea we’d like to try is a birdcage with a bird in it; as you walk by, the bird becomes skeletal. (A very similar effect can be seen in Disney’s Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment where a large butterfly in a cage disappears.)

Right now, with the limited space available, we have several key scenes in mind. Outside we want simple blinking critter eyes in the woods, and a ‘broken’ revolving door with skeleton stuck inside. On the inside, we envision the entrance being a small lobby with a skeleton for a front desk clerk. He might talk, he might not, and he might have the bird in a cage. We imagine ToTs would pass a few doors which they could look in to see different scenes, or pass from room to tiny room. We don’t have the room to make a maze, but we do want the path to be as meandering as possible to add to the sense of a journey. One of the rooms we have in mind would be a Mummy’s Tomb, which will be entered by walking into a sarcophagus which will be standing against a wall. (We built a sarcophagus in Florida and were unable to take it with us when we moved to New Hampshire. So sad!) We had originally planned to have a Bridal Suite with a bride similar to Disney’s original Haunted Mansion bride (on the left); very stoic and sad, standing shrouded in darkness with a beating heart. However tonight we were at the Spirit Halloween Store and at Michael’s, and we saw two headless brides for sale. We became inspired to do a scene more akin to the bride at Disney’s Phantom Manor, crossed with Princess Mombi from the movie Return to Oz. Since this is for kids, our bride will be much less scary than Mombi and more tongue in cheek than the Phantom Manor bride! Just before exiting the Motel, there will be a small area for ToTs to get their treats, and for us to stay warm! Last year it was freezing outside so this year we WILL be inside! We’re very excited and inspired by our ideas and can’t wait to get started!

We’ll keep you updated as best we can as things progress!

September 21

We completed our maze map on graph paper, and figured out what we needed for wall paneling. We then went to Lowe’s to look at material and decided to start with 15 sheets of half-inch styrofoam insulation. It’s sturdy and light, and we bought a few 2x2s to reinforce each foam sheet with a frame.

We bought a couple of dropping heads and talking skulls at Rite-Aid. We plan to gut them and turn them into our own things. I don’t feel too bad about this because they are loud and make really awful noises. We bought the heads for the bride scene. The heads and skulls have moving mouths which operate on 5 volts DC and can be connected to a computer-controlled relay to make them open and close in time to an audio track. Unfortunately the heads don’t have moving eyes, which we were really hoping to find. A couple of years ago there were several Gemmy props that had moving eyes, but I haven’t seen any since then. (Gemmy manufactures most every cool prop you find at Wal-Mart, Spirit, Michaels, and so on, as well as the ‘Air-Blowns’.) The skulls’ and heads’ eyes light up with LEDs, which we don’t really like so we decided to cut the power leads. The heads were pricey at $25 ($17 on sale), but the skulls were a pretty good deal, two skulls together for $20 ($14 on sale). The skulls were connected so they could talk to each other. We will cut the cord and will use them seperately. One will probably become the front desk man, if we decide to make him talk. The other will likely become a static prop somewhere, waiting to talk on another Halloween!

September 22 and 23

We spent several hours cutting the foam to size and fitting it together before building frames. We had designed our passages to be three feet wide, but when we actually walked through the temporary set up it seems like an awful lot of wasted space. We may shrink the passages to two and a half feet and create another twist and another turn to make it more interesting.

I then created frames for the foam sheets out of 2x2s and they help a lot. We only bought a few to experiment with, but so far everything looks good!

September 24

Lacey found an old wedding dress at a costume shop for $25 and we plan to use it for the bride. I feel bad, but we are going to need to alter it to make room for mechanical parts if we have the bride sitting down. She could be standing, but I think the effect we want would be better and more easily achieved if she’s sitting down.

October 10, 2008

It’s been a long time since we’ve written because we’ve been so busy! Also our Dell died (knew it was coming) and we’re using an old old PC that doesn’t like our blog, or pretty much any website! Unfortunately our hope of broadcasting our haunt over the internet is probably out now that we are using an old PC.

Lacey bought a mummy at Lowe’s, and his tomb is painted black and awaiting her blacklight heiroglyphics. So far we have 90% of the foam walls assembled. I got a 1970’s windshield wiper motor and tested it in the bride, and she needs improvements. We’ve chosen her audio as well, a 45 second clip of “I Feel Pretty.” (The motel is supposed to be silly not scary!) We are definitely going to put the Headless Horseman out again, people have been asking. He needs some repairs and reinforcement.

It’s nice to see things come together so quickly out of the chaos, we are really getting behind the project now!  And we finally picked out our costumes: Lacey plans to make herself an adult version of a “Monster Bride” costume which she saw for teen girls, and I will probably be an Observer from MST3K. (Sorry Patty, I always liked Mike Nelson best!)

Anyways, we need to add some photos!

October 12, 2008

Yesterday we helped cater a wedding, it was the most gorgeous weekend of the year! Didn’t get a whole lot done, too much going on and too nice to be inside. My dad and I reinforced the Horseman with some carriage bolts, and w, Laceye did move him to the roadside, but further down this time, in our neighbor’s yard. Lacey applied a new coat of paint while I collected plants to camoflauge the support structure. No scarecrow,  lights, fog or fan yet. And Lacey spray painted the vanity mirror. We’ve decided on a new course of action for our bride’s motors thanks to the helpful people at Halloween Forum and HauntSpace. We switched around windshield wiper motors and power supplies to see what will work best, and we’ll probably buy another power supply to test as well. I’m also going to create a separate page talking about the bride’s programming, ’cause what I wrote about it was looong and not too exciting. Also Lacey designed the cool logo you see at the top of this page!

We will probably start putting further information under headings, like we did last time, instead of dates:

The Sign

Lacey has designed the sign (see the logo at the top of the page) and we plan to copy it to a sheet of plywood to place by the road, and add exact dates and times. We’d like a “Vacancy/No Vacancy” sign under it in which the ‘No’ would flicker. We could do it one of four ways: using a flicker circuit, which is not easy to make for an electronics newbie like me. We could use a flourescent starter connected to an incandescent bulb, which I’m afraid to leave unattended. We could try to find a flasher button to insert in the bulb socket, which I’ve never actually seen anywhere to buy in person. And finally we could use a  portable radio with a flashlight bulb wired in place of a speaker. We’ve done this several times before, but eventually during the third Halloween party, the radio stopped working. I’m not certain if this was the fault of the bulb, or from being left outside all night long!

It’s October 19th, and the sign has been painted and is ready to go out! Only ten days left!

The Facade

More details soon!

The Haunted Halls

The walls are completely built but not dressed and decorated yet. The detail painting will probably be an ongoing process because there’s just so much of it. We’ll post an overview of it soon.

The Front Desk Man

He’s got a jacket. And a head. More soon!

The Bride

October 19th, 2008:  Greeting everyone! We’ve been working hard on getting the Bride ready for her show. Michael has spent hours [only about 8! -Michael] writing a program for controlling the various heads. I have been trying to paint these heads we bought at Rite Aid to look like women’s face… it’s actually been kind of ridiculous. [The harder she tries to make them look attractive, the more hideous they become!]

Here is the how they began their Halloween lives.



And this is how they’ve ended up. Every step I took pushed their look into the category of bad Drag. I was laughing so hard as I was painting the first one. (The one with the RED lips.) 

The video is of all of the pieces of our show sitting next to Michael’s Vic 20. He programmed the Vic to control everything. [I’m going to detail the programming aspect at a later date on another page, but I’ll link to it from here.]

The golden skull is the center piece for her mirrored dresser. I can’t wait until it’s all up together!! [The head on the far right is the Bride, she hasn’t been painted yet.]

The Mummy

Lace bought a mummy. (See above!) More later!

Other Residents

Our other residents haven’t quite checked in yet. But they confirmed they are on their way!


Comments, Questions, Suggestions?

Click here to leave us a comment and read other people’s comments!

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 2007 – The Headless Horseman comes to visit!

– Our MySpace pages have photos of some of our past Halloween adventures!

Michael’s MySpace Page

Lacey’s MySpace Page


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.

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 1:08 am  Comments (1)