Monday, October 30th 2006

And on that note…
posted @ 12:03 pm by Casey

Well, another year over. Another 5 day intense build and 1 day intense tear down. It is pretty amazing watching the house become a house again in that one day of tearing everything down.

This year went pretty well, had a ton of people come through and the Asylum was unbelievable for its first year. Zach was also back this year and did an unbelievable job as a crazy person in the only open room in the hallway of doors. With the positives, however, come the negatives. Our actors were a huge problem this year, couldn’t keep anyone where they were supposed to be and couldn’t keep half of them from constantly being on break IN THE HAUNT. For you other haunters out there, never take a break in the haunt where guests can see you, bad form.

The big negative this year, however, was rain. We have miraculously avoided rain every year we have done this and it finally caught up with us. It rained during the haunt on Friday and started pouring just after close. In a total downpour we had to take down the 14 foot clown entrance, both signs, all of the outdoor electric and several outdoor props. Fortunately nothing was ruined, but it was not a fun experience. Usually Saturday is a very relaxed day, but this time around we had to rebuild all the things we had to take down for the rain.

Once again Kacy and Rick were awesome, Paul was a HUGE help this year, Zach flew all the way out to have me bark orders at him (sorry Zach) and Kenny was there every day of the build AND teardown. This year will be a real tough call, both Kenny and Zach were incredible help and the best actors we had… hard to say who would win the MVP. And lastly, Sommer was once again the rock, the mother of the haunt. Thanks Junior! Below are a few sneak peek photos.

Without a doubt my favorite room in the house. We always have to include the tasteless prop and this year it was a doctor who just couldn’t take it anymore. Brilliant.

Everything about the Asylum was incredible, starting with the new fascade. Paul and I found those shutters (made of foam believe it or not) for $2 a piece, and we of course built the sign. A new paintjob on the door, some aging by Paul and we had a very convincing entry.

We split the porch into two rooms this year (it was one large room for the funeral home). It really worked out well as you passed first from a relatively safe reception area to this first room, the common area. This came out sooooo cool that while I was sad to see the funeral home go, I was equally pleased in here.

Here is a little closer shot of the medication area. You’d have to see the porch with nothing on to appreciate the changes we made, but all the walls along the left are new, the medication area is new and we hung a TV playing a loop of creepiness. You can download that video here (5.7 MB Quicktime).

Scary. Paul was an incredible help this year, it is fun to do this sort of thing with family. He not only helped every day of the build, he also shaved his head AND eyebrows to convert from the Ringmaster to the creepy clown version of the Ringmaster. Best costume by far.

Monday, October 23rd 2006

Little TV
posted @ 10:20 pm by Casey

We’re in the last week and things are progressing nicely. Built the majority of the doors for the ever so creepy “hallway of doors” and just need to build about 3 more and throw some locks on them. Well, correction, we also need to age about 60 feet of walls… ugh.

Also put a little TV into a little cage which for some reason really made me happy. Seriously.

Jump to the photos for today

Thursday, October 19th 2006

Woohoo, Momentum…
posted @ 12:42 am by Casey

It usually just takes a couple of projects in a row to get the momentum that makes me feel good about our progress. Fortunately I reached that point today. We built what Sommer refers to as the Rat in a Cage Maze and I’m thrilled with it. The exhilarating part about doing this stuff is that you find yourself in the position of building things you have never built before. Hell, building things you have never even fathomed before. When you embark on such journeys it can either go horribly wrong, or work out just splendidly. Today was a splendidly day and the cages r00l.

Also, I do work. No one ever takes my picture, but dammit, I do work. Proof below.

Tuesday, October 17th 2006

posted @ 10:52 pm by Casey

Well, we’re progressing slowly. Not to worry, though, most of the asylum will be built on site and doesn’t require a lot of preparation up front. We did however complete a project tonight as well as get a couple of other interesting things done. First of all, Sommer kicks ass. She designed the Wheel of Death and it is totally freakin’ awesome. It makes me want to redesign whole portions of the Circus to resemble the style… nice work, junior. This bad boy will be a spinning, old school knife throwing prop of doom.

We also worked on a couple of other pieces of signage, and randomness. I totally abused employer resources by printing out a whole boatload of obituaries, newspaper clippings, medical diagrams, handwritten notes and other randomness to adorn the doctor’s office. Gotta love that. Check out the randomness for today.

Zach (the original autopsy specialist from California) arrives next Wednesday, next week should be awesome. We’ve got a ton of building to do, but overall I think we’re in good shape to have another incredible year.

Tuesday, October 10th 2006

Is it the 10th already?!
posted @ 11:24 pm by Casey

Like Sommer below, I’m a tad stressed at the moment. I swear I get a later start every year, and fortunately everything gets done every year. However, I’m feeling the pressure of the late start this year (we’re building a brand new haunt, dangit!) I needed to get over the hump of finishing the sign, and we’ve done that. I must say I am really happy with how it came out. Whenever I start out on a new project, something I’ve never done before, I’m always nervous about how it will turn out. I decided last year I wanted to do an internally lit sign, so I went ahead with a plan I had in my head and it worked out. Yay for me.

We are also progressing along on the Wheel of Death, which should be pretty cool. The concept is a light weight copy of an old school knife throwing wheel. Last year we had a clown with knives in him, akin to a knife throwing victim, but this year we’re stepping it up.

The concept is that a haunt theme lives for 2 years. The first year you get the basics out of the way. The second year you really perfect it, and then the third it is gone. This is the second year for the circus, so we’re building up the midway (to feature the Wheel of Death) and a Freakshow portion. Should be cool. Lots more to go on the Wheel, but Sommer came up with a cool design for it and I’m excited.

Part of the excitement of all of this is the stress of wondering if we can actually pull it off again. And here I sit, once again wondering… every year the hype gets bigger, the expectations get greater, the time gets shorter… and you know what? I still love it!

Tuesday, October 10th 2006

The Darker Side of Home Haunting
posted @ 11:11 pm by Casey

I’ve got to admit that I often find myself wanting to rip my hair out and scream this time of year. It’s impossible to move around in the garage, the backyard looks like the backyard of some creepy redneck family with all the salvaged furniture and junk we find(hey…the shoe may fit, i know!), and the nights are spent toiling over the most bizarre projects. I also can’t help but to worry and stress over details: will everything fall into place in a timely manner? Will we go broke in the process? Will someone get hurt? Will people even show up? If they do, will they be assholes? Putting on a haunt also means dealing with the dynamics of our group of contributors. Everyone has their own ideas and “visions” of what it should be or look like. Everyone deserves respect, but not everyone has a spectacular idea in line with the overall “vision,” so toes are stepped on frequently. In the end, though, everything works out, little arguments over color scheme, placement, etc. are forgotten, and everyone has a good time making adults and children scream and cry (respectively…or not?). I always enjoy it after the fact, after everything is done and nothing or no one has fallen to pieces. Until then, I’ll be the nervous, watchful one with crossed fingers. And toes. And….eyes?

Oh, and I don’t have classes this year (hooray for graduating!), so I will hopefully be able to contribute even more this time. On my to-do list now: Two more fatso costumes, a chicken costume (if i can find cheap faux fur), more tent stuff, the wheel of death, and the general planning stuff with Casey.

Wednesday, September 20th 2006

A shallow mind is a happy mind
posted @ 10:09 pm by Casey

And we’re off! We’ll be running October 27 and 28 this year and as if it wasn’t crazy enough to do a new haunt last year, we’ll be introducing another new one this year. Welcome to Shallow Valley Asylum, where a shallow mind is a happy mind.

We are retiring the funeral home this year, it had a good run and was probably about as good as it will ever get last year. So, time to move on to new things. Starting from scratch is always scary, but don’t worry, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve to make this year (our 6th year) our best.

Thursday, March 9th 2006

2005 Photos!
posted @ 10:42 pm by Casey

I finally got around to adding the photos for 2005… I know, I know, I suck. I had uploaded them to a totally unstyled gallery right after Halloween but had grand plans for a redesign before I actually linked them. Reality set in and now I’m posting them as is.

2005 was incredible. We learned a whole lot both from the standpoint of running 2 haunts and from the standpoint of promoting a haunt. It turns out that the newspaper article last year was a huge part of our traffic, this year we figured word of mouth and promo materials would be enough (we actually feared having more people than we could handle) and it ends up that it isn’t. Despite having a very good turnout (estimated 1,500) we were disappointed to see less traffic than last year. Next year we’ll be going again for some news media coverage to help boost our numbers. We’re also talking preliminarily about running a second weekend, we’ll see how that pans out over the year.

Incidentally, check out a small video of how cool it is to have two haunts.

Monday, October 31st 2005

All Gone
posted @ 10:22 am by Casey

Yesterday was clean-up, and we’re all both sad and relieved to see it come down. What was put up in four days of non-stop work was taken down and packed away in a matter of six hours!

I took a few pictures to give everyone an idea of what the breakdown process is like:

Most of the electrical components. Flicker circuits, extension cords galore, can lights, christmas lights…all neatly bundled and packed away for next year.

Randomness scattered on the front lawn and driveway. You can see the morgue freezer walls and doors, the front door to the funeral home, and the wheelchairs from the morgue. We usually try to carry everything out to the front lawn for a quick mental inventory, and because it’s a little tricky to load the trailer now that we have so much stuff. We have officially exceeded the limits of Rick’s trailer now; it can only hold about 90% of our haunting props.

The deconstructed circus entry. Not as intimidating now, eh?

To everyone who helped out, from building to tear down to acting, THANK YOU SO MUCH. We can’t do what we do alone, and we love to see other people discovering and enjoying the haunting process.

Friday, October 28th 2005

The clock keeps tickin’…
posted @ 1:15 am by Casey

Well, we’re very close now, opening tomorrow night. While there are elements of the last push I usually don’t care much for I must admit lighting scenes really makes a huge difference. We put the finishing touches on the morgue today as well and Paul really came through with the airbrush to age the freezer wall. As usual Rick came through on the mechanical front taking my idea of a pneumatic slamming freezer door and delivered. In fact, I was so impressed I grabbed some video of it. Morgue Freezer .mov (1.3 MB)

This year has been really nice with a bunch of additional help I haven’t had before. Paul and Jenn have really stepped up and brought some great artistic support in, James also swooped in for some backup. I’ve had some extra construction hands with Kenny, Nick, Grandpa and Kawala. Rick continues to be a great guy to have around, providing mechanical know how I just don’t have and really bringing in a whole bunch of great ideas this year. And of course, my lovely wife Sommer has provided me with great support, a whole boatload of sewing, creativity and inspiration… I’m really lucky to have her around.

Jump straight to the photos for today