Haunting Continues

section3-1The haunting continues as my son and I spent the better part of 3 hours playing with PVC in the front yard yesterday. Neighbors driving by gave some odd looks driving, seeing my front lawn full of PVC. As you read, I laid out section one, which is the entrance, first room and a twisting hallway. As I hauled out the PVC from storage and set up my table I went back over the plans I had drawn. It’s interesting to note that on paper it appears I have much more room, but once I had the PVC laid out I realized there would need to be some modifications to the layout.

Last year the original plans I drew up had to be modified on the fly since I measured the stage incorrectly. The only way to make things work were to make 2 foot hallways. Talk about narrow! In fact these are too narrow for people to walk through, thus the labyrinth was a failure last year. This year I still included some 2 foot hallways when transitioning between the 6 different areas I have laid out. Again, it begs the questions, are these hallways and corridors too narrow?

section3-3As I walked the PVC layout on ground I realized a few actor corridors I had were too wide, while some of the hallways for guests needed to be wider. I decided to decreasing actor corridors to 2 feet. While actors usually won’t be actively moving through these corridors, it does allow for enough room to stand/sit and perform the given task. Two areas, Oodles of Noodles and Clowning Around seemed too narrow when walking the layout. These were designed as 3 foot corridors, but realized I was going to have further issues with props and devices I had planned to use in those area. So taking a foot away from the actor corridors I increased these hallways, used by the guests to 4 feet wide. Walking it a few more times, I realize this is going to work much better.

All these changes in the original plans doesn’t account for the fact I have not addressed the 2 foot hallway issue, especially in first part of the layout, where the halls twist and turn for about 18 feet. Without a major design change, I could increase the width of a few of the hallways, while keeping others narrower. Not sure it will have the desired effect, but there just isn’t the necessary room in this area of the haunt. Further review and ideas are forthcoming.

section3-2Overall I am pleased with how the design is coming together. The decision to start very early and layout all the PVC as it’s going to be erected has been invaluable. This has allowed me to find flaws (like narrow halls) that have would have remained overlooked on paper. It also allows me to see just how much material will be required. So far I have a short list of PVC connectors. Yes, with some $300 in PVC last year we still need more this year, but it will be a fraction of what we spent last year.

Once I have the layout finalized and all the PVC in hand I will build the entire layout in the front yard, 25 ft. x 34 feet. It will also require the 16 feet of wooden hallways I plan to construct in order to accomplish, what will probably be the centerpiece of the haunt this year. Then again the dot room could also be a surprise to those who experienced it last year. In fact this is the next area I am going to work on in order to get the sheets to hang in a circular pattern, which only increases the effect for the actor hiding among the dots.

Haunting Begins

Let the haunting begin! Construction on the haunted house started a few days ago. I decided not to wait any longer and picked up all the PVC from my storage unit. Once I arrive home, I started separating all the connectors from the pipe and organizing it by length and type to make assembly quicker and easier. Last year it took Mark and I additional time to measure and cut many of the runs of pipe we were going to use, along with purchasing fittings to attach the PVC together.

pvc_pipeNow with a large inventory of PVC after last year’s haunted house it’s my intention to layout the entire haunt in my front yard, section by section. Tuesday I laid out section one on our lawn. It worked out well. Going off my plans I had to cut a few 7′ pipes to complete some of the longer, 6′ runs. Once I had all the pipe in place on the grass I grabbed the fittings and placed them at each intersection, depending on what it called for.

The entire process took less than hour to cut and set up. If I wanted to, I probably could have erected the walls (7′ pipes) to provide the real look of the layout. I didn’t see a reason to do this, as it would take more time. I bundled all the PVC together, bagged the connectors and labeled each. Section one was done.

Today, I will be putting together section three, which is that last third of the haunt. I am initially skipping section two because it is going to require the purchase of plywood and two by fours to create a stable hallway. It will also require me to devise a way to connect the PVC to the plywood. I don’t see this as a problem, but will be the most time consuming part of the actually layout of the haunt since there is additional construction.

Section three is 14’x25′ and unlike last year I believe there will be a fair amount of unused PVC. Last year the labyrinth took too much time to build and really didn’t turn out as anticipated, as the corridors were very narrow and confining. This is what happens when you need to adjust the plans on the fly because you ran out of space based on the incorrect measurements during the planning phase. Gone is the labyrinth replaced by some new haunts we are looking to add.

section1_layoutA highlight of section three is a room I created last year, the dot room. It will be the only haunt included from last year because it took me, my wife, mother-in-law and PTA members so much damn time to paint all the colored circles on 8 sets of sheets that represented the walls. I plan on using Gesso and repainting the yellow dots, which didn’t come out very well last year. Also planning on purchasing a Super Skin Black Zentai Bodysuit in order to paint colored dots. Last year it was sweat pants, sweat shirt and a mask. Talk about HOT! Hopefully this body suit will breath a bit better and allow dots to be painted easier.

Along with construction I am organizing details that will be included in the haunted house this year. What’s great it with 4 months before the Harvest Carnival, those involved will have time to really bring the haunt alive this year. Big plans, hopefully we can live up the hype and expectations. Did I mention clowns?

2013 Haunted House

halloweenTaking on a new challenge this year as we end September and look forward to October, which brings Halloween. While I have worked on a haunted house the last 2 years at my son’s elementary school, this will be the first year I have designed and built the haunted house. I am not alone on the project, thankfully I have a friend, who’s got 2 kids at the school and like me, serves on the PTA Board and spends a lot of time helping out at the school. Between the two of us, we should put together a fantastic haunt. At least that is our hope.

Unfortunately we are only 33 days away from Halloween and just 28 days from the school’s Harvest Carnival. I should have been working on many of the props and ideas much earlier in the year. As it happens, I only started designing a layout last week, but finally put the finishing touches to the updated version yesterday. Hopefully between now and the start of the carnival we will be able to enlist the help of a few people to help with the haunt. Right now, the task is a daunting one, especially as I look at October 3 quickly approaching, knowing I will be down and out for at least a week and won’t have the use of my left arm due to shoulder surgery.

hauntedhouse2013_v3Our haunt will be laid out on the auditorium stage, which is 24′ x 45′ with doors at opposite corners and an emergency exit (not that we expect to use it). Not sure if there is anything “typical” about a haunted house layout. I have spent more time looking at Halloween floor plans, layout, themes and ideas this year than I think I have spent in 42 previous years. So it’s no surprise there is not set way to host a successful haunt. We also need to take into consideration the kids who will predominately be walking through the haunt. Don’t want to make it too scary, but want to get some good scares out of the kids.

As of today there are 6 features in our haunted house (see above). They include the Hall of Faces, Inkblot Room, Dot Room, Labyrinth, Graveyard and the Spider’s Lair. Original plans called for a very large maze, but after reevaluating the layout the decision was made to decrease the overall size of the maze as well as the entire layout. Looking at the latest version, I really like how it flows, hopefully it will provide 4 good years of haunting as I assume Mark and I will be called upon the next few years to organize the haunted house.

Budget seems to be a sticking point, which I placed my personal investment at $200, most of which would end up being turned over to PTA when my son graduates. Unfortunately none of the PVC or black plastic was saved from last year, so that’s already an initial investment just to get basic black walls erected. Thanks to our PTA president, her husband was able to get us up and running with nearly 400′ of Visqueen! I have priced out the PVC pipes and fittings and thankfully THAT falls just at the limit of my $200 budget. I do have some other hardware items to purchase, such as black lights and possibly a second fog machine.

Starting Monday, with any luck we will be able to have the PVC layout built and some of the Visqueen hung. The only room requiring immediate attention will be the Dot Room, which requires 1″ circles to be drawn and then painted with 3 different colors of florescent paint. Of course the fun doesn’t stop here, I have order some 72 white masks to be spray painted and placed in the Hall of Faces. The catch to start this haunt is to have scarers randomly placed, behind the plastic or in a mask that will jump out at people.

From there, people will transition to the Dot Room, a 10’x10′ room that is painted with dots on the walls highlighted by a black light. There will be a person dressed in all black with dots over their clothes that will move along the walls once people enter the room. From there it’s another transition to the Inkblot Room.

I wish I saved the link about this room when I first found it, but I seemed to have misplaced it. It’s another dark room with Rorschach inkblots hanging from the ceilings at varying levels with a strobe light blinking. The original idea was to have an actor shackled to a chair in the middle of the room. Nothing would be said until people entered the room and then he would look up and start talking about the dots. Not sure if I will have time to build a wooden chair or not, but I love these plans for a simple electric chair, which I would expand on next year. Even found some simple PVC made shackles!

As you exit the the Inkblot Room, you follow a narrow, dimly lit hallway and turn the corner to see a hanging head before entering the Labyrinth. This original idea saw the complexity of the design much larger and I figured it would have been too costly to implement. So when I redesigned the layout I didn’t want to remove the labyrinth, so it was reduced to a 12’x12′ area. It looks great, now hopefully we can pull it off and have enough scares in the labyrinth. I had also planned to be dressed up as Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th and be running around in the labyrinth. That would allow me easy access through most of the haunt, through some openings I will have disguised in the walls.

As you exit the labyrinth you end the Graveyard/Crypt. I want Mark to handle this room, but it will include much of the basic graveyard motif, tombstones, a dead tree, fence, a coffin a few ghost and some scares. In fact I found some very cool and cheap cheesecloth ghosts! I had hoped we would have time to make a mockup of a crypt entrance that you would exit through into the Spiders Lair., the final room in the haunt before the exit. This is a 2’x12′ corridor that will be filled with spider webs and an array of spiders, as well as a dummy in a cocoon. I also found an idea to hang black string of mono filament from the ceiling so they rub against unsuspecting people as they move through the corridor.

With any luck we will be able to pull off this haunt and have a majority of the work done before the 25th of October. Between now and then there is a lot of work to be accomplished, as we begin building on Monday. Many of our scarers will be 5th graders, who will also act as guides through the haunt. Hopefully from the next 3 years we can improve on this haunt. In fact I am looking at decorating my house with some of the material I have bought for the 6 days leading up to Halloween. I will post pictures and videos as we move forward with our project.